Top Historic Sights in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Explore the historic highlights of Saint Petersburg

Winter Palace

The Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 for Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died before the palace’s completion and only Catherine the Great and her successors were able to enjoy the sumptuous interiors of Elizabeth’s home. Many of the palace’s impressive interiors have been remodeled since then, particularly after 1837, when a huge fire destroyed mo ...
Founded: 1754-1762 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Hermitage Museum

The State Hermitage is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been open to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise over three million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, includ ...
Founded: 1764 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Church of the Savior on Blood

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of the main sights of St. Petersburg. The church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory. Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907. Funding was provided by the Imperial family with t ...
Founded: 1883-1907 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Isaac's Cathedral

Saint Isaac's Cathedral or Isaakievskiy Sobor is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in Saint Petersburg. The church on St Isaac's Square was ordered by Tsar Alexander I, to replace an earlier Rinaldiesque structure, and was the fourth consecutive church standing at this place. A specially appointed commission examined several designs, including that of the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand (1786?1858), who ...
Founded: 1818-1858 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Peter and Paul Fortress

The Peter and Paul Fortress fortress was established by Peter the Great in 1703 on small Hare Island by the north bank of the Neva River, the last upstream island of the Neva delta. Built at the height of the Northern War in order to protect the projected capital from a feared Swedish counterattack, the fort never fulfilled its martial purpose. The citadel was completed with six bastions in earth and timber within a year, ...
Founded: 1703 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Peter and Paul Cathedral

The Peter and Paul Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located inside the Peter and Paul Fortress. It is the first and oldest landmark in St. Petersburg, built between 1712 and 1733 on Zayachy Island along the Neva River. Both the cathedral and the fortress were originally built under Peter the Great and designed by Domenico Trezzini. The cathedral"s bell tower is the world"s tallest Orthodox bell tower. S ...
Founded: 1712-1733 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Peterhof Palace

The Peterhof Palace is a series of palaces and gardens laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. These Palaces and gardens are sometimes referred as the 'Russian Versailles'. The palace-ensemble along with the city centre is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Peter the Great first mentions the Peterhof site in his journal in 1705, during the Great Northern War, as a good place to construct a landing f ...
Founded: 1714 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Russian Museum

The State Russian Museum (formerly the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III) is the largest depository of Russian fine art in St Petersburg. The museum was established in 1895, upon enthronement of Nicholas II to commemorate his father, Alexander III. Its original collection was composed of artworks taken from the Hermitage Museum, Alexander Palace, and the Imperial Academy of Arts. After the Russian Revol ...
Founded: 1895 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, probably the most venerated icon in Russia. The construction was started in 1801 and continued for ten years (supervised by Alexander Sergeyevich Stroganov). Upon its completion the new temple replaced the Church of Nativity of the Theotokos, which was disassembled when the Kazan Cathedral was consecrated. It was modelled by Andrey Voronikhin after St. Peter"s Basili ...
Founded: 1801 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

St. Catherine's Church

The Catholic Church of St. Catherine is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Russia. On December 12, 1705 Peter the Great signed a charter that would allow the construction of Catholic churches in Russia. The church itself (though not the building with which it is today associated) was founded in 1710. In 1738 Empress Anna granted permission for the church to erect a structure on Nevsky Prospekt, the main street of St. ...
Founded: 1783 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace

The Beloselsky-Belozersky palace belonged to the Princes Beloselskiy, a family who claimed descent from Yuri Dolgorukiy, the founder of Moscow. Their first palace was built on the same site by the Fontanka River in 1747, but it was a much more modest affair. The family"s fortunes increased thanks to the close relationship between Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Beloselskiy-Belozerskiy and Emperor Paul I, and through ma ...
Founded: 1747 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Bronze Horseman Statue

The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Commissioned by Catherine the Great, it was created by the French sculptor Étienne Maurice Falconet. It is also the name of a narrative poem written by Aleksander Pushkin about the statue in 1833, widely considered to be one of the most significant works of Russian literature. The statue came to be known as the Bronze Horsem ...
Founded: 1770-1782 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Tikhvin Cemetery

Tikhvin Cemetery is located at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery and was established in 1823. Lot of notable composers and artist are buried there like Pjotr TÅ¡aikovski.
Founded: 1823-1827 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Stroganov Palace

The Stroganov Palace is a Late Baroque palace was built to Bartolomeo Rastrelli"s designs for Baron Sergei Grigoriyevich Stroganov in 1753-1754. The interiors were remodeled by Andrei Voronikhin at the turn of the 19th century. The first house for the Stroganovs was built on the site probably in 1720s. It was a building of one storey. Аrchitect Mikhail Zemtsov erected a second two-storey house in the 1740s. In ...
Founded: 1753-1754 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Moika Palace

The Moika Palace or Yusupov Palace was once the primary residence of the House of Yusupov. The building was the site of Grigori Rasputin"s murder in 1916. The palace was first built around 1770 by the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe. Over the years numerous well-known architects worked on the palace, and it is known for the hodgepodge of architectural styles. A. Mikhailov reconstructed the building ...
Founded: 1770 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Cruiser Aurora

Aurora is a protected cruiser, currently preserved as a museum ship in St. Petersburg. One of the first incidents of the October Revolution in Russia took place on the cruiser. Aurora was one of three Pallada-class cruisers, built in St. Petersburg for service in the Pacific Far East. All three ships of this class served during the Russo-Japanese War. The second ship, Pallada, was sunk by the Japanese at Port Arthur in 1 ...
Founded: 1900-1903 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Michael's Castle

St. Michael"s Castle, also called the Mikhailovsky Castle, is a former royal residence built for Emperor Paul I by architects Vincenzo Brenna and Vasili Bazhenov in 1797-1801. The castle looks different from each side, as the architects used motifs of various architectural styles such as French Classicism, Italian Renaissance and Gothic. St. Michael"s Castle was built to the south of the Summer Garden and replac ...
Founded: 1797-1801 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Admiralty building

The Admiralty building is the former headquarters of the Admiralty Board and the Imperial Russian Navy and since 2012 once again the headquarters of the Russian Navy.The building was re-built in the 19th century to support the Tsar"s maritime ambitions. The original design was a fortified shipyard which was later surrounded by five bastions and further protected by a moat. The Empire Style edifice visible today lini ...
Founded: 1806-1832 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Alexander Nevsky Lavra

Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra or Saint Alexander Nevsky Monastery was founded by Peter I of Russia in 1710 at the eastern end of the Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg supposing that that was the site of the Neva Battle in 1240 when Alexander Nevsky, a prince, defeated the Swedes; however, the battle actually took place about 12 miles away from that site. The monastery was founded also to house the relics of St. Alexander N ...
Founded: 1710 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Botanical Garden

The Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden, also known as the Botanic Gardens of the Komarov Botanical Institute, is the oldest botanical garden in Russia. It consists of outdoor and indoor collections situated on Aptekarsky Island in Saint Petersburg and belongs to the Komarov Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The garden was founded by Peter the Great in 1714 as a herb garden in order to grow medicinal ...
Founded: 1714 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Anichkov Palace

Anichkov Palace is a former imperial palace, named after the nearby Anichkov Bridge across the Fontanka. Designed for the Empress Elizabeth of Russia in a dazzling Baroque style, the palace came to be known as the most imposing private residence of the Elizabethan era. Some suggest architects Bartolomeo Rastrelli andMikhail Zemtsov were responsible for the design, though it"s yet to be substantiated. The main frontag ...
Founded: 1741-1754 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Smolny Convent

Smolny Convent (Voskresensky) is a Russian Orthodox convent built to house Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great. After she was disallowed succession to the throne, she opted to become a nun. However her Imperial predecessor, Ivan VI was overthrown during a coup d"état (carried out by the royal guards in 1741). Elizabeth then decided against entering monastic life and accepted the offer of the Russian thr ...
Founded: 1748-1764 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Field of Mars

The Field of Mars or Marsovo Polye is a large park named after the Mars, Roman god of war. The history of Field of Mars goes back to the first years of Saint-Petersburg. At that time it was called Grand Meadow. Later there were organised solemnities in the honour of the victory in the Great Northern War and the Field was renamed Pleasure Field (Poteshnoe Pole). In the 1740s Pleasure Field for a short while was turned into ...
Founded: 1740s | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Ciniselli Circus

Circus Ciniselli was the first stone-built circus in Russia. The building, which still stands, was opened on 26 December 1877, with a large stage (13 meters in diameter) and stables (housing 150 horses). The architect was Vasily Kenel. The Italian circus performer Gaetano Ciniselli (1815-1881) first visited Saint Petersburg in 1847, as part of the troupe of Alessandro Guerra. He returned to Russia in 1869, this time worki ...
Founded: 1877 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Narva Triumphal Arch

The Narva Triumphal Arch was erected in the vast Narva Square (known as the Stachek Square in Soviet years), in 1814 to commemorate the Russian victory over Napoleon. The wooden structure was constructed on the Narva highway with the purpose of greeting the soldiers who were returning from abroad after their victory over Napoleon. The architect of the original Narva Arch was Giacomo Quarenghi. The program was meant to res ...
Founded: 1827-1834 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

House of Soviets

The House of Soviets is the office building built in Stalinist style in the late 1930s. According to Soviet projects, the House of Soviets was planned to host the administration of Soviet Leningrad government. The location was chosen on undeveloped south outskirts of the city away from the downtown area which was prone to frequent floods. The construction was completed just before the Nazi invasion of Soviet Union at the ...
Founded: 1936 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery

Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery is dedicated mostly to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad. The memorial complex designed by Alexander Vasiliev and Yevgeniy Levinson was opened on May 9, 1960. About 420,000 civilians and 50,000 soldiers of the Leningrad Front were buried in 186 mass graves. Near the entrance an eternal flame is located. A marble plate affirms that from September 4, 1941 to January 22, 1944 107,158 air ...
Founded: 1960 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Saint Sampson's Cathedral

St Sampson"s Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in St. Petersburg. Rumor has it that it was in St. Sampson"s Cathedral that Catherine II of Russia secretly married Grigory Potemkin in 1774. The original wooden church was built in 1710 to honor Sampson the Hospitable. It was on the feast day of that saint that Peter the Great defeated Charles XII of Sweden in the Battle of Poltava. The existing church was b ...
Founded: 1740 | Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.