Top historic sites in 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

Catherine Palace

The Catherine Palace is a Rococo style palace which was used as a summer residence of the Russian tsars. The residence originated in 1717, when Catherine I of Russia engaged the German architect Johann-Friedrich Braunstein to construct a summer palace for her pleasure. In 1733, Empress Anna commissioned Mikhail Zemtsov and Andrei Kvasov to expand the Catherine Palace. Empress Elizabeth, however, found her mother's residen ...
Founded: 1717 | Location: Pushkin, 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

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

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

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

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

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

Kronstadt Fortress

Kronshtadt, also spelled Kronstadt, Cronstadt is a large fortress and St. Petersburg"s main seaport. Traditionally, the seat of the Russian admiralty and the base of the Russian Baltic Fleet were located in Kronstadt guarding the approaches to Saint Petersburg. The historic centre of the city and its fortifications are part of the Saint Petersburg UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fortress was founded by Peter the Gre ...
Founded: 1704 | Location: Kronstadt, 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.