Things to Do in St. Petersburg
Russia's Second Capital, the Northern Capital or just plain Piter, as the locals like to call it – St. Petersburg goes by many names nowadays. Historically, it has been through a few names as well. Founded as St. Petersburg in 1703, its name was changed in 1914 to Petrograd, then renamed in 1924 to Leningrad, only to finally have its original name returned in 1991 after a citywide referendum.
One of the first things that strikes you when arriving in this Venice of the North (yet another of the city's monikers) is the abundance of canals that crisscross the city center. St. Petersburg's waterways set the tone of the town. From the aristocratic Griboyedov Canal to the majestic Neva River, many of the city's sights are complemented by water views.
Here are 7 must-do’s on a visit to St. Petersburg:
Ogle Onion Domes by the CanalMoscow's St. Basil's Cathedral is certainly Russia's most famous collection of onion domes, but the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood must surely come second. Built beside Griboyedov Canal on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, it is just a youngster compared with the 16th-century St. Basil's, having been finished only in 1907. If you haven't had an overload of art at The Hermitage, check out the Russian Museum located just up the canal from the church – it houses one of the country's best collections of Russian art.
Float Your Boat on the City's WaterwaysWhile seeing the sights on foot is fine, it's a whole lot more fun to take one of the city's numerous canal cruises. Departing from a number of the city's downtown moorings, the cruises provide views that can be hard to see from the city's sidewalks. You can catch a cruise boat on the Fontanka River near its intersection with Nevsky Prospekt, as well as on Griboyedov Canal near its intersection with Nevsky Prospekt, and on the Moika River by the Mikhailovsky Garden. Naturally, Neva River tours are also available, and those interested in going farther afield can take a hydrofoil to the spectacular palace and park at Peterhof, about an hour outside St. Petersburg.
Catch the Opening of the BridgesA traditional summertime form of entertainment among the city's younger inhabitants, watching the Neva River bridges rise at night to let the ships pass is a spectacle not to be missed. Each bridge follows its own schedule and festive crowds gather beside them to sing songs, drink beer and generally make merry in the White Nights twilight.
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