MOST POPULAR MUSEUMS OF ST. PETERSBURG
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|| The Hermitage.|
Many tourists come to St. Petersburg simply to visit the Hermitage, one of the world’s great museums. To visit all 350 exhibitions rooms would entail walking a distance of about 10km and, at the last count, the collection contained over three million items – it was calculated that merely to glance at each one would take nine years. The museum owns more than 12 000 sculptures, 16 000 paintings, 600 000 drawings and prints, and 250 000 works of applied art, plus 700 000 archeological exhibits and a million coins and medals, and although only a small percentage of these is on show, it’s still more than enough to keep you captivated.
The Hermitage has excellent examples of Italian High Renaissance art, as well as unparalleled groups of paintings by Rembrandt, the French Impressionists, Picasso and Matisse – not to mention fabulous treasures from Siberia and Central Asia, Egyptian and Classical antiquities, and Persian and Chinese artworks, among others. Last but certainly not least, there is the Winter Palace itself, with its magnificent state rooms, where the tsars once held court.
Address: 34, Dvortsovaya embankment.
Opening hours: Tues – Sat 10.30am-6pm, Sun till 5pm, closed Mon
|| Peter and Paul Fortress|
On May 27, 1703 the fortress called Saint Peters Burgh was founded on the Hare Island in the estuary of Neva River. This day is considered to be the foundation date of the new Russian city, the future capital of the Russian Empire. Shortly afterwards the fortress was named the Peter and Paul Fortress after the Peter and Paul Cathedral that had been built here.
Constructed to the design of Peter the Great, this hexagonal fortification work was never assaulted afterward by enemy. The first bastions hurriedly made of wood and ground, were rebuilt of stone and faced with granite plates from the river side in 1706 – 1740.
The most conceptual edifice in the territory of the fortress is the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Built to a Peter’s baroque style, it was crowned with the spire with the cross and the weather vane (in form of flying angel) on the top. The Peter and Paul Cathedral is the burial-vault of emperors and empresses. It was Peter the Great who was the first to be buried here.
At present time the Peter and Paul Fortress is a museum town with numerous memorial places and expositions. You can find here the Burial-vault of Grand Dukes, the Mint, the former Casemates, the Boat House, the Graphic Studio, and the Restoration Workshops. The museum of the History of St. Petersburg is located in the Superintendent/s House.
Opening hours: Mon & Thurs – Sun 11am-6pm, Tues 11am-5pm; closed Wed & the last Tues of each month.
|| The Russian Museum|
The origins of the Russian Museum date back to the reign of Alexander III, who began to buy Russian art at the end of the nineteenth century with a view to establishing a national museum. His plans were realized by his son Nicolas II, who purchased the Mikhailovsky Palace and opened it in 1898 as the nation’s first public museum of Russian art, named after Alexander III. After the Revolution it was renamed the Russian Museum and acquired thousands of artworks confiscated from private collections. The museum contains the finest collection of Russian art in the world – some 400 000 works in total – ranging from medieval icons to the latest in conceptual art. The works neatly mirror Russia’s history, tracing the development of the nation’s art from Peter’s the Great insistence on a break with old Muscovite traditions to the officially approved style of the latter-day Romanovs: from the soul-searching of the Wanderers and the explosion of Symbolism and Futurism to the Stalinist art from known as Socialist Realism and, most recently, Western-inspired multimedia.
Address: 4, Inzhenernaya street.
Opening hours: Wed – Sun 10am-5pm, Mon till 4pm, closed Tues.
|| St. Isaak’s Cathedral|
The golden dome of St. Isaak’s Cathedral dominates the historical centre of Saint Petersburg. The cathedral and the square adjoining it were named in honour of St. Isaak of Dalmatia, whose feast-day, 30 May (old style), coincides with the birthday of Peter the Great. The imposing building, 101.5 metres high, was erected in 1818-58 under the supervision of Auguste de Monferand. The interiors of the cathedral are a veritable art treasury. Their decoration includes mosaic and painted panels, as well as a great variety of fine architectural details made of lapis lazuli, malachite and the best kinds of marble. In 1859 an equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas I was unveiled on St. Isaak’s Square.
Address: 1, Isaakievskaya square.
Opening hours: 11am – 6pm, closed Wed.
|| The Summer Garden & The Summer Palace of Peter the Great|
The Summer Gardens laid out in 1704 by orders of Peter the Great on the left bank of the Nava, opposite Trinity Square and Peter and Paul Fortress, are also considered to be of the same age as St. Petersburg. Surrounded by water on all the sides, they were created in the manner of formal Dutch gardens. The gardens owe much of their magnificence of marble statuary produces by Italian masters in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The Summer Palace of Peter the Great is a unique example of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg architecture. It is one of the first stone buildings in St. Petersburg constructed in 1710-14 to the designs of the architect D. Tresini.The interiors of the palace have retained the original decor of the Tsar’s apartments. The superb railing decorating the front of the Summer Gardens on the side of the Neva is world-famous. It was created in 1771-84 to a design by Yury Velten.
|| The Kunstkammer (The Peter the Great Anthropology and Ethnography Museum)|
This is the first St. Petersburg museum created by the order of Peter the Great. In German Kunstkammer means arts cabinet. Created on basic of the Dutch anatomic theatre of Doctor Ruysch who all his life collected monster babies born with anomalies: with two heads and one heart, or Siamese twins and sirens – babies who instead of legs have something similar to a fish’s tail. He stored them in jars with alcohol. He also found a method of coloring blood vessels and capillaries in red, which is why certain organs (kept in alcohol) look quite realistic. That peculiar doctor-aesthete who left a huge collection of animal dummies, skeletons, dead babies etc., proved a certain inspiration in the creation of his anatomic theatre. A strong stomach is necessary to observe his “art” collection. The Kunstmmer is also an Anthropology and Ethnography Museum. You can see and imagine the life and culture of American Indians, Greenland Eskimos, the peoples of China, Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia and Australian Aborigines, as well as a collection from the Papua islands of famous traveler N.N. Miklukho-Maklay.
Address: 3, Universitetskaya embankment
Opening hours: 11am – 5 pm, closed Mon & the last Tues of each month
|| The Zoological Museum|
Founded in 1832, the museum has one of the finest collections of its kind in the world, with over one hundred thousand specimens, including a set of stuffed animals that once belonged to Peter the Great. Upstairs, you’re confronted by the skeleton of a blue whale, along with models of polar bears and other Arctic life. The side hall traces the evolution of vertebrates and invertebrates, as well as mammals, with realistic tableaux of stuffed animals showing each species in its habitat. The museum’s beloved prehistoric mammoths are accompanied by models and photographs detailing their excavation – the most evocative display shows the discovery of a 44,000-year-old mammoth in the permafrost of Yakutsia in 1903. Other finds in 1961 and 1977 are recalled with photographs, as the actual animals themselves are in museums elsewhere. The top floor of the museum is devoted to insects, including a selection of live ones.
Address: 1, Universitetskaya embankment
Opening hours: 11am – 6pm, closed Fri
|| The Mikhailovsky Castle|
The Mikhailovsky (Engineer’s) Castle built for Paul I and resembling a citadel rather than a palace is regarded as the most romantic building of the city. Erected in 1797-1800 to projects by Vasily Bazhenov, Henri-Francois Viollier and Vincenzo Brenna, it seemed to be absolutely impregnable. The Fontanka defended the castle from the east, the Moika from the north and artificial canals on the other sides. Despite all these fortified structures, drawbridges and enlarged guard, the castle turned out to be but a trap for Paul I, who was killed there in 1801. The equestrian stature of Peter the Great set up in front of the castle by orders of Paul I, had been produced by Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli in 1747.
Address: 2, Sadovaya street
Opening hours: 10am – 5pm, closed Tues
|| The Cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection (The Church of the Savior on the Blood)|
The imposing Cathedral of the Resurrection was erected on the embankment of the Catherine Canal (now the Griboedov Canal), on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was mortally wounded on 1 March 1881 by a terrorist bomb. The construction of the cathedral began on 14 September 1883 and on 19 August 1907 the ceremony of its consecration was held. The most remarkable decorative elements of the cathedral ate its plentiful mosaic compositions featuring biblical scenes. The mosaics cover an area of 1 050 square meters outside and 6 000 square meters inside the cathedral.
Like so many churches, it was closed in the 1930s and turned into a storeroom, gravely damaging the interior; in 1970 it became a museum of mosaics, before being closed once again for over two decades. Since it reopened on 1997, the church has become one of the city’s foremost tourist attractions, owing to its amazing interior, entirely covered in mosaics based on paintings by Nesterov, Vasnetsov, and other religious artists of the era.
Address: 2a, Canal Griboedova
Opening hours: 11am – 6pm, closed Wed
|| Alexander Nevsky Monastery|
Nevsky Prospect ends as it begins, beside the Neva – at a spot where an ancient Russian hero is honored by the Alexander Nevsky Monastery (Alexandro-Navskaya lavra). Alexander Nevsky lavra was built at the conjectural site, where Alexander Nevsky had defeated the Swedes in 1240. The ensemble of the lavra, founded in 1710, is one of the oldest in Saint Petersburg and surely one of the most beautiful. In 1797 it became one of only four in the Russian Empire to be given the title of lavra, the highest rank in Orthodox monasticism. It contains several monastery buildings and cemeteries, where the outstanding persons, such as Dostoevsky, Lomonosov, Karamzin, Tchaikovsky, Komissarjevskaya and others are buried.
Address: 179, Nevsky prospect
Opening hours: 11am – 5pm, closed Thurs & the first Tues of the month.
|| The Kazan Cathedral|
The Kazan Cathedral, consecrated to the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, stands in the centre of Nevsky Prospect. The wings of its mighty colonnade stretch alongside the main thoroughfare of St. Petersburg. The icon was found during the storm of Kazan by the troops of Ivan the Terrible and became one of the most revered devotional imaged in Russia.
Address: 2, Kazanskaya square
The Yusupov Palace|
The Yusupov Palace on the River Moika ranks with the best architectural landmarks of St. Petersburg. The history of the palace, built in 1760, is associated with one of the most aristocratic Russian families. Prince Nikolai Yusupov purchased the palace on the Moika in 1830. In 1830-38 the architect Andrei Mikhailov radically reconstructed the building for him. Since then every new generation of the Yusupov family, keenly sensitive to the changes in tastes and fashions, introduces new stylistic elements into the appearance of the palace’s interiors.
The home theatre of the Yusupov family is a veritable masterpiece of architecture. It is decorated with a painted ceiling and curtain designed by Ernst von Liphart. The Yusupov mansion is associated with a tragic episode in Russian history. It was there that during the night of 17 December 1916 the famous favourite of the Imperial family Griory Rasputin was killed.
Address: 94, Moika river embankment.
Opening hours: 12pm – 4pm.