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The Playground of the Tsars

Legend has it that in 1703 Peter the Great was boating on the River Neva, searching for a site for his new European city. He saw an eagle flying over Zayachy Island and, taking it as an omen, here placed the founding stone for the Peter and Paul Fortress.

PETER FORESAW NEVSKY Prospekt as the genesis of the road to Novgorod and Moscow. It’s unsurprising that today the avenue has become home to many of St Petersburg’s most historic landmarks. St Catherine Catholic Church, The Admiralty, Kazan Cathedral and the House of Books are just some of the diverse architectural wonders found on our doorstep. Among these you’ll find the Kupetz Eliseevs store, the monument to Catherine the Great and the Anichkov Bridge with its famous Clodt horses.

Within a short walk you’ll reach the awe-inspiring Winter Palace, which now forms part of the Hermitage—one of the world’s oldest and largest museums. It’s a treasure trove housing everything from ancient Egyptian artefacts to paintings by Rembrandt and Picasso and a vast collection of Impressionist works. The 20/21 project, established in 2007, has brought some of the world’s finest contemporary art through its doors including sculptures by Antony Gormley.

But no visit to St Petersburg should be spent solely on foot. Peter’s placement of the city, on an island with endless canals and tributaries, has earned it the nickname Venice of the North. Cruise the Neva and marvel at St Isaac’s Cathedral, the glorious Summer Gardens and the Peter and Paul Fortress, where tsars have since been laid to rest.

Come evening, St Petersburg’s nightlife is so vibrant that sleep may not appeal. Perhaps we have our White Nights to thank, those incredible summer evenings when the sun barely sets. There’s a splendid range of entertainment to keep you up all night. The Philharmonia, home to Russia’s oldest and most celebrated symphony orchestra, is just across the road and features world-class performances nightly.

There are many bars to enjoy a nightcap or two. Head to Mayakovsky or Bar 812, or, if you’re in the mood for something more eclectic, why not try Tipplers Bar? This quirky watering hole is renowned for its playful, bespoke cocktails and showcases some of the city’s hottest DJs. Underground bar El Copitas offers a more intimate vibe, while Dead Poets has a consistently fantastic line up of cultural events. Khroniki draws in a creative crowd with its quality spirits and Scandi style. It’s the perfect setting for whiling away the evening, after a day uncovering the city’s treasures.

Explore St Petersburg with Belmond
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