St Petersburg, once a playground for the tsars, is now a city that heaves with history. Legend has it that it was founded in 1703, when Peter the Great was boating on the River Neva, searching for a site for his new European city. From Grand Hotel Europe, A Belmond Hotel, discover the marvels of the city: both old and new.
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Peter the Great 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.
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.
Despite its imposing name, this stunning building is a must-see. Originally a Russian Orthodox Church and now a secular museum, it was built in the style of medieval Russian architecture. It contains more mosaics than any other church in the world. Compared to the rest of the city’s more uniform architecture, the church is surprisingly colourful.
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. There’s a splendid range of entertainment to keep you up all night. The Philharmonia is home to Russia’s oldest and most celebrated symphony orchestra. Catch one of the nightly performances, each promising a world-class experience.
In 1866, Johann Strauss II performed at the Mikhailovsky while staying with us at Grand Hotel Europe. Today, guests have the opportunity to view Mikhailovsky Theater performances from the best seats in the house—the hotel’s private box. This historic opera and ballet house was opened by Tsar Nicholas I and is now home to some of the world’s most impressive virtuoso performances.
A staggering 100kg of gold adorns the façade of this iconic St Petersburg palace. Wander the halls to soak in the grandeur of architect Bartholomeo Rastrelli’s ‘Golden Enfilade’ of chambers.Be sure to take in the dazzling Amber Room. This Rococo marvel covers 300 years of Russian history and is straight out of a Tolstoy novel.
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.
Art nouveau splendour
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