Saint Petersburg city tour with a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress

Saint Petersburg City Tour with Peter and Paul Fortress


In the afternoon at two o'clock the bus is ready for a city tour at the cruise terminal. The program also includes a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress on "Rabbit Island". Our guide from the morning, see Saint Petersburg - Visit to the Great Catherine Palace “accompanies us again. Even before the tour begins, it is clear to us that we will only see a small selection of the top sights of Sankt Peterburg.

Again the bus driver struggles through the port. There, in the largest Russian port, more than 50 million tons of goods are handled annually. The drive from the berth of the cruise ship over to the city center does not take much time.

Isaac's Cathedral and Admiralty

The bus stops near the Neva for the first time, our destination is St. Isaac's Cathedral. We saw the dome of the largest church in town from the ship. No wonder: the church is 102 meters high and the main dome is 26 meters in diameter. We only really perceive the enormous dimensions up close. It is said that the church can seat 14.000 people at a time.

Saint Petersburg - St. Isaac's Cathedral

Saint Petersburg - St. Isaac's Cathedral


A little further away we see the monumental equestrian statue of Nicholas I. The emperor ruled Russia for 30 years. We also catch a glimpse of the Admiralty. The upper part of the structure, the golden tip, is one of the many attractions of Saint Petersburg. The building originally dates back to 1711. In that year the Admiralty was built as a fortified shipyard on behalf of Peter the Great. 

Saint Petersburg - equestrian statue of Nicholas l.

Saint Petersburg - equestrian statue of Nicholas l.


The building in its current, classical form was not completed until 1819. Reliefs and sculptures adorn its facade. The tower needle is adorned with a caravel. The Admiralty is a symbol of Russian naval power. The 406 meter long building is used, among other things, as a naval school. This may be the reason that Admiralty visits are not allowed. UNESCO has put the building on the list of world cultural heritage.

Saint Petersburg - Admiralty Tower

Saint Petersburg - Admiralty Tower


Isaac's Cathedral is located on Isaac's Square. Opposite is the Mariinsky Palace. It was built in the early 19th century and named after the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna. Today the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg resides in the representative building.

Saint Petersburg - Palace Square with the Alexander Column
Saint Petersburg - Mariinsky Palace


 

Hermitage, Kunstkammer and the Rostral Columns

The next time the bus stops on the northern bank of the Neva. From there we enjoy the unlimited view of the Hermitage complex. Several buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries make up the world-famous art museum. Of the more than three million art objects, almost 60.000 are exhibited in 350 halls. The dominant building of the Hermitage complex is the Winter Palace, the former residence of the Russian emperors.

Saint Petersburg - Hermitage seen from the Palace Bridge

Saint Petersburg - Hermitage seen from the Palace Bridge


In front of us is the Kunstkammer initiated by Peter the Great (Peter I). The order to establish this facility dates back to 1704. Twenty years later the museum was opened. It contains anthropological and ethnological collections that are renowned worldwide. 

Saint Petersburg - Kunstkammer Museum

Saint Petersburg - Kunstkammer Museum


The two red-brown rostra columns can be clearly seen from our location. The sizes of the columns differ. Most people speak of a height of 30 meters. The objects adorned with figureheads were originally used for navigation purposes on the Neva River. They were built at the beginning of the 19th century on the eastern tip of Vasilyevsky Island.

Saint Petersburg - Rostral Column on the opposite bank
Saint Petersburg - Pedestal of a Rostral Column on Birzehevoy Promenade

Peter and Paul Fortress with the Peter and Paul Cathedral

It goes quickly over to the "Haseninsel", the entire area of ​​which is taken up by the Peter and Paul Fortress. We enter the fortress area via the Kronwerk bridge to the west. The main entrance to the fortress is the Johannesbrücke with the Johannestor to the east. The year "1740" affixed there indicates the year the fortress was completed, after a total of 37 years of construction.

Saint Petersburg - Peter and Paul Fortress

Saint Petersburg - Peter and Paul Fortress


The fortress was built to protect Saint Petersburg from Swedish incursions. However, the Swedes were defeated militarily before the fortress was completed. Thus the fortress was not needed for defensive purposes. Instead, it served as a barracks and prison. The casemates offered sufficient space for the latter purpose. Many of the buildings on the site are now used by museums. There is also a historical printing house and a mint. For short visits - like ours - there is not enough time to visit the museums.

Saint Petersburg - inside the Peter and Paul Fortress

Saint Petersburg - inside the Peter and Paul Fortress


Sufficient time is provided in the tour program for the cathedral built on the fortress grounds. The official name of the church is "Cathedral of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul". In 1712 Peter the Great commissioned the cathedral. It was completed in 1733, eight years after his death. The church is the traditional burial place of almost all Russian emperors. Today it is part of the State History Museum complex. Services are held in the church on special occasions.

Saint Petersburg - Peter and Paul Cathedral
Saint Petersburg - Peter and Paul Cathedral
Saint Petersburg - Peter and Paul Cathedral
Saint Petersburg - Peter and Paul Cathedral - the tombs of the tsars


The external shape of the cathedral was planned in the form of a ship at the request of Peter the Great. The building should resemble Western European churches, which is why the type of a Russian church with traditional onion domes was abandoned. The church tower is 123 meters high. The spire is crowned by a cross and an angel. The bell tower is accessible up to a height of 43 meters; he has a Belgian carillon consisting of 51 bells.

Saint Petersburg - Peter and Paul Cathedral

Saint Petersburg - Peter and Paul Cathedral


The cathedral is spacious and of exquisite splendor. Gold tones dominate inside. The magnificent marble coffins of the tsars are admirable. Our tour guide doesn't skimp on names and dates. We don't remember any of this.

After leaving the cathedral we walk over to the east exit. We pass a modern statue of Peter the Great, which shows him with huge hands and feet and a small head. We hear that the statue raised the Petersburg citizens first because of the distorted shape. The statue is now perceived as a lucky charm. We leave the fortress island through the Johannestor. Before that, let's take a look at the sculpture of a hare, which gave the island its name. The figure is sitting in the water on a dolphin.

Saint Petersburg - hare figure next to the Johannes Bridge

Saint Petersburg - hare figure next to the Johannes Bridge


Not far from the fortress is the humble-looking residence of Peter the Great.

Saint Petersburg - House of Peter l. on Petrovskaya

Saint Petersburg - House of Peter l. on Petrovskaya


Armored cruiser Aurora

Shortly afterwards our bus passes the museum ship Aurora. The former armored cruiser is the symbol of the October Revolution. A shot from the Aurora's bow cannon gave the signal for the assault on the Winter Palace.

Saint Petersburg - museum ship armored cruiser Aurora

Saint Petersburg - museum ship armored cruiser Aurora


Church of the Resurrection

The last destination is the Church of the Resurrection on the Griboyedov Canal. The church stands on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated on March 1, 1881. In memory of his father, his son, Alexander III, had a church built in the old Russian style. In doing so, he violated a command of Peter the Great, who wanted to see only Western-style churches in St. Petersburg. But at the time the construction began, he had been dead for more than 150 years and could not defend himself against this request. From the beginning, the church was not intended for worship. It was conceived and planned as a memorial. It has gone through several phases since its completion. For a while it was a concert hall. Then it became a museum and later a theater. During the Soviet era, it served as a potato warehouse for a long time. What is remarkable about this building are the icon-style mosaics inside and out. In the present the church functions again as a museum.

Saint Petersburg - Church of the Resurrection
Saint Petersburg - Church of the Resurrection
Saint Petersburg - Church of the Resurrection
Saint Petersburg - Church of the Resurrection


It is time to say goodbye to the center of Saint Petersburg as a whole, similar to Venice, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. We regret that we didn't spend enough time on our flying visit to Saint Petersburg. The city offers a large number of sights, of which we saw little during our visit. It wouldn't have hurt to stroll along Nevsky Prospect or visit Petersburg Palace Square. We would also have liked to have taken a closer look at the Admiralty and some palaces and museums. Not to mention Gazprom Tower and Gazprom Arena. All of this is reason enough to visit this city again.

Saint Petersburg - Gazprom Tower and Gazprom Arena

Saint Petersburg - Gazprom Tower and Gazprom Arena


Updated Aug 2020