Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as a “window on Europe” — and home of the ruling czars for two centuries — St. Petersburg is known for its splendid historic and artistic treasures. Russia’s second largest city, located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, has a grand architectural scale, and a mix of congeniality and intrigue that make it one of the world’s most fascinating ports.
What We Love
The State Hermitage Museum: This prestigious museum is home to more than three million works of art and artifacts — masterpieces by da Vinci, Michelangelo and Matisse among them — in five adjacent buildings including the Baroque-style Winter Palace.
Peterhof Palace: Inspired by the grandeur of Versailles, Peter the Great commissioned this ode to opulence 20 miles outside St. Petersburg in 1715. The cascade of 150 spouting fountains and the gleaming gold statues in its manicured gardens are as impressive as the gilded throne rooms and ballrooms in the Grand Palace.
Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood: This Russian-style church, built on the spot where Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, features swirling onion-shaped domes and intricate interior mosaics.
Best Known For
Canals: As in Venice and Amsterdam, it’s highly enjoyable to tour St. Petersburg from the comfort of a canal boat, with a guide pointing out the significant landmarks, from St. Isaac’s Cathedral to the Peter and Paul Fortress.
White Nights: From late May until early July, when the sun barely sets, St. Petersburg celebrates with an annual arts and culture festival.
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Who It's Best For
Art lovers: The treasures of the Hermitage and the city’s other palaces are spellbinding.
History Buffs: This pretty much goes without saying — but even if you weren’t fascinated by Russian imperial history before your visit, you will be afterward.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
You’ll Need to Apply for a Visa: Your ship will provide you with one for group shore excursions, but if you want to explore independently, you’ll need to secure your own visas before you leave the U.S.
Donna Heiderstadt is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Coastal Living and Islands.