St. Petersburg, Russia
Founded by Peter the Great in May 1703, St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia until 1918, when the administrative capital was moved to Moscow. During its rich history, St. Petersburg has been known as Petrograd (1914-1924) and Leningrad (1924-1991).
Russians may tend to abbreviate the city’s name to just simply Peter, or Питер, pronounced Piter. The city is home to the Hermitage, the largest art museum in the world, and much of the city center has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. St. Petersburg is the northernmost city with a population of more than 1 million, and it is the most Western city in Russia.
The city has also been the site of some of the most defining moments of the last century, namely the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Battle of Leningrad, which lasted for 872 days between September 1941 and January 1944.
Your River Cruise Ship Docks…
River cruise ships calling on St. Petersburg typically dock deep within the city, and nowhere near the deep-ocean cruise terminal you may be familiar with if you’ve taken a mainstream cruise here. While there’s not much within walking distance of the River Cruise Terminal, there is a nearby Metro station, and most river cruise lines will offer guided excursions here.
When in St. Petersburg…
St. Petersburg is filled with numerous sights and attractions:
- The Hermitage– the largest art museum in the world, the Hermitage boasts more than 300,000 works by artists such as Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and many others. If entrance to this attraction isn’t included as part of your river cruise stop, be sure to purchase tickets online beforehand: not only is it cheaper, but you save yourself the hassle of standing in a long line. Be aware that an additional fee applies if you wish to bring your camera into the Hermitage.
- Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood – One of the most frequently photographed structures in St. Petersburg, the Church of the Savior on Blood is an example of the beautiful architecture of Russia, with mosaic murals. Rather than being a place of worship, it exists primarily as a shrine to the assassinated Tsar Alexander II, killed in 1881 by an anarchist’s grenade as he rode in his carriage near the Winter Palace.
- Mariinsky Theatre – a world-class theatre showcasing operatic and ballet performances, this is a must-do experience if you’re looking to truly soak in some Russian arts culture.
- Winter Palace – the former home of Russia’s Tzars, the Winter Palace is located along the Palace Embankment not far from the Hermitage. Definitely worth seeing.
River Cruisers Should Know!
- The currency of Russia is the Russian Ruble (RR).
- As with many large cities, pickpocketing tends to be an issue in St. Petersburg. In order to make yourself less of a target, dress conservatively and avoid showing excess jewellery or expensive watches. Cameras should be kept safely out of sight, as they’re a frequently stolen item here.
- Take care crossing streets, even in marked pedestrian crossings. Driving habits in St. Petersburg can be considered wild at best!
- While it’s not necessary to know if you stick with your river cruise tour group, knowledge of even basic Russian can really help you out in a pinch. While many people in Russia do speak English, its use is not nearly as widespread as in other European countries.