St Petersburg - The architectural gem and Russia's window to the west

Posted by ~Summer~ on August 30, 2010

It was easy to see why St Petersburg was the highlight of the Baltic Sea cruise. Adopted as the capital of Russia by Peter the Great in the early 18th Century, this northern Baltic city, which was originally built on a swamp, has evolved to become a true treasure and a contemporary European cultural center.

A phenomenon that St Peterburg has come to be known for is the "White Nights" - the long summer days where the sun barely descends below the horizon. The "White Nights" are caused by St Petersburg's very northerly geographical location - at 59 degrees 57' North (roughly on the same latitude as Oslo, Norway, the southern tip of Greenland and Seward, Alaska). They normally last from June 11th to July 2nd and on those days, night becomes indistinguishable from day and the street lights don't even need to be turned on! Ok, I bet it also means that Angel would not be willing to go to bed even at 12 midnight.

As we required visas to enter St Petersburg, except if we had booked the tours from Royal Caribbean, we embarked on a 3-hour walking tour early in the morning. Thankfully the weather was warm and kind, so despite the pebbly pavement and lengthy stairs, we managed to lug our stroller and baby and yet keep up with the tour guide.

We were quite struck by the beauty and charm of this city the moment we started the tour. It had a intersecting network of waterways, canals, a magnificent skyline, striking architecture and historical monuments all over the city.

Our first stop was the Bronzed Horseman - a tribute to the founder of St Petersburg, Peter the Great. The pedestal is made of a single piece of red granite in the shape of a cliff. From the top of the cliff, Peter gallantly leads Russia forward, while his horse steps on a snake, which represents the enemies of Peter.

Surrounding the Bronzed Horseman, these were the buildings of the Senate and Synod, architectural monuments of the late Neoclassical.

The dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral was a striking feature in the skyline of St Petersburg and its gilded cupola could be seen glistening from nearly everywhere in the city.

We took a stroll past the Alexander Garden with a beautiful fountain, and admired more of the Russian architectural buildings before we arrived at the next main stop. By the way, it's virtually impossible to finish exploring this huge city in the short span of one day. Well, unless you are Superman.

The Hermitage Museum is the largest art gallery in Russia and is among the largest and most respected art museums in the world. According to experts, if you were to spend a minute looking at each exhibit on display in the Hermitage, you would need 11 years before you could see them all. Gosh, Angel would be a teenager by then! The main building of the Hermitage Museum is the Winter Palace, which was the official residence of the Russian monarchs and their families from 1732 to 1917. It is currently the biggest building in the entire museum and houses the most extensive collections

The Winter Palace is situated on the northern side of the Palace Square, which is the city's main square.

The main focal point of the Palace Square is the Alexander Column. The monument is 155 feet 8 inches tall and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross. Nope, not my Angel though. It was said to be a feat of engineering that this colossal column, weighing an incredible 600 tons, was erected in less than 2 hours without the aid of modern cranes and engineering machines.

On the southern side of the Palace Square stands the yellow-and-white building of the former Imperial Army General Staff..

In the background of this picture was the Admiralty - whose gilded spire had become one of St Petersburg's most famous landmarks.

As we continued our walk in town, we saw some pretty scenery along the Griboyedov Canal. With the vast network of canals intersecting the inner city, it was apparent to see why St Petersburg is given the nickname of "Little Venice of the North".

Our final stop for the tour was the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. This famous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated. Both the interior and exterior of the church is beautifully decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics, which were designed and created by the most prominent Russian artists.

With its distinctive cupolas, unique architectural form and pulsating blend of colours, it is no wonder this magnificent building has become such a symbolic icon of St Petersburg.

After that, we had a bit of free time to do some shopping at the souvenir market opposite the church. I bought a pretty hand-painted hair clip for myself while jw bought his usual magnets. We later got a Russian bell-doll for Angel as a keepsake too. That marked the end of our walking trip tour and we made our way back to the cruise ship.

Initially, we wanted to take three tours in one day but the cruise staff told us that it would be over-exhausting and we might not rush in time from tour to tour. It was a wise decision to cut down to two because we had a couple of hours in the afternoon to simply relax in our cabin, let our baby take a nice long nap, have some fun playing the arcade games, and take a sumptuous dinner before heading out for our second tour.

In the evening, we set off to watch a traditional Russian folk dance performance. What surprised us was to see that the tour bus was filled with nearly all elderly people, except us. I was like, oh no, what had I signed up for that no young people was interested in? Maybe we should have opted to watch the ballet performance instead. Which my hubby had zero interest in. Folk dance, a teeny bit more.

The theatre was a small, simple and rather old one. Despite all the signs pointing that it wasn't going to be an exhilarating show ahead, we stayed positive and all we wanted was to have a nice family time and enjoy our night in St Petersburg.

Well, ended up we were treated to an absolutely invigorating performance. The show was made up of both dance and singing, my preferred part was definitely the dance. The vibrant costumes, fast-paced choreography and complicated stunts made sure that our eyes were glued to the stage most of the time. Well, except when our baby demanded for more attention and tried to demonstrate her own singing and weird dance steps. I had no idea how these dancers managed to keep up with the rhythm and seemed to be filled with endless zest and energy for the entire 2 hours. So, bravo!

As the show came to an end, it was also time to bid farewell to the beautiful city of St Petersburg. We definitely had a great time admiring this architectural gem!

Check out more updates from the other ports of call on this cruise: Helsinki (Finland), Riga (Lativa), Gdansk (Poland)

To see more of the world, visit my Travelogue page here.


Here's a simple video I did that shows the highlights of the entire Baltic cruise. Enjoy viewing!

For a complete list of my videos, click here.


  1. Thanks for describing St Peters for me. Your memories is indeed amazing. i have forgotten names of the monuments oredi!! but i did enjoyed this trip and st peter was really nice. The ladies there were also very pretty too ; )

  2. @JJ
    ladies? what ladies? I don't remember about that. Haha. Got hunks? You will be even more impressed at my amazing memory when you see all the write-ups of our overseas trips. Haha. The photos helped a lot! It's nice to document all these fond trips, isn't it?


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