Dreamt up by Peter the Great some 300 years ago, St Petersburg was intended as a symbol of Russia's wealth and sophistication, and blossomed from barren swamp to scintillating modern city under the watchful eye of the Romanovs. Today, that grandeur and elegance still remains, with picturesque canals and waterways lined with pastel-hued Baroque and Neoclassical buildings.
It's no surprise that this magnificent Russian city has been the inspiration for so many great writers and composers, like Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky Korsakov, to name a few. Among the many cultural highlights, take in a dazzling opera or ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre, while the State Hermitage Museum is a must-see - one of the largest museums in the world, you could spend days or even weeks exploring its 400-plus rooms, showcasing a staggering collection of art including works by Picasso and da Vinci.
Just opposite the Hermitage is the Peter and Paul Fortress, a former prison and burial ground, and you can take in panoramic views over the city nearby. For something a little different, we love the Fabergé Museum, the world’s largest collection of exquisite and ornate Fabergé eggs - another icon of Russia.
St Petersburg is a charming city to explore on foot, particularly on long summer evenings - or White Nights as they are known. The Nevsky Prospekt district teems with cafés, bars and restaurants, and also has an array of basilicas and churches, including the utterly beguiling Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, with its distinctive onion domes and extravagant mosaics.
Around St Petersburg, the 18th-century Catherine Palace, named after the wife of Peter the Great, is one hour outside the city and is also well worth seeing, for its grand interiors, while both the Catherine Palace and the Peterhof Palace nearby display serene gardens dotted with fountains.
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