What to do in Saint Petersburg

by Ekaterina Savchenko


Having bachelor degree from another Saint-Petersburg’s educational institution and 3 years of professional experience, I entered to master’s course at Saint-Petersburg State University in 2015 and I’ve never regretted that. Not only is this university one of the oldest, but also it is unexpectedly modern and friendly. SPbU was founded in 1724 by Peter the Great and was to become the first institution of higher education in Russia. The university gives you practical knowledge as well as theoretical one, and provides an opportunity to take part in various activities: sports leagues, social communities such as SPbU Students’ Trade Union, the Career Center or the International Students’ Club, and creative organizations which have national and even international recognition. The latter include a student choir, a youth chamber orchestra, a drama studio, a vocal studio and a Russian folk instruments orchestra. Moreover, we have our own KVN student championship, the Peterhof Olympic sports festival, the fancy-dress jazz party, and the International Festival.

For example, I participate in scientific society of my faculty. Teachers and students meet 1-2 times a month to listen to scientific research’s results of one of the students and then discuss it together. It is similar to an ordinary conference, but more informal. For now I have never presented my research at the meeting, but I am going to do it next month.

One of the advantages of studying in SPbU is the city where it was founded. In my opinion, Saint-Petersburg takes place among others incredibly beautiful cities like Rome, Vienna or Barcelona. Students who study in this city have lots of chances to spend spare time visiting museums, art galleries, cathedrals and others.

There are a lot of wonderful places you can visit in St Petersburg, but in my opinion, next ones (of course, except famous Nevsky Prospekt, The Hermitage,  Peter and Paul Fortress and St Isaac’s Cathedral) are «must see»:

Russian Museum

While the State Hermitage displays fine art from all over the world, the Russian Museum concentrates on home-grown masterpieces. Opened in 1898, the museum contains everything from priceless religious icons to works by avant-garde artists such as Kandinsky (he’s my favourite). Among other outstanding exhibits are The Last Day of Pompeii, a gigantic depiction of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius by the 19th-century artist Karl Bryullov, and Ilya Repin’s colossal The Zaporozhye Cossacks Writing a Mocking Letter to the Turkish Sultan. http://en.rusmuseum.ru/

Church on Spilled Blood

Unlike the fabled St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, the Church of the Savior is barely 100 years old. It marks, however, the very spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.

Mariinsky Theatre

First opened in 1860, the Mariinsky Theatre has long been one of the world’s most famous venues for ballet and opera. It has been a venue for premieres by greats such as Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, and its dance school was responsible for Nureyev and Nijinsky. https://www.mariinsky.ru/en/

St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet

Boris Eifman, the founder and creator of his own theater, his own style, and his own ballet universe, who is called “one of the leading choreographers in the world” and an “amazing magician of the theater”. I definitely advice you to visit it, even if you don’t like ballet at all, because Boris Eifman’s is incredible and understandable for everyone. It’s really magical! http://www.eifmanballet.ru/en/

Vasilevskiy Island

The largest island in St Petersburg offers a bizarre selection of attractions, including a pair of 15th-century sphinxes from Egypt on the river side and a museum of biological oddities (Kunstkammer, Universitetskaya Nab 3) where you can see the skeleton and heart of Peter the Great’s gigantic personal servant. The island is also home to the 19th-century Rostral Columns, whose torches are lit on special occasions. It’s a great place to wander the banks of the Neva river.

Day trips Peterhof (if you come to our city in summer)

Peterhof Palace was built by Tsar Peter to outshine Versailles. He might not have managed to build a bigger palace, but the opulent water gardens his architects created beggar comprehension. Especially the grand cascade draws millions of tourists to Peterhof each year. Peterhof Palace is, strictly speaking, not located in St. Petersburg anymore, but a couple of miles away to the west. You will have to take one of the crazy hydrofoil speed boats to get there.

Tsarskoe Selo and Catherine Palace

The palace and the wide gardens are more than worth a visit (even in winter!). The highlight, however, will be the world famous Amber Room, painstakingly restored to its former glory between 1979 and 2003. The original was lost during World War II, but Russian artisans created a perfect replica you can now see inside the Catherine Palace. Truly outstanding!

And some additional places interesting to see:

New Holland

The area of New Holland (a manmade island) was transformed into a public park in September 2016 and it’s home to all kinds of activities, including public art, open studios for children, sport events and concerts. Visit the Garage Pavilion to see the work of contemporary Russian artists, check out the local farm, watch the seagulls on the Neva river and walk along the frozen canal (or on it if you’re feeling lucky) as snowflakes mix with mulled wine in your thermos.

Smolny Convent

The Smolny Convent is one of the most beautiful monastic buildings in the world. The architectural masterpiece was designed by the famous Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (the same who designed the Winter Palace or Peterhof).

House of Soviets & communist architecture

The house of Soviets in a huge Stalinist style building built in the late 1930s and located in the Moskovsky District. The building is, however, just one of many such buildings in St. Petersburg. Lining the banks of the river News, just a little east of Peter and Paul Fortress, you will see similarly sized and styled colossi.

Moika Palace (also called Yusupov Palace).

It was here, famous Grigori Rasputin was murdered on December 17th, 1916. But more to the point, the palace is just simply gorgeous. There is even an authentic palatial theater inside and it will give you a good impression of the aristocratic life in imperial St. Petersburg.

Admiralty Buildings

One of the many fabulous buildings you definitely should not miss on your stay in St. Petersburg is the Admiralty. The sprawling complex is, to this date, the headquarters of the Russian Navy.

Pulkovo Observatory

One hour from the city is the almost-futuristic world of the semi-abandoned scientific observatory at Pulkovo Hills. From time to time steel refractors and radio telescopes burst into view, disrupting the serene landscape and inspiring a sense of awe. On the grounds are several Stalin-era residential houses decorated with Zodiac signs, and Zhiguli cars dotted around – the area seemingly stuck in the past. A shimmering light pink underpass leads to the observatory when leaving the bus at Pulkovo Highway. It’s the perfect place for watching the planes taking off at Pulkovo airport while enjoying the strange, eerie allure of the abandoned observatory.

Kronstadt & Naval Cathedral

Kronstadt is a small island in the middle of the gulf of Finland and part of the many UNESCO World Heritage sites of Saint Petersburg. The Naval Cathedral is certainly the highlight, but the historical part of the town and the fortress are just as impressive.

Canal tour

St. Petersburg is a city of many water canals. In fact, there are over 800 bridges crossing a total length of 300 kilometers of artificial canals. They served as important transport ways and kept the city built on marshland dry. Having the enormous number of canals, Saint-Petersburg is included in the list of several cities in Northern Europe which are called “Venice of the North”.

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