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St Petersburg, a city that gets under your skin

Nalynn Dolan Caine |
Some would tell you, visiting St Petersburg it's like taking a cultural spa vacation. And indeed, built in 1703 by Tsar Peter the Great, this city of amazing palaces, magnificant parks, winding canals and over 800 bridges crossing them, centuries later still looks impressive, a bit shabby, but chic - and it still feels every bit the imperial capital.

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Situated on the banks and islands of Neva river and Gulf of Finland, St Petersburg is an untypical Russian city. Wherever you turn there is history in this place, stunning looking parks, another glorious piece of architecture from a few centuries ago, impressive palaces which St Petersburg's elite buit on the grand scale - now museums - reflecting in the waters of the river. And once the summer comes and the northern sun barely dips below the horizon, the city has an unforgettable, dream-like beauty that is truly breathtaking.

The magnificent Palace Square forms the heart of historical St. Petersburg. On the eastern side there is the former Royal Guards' General Staff building, now used for various government offices. On the west, the square borders the Admiralty, the current headquarters of the Russian Navy, and the Admiralty Garden which you may walk through on your way from the Hermitage. On the southern side there is a yellow and white building that served as the former home of the Imperial Army General Staff and now houses government offices.

One of the city's most famous symbols visible from all over the historic center of St. Petersburg is a colossal domed St. Isaac's Cathedral. Its gleaming dome is plated with pure gold and decorated with statues of angels. It is possible to walk up to the colonnade for fantastic views of the city. Fourteen different colors of marble and many semi-precious stones were used to decorate the cathedral. It is one of the reasons the cost of the cathedral ballooned to almost ten times that of the Winter Palace, the official residence of the Russian monarchs which is now the Hermitage Museum.

In the centre of city there is the city’s most beautiful and memorable landmark, the Church on Spilled Blood. The walls and ceilings inside the church are completely covered with more than 7500 sq. meters of mosaics from the Urals and Altai region. Its interior is the largest surface in the world covered with mosaics created to religious subjects. The church is a Museum of Mosaics, a must visit. Take a canal cruise to pass famous jewels of buildings and admire the beautiful baroque and neoclassical architecture of St Petersburg and its bridges.

Oh, the bridges! They will knock your socks off! There are about 200 bridges in the city and it's hard to tell which one is more beautiful. Is it the Anichkov Bridge for its four beautiful sculptures of men and horses, or would it be the Bank Bridge with golden-winged griffons, or the Egyptian Bridge, or would it be drawbridges... Definitively watch the fantastic show of bridge drawing and enjoy various street performances and shows that are adding to the pleasure of the event.

Stroll Nevsky Prospect, the main street filled with many museums, beautiful sights, little cozy cafes and restaurants. Take a sit at upscale Terrassa restaurant next to Kazan Cathedral run by the fashionable Ginza Project. Stop in Singer Cafe with a view of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome for the breakfast and a coffe. Then pay a visit to DLT TSUM, the most glamorous store in all of the city, and after that visit Ananov Jewelry Gallery - prices are available only by asking.

Don't leave the city without visiting Peterhof, 'Russian Versaille', the most spectacular imperial estate with 30 palaces and pavilions, fountains and sculptures everywhere, and breathtaking looking gardens divided into three separate parks laid out on the orders of Peter the Great. It is hard to find words to describe the beauty of the place and pictures do not do justice. This is the truly luxury of the tsars and the most beautiful and unique place you have ever been to.

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