What’s Doing in Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg, Russia is a city with many names. It was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and given its current name. In 1914 it was renamed as Petrograd in an attempt to remove its Germanic roots, in 1924 as Leningrad, and following a period of perestroika, glasnost, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it returned to being Saint Petersburg. Russians may simply call it Petersburg and, in casual conversation, even Pioter.
The plethora of names notwithstanding, Saint Petersburg, which served as the Imperial capital of Russia for two centuries, continues to serve as Russia’s cultural capital. It is also by far the country’s most westernized city.
The city is a major Russian port with a population of roughly five million. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1991, which covers the city’s historic core. The designation is based on its architectural heritage, which brings together Baroque, Neoclassical, and Russian-Byzantine influences.
Despite its location north of Moscow, the climate is warmer than the capital city and similar to that of Helsinki due to its proximity to the Gulf of Finland. Expect moderate temperatures in the summer (the average maximum temperature is 73° F (23° C) and, in winter, 17° F (-8.5° C) with an average of 118 days with snow cover.
WHAT TO DO
Start your visit at the Peter and Paul Fortress, the first brick and stone building or citadel built in the city. Up to the early 20th century, it was in use as a prison but today it is the central building of the State Museum of Saint Petersburg History. The museum documents the city with a collection of over one million objects including drawings, photos, and plans of the city dating back to the 18th century.
The Peter and Paul Cathedral is located inside the fortress. Built between 1712 and 1733 on Zayachy Ostrov (Hare Island) along the Neva River, it’s considered by some to be the highest Russian Orthodox church in the world, thanks to its tall bell tower.