There is so much to see in St. Petersburg that even three days isn’t enough! Three days really allows you to see the highlights and if you want to get more into things, then you need to come back for another visit. At first Christian thought that he would be our tour guide in St. Petersburg, like he is in all the other cities we visit. Although, in Russia you are required to get a visa, show proof of health insurance and jump through a couple more hoops that in the end it wasn’t really worth us doing alone. Oceania offered shore excursions in every city that we visited. In St. Petersburg there were probably 30 different excursions offered over the three days. The downside with that is you are in a large group and you don’t get to tailor it to what you want to do & see. In the end, we decided to book a private tour through Alla Tours. You can book online and they come up with an itinerary for the number of days that you will be visiting. Then you can swap out or add anything that you would like to do. Since Christian had been to St. Petersburg before, he knew what things we should be seeing or would be most interesting to us.
The morning of our first day of touring in St. Petersburg, our tour guide and driver were waiting for us on the other side of passport control at the port. For the four of us, we were driven around in a comfy van and were provided water and umbrellas. I have to say that we had unpleasant weather the entire time we were in St. Petersburg. It was cold, gray, rainy & windy! You wouldn’t have thought it was July. We were bundled up in as many layers as possible but you really needed a full rain suit on to stay dry & warm.
We were supposed to start our tour of St. Petersburg with a boat ride through the canals of the city. Due to high water levels it was unsafe to travel through the canals, so instead we took the boat ride on the Neva River. St. Petersburg is located on the delta of Neva River. It is a city rich in so much history, even though it is quite a young city. It was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great. St. Petersburg is built on a bunch of islands with rivers and canals flowing through the city. There are parks, beautiful homes and churches. It is opulent and unlike anything you have seen before.
After our boat tour, we dove right to the Peter & Paul Fortress. It was built by Peter the Great in order to protect the new capital from the Swedish during the Great Northern War of 1700-1721. It was later used as a political prison. The Cathedral of Peter and Paul is located in the fortress. This is the burial place of many of the Russian emperors, from Peter the Great to Nicholas II.
The cathedral was packed full of people and was a little difficult to take pictures but you can see that it was ornately decorated in gold.
Nicholas II & his family weren’t buried in the cathedral until July 1998. They are now in the small Chapel of St. Catherine.
We didn’t walk around the fortress because it was so rainy & windy. We immediately got back in the van and drove to the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood. It is also known as the Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This church is located on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was murdered (fatally wounded by a bomb) in March 1881. After his death, his heir, Alexander III decided to build a church in his memory on this site. The onion-domed church was completed in 1907. It is so impressive looking from the outside but wait until you see the inside!
All the walls and ceilings are covered in mosaics! In 1932 the church was closed, looted & left in disrepair. After WWII it was damaged. In 1970, it was made a part of St. Isaac’s Cathedral Museum and went through a complete restoration and opened again to the public in 1997.
The memorial in the church for Alexander II.
The last church we visited was St. Isaac’s Cathedral. It is the largest cathedral in St. Petersburg & was completed in 1858 after 40 years of construction under the French architect Auguste de Montferrand. It is known for its massive columns of malachite and lapis lazuli. The walls are also richly decorated in mosaics.
Can you believe all the architecture & detail?! These are the most impressive looking churches I have ever seen.