European Countries

Old Town of Saint Petersburg (World Heritage)

According to a2zgov, the city built by Peter the Great on the Neva estuary was the capital of Russia and the tsar’s residence from 1712-1918. The western-style city, the so-called “Venice of the North”, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its unique palaces, fortresses, churches, cathedrals, monasteries and museums.

Old City of Saint Petersburg: Facts

Official title: Historic center of Saint Petersburg
Cultural monument: also called “Venice of the North”, founded as Saint Petersburg under Peter the Great, known as Petrograd from 1914-24 and then as Leningrad until 1991; Old town with monuments such as Nicholas Naval Cathedral, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Winter Palace with 1057 rooms, today part of the State Hermitage with masterpieces such as Raphael’s “The Holy Family” and El Greco’s “Apostles Peter and Paul”, the Church of the Resurrection, along the Nevsky Prospect the Dutch Church and – as the burial place of the last Polish king – the Katharinenkirche, the Kazan Cathedral and the Anichkov Palace
Continent: Europe
Country: Russia
Location: St. Petersburg
Appointment: 1990
Meaning: the tsarist residence in the combination of baroque and classicism and memory of the October Revolution

Old town of Saint Petersburg: history

1689 Peter I becomes the Russian tsar
May 27, 1703 Laying of the foundation stone for the Peter and Paul Fortress on Rabbit Island
1753-62 Construction of the Nicholas Naval Cathedral
1754-62 Construction of the Winter Palace
1764-67 Construction of the Small Hermitage
1783-89 Construction of the Tauride Palace for Catherine II.
1801-11 Construction of the Kazan Cathedral
1806-23 Construction of today’s admiralty
1818-58 New construction of St. Isaac’s Cathedral on a foundation of more than 24,000 tarred pine stakes
1837 Fire in the Winter Palace
1.3.1881 Assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander II in front of the Resurrection Church
November 7, 1917 Storm on the Winter Palace
from 9/8/1941 900 days of siege of Leningrad, the result a. 641 803 fatalities in the city

Russia’s window to the west

In the middle of the Great Northern War, Russia’s long struggle with the then powerful Sweden for supremacy in Northern Europe, Tsar Peter I had the Peter and Paul Fortress built on an island in the Neva Delta in 1703. Under the protection of this huge weir system, a huge shipyard was built on the southern bank of the river as the cradle for Russia’s fleet. Today the location of the shipyard is marked by the imposing stone building of the Admiralty, the towering, gilded spire of which bears the replica of a Russian sailing frigate.

In the eastern corner of the Gulf of Finland, but with a view of the Baltic Sea, the new capital of the Russian Empire was built on both sides of the Neva within a few decades according to the ideas of Peter I, which the Tsar named Saint Petersburg after his patron saint, Saint Peter. With more than 400 bridges connecting more than three dozen Neva islands, numerous river arms and canals, the city resembles a »Russian Amsterdam«. It should be the symbol of Russia’s entry into the circle of the great European powers, »Russia’s window to the West, to Europe«.

After the tsar’s residence was moved from the Moscow Kremlin to the Neva, foreign embassies and merchants, officials and craftsmen followed the tsar. After the victorious Peace of Nystad in 1721, builders, painters and sculptors came from all over Europe to build a unique »drawing board city«, a capital with long streets, wide squares, elegant palaces, stately churches and state buildings, with extensive quays and well-tended gardens. The lavishly curved and richly decorated baroque buildings of the first decades, such as the Peter and Paul Cathedral and the Winter Palace, were followed by the cool, elegant, columnar buildings of classicism, such as the Small Hermitage, the Tauride Palace, the Kazan and Isaac Cathedral, one of the largest sacred domed buildings in the world.

Magnificent boulevards, here called »prospectuses«, sparkle like beams for kilometers and straight from the Admiralty through the historic old town. The longest, widest and most beautiful of these boulevards is the Newskij, which is reminiscent of the Russian grand prince, military leader and saint Aleksandr Newskij, hero of the »Ice Battle on Lake Peipus« won against the Teutonic Order in 1242. Initially the access road to the old trade route to Novgorod and Moscow, this street ends in front of the Aleksandr Nevsky monastery, to which Peter I had relics of the saint brought and which he thus elevated to an outstanding monastery in the Eastern Church. Splendid palaces, city villas, department stores and churches of many denominations crowd along this boulevard, a multicultural citizenry has presented itself here for almost three centuries.

Probably the most magnificent building in the city was commissioned by Tsarina Elisabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great: the Winter Palace, built as an Italian baroque symphony in white and green, supplemented by a classical appendix by the Bavarian court architect Leo von Klenze. Catherine the Great, German princess and Empress of Russia, transformed the Winter Palace into her »Hermitage«, a museum that is now one of the largest and most important art and history museums of mankind. But there was nothing aesthetically pleasing in 1905 when the troops of Tsar Nicholas II ended a peaceful workers’ demonstration in front of the Winter Palace with a bloodbath. Twelve years after that Bloody Sunday, the Red Guards’ storm on the palace ushered in the October Revolution.

The old core of the northernmost metropolis on earth today forms with its magnificent buildings, its clearly structured street fronts and its countless river arms, canals and bridges a unique baroque-classicist total work of art, which appears every year during the “White Nights” in June as if covered in silver. The French writer André Gide said of this Saint Petersburg: “I don’t know a more beautiful city, no more harmonious amalgamation of stone, metal and water.”

Old Town of Saint Petersburg