St. Petersburg: The Northern Pearl of Europe
Moscow and St. Petersburg are notorious for their intense rivalry, from professional sports teams (mainly soccer) to weather to various perceptions of urban beauty. I guess some kind of metropolitan ambitions and jealousy are also involved: St. Petersburg used to be the capital of the Russian Empire for almost three centuries until the Bolshevik government decided to shift it to the more geopolitically convenient Moscow.
In my opinion, life in St. Petersburg is definitely less hectic than in Moscow. Some claim that people in St. Petersburg are also nicer and friendlier but I have my reservations about this. And even though my heart has long belonged to Moscow, I do acknowledge St. Petersburg’s classiness and elegance. This city is soaked in historical dominance, and the spirit of posh royal balls succeeded by carefully plotted coup d’état’s soars in its forever misty air.
I’ve visited St. Petersburg many times, and I’ve been overwhelmed with memories and the places I want to write about. So I decided to ask my friends who used to or still live in this beautiful city to share their favorite sights of St. Petersburg in this post.
I’ve been living here for two and a half years now. I admire sites that are somehow related to the city’s military glory in the Great Patriotic War and the Blockade. There is this little park on the corner of Marshal Zhukov prospect and Avangardnaya street. It features a white-stone line, which represents a legitimate city border during the Blockade. People still find sleeves and bullets here.
It also feels good to drive along the Neva’s promenades, from the Alexander Nevsky Bridge up to the Primorsky prospect on the right side of the river, and from the Liteyny Bridge up to the Lieutenant Schmidt Bridge on the left side. The best place to relax and put your thoughts together would be the Tauride Garden. Lawns, trees, narrow sparkling channels, picturesque bridges, romantic benches and little ponds with ducks always make my day.
I love St. Petersburg mostly for the people. They are kinder and more hospitable. The city is especially beautiful in spring and summer, as all the things worth seeing are seasonal. For me, St. Petersburg is represented by palaces, Pushkin, boat trips on the Neva and its channels, the drawing of bridges, open-terrace cafes in the city and open-air night clubs in the Gulf of Finland.
I think the most picturesque views of the city are revealed from the Neva and its channels’ promenades. At night, while driving through the promenades, I am so fascinated by the drawing of the numerous bridges over the river. I also appreciate the view of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood from the Field of Mars or the Griboyedov Channel. It features the most amazing ornaments on its fence. At the Summer Garden, you can immerse yourself in the world of Ancient Greece while hiding from the exhausting heat under the dense oak foliage. I also like the view of The Russian Museum from my window, remote sounds of music, tourist crowds, street paintings, performances on the Palace Square, sunrays reflected on the spire of Peter and Paul Fortress, and the view of promenades and palaces from the Neva River. The greatness of the city is in its simplicity.
My favorite site is Yelagin Park in summer. It stretches across the whole island, featuring preserved constructions of tsarist Russia. The park is soigne, cozy and sublimely tranquil.
I am charmed by the empty Palace Square at night, and of course, by all the scenic bridges over the Neva. Sometimes the city is too crowded, but the river always feels spacious.
My favorite memories of St. Petersburg stem from the walks along the promenades and bridges over the channels. There is a legend about the famous Bank Bridge: many years ago this place featured the Assignation Bank, and the griffins on the bridge were its vigilant guardians. And every tourist should touch the griffin’s golden wings to attract financial prosperity.
My favorite spot in St. Petersburg is the restaurant called Terrassa, which is located on the right side of Kazan Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan). In May, the restaurant opens its summer terrace, where guests can enjoy the view of the palace, which is especially awesome during the sunset. Here you can observe the most beautiful part of St. Petersburg and just appreciate the moment.
My own memories of this wonderful city go back to an ordinary school day in February when my dad suddenly showed up in my math class and announced that he and I were going to St. Petersburg immediately. It was his 31st birthday (I was 9), and I guess he wanted to run away from the mandatory birthday routine and just disappear for a couple of days.
I remember us walking over one of the Neva bridges. The wind was so strong that I could barely move my feet. I could almost feel the cold in my bones, but it didn’t matter, as it was one of the happiest moments of my life, just holding my dad’s hand and feeling secure. We spent all day wandering around the city (eating ice cream!) and chatting about everything that would come to our minds at cozy little cafes. My dad showed me the Winter Palace and Hermitage, where we spent hours contemplating great art of the past. And even though I didn’t really understand a thing and was much more impressed by the ugly creatures of The Kunstkamera, that first time I was introduced to the mystery of the great Russian history shaped the person I am today.