St. Petersburg: A Gem in the Rough

St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia’s first imperial city, St. Petersburg is a study in grandeur. From its summer festivities and ethereal White Nights to its overwhelming Museums, Palaces and galleries, the tranquil beauty of the River Neva with magnificent bridges raised high to let ships through - the city offers many unique experiences to impress travelers who have the pleasure of roaming these streets. The capital of Russia might have moved back to Russia, but St. Petersburg is up and thriving in the milieu of diverse cultures that it represents. With attractions like the dilapidated Soviet era buildings and an underground art and culture scene that is gathering traction in the present, St. Petersburg has become one of those rare gems which really grow on you, with incredible experiences showing up in places you would least expect.

Here are just a few reasons which make it such a special place to explore:

Endless Summer Nights
Summer is a phenomenon in St. Petersburg and as the snow begins melting to signal the end of winter, periods with minimal daylight when everything retreats indoor, the entire city starts donning a picture of gaiety. It is like a 24 hour party in the city square. The revelry starts in May when the park trees blossom and colors peak in mid-June, and the sun barely dips beneath the horizon to result in eternal daylight. People gather at 1 am on the banks of River Neva to watch the opening of bridges and cheer on the ships and boats that sail forth. It is a party even during the day when you can stroll into one of the concert squares or simply chill on the banks of River Neva basking in the sun and the glory of the surrounding scenery with a chilled bottle of wine.

Venetian Delight
With its intricate network of canals, 342 bridges and town squares sporting instances of baroque and neoclassical architecture, the town of St. Petersburg is often referred to as the Venice of the North. Indeed with its beautiful palaces, cathedrals and buildings sporting the best of European architecture, the city is a great place for a little throwback and immersing yourself into the idyllic feel of its meandering alleys and scenic parks. For a touch of character, you can even wander over to one of the derelict Soviet era block buildings which still stand today, mostly in the vicinity of the terminal stations of the metro network. These make for great photos and also get you closer to the spirit of a city which appears to transport you to an different era in world history.

An Artsy Legacy
St. Petersburg is also a dream come true for art lovers. Whether you love music, art or are into the street art scene, during the summer months the city squares will keep you entertained. The city houses a treasure trove of art from maestros including the likes of Picasso. Head over to the Hermitage for getting a true taste of art. The collection here comprises of everything, from masterpieces by Picasso to mummies from the Egyptian civilization. The Russian Museum is unrivaled in terms of sheer size. The building itself is spread out through four different sprawling palaces where you can feast your eyes on the finest specimens of Russian art. The masterful brush strokes and vibrant dashes of color that come alive on the campus to tell stories of a different time and place will undoubtedly move you. And if you want to sample some specimens of the thriving Russian contemporary art scene, you should definitely visit the remarkable Erarta Museum.

If music is of interest, why not venture into a ballet show or the opera at the Mariinsky Theatre? You can also catch a show of the Shostakovich Philharmonica for a taste of the finest in classical music.

Yes, St. Petersburg is endowed with outstanding natural beauty, a rich architectural legacy and a checkered history that has lent the city its unique textures and character. It was indeed Russia’s first imperial city that had been showcased to the world as Romanov’s pride. Remnants of the Soviet era still show up in the annals of the city that is rediscovering itself through modern art and music. This is a city that will amaze you with its glorious summer, with the tranquility you can experience on the beautiful banks of River Neva as well as the warmth of its charming and hospitable spirit. If you ever feel like a lost ship in search of a harbor for your soul, remember that there is a city in Russia ready to raise its bridges to let you in.
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