The heart of St. Petersburg

Enjoy a pleasant stroll (especially if you are lucky with the weather) through the historical center of St Petersburg. Here is our perfect walking guide for your first day in the city. It requires about 4 -5 hours. The itinerary features the major highlights of the city and some off -the beaten path hidden treasuries. It will help you to better soak into the atmosphere of Russia's Northern capital. We highly recommend you take an umbrella with you as you leave your hotel in St Petersburg.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral
The Bronze Horseman
Neva River
Palace Square
Winter Canal
Moyka River
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
The Mikhailovsky Castle
Fontanka River
Anichkov Bridge

10:00 AM St. Isaac’s Cathedral

ico 30 minutes
ico 4 St. Isaac's Sq.

Start your walking tour from St Isaac's square. There is a historically famous hotel Astoria. You may walk from here to a lovely little garden nearby to enjoy the best view of St Petersburg's iconic landmark- St Isaac's cathedral.

Once the largest cathedral of Russia, St Isaac's was built in 1858 and soon became the main Russian Orthodox church until the Soviet government overtook power. Its silhouette with a massive gilded dome is famous all over the world. It took them about 100 kilos of actual gold to gild the dome.

As you enter the cathedral (used as a museum now, closed on Wednesday), you will be amazed by the beautiful interiors embellished with gold, mosaic works, semi-precious stones, gilded statues, and what not! You may also climb to its colonnade to get a breathtaking rooftop view of the city.

10:30 AM The Bronze Horseman

ico 15 minutes
ico Senate Sq.

Leaving the cathedral, you will see Alexander's park in front of you. Have a pleasant stroll through the park and find Peter the Great's statue overlooking the Neva River. It is the city's most well-known monument to Peter the I, St Petersburg's founder and one of Russia's greatest Emperors. Unveiled on Catherine the Great's order, the monument represents Peter as a brilliant reformer who drastically changed Russia and made it nearly the most powerful state in Europe.

10:45 AM Neva River

ico 15 minutes

The city's main waterway, the Neva, was an essential part of the ancient trade route from Varangians to Greeks and is still used for navigation in the summer. You will see lots of touristy boats passing along the river, and we think you should consider having a boat ride yourself.

On the opposite side of the river, there are many historical buildings: the first museum of Russia-the Kunstkamera, the complex of St Petersburg State University, the Academy of sciences. That is truly a picture-perfect panorama of St Petersburg!

11:00 AM Palace Square

ico 30 minutes
ico Palace Square

The Palace square is one of the most splendid squares in the world, literally overwhelmed with the Imperial grandeur. The most famous is the building of the Winter Palace, the Russian Tsars' former official residence. It is a real baroque gem, built by the Italian architect Francesco Rastrelli.

You may combine your walking tour with a visit to the country's largest art gallery -the Hermitage museum (2-3 hours required) starting from the Winter palace, which is a part of it (closed on Mondays).

In the center of the square, Alexander's column is a memorial to Napoleon's victory in the Patriotic war of 1812. Walking around the column, look at the General Staff Headquarters building, a long yellow classical structure, which is almost 1 km long! It is here that the best collection of Impressionists in Russia is exhibited.

11:30 AM Winter Canal

ico 5 minutes

Walk across the square to the New Hermitage's building (part of the Hermitage museum) located on Millionnaya street. Stop by the massive statues of Atlas. Do not forget to touch their toes and make a wish! It will certainly come true!

Next to the New Hermitage, you will find the shortest canal of the city-the Winter canal. You should stop by one of its bridges and enjoy a breathtaking view of the so-called Russian Venice. Then you will proceed to another city's waterway - the Moika River.

11:40 AM Moyka River

ico 15 minutes

There is no better way to feel the atmosphere of St Petersburg than strolling along its embankments. The Moika, with its ornamental iron bridges and the most intricate railings, is probably the most photographed small river of the city.

12:00 PM The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

ico 40 minutes
ico 2 Griboedova Canal Emb.

We highly recommend you to walk along the Moika River to the Three-arched bridge, where you will find a stunning view of the Church of the Savior on spilled blood. The Church of the Savior on spilled blood was constructed on the spot where Alexander the II, the most liberal Emperor of Russia, was assassinated by the People's Will revolutionary organization. Built mainly as a memorial to the Tsar, it is used as a museum now. (closed on Wednesday).

Often rated as the number one highlight of St Petersburg, the cathedral is of great historical and artistic value. It reminds Russia's Medieval architecture a lot; its facades are so ornate and fabulous that you may even think the cathedral is from a Russian fairy tale, although you know what a tragic story is behind.

Do not ever hesitate to visit it. It is even more fascinating inside: it is floor to ceiling filled with mosaic works, intricate carvings, semi-precious stones.

As you thoroughly enjoy the cathedral interior, you should also walk around it to get the whole idea of its fantastic decoration.

There is a small Mikhailovsky Garden next to the church with the city's most beautiful iron fence. Walking through the garden, rest among its peaceful tranquility as there are not many tourists there. Then go across the street and stop by St Michael's Castle.

12:40 PM The Mikhailovsky Castle

ico 20 minutes
ico 2 Sadovaya St.

Often missed out during the city tours, Michael's castle can tell you, though, a lot of stories and legends. It is the story of Paul I's tragic life and death: he was killed inside his castle after being in power for four years, four months and four days. As if always suspecting an attempt on his life and, thus, leaving his whole life in fear, Paul had built a real castle to protect himself.

Michael's castle used to be located on an island surrounded by the city's rivers and canals. One of them is called the Fountain river. As soon as you are ready to proceed, walk along this river in the direction of the Nevsky prospect.

01:00 PM Fontanka River

ico 15 minutes

Fontanka river used to be a city boundary till the middle of the XVIII century. Strolling along the river, you will find gorgeous palaces of Aristocratic families of the past, which are used as museums now. The Faberge museum is the most well-known among them. Needless to say, that it is well worth a visit.

01:15 PM Anichkov Bridge

ico 5 minutes
ico 66 Nevsky Prospect

As you pass by the Faberge museum, there is an eye-catching bridge decorated with four horse sculptures ahead of you. Do not hesitate to stop on the bridge to kill two birds with one stone: admire the famous bronze casts and enjoy the Fountain river's panorama.

The former entrance gate to the city, the bridge was reconstructed many times until it got its present appearance. The sculptures on the bridge are the city's iconic landmarks and are often depicted on postcards.

01:20 PM Nevsky Prospekt

ico 20 minutes
ico Nevsky Prospekt

Look at St Petersburg main avenue, which is the Nevsky prospect, and start exploring it. It is full of amazing European-like architecture, with plenty of historical buildings and monuments lining it: the Merchant's Yard, the Eliseyev Emporium, a monument to Catherine the Great, the Kazan Cathedral, the House of books, the Stroganov Palace. In between the Anichkov bridge and the Palace square, it is here that you will find its most fabulous highlights.

01:40 PM The Eliseyev Emporium

ico 20 minutes

You will see the city's most well-known grocery store on its right-hand side as you start walking. It is so much more than just an ordinary grocery store. Lavish and beautiful, located in a typical Art Nouveau building, offers its visitors shopping for some exclusive delicacies, e.g., home chocolate, cheese, Russian premium drinks, and some glamorously looking desserts - the store is a real discovery for foodies.

After having a nice break with a cup of coffee and some fresh pastries, you are ready to explore numerous sights on the Nevsky prospect. Your next stop is going to be just across the street.

02:00 PM The Monument to Catherine II

ico 10 minutes
ico 56 Nevsky Pr.

There is a little green retreat on the city's busiest street. It is Catherine Garden (not to be confused with Catherine park in Pushkin), where you will see the monument to the greatest Empress of Russia -Catherine the Second. Take a moment to walk through the garden: there is a beautiful classical building of Alexandrinsky theatre just behind it.

02:10 PM The Great Gostiny Dvor

ico 10 minutes
ico 35 Nevsky Prospekt

Return to the Nevsky prospect and head to an eye-catching yellow building with arches, the Great Gostiny Dvor.

Out of all the department stores of St Petersburg, Gostiny Dvor (Merchant's Yard) is the most historically well-known. Walk-in and find trendy clothes and housewares, some rare and exclusive items, along with a good selection of Russian Vodka, caviar, and other foodie treats- all in one place!

In case you have no interest in shopping, you may enjoy a nice view of Nevsky prospect walking through the store's outside gallery.

02:20 PM The Kazan Cathedral

ico 20 minutes
ico 2 Kazanskaya Sq.

Being the main functioning cathedral of St Petersburg, it is one of the must-visits if looking for the Russian Orthodox church's authentic atmosphere, with regular religious services taking place, beautiful acapella singing, and local congregation praying.

It is a XIX century cathedral, highly influenced by European art, reminding of St Peter's Basilica in Rome and being at the same time a memorial to the victory over Napoleon. Kazan cathedral is so overwhelming that we recommend you to spend at least half an hour exploring it.

02:40 PM The Singer House

ico 10 minutes
ico Nevsky 28

There is the best viewpoint at the Kazan cathedral entrance to take a picture of the Singer building, located just opposite the church. It is another masterpiece of Art Nouveau style, used as an office of the Singer sewing machine company until 1917. Currently being the most famous bookstore in the city, it is always full of people: as you know, Russians love reading printed books!

Leaving this part of the Nevsky prospect, do not forget to take one more photograph of the Savior's church on Spilled blood from the bridge next to the Kazan cathedral.

02:50 PM The Stroganov Palace

ico 5 minutes

As you know, Beef Stroganoff is a typical Russian dish, loved and cooked almost everywhere in the world. The renowned Russian recipe was once called after the owner of the Stroganov palace, count Pavel Stroganov. As the legend says, his cook purposely changed a French beef recipe for his employer: he cut the beef into smaller pieces and enriched it with a cream sauce. That is how fricassee de boeuf was transformed into a legendary Russian dish!

And now you are at the door of that very palace, where the Aristocratic family of Stroganov used to live. The palace is another baroque masterpiece by the brilliant architect Rastrelli. It is used as a museum now.

02:55 PM Literary café

ico 5 minutes

Diagonally across the prospect, a yellow building of a literary café (a Russian cuisine restaurant) was frequented by the Russian literature society members in the XIX century. It was here that Pushkin met his second on the day of his fatal duel with George D'Antès.

You may stop your walking tour here and have lunch in this historical restaurant serving excellent aristocratic cuisine. If you prefer a more budget option, there is a Stolle café just a minute away. It is famous for its delicious pies.

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