Peterhof Palace in winter.
Top Saint Petersburg Sights – churches, museums and palaces:
The Hermitage Museuminside the Winter palace. This massive edifice houses nearly three million artifacts – in an awesome environment that often overshadows the exibits – which would require nine years to see, so do some research and choose your targets carefully, but do include a visit to the amazing state rooms of the Winter Palace.
Avoiding huge Hermitage queues: buy a two-day voucher (discounted and the museum certainly justifies a couple of days) a few days in advance from the Hermitage online. Print the voucher and then exchange it for an entry ticket on arrival at the groups/disabled entrance. To see the most popular section of the museum, the Treasure Gallery, book a guided tour as soon as you arrive.
Students of any nationality get in free, but must show a student card. The first Thursday of the month is also free to everyone.
The Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood home to the Museum of Mosaic, is an amazing 7, 500 sq m of breathtaking mosaic religious art but frequently absolutely inundated by tank-top tourists, flashing cameras and milling clusters of paddle-followers, so try to go early or off-season. Photo.
Peterhof Palace and Gardens. Photos and information above.
The State Russian Museum, set in Mikhaelovski Palace is a must-see even if you love the Hermitage. It houses countless superb Russian art works from ancient icons to bizarre folk art, specialising in Russian work as opposed to the Hermitage which embraces the world.
Peter and Paul Fortress, built in 1703 by Peter the Great, is St Petersburg’s earliest structure, externally plain but picturesquely set on its own island in the city centre, the Fortress houses various museums and the Peter and Paul Cathedral, with gilded needle spire and containing tombs of the Tsars and a stunning gilded wood iconostasis among other unique relics. Also busy in the summer try visiting between 4pm and 6pm closing.
Opera or Ballet performances at Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov) Theatre, Mikhailovsky Theater, or the cheaper and more intimate St Petersburg Opera.