Culture and architecture

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Founded in 1703, the city of St Petersburg had from the very beginning was established as a multi-cultural and multi-confessional city. Architects and cultural figures from the most advanced at that time European countries had worked and created in this city during all three centuries of its history and contributed to its signature, colorful and eclectic style, ranging from Baroque-style buildings to Soviet architecture, Neoclassical structures to Art Nouveau.

The very first building of St. Petersburg was Tsar Peter’s Cabin. The oldest structure in the city, this was the command centre from which St Petersburg was built, starting with the fortress of Peter and Paul, which was meant as a military outpost of Russia but had never made a single military shot; however, up until now, its guns mark the noon with a blank shot.

The city was growing and expanding, its architecture was also going through different architectural styles. However, the main principles of straight avenues and broad squares had always dominated the city’s architecture. Many believe that the Neva, powerful and rebellious is the real chief architect of the city. After the royal residence of Russian tsars, the Winter Palace was built in 1762, no other building but churches could be taller than the palace, and that gave St. Petersburg its unique sky line, so famous and unforgettable. 

You can see in St. Petersburg magnificent  neoclassical buildings like Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Yelagin Palace, the Imperial Academy of Arts, and Mikhailovsky Palace, which houses the Russian Museum, to name but a few. When it comes to Baroque-style buildings in St. Petersburg, the Winter Palace is one of the most iconic. Built in the mid-18th century as the home of the Tsars and now a part of the State Hermitage, the Winter Palace is a grand luxurious green and white spectacular edifice. One of its facades faces Palace Square in the middle of which the 48-metre Alexander Column is not fixed into the ground but stands straight thanks to its own weight, and the angel on its top faces the Neva.

You can find other Baroque-style buildings in the city and its suburbs; one of the most stunning ones is Smolny Cathedral built by the Architect of the Winter Palace Bartolomeo Rastrelli.

Just walking along the man city thoroughfare Nevsky Avenue you can see nearly all architectural styles, including elegant examples of Art Nouveau like Singer House (the former Russian head office of the Singer Sewing Machine Company) and the Eliseyev Emporium (Style Moderne as it was known in Russia). Built within a year of each other in the early 20th century, both buildings were constructed using a metal frame, and exemplify this playful, ornamental style with their exuberant copper statuary and curvaceous lines.

Away from the crowds in central St Petersburg but closer to SMTU headquarters is the historic Kolomna District. The city’s Jewish Quarter circa the 19th century, and once home to Alexander Pushkin, the Kolomna District is today famous for its historic architecture and true Petersburg spirit. Some even label this neighborhood ‘the soul of St Petersburg.’

St. Petersburg is home for numerous museums, starting with the very first Russian museum, the Kunstkamera link founded by Peter the Great himself, and all the way to the Memorial to Defenders of Leningrad, the first city museum you meet on the way from the airport link.  

Besides the universally known Hermitage and Russian Museum, there is lots of other less known to foreign visitors but no less interesting to their visitors. Right next to the Russian Museum is the Museum of Ethnography with its half a million items which give you a pretty good vision of the diversity and sizes of Russia and the Russian Empire.

Not too far away you can find the famous Summer Garden with the famous fencing facing the Neva River link and the Summer Palace of Peter the Great inside the garden. Though named a palace, it is in fact implementation of Peter the Great’s design of a nobleman’s house, one of the very few that had survived.  Not a single tree in the garden had been cut off during the Siege of Leningrad, the museum dedicated to which is very close to the garden link.

The Siege was one of the most tragic pages of World War II, the Great Patriotic War in Russian, which took over 1.5 million citizens killed by artillery bombing and starvation. Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery is a place where 500 thousand people are buried in fraternity tombs and where you can really feel what this city had to get through within the 900 days of the Siege.

St. Petersburg is home to many theaters, such as world-known Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky opera and ballet theaters. But there are less known but no less worthy theaters as SPB Opera, Buff Theater, and many others.  There are many vast and chamber concert halls. On certain occasions, the grandiose Palace Square is also turned into a huge concert auditorium.

Enjoy the White Nights! This is something unique, and you can’t see anywhere else in the world. The popular Museum Night also takes place during the early White Night season.

Despite the numerous famous art museums, modern art also has its space in St. Petersburg. You can co to the Loft Project Etagi link, which may not have an easily identifiable specialty, but therein lies its appeal. Favored by the city’s young and artistic set, this hub occupies what was once a five-storey bread factory, profiting from its slick industrial vibe. Or you can go to #10 Pushkinskaya Street exhibit space and see St. Petersburg artists and their works, discuss the new art with them, and feel the spirit of what was called the underground art.

Being a student in St. Petersburg gives you wonderful opportunities to explore this city, its 42 islands and hundreds of bridges link, get a feeling of St. Petersburg student night life link, see it in the glare of white nights and under the cover of white snow. You will never forget this city and your cultural experiences of staying in it!