This week we are heading to Russia to tour St. Petersburg, one of its most beautiful and historically significant cities. Once known as Leningrad, St. Petersburg is home to gorgeous palaces, cathedrals, theaters, delicious foods, and more. For a virtual and accessible tour of St. Petersburg, keep reading!
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Visit the Museums and Sites
Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, St. Petersburg served as the imperial capital for two centuries. It continues to be one of the main cultural centers of Russia and attracts visitors from all over the world.
One heavily visited site is the Catherine Palace, a Rococo palace part of the World Heritage Sites in St. Petersburg. The palace is famous for its illustrious decorations, Catherine park, and golden fixtures. For more information about the Catherine Palace, click here to access a video with captions or click here to access a blog about the site.
Built in the early 1800’s, St. Isaac’s Cathedral was originally St. Petersburg’s official church and the largest cathedral in all of Russia. It is a wonderful feat of architecture and currently functions as a museum with occasional church services. To learn more about St. Isaac’s Cathedral, access a video through the link here and a blog through the link here. The video includes captions.
Hosting one of the richest collections in the world, the State Hermitage Museum is home to nearly three million items dating back to the Stone Age to present day. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, and continues to serve as an impressive monument to art throughout the centuries. For more information about the museum, be sure to click on the link here to access a video with captions and click on the link here for a blog.
The Palace Square is an incredibly significant part of the city, being the central city square of St. Petersburg and the former Russian empire. The square connects many important monuments, such as the St. Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace, and the Alexander Column. To access more information about the Palace Square, watch the video linked here and read the blog linked here. The video includes captions.
Out of all of St. Petersburg’s islands, Vasilievsky Island is the largest and one of the most beautiful. The island is home to a captivating, well-kept historic district, as well as the prestigious St. Petersburg State University and the Spit of Vasilievsky Island. Watch the video at the link here to learn more about the Spit, and check out the blog at the link here for more information about the island as a whole. The video comes with captions.
One of the most well-known and well-regarded sites in St. Petersburg is the Mariinsky theater, a foundational institution of ballet and opera for the country. Boasting illustrious stages and wonderful performances, the Mariinsky Theater happens to be the place where many of Tchaikovsky’s, Mussorgsky’s, and others’ masterpieces premiered. To learn more about the theater, watch an informative video with captions at the link here and access a blog at the link here.
Tune in to Shows and Movies About St. Petersburg and Russia
St. Petersburg and Russia have been centers of art for centuries, with artists creating memorable works in literature, painting, and more. Many captivating stories have been developed through the medium of film and television as well, with St. Petersburg and Russia serving as the backdrop for many movies. In general, accessible films and TV shows on St. Petersburg were difficult to find, so we turned our attention more broadly to Russia.
“Anna Karenina” is a popular film, with the story being adapted into movies time and time again. Originally a novel by famed author Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina” gives life to the tragic love story of a St. Petersburg aristocrat and her affair with a handsome cavalry officer. To watch the Academy Award winning remake of “Anna Karenina,” click on the link here. The film includes closed captions.
For a delightful and hilarious Soviet comedy, look no further than “Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia.” The film explores the hijinx and mischief that ensues as each character tries to find a dying woman’s treasure hidden somewhere in St. Petersburg. To watch the film, click on the link here. The film includes subtitles.
An emotional, romantic film, “A Railway Station for Two” is a well-loved Soviet film that came out in 1983 to great success. The film follows a waitress and a pianist who meet at a train station and become enamored with each other, while also facing their own conflicts in love and life. To access the movie, click on the link here, and the film comes with subtitles.
Another one of Leo Tolstoy’s works –– and arguably his most renowned –– is “War and Peace,” an epic historical drama surrounding the lives of aristocratic families in the wake of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. While trying to make sense of their own struggles, the character’s in the story deal with love, familial tragedy, fulfillment, and the chaos going on around them. To watch a 2016 mini-series version of the drama, click on the link here. The series includes closed captions.
“The Great” is a comedy-drama series that is entertaining, wild, and anti-historical. The show follows young Catherine as she goes from rural Russian life to living and ruling as Catherine the Great. To watch this series, click on the link here. The series has subtitles and audio description.
If you love science fiction and action, you will definitely like “Better Than Us.” Chock full of family tension, high stakes conflict, and a cutting-edge robot, the series plays with the ways that technology can change lives for the better and for the worse. To watch the show, click on the link here. The series comes with closed captions.
“Dead Mountain: The Dyatlov Pass Incident” is a series that is sure to have viewers turning their night lights on. Based on true events, this harrowing story revolves around the murder of nine student hikers in the Ural Mountains and the mystery of what really happened to them. To watch the show, use the link here, and the series comes with closed captions.
Get Lost in Books About St. Petersburg
Russian literature –– especially Russian literature based in St. Petersburg –– offers much beauty, artistry, and interest that can captivate any reader.
A philosophical and widely read book is Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” which follows the guilt of impoverished student Raskolnikov after he committed a horrible crime in St. Petersburg. Building on Raskolnikov's inner turmoil, the suspense of the story, the depth of characterization, and profound moral questions that arise all play a part in making this one of the most compelling novels of all time. To read “Crime and Punishment,” use the link here, and the book comes with an audiobook and a Kindle version.
For a historical commentary on the background of St. Petersburg, look no further than “St. Petersburg” by Jonathan Miles. Miles is able to effectively capture the nuances of the city, where its contradictions and battles with light and darkness are laid out for the reader. To access the book, click on the link here, and the book comes with a Kindle version.
Coming from one of the most famous Russian writers of all time, Nikolai Gogol’s “Petersburg Tales” is a wonderful collection of biting satire. Poking fun at the absurdity of imperial Russia, Gogol’s stories paint a comedic and thought provoking portrait of St. Petersburg in the 1830’s-1840’s. To read this collection, use the link provided here, and the book comes with a Kindle version.
“City of Thieves” by David Benioff is a remarkable fictional glimpse into St. Petersburg –– or rather Leningrad –– during the chaos of World War II. Main character Lev Beniov and cellmate Kolya are tasked with securing a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake, a terrifying and strangely funny scenario. Fighting through the impossible, the pair are forced to complete their directive in order to survive. To access the book, click on the link here, and the book comes with an audiobook and Kindle version.
A historical mystery with incredibly developed characters, “The Man from St. Petersburg” by Ken Follett is one hell of a ride. Feliks, a man set out to commit a world changing murder, arrives in London. He goes up against English forces, a powerful lord, and a young Winston Churchill, though still persistent as ever to finish his mission. To read “The Man from St. Petersburg,” use the link here, and the book comes with an audiobook and a Kindle version.
Bring St. Petersburg to Your Kitchen
St. Petersburg is home to a host of great eateries and a culture of delicious food. Made for decidedly bitter winters and a cup of strong tea, these vegan gluten-free recipes are sure to satisfy even the most judgmental babushka.
One of the most quintessential Russian dishes is borscht, a beet soup with other vegetables. It is a perfect light meal, and is often dressed up with some sour cream and green onions. For a great vegan and gluten free recipe, use the link here, take a spoon, and dig in!
A heavier, more filling option that is just as popular in St. Petersburg, throughout Russia, and other Slavic countries is pelmeni, also known as pierogi. Pelmeni are dumplings that can be filled with meat, potatoes, and other veggies, and they are either boiled or fried. Click the link here for a delicious vegan and gluten free pelmeni recipe that is guaranteed to leave you content.
Another staple of Russian desserts is the Napoleon cake, which is a tiered cake made from puff pastry and custard in between layers. Sometimes adorned with fruits, the Napoleon is a rich treat that pairs well with tea. For a tasty vegan recipe, use the link here. To make it gluten free, use a gluten free pastry, and enjoy!
Where to Next?
Thanks for wandering St. Petersburg with us virtually. Join us next time as we explore Auckland, New Zealand.