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Top 8: Artists’ houses

Many Russian artists, from writers to dancers, are world-famous. Who never heard of Tolstoy, Dostoievsky, Pushkin? These artists inspired the world and continue nowadays to have a significant impact on our culture. But all of them have also been crucial witnesses of their centuries and of Russia. As most of them were famous while still living, their houses have been preserved by the Russian and later Soviet State. That’s why visiting artists’ houses and apartments in Moscow and St-Petersburg isn’t only about walking where they walked, but is above all diving in specific atmospheres from the past.  

 

  • Tolstoy House-Museum (Moscow)

My favorite is definitely Tolstoy’s house in the city center of Moscow. Not only because Tolstoy is my favorite Russian author, and that I’m dying for his Anna Karenine, but because his house is amazing. Tolstoy’s house is a wooden one that have been protected by the State right after Tolstoy’s death. As a result the house hasn’t been damaged. Enter it, and you instantly dive into the life of the Russian intelligentsia from the late Russian Empire. Amazing and definitely a must do!

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  • Dostoievsky House-Museum (St Petersburg)

Other super famous Russian author, Dostoievsky’s apartment in St Petersburg has also been quite well preserved. However, contrary to Tolstoy’s house, Dostoievsky’s apartment became a museum only 1971 due to the Soviet leadership’s unstable view attitude towards the author. Nevertheless the apartment kept the peculiar atmosphere of its time and above all of the vibrant soul that lived in its walls.  

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  • Pushkin House-Museum (St Petersburg)

Probably the most loved and cherished author in Russia, Pushkin died in St Petersburg after a famous (and still painful for most Russians) duel. The apartment in which he lived his last years and died became a memorial treasured by all. As a result the atmosphere remains penetrating. Visiting it also means learning a lot on Pushkin’s life and work so go for it!

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  • Gogol House-Museum (Moscow)

This house being Gogol’s last residence, has been recognised as it only in 2005. Nevertheless the building, both on the outside and inside, is stunning and worth the visit. Enter it and you will travel back in time to discover the living standards of the Muscovite upper classes before the Soviet Union…you may also find some decoration tips for your own house? (I hope not, but who knows?)

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  • Bulgakov House-Museum (Moscow)

If Bulgakov is not the most loved author in Russia, he is not far from it. More, his book The Master and Margarita, is by far the most appreciated and famous book in Russia. That is why Bulgakov’s apartment in Moscow city center is always crowded. This very tiny apartment recall the life of the author but before all smartly mix Bulgakov and Margarita’s lives. Indeed the apartment described in the book is basically Bulgakov’s one. So if you really want to appreciate the tour, read The Master and Margarita before!

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  • Gorky House-Museum (Moscow)

Nowadays, Gorky is a name associated to Moscow’s favored park. But before being a park, Gorky was a Soviet writer. After the revolution, the Soviet leadership seized Ryabushinsky house built in the early 20th century by Fyodor Shekhtel, and Gorky lived in it. To be honest the most important thing about this house isn’t the fact that Gorky lived in it (sorry not sorry). The house worth the visit because it is a mesmerizing and absolutely unusual house, a true eccentric symbol of the Modern Style. Words are not enough to describe it and all the beautifully strange things in it, so just go and open your eyes…but be ready!

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  • Galina Ulanova House-Museum (Moscow)

The Soviet time also knew some prominent and world famous artists and it would be foolish to think the opposite. One of them is Galina Ulanova. A world famous ballet dancer considered by many as the greatest ballerina of the previous century. Born in St Petersburg, and despite being dancing around the world, she mainly lived in Moscow where her apartment has been preserved since her death in 1998. Tiny apartment of a women with skills, ambition and temper, it definitely needs to be visited. You will be transported to the Soviet times and into Galina’s intimacy.

Tips: some secret letters are displayed on Galina’s desk. You should ready them…

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  • Nabokov House-Museum (St Petersburg)

This house saw the birth of the world-famous writer Nabokov in 1899. Nabokov’s family flew from Russia in 1917. As a result of the Bolshevik seizing of power, Nabokov aristocratic roots, and of course because the writer wasn’t famous at that time, the family house of St Petersburg has not been protected by the Soviet Union. It became a museum in 1998 with very few objects and furnitures. But by the years, Nabokov house-museum became more than a significant museum dedicated to the Russian-American writer. Nowadays it has great collection of books and artefacts, and worth a visit!

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Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!

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Top 8: What to do in Moscow in May

May is a wonderful month in Russia. Mainly because the Sun is finally out. So when you live in Moscow, May is always like entering Heaven after a long period in Hell (super cold Hell). You finally leave cold, snow, ice, and slippery roads to welcome sun, heat, colors, flowers, ice-cream and music. In May Moscow is back to life as Muscovites spend all their time outside after being kept inside for 8 months. But as a result the city knows a huge amount of new things to do, try and experience. A bit lost? Follow us!

 

 

Velobike are coming back on April 25th! I know it’s not exactly May but this is a great news and May will be the perfect occasion to celebrate it. Moscow offers the opportunity to rent bikes for short or longer period of time for really cheap and just let it back in any of the 400 stations. As in the last years, the first 30 minutes are free of charge. So on May sunny days you must rent one and explore Moscow center and parks.

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  • City celebrations: 1st and 9th of May

In addition to the sun and heat (well for Moscow’s standards of course), there are two main reasons to gather all in the city center in May: the 1st and 9th of May celebrations! The 1st of May is Labor day. As a result all Muscovites are enjoying their holiday exploring the city and its colorful parks, eating cheap but exquisite ice-creams. Trust them, they know what’s good, and you should do the same!

But the most impressive celebration is by far the 9th of May. And not only because you can see the Russian Army favourite toys on the Red Square. To me the most impressive thing is what follows the military parade and aviation show. What catch me out of breath each year is the gathering of thousands of Russians in the city center, walking on the Tverskaya to the Kremlin with portraits of their fallen parents and flags. Along with music, old films, food and drinks, it creates a unique atmosphere!

Tips: to avoid the crowd, check for the rehearsals!

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More than a classic Middle Age festival for rednecks or fanatics, the St George Knights Tournaments is a very high quality world-known show and exhibition that worth the visit. Held in the stunning and Unesco registered park of Kolomenskoye the St George Knights Tournament attracts each year thousands of visitors and professional knights from all over the world. During 3 days, knights will compete in different categories, traditional dances and balls will be organised and visitors will be able to eat and drink special dishes and drinks coming straight from the Ritsari period. Careful though, workshops are organised for children and you do not want to be stabbed in your sleep…nor beaten by them the next time you plays “swords”.

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Speaking of parks, Gorky is a famous one that we speak a lot about (and it’s one you should definitely explore by velobike). But on the 19th and 20th of May, Gorky will host the Polytech festival. A great opportunity to discover and learn more on the last technological improvements. Though as an educational festival of science, the Polytech festival is made for the pleasure of all. A great way to spend a sunny afternoon and raise smart kiddos…or just appear as even more intelligent at your next family dinner.

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This one may be for without-child-adults or for I-have-a-super-mother-that-babysit-my-monsters-adults. On May 26th at 6pm, the famous Fantomas rooftop is reopening! Located in the very heart of Moscow, this rooftop bar and club is a must-do for party animals. With the finest program, great cocktails and a stunning view on Moscow, the Fantomas is definitely on our list of what to do in May… so lets meet their on the 26!

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With the Sun and heat (Moscow standards), walking accross the Russian Capital in May is more than a pleasure. That’s why Tsar Visit organises walking tours of Moscow everyday! You’ll discover some famous parts of Moscow as the Arbat district and the stunning Christ the Savior cathedral. So take comfy shoes, sunglasses and prepare your camera!

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Tsar Visit organises a tour of the Bolshoy backstages. Why in May? Because the season is about to end and it would be a shame to miss this opportunity! The symbol of Moscow and Russian art, and a theatre renowned around the world, the Bolshoy Theatre is a fascinating part of Moscow life. Explore behind the scenes of the sumptuous theatre that has presenting the greatest ballets, operas, and concerts since 1776. You’ll discover the historic stage and maybe be able to watch the rehearsals!

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May is the perfect occasion to do a guided tour of the marvelous Kolomenskoye Estate! The ancient domain of the Moscow princes, and then the Czars of Russia from the 14th century, Kolomenskoye Park is a greenspace where the Museum and the Church of the Ascension, the first church made of stones in an octagonal shape in Russia and classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site, are nested. This is a relaxing and instructive excursion in the heart of Russian nature.

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Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!

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Top 10: Imperial Russia

One of the most vivid symbol of Russia in everyone’s mind is its imperial past. Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine II, Nicholas II, Anastasia Romanov are the names that everyone knows either from their sweet taste for history or for movies. Russia has a glorious past that continues to attract billions of tourists every year. But if most of the czarist legacies are located in St Petersburg, it would be a mistake to bypass some crucial places! So wear your most beautiful costume and dive with us into history!

 

Imperial summer residences are numerous in St Petersburg’s neighbouring but not all are equally beautiful. Thankfully, Tsar Visit is organising a very special tour to help you discover the Czars’ most outstanding palaces. You will begin your day at the Pavlovsk Palace. A palace with a facade in shades of yellow with white columns (fancy). You will then go to the town of Pushkin, formerly called Tsarskoye Selo, to continue your journey into Imperial Russia by visiting the sumptuous Catherine Palace (super fancy). But don’t forget that these palaces would be nothing without their gardens (well, except for Catherine Palace, which has the Amber Room…) you must take time to explore them!

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Obviously, the most important and biggest palaces of all is the Hermitage. As the official residence of the Czar, the Hermitage was the very heart of the Russian Empire. Its seizing in 1917 became a symbol of the revolutions and the end of the Imperial Russia. Moreover, the Hermitage became through the centuries the biggest museum on Earth! You would be a fool not to visit it while in St Petersburg…

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  • Peterhof Palace (St Petersburg)

Peter the Great’s summer residence is beautifully amazing. Its sumptuous and rich interiors are only competing with its gardens. Peterhof is for sure the most beautiful Imperial palace in Russia. Indeed it copied Louis XIV’s palace of Versailles. However you must visit Peterhof in summer. Why? First because you can access it by the canal, and this will show to the people what kind of person your are. Second because the fountains are working. Don’t misunderstand me on this. Peterhof goldish fountains themselves are worth the visit as they have been erected as part of the garden…and to please the Czar’s taste for water games. Cheeky!

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  • Tsarskoye Selo (St Petersburg)

Tsarskoye Selo is a small village in St Petersburg’s neighbouring. But Tsarskoye Selo hosts two magnificent palaces, two Imperial summer residences which are definitely worth the visiting. Go to Tsarskoye Selo, and visit both the Alexander Palace (currently under restoration) and the Catherine Palace. But don’t do it in a hurry, you don’t want to miss the opportunity of exploring their english-styled parks!

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  • Yusupov Palace (St Petersburg)

But Imperial Russia and the Czarist regime weren’t all about the Romanov. The Yusupovs constituted at the end of the Russian Empire, the second most powerful (after the Romanov of course) and the richest family in Russia. Those understood everything: money, power, charity but staying next to, not in, the spotlight. As a result they possessed several palaces in the very center of St Petersburg. The most beautiful of them is the Yusupov Palace on the Moyka. A must do! (at least because Rasputin died in these walls).

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  • House of the boyars Romanov (Moscow)

One would think that Czars, Romanov, Imperial Russia are words that can’t go with St Petersburg. This is obviously a mistake! If you’re really into the Russian Empire, you must visit were it all started: the House of the boyars Romanov. Located in Moscow’s very heart (and currently under restoration), this treasure from the past is the house (calling it a palace would be a bit much) of the Romanov right before the Russian Empire and Peter the Great. And in addition to the emotion given by the Romanov souvenir, you’ll dive into the Russian Middle-Age!

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  • Alexander Nevsky Lavra (St Petersburg)

I already wrote a lot about the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, how its peculiar atmosphere and stunning architecture made a great impression on me. I also explained why this Lavra is one of the most important religious sight in St Petersburg. But the Alexander Nevsky Lavra is also deeply linked to the Russian Empire and the Czars. Why? Well check its name! Indeed the Monastery was built in 1710 to welcome the relics of Saint Alexander Nevsky but precisely where Alexander Nevsky defeated the Swedes in 1210. The Lavra is interlinked to the Russian Empire and marks Peter the Great’s intention to establish the new Northern Capital in Holy Russia.

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  • The Fabergé Museum (St Petersburg)

We spoke a lot about palaces but one dimension of the Imperial Russia is definitely its peculiar culture, arts and crafts. The Czars contributed to the development and rise of Russian craftmasters in the Empire and in Europe. One of the best and most famous, is Fabergé. His eggs, and all his artefacts, are among the most beautiful and meaningful jewels made under the Russian Empire. More than artefacts, they are pieces of art and one of the last legacies of the Romanov today. It’s a definitely a must-see! (these eggs drive me crazy).

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  • Peter and Paul fortress (St Petersburg)

As a fan of the Romanov and while exploring St Petersburg, you have to go visit the Peter and Paul fortress. Despite the fact that it’s one of the most interesting and visited site of St Petersburg, the Peter and Paul fortress is before all (at least for us, who know the perfection of the Romanov) the place where are lying almost all members of the Imperial family. A great place to remember the Imperial Russia… and think about the tragic destiny of Nicholas II and his family.

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  • Alexey Mikhailovich Romanov palace (Moscow)

Before being St Petersburg, the Russian capital was Moscow, even under the Romanov. That’s why you should visit Alexey Mikhailovich Romanov palace. A place that marks the Romanov transition from being boyards (nobles) to being Russian emperors. This majestic wooden palace highlights the rise of the Romanov but also is a testimony of the Russian noble life between the Middle Age and the Empire in the heart of Kolomenskoye estate!

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Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!

 

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Top 10: Luxurious Moscow

Contemporary Russia is often pictured in many minds as the country of oligarchs and a country with a huge wage gap. Moreover as the Russian federal capital, Moscow is obviously a  city where you can spend a lot. Moscow can offer you pleasures and entertainments…so block your banker’s phone number and let express the billionaire in you!

 

  • A walk in through passages

Moscow’s city center has several streets dedicated to fancy shops and luxurious brands from all over the world. However the truly luxurious ones are always in small, hidden and elegant passages. Among the best ones, I advice you to go explore the Stoleshnikov and Tretyakovsky streets, and the Petrovsky passage. Of course passages are fancy because you’ll be away from the cold, the rain and the rednecks. So just enjoy and spend, you need this 10,000$ pair socks made of golden spider silk.

Side note: keep your sunglasses when inside, let the crowd know who you are.

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  • An evening at the Bolshoi

Yes it’s a famous place, and yes it’s culture. But don’t forget that brain is the new tits, and theater the new ayurveda-yoga class! The Bolshoi is a must do, a place where you have to be seen. You’ll be able to show your most fancy suit and dress in a goldish atmosphere. On the plus side, you’ll watch the best ballets and operas of the world. Obviously, you have to be well seated to enjoy this cultural treat. That’s why I definitely advise you to seat on the Amphitheatre or Dress Circle first rows.
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  • Shopping afternoon at GUM and TSUM

Another place to shop, even though more crowded, are the two famous center-located malls of Moscow: the GUM and TSUM. Both of them are located in stunning historic buildings within a walking distance of the Red Square (actually the GUM is on the Red Square). Both of them were already malls for fancy people during the Imperial Russia. And both of them hosts luxurious quality brands from all over the world. Explore these two buildings, you won’t be disappointed!

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  • Culture time at Terems Palace

How do we recognise rich “in” people? Not only because they wear outfits from Chanel in a casual day, but also because they can access places that “out” people can’t or (worse) don’t know about. Although out people are visiting the Kremlin, in people are visiting the Terems Palace. As you already know, the Terems Palace is for sure one of the most secret and secured place of the Russian Federation. Why? Because the Terems Palace is the office and residence of the Russian Federation President in the very heart of the Kremlin. Few tours are organised each year…you must go if you want to be in!

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  • Enjoy dinner at Turandot

But all this shopping and cultural life are exhausting. So if you need a break and enjoy what life has best to offer (i.e: food), you definitely have to go to Turandot. One of the best and finest restaurant of Moscow established in a very luxurious palace. More than a fancy restaurant, Turandot is a jewel, an imperial palace full of artefacts from the last centuries where you can taste an exquisite cuisine. Top.

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Credits: Turandot

 

  • Rest at the mythical and historical Four Seasons

Moscow is a big city, and it can take ages to reach point B from point A…even though Hubert is the best private driver at your service. That’s why choosing your hotel isn’t a small thing. So if you want, and I know you want it, to be located within a short distance of Moscow’s best places and want an hotel at your standards, you must go to the Four Seasons. Located on the Red Square, you’ll enjoy life, comfort and luxury in one of the best hotel of Moscow. Plus, who has never dreamed of waking up in front of the Kremlin and the Red Square?

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  • Get drunk at Mendeleev

Want to go out in a fancy place? Go to Mendeleev! A very nice and luxurious bar located in the stoned arched cellar of a tiny noodles restaurant in the heart of Moscow. Don’t be tricked, the restaurant is only a facade and hides a place where wearing Louboutin or being a foreigner won’t guarantee you to access. Once inside, you’ll enjoy exquisite cocktails while listening to live jazz music.

Side note: as a in person, you must go through the kitchens and access to the VIP room where a waiter will be at your service and where you’ll probably meet famous Muscovites.

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Credits: Mendeleev Cocktail Bar

 

  • Some winter shopping at Maison Yves Salomon

Winter in Russia can be coldish. That’s why fur, either you like it or not, is often one of the best option to keep you warm. That’s why wearing fur in Russia, and especially in Moscow, isn’t something outrageous or only for the babushkas (grumpy elderly Russian women). Nevertheless, for both ethical and fashion reasons, if you want to buy some fur you have to do it the right way and shop in Moscow most beautiful and luxurious furier: Maison Yves Salomon. Combining Russian and French fur and craftsmanship traditions, Maison Yves Salomon is the most luxurious place to find what you desire most. Obviously, the French touch of Maison Yves Salomon makes it a must-wear among Russian wealthiest people…so do you.

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Credits: Maison Yves Salomon

 

  • Moscow by the air

Moscow is a busy city with lot of traffic jam. Therefore despite Hubert’s amazing driving capabilities, it may takes ages to cross the city. So why not reaching the sky? Grab an helicopter for about 1,300$ and discover the Russian federal capital by the air! Fly close to land between the tours of Moscow City before going up above the city center and the Kremlin. A must do for every fancy people!

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  • Get a well-deserved encas at Beluga

What would be visiting Russia without tasting caviar? Nothing. That’s why, and especially after the previously highlighted activities, you truly deserve caviar in a fancy and luxurious place. To that why not going to Beluga? A famous and luxurious caviar bar facing the Kremlin. Delightful!

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Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!

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Traveling in Russia

The Hermitage

Everyone knows the Hermitage, either because of its artistic importance or because of Fox Animation Studios’ movie Anastasia. The Hermitage is one of the most famous sight of Russia and many come to St Petersburg only to visit it!

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Indeed nowadays the Hermitage is also the most important museum in the world with its collections of more than 3 million items. These collections include antiquities, masterpieces of both the Western and Russian schools of arts (and especially from the Impressionists), jewels and objects of various types from the Imperial Russia. But the Hermitage is also a work of art in itself.

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The museum sets in the different but interconnected palaces on the Neva’s shores that constitute the former residence of the Czars. The Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the General Staff Building are all stunning, as much for their Russian Baroque art facades as for their interior ornaments.

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The Hermitage has been built in 1711, mostly destroyed in 1837 by a fire and rebuilt by Nicholas I. But the Hermitage acquired such an artistic importance thanks to the passion of Catherine the Great for fine arts (and the advices of famous intellectuals such as Diderot).

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But obviously the Hermitage also had (and has?) a political major importance. If it was the residence of the Czars during the Russian Empire, meaning the heart of the Imperial State, its seizure in 1917 became a symbol of the Soviet revolutions. Currently the Hermitage remains a reminder of St Petersburg political power and taste for art, often prompt to recall the Imperial Russia rather than the Soviet Union. That’s why in 2017 the museum staff restarted a clock switched off by the revolutionaries a century before while declaring “the time of aristocracy is now over”… sweet wink to history.

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Because of its history and its collections, the Hermitage is without any doubt an absolutely essential during any visit to the Venice of the North, and is not to be missed for any reason!

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Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!

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Traveling in Russia

St Petersburg historic center

Built, thought and kept as the symbol of Russia’s europeanness, St Petersburg has always been completely different from Moscow. Indeed, St Petersburg emerged under the Romanov, following the dream of Peter the Great, as the capital of a Russian Empire expanding towards the East but living and thinking as a European power. That’s why St-Petersburg, despite not being similar to any city in the world, tends to be considered as a European one. This is mainly due to its Italian-styled palaces and church. But above all, the atmosphere of St Petersburg reminds every visitor that Peter the Great’s city is and remains a city of culture and arts.

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One would think that “Peter” (as called in Russian) is a ghost city all about past and faded imperial dreams. But this is a mistake.

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First because despite having been the capital city of the Russian Empire, St Petersburg isn’t so old. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, the city therefore only has 3 centuries. Which is why all the stunning sights such as the Peter and Paul fortress, all the impressive cathedrals such as St Isaac and Christ the Savior on Spilled Blood, and all the marvellous palaces have a sweet taste of historical modernity.

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Second because St Petersburg has always been and remains today probably more than ever a city for and of the intelligentsia, prompt to expend new artistic and intellectual trends. That’s why if visiting the Hermitage is a must-do, looking for new places, such as the newly opened New Holland, is also a good one!

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Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!