St. Petersburg, Russia

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Cruising to St. Petersburg

A city of palaces

When Peter the Great decided to found the city of St Petersburg in 1703, his vision was for the new settlement to become the most lavish and spectacular in all of Russia, which is excellent news for anyone who happens to be visiting as part of a Baltic cruise. To ensure that his blueprint became a reality, he even issued a temporary decree that made it illegal to build in stone elsewhere in Russia, to ensure that all of the country's elite families constructed their residences in St Petersburg.

In the 300 or so years since then, the city has gone on to become one of the most spectacular in Europe, with the Russian aristocracy and royalty having built a huge number of palaces and mansions here. Peter the Great was also keen for his city to be home to all of Russia's most prestigious museums, and since he personally opened the Kunstkammer as St Petersburg's first exhibition centre, more than 100 other museums have also been constructed here.

Among the most impressive of these is the world-famous State Hermitage Museum, which is housed within the iconic Winter Palace and boasts more than three million pieces of art. The offering here is a truly global one, with exhibits ranging from Europe to the Far East, and guided tours on offer to help visitors find their way around this enormous gallery.

The Winter Palace itself is also an attraction in its own right, having first been built in 1708 before being redesigned several times by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, at the request of successive empresses. Sitting on the bank of the River Neva, this is one of Europe's most exquisite buildings – both inside and out.

If you're interested in sampling some Russian food while you’re here, you'll find loads of great restaurants serving up classic national dishes like beef stroganov and pirozhki, which are the sorts of things the Russian elite of the 18th century would have nourished themselves with in the city's early days. Restaurants like Yolki Palki and Mechta Molokhovets are among St Petersburg's top eateries.

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