We arrived in Saint Petersburg after our final rail leg, an overnight from Moscow. During our early morning transfer to the hotel, we got a glimpse of the beautiful architecture Saint Petersburg is known for. Later that morning, we walked among the city’s wonderful buildings, the Admiralty, the Winter Palace, home to the Tsars from the 1760s to 1917 and now part of the Hermitage Museum, the General Staff Building, the yellow semi-circular building with its double triumphal arch that faces the Winter Palace across the grand Palace Square and still serves as a military headquarters, nearly 200 years after its construction.
We spent an entire day at the Hermitage Museum. I marveled at the rooms of the Winter Palace, a draw in themselves. Then, the collections displayed there are extraordinary. Started by Catherine the Great in 1764, the museum has more than 3 million items, including the largest collection of paintings in the world. We only scratched the surface of all there is to see.
And yet, the city itself can’t be mistaken for a museum. On Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main street that runs right by the Hermitage, there are countless restaurants and bars open all night, souvenir shops, luxury stores and 24-hour grocery stores. The sidewalks are packed till late at night with people enjoying these establishments.
We chose to take in Saint Petersburg by night by attending a ballet at the famous Mariinsky Theatre. What a thrill to see a performance of Giselle by one of the best ballet companies in the world. We celebrated it with a glass of bubbly and caviar toast.