Enduring despotic rulers, revolutions, Nazi siege and the rise and fall of Communism, Russia's former capital has had more than its fair share of murder and mayhem and some good eating places too
In 1703 Peter the Great laid St Petersburg’s foundations on the River Neva's Zayachi Island. In the middle of territory just conquered from Sweden, the Italian architect Domenico Trezzini was commissioned to build the Fortress of St Peter and St Paul. So it’s hardly surprising that many of St Petersburg’s greatest landmarks are concentrated in the area bordering the river.
In keeping with Peter’s vision of a modern European city, the jewel of the fortress is the Baroque Cathedral of St Peter and
As a prison, the fortress held the anarchist Michael Bakunin, Trotsky and Dostoevsky and today its mint is still making coins. Every day at noon the serenity of the Romanov’s resting place is shattered by the midday cannon, but in 1917 the battery bombarded the Romanov’s
Legend has it that the revolutionaries who stormed the
Mad Monks and Murder Most Foul
Close to the Hermitage, on the bank of the
Violent death for the Romanovs was an occupational hazard, the Church of the Spilled Blood (Konyushennya ploshchad, admission 320 Roubles) marks where Tsar Alexander II was blown up by a revolutionary bomb in 1881. It’s a rare example of a traditional Russian onion domed church in this city of the Baroque and Neo-classical.
Nearby is the Neo-Classical St Isaac’s Cathedral (Isaakievskaya ploshchad, Admission 320 Roubles). Designed by the French architect Auguste de Montferrand it was the largest cathedral in
The walk to our hotel from the river, down Nevskiy Prospekt, was an architectural delight. Baroque and Empire Style buildings rubbed shoulders with Art Nouveau and the occasional bit of Soviet Brutalism. I particularly liked the Art Nouveau Singer Sewing Machine Showroom, with its decorative metal work
And so to Lunch
More up market was The Idiot (82 Moika Embankment, tel +7 (812) 315 1675, www.idiot-spb.com), named after the Dostoevsky novel. This vegetarian restaurant regards fish as a plant, but no worries for me. I tucked into Herring in Stuba (a confection of hard boiled egg, herring, beetroot and potato) and a mushroom and potato Payarka both of which were very tasty. Around 1000 Roubles per person including drinks.
Closer to our hotel was Shinok (Zagorodny Prospekt 13, tel: +7 (812) 571 8262) www.spbshinok.ru) a Ukrainian Restaurant, where the Borsht comes in freshly baked bread and the vodka hits the spot - it’s spiked with horseradish. A bit pricey, around 1300 Roubles with drinks, but there was a free folklore show.
More eccentric was Orient Express (Marata Street 21, tel: +7 (812) 314 5096, www.orient-express.spb.ru), a train themed restaurant serving dishes from
The cheapest restaurant that we tried was the Pancake House (
Where to stay
We stayed in the Dostoevsky Hotel (19, Vladimirsky Prospect) which is conveniently located close to Nevskiy Prospekt. The rooms are all on the top couple of floors as the hotel is built over a shopping mall, which has a convenient 24 hour supermarket. The breakfast was a bit grim though.