Last updated: 07:13 PM ET, Sun October 01 2017

St. Petersburg

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In stark contrast to wild and wooly Moscow is St. Petersburg, Russia; the imperial capital planned and built by Peter the Great. It’s an architectural museum of a city, with street after street of neoclassical architecture and gilded facades.

The city is home to some of Russia’s great cultural institutions. There’s the Kirov ballet in the Mariinsky Theater and the Hermitage, housing what was originally Catherine the Great’s paintings. It has grown into a major collection that rivals the Louvre and the Prado in architectural, historical, and artistic significance. It’s housed in what was originally the Winter Palace.

In front of the Hermitage is Palace Square, a vast public expanse that’s seen everything from Catherine the Great’s coronation to the start of the Russian revolution. Nicholas II’s guards fired into a crowd of protestors, and “Bloody Sunday” set off the revolution. Across the river from the Hermitage is the Peter and Paul Fortress, with massive walls and golden spires. Inside is the lovely Peter and Paul Cathedral, with rosy marble walls and baroque iconography.

St. Petersburg main thoroughfare is Nevisky Prospect, a bustling avenue where you’ll see landmarks such as the grand Admiralty, built by Peter the Great, and a statue of Peter himself astride a horse. Here, too, is where you’ll see the immense Roman-style Kazansky Cathedral. Another major stop is the Summer Gardens and Palace, across from the Peter and Paul Fortress. Peter the Great had this retreat built for himself.

St. Petersburg cuisine is eclectic -- from the city’s own “bliny” (traditional tasty pancakes usually served with a filling such as homemade jam or cottage cheese), as well as Georgian food. You can also find European cuisine as well. It also has a happening nightlife. An underground club scene that started in the 1980s has bred a club culture that now includes rock, jazz and alternative music. There are some dance clubs as well.

St. Petersburg has four metro lines as well as public buses. But because so much of what there is to see is concentrated in a small area, your best bet is to stay someplace central so you can walk to what you want to see

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Continent Europe

Official Language Russian

Population 4,662,547

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