It can be rather overwhelming at times to simply choose a sightseeing destination to visit in St. Petersburg. The city is teeming with attractions, from the palaces, cathedrals, and other historic buildings to the modern art exhibitions and pristine suburbs. It should come as no surprise that the Hermitage Museum, Kazan Cathedral, and the Peter and Paul Fortress are extremely popular destinations for tourists and locals alike, however; they often come with large crowds on weekends. While such places are certainly a part of any “must see” list in St. Petersburg, there are other excellent ways to rack up stunning photos while avoiding the long lines. One of these alternatives is to walk along the entire length of Nevsky Prospect. Walking along Nevsky Prospect will take one past many of the best places of interest in the city as well as many restaurants and cafes.
The two terminal points of Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare and cultural center, are at the Alexander Nevsky Lavra and the Admiralty Building, respectively. While starting this walk from either end will provide the same views, I highly recommend beginning from the Alexander Nevsky Lavra and ending at the Admiralty Building. Perhaps the most compelling reason to end this walk at the Admiralty is that the Hermitage Museum is right nearby. If you start the walk right near the Hermitage, it is very likely that you will go in to the Hermitage and spend the entire day there, quite possibly forgetting about Nevsky Prospect. I find it is much better to have the Hermitage as a “finish line”, and to save the best for last.
The list of attractions on or near Nevsky Prospect would comprise a rather lengthy list, therefore I will include just a few of the real standouts that every visitor to St. Petersburg should see. Ploshchad Vosstaniya is the first major attraction one will encounter after leaving the Lavra and heading along Nevsky. The square features an impressive stone obelisk, officially known as the “Leningrad Hero City Obelisk”, crowned with a golden star, which was built as a tribute to the Red Army’s victory in WWII.
Beyond the historical attractions, the area is also surrounded by excellent shopping outlets and cafes. The next excellent sight along the Prospect is Kazan Cathedral. The architecture of this impressive building alone is worth viewing, but the icons inside are perhaps more impressive. Whether you’re interested in art, religious history, or architecture, Kazan Cathedral is a must see.
The end of this walk offers arguably the best attractions in St. Petersburg. The Hermitage Museum and the enormous square in front of it alone are visually awe inspiring, especially during an evening snowfall or a sunny day. The real treasures are within the enormous Hermitage however. It is routinely listed as one of the greatest museums in the world and with a student ID, the admission is free. One visit will barely scratch the surface, but will almost certainly leave one wanting to go back regularly.
Walking the several kilometers that this stroll entails is certain to work up an appetite for most travelers. Not to worry, there are cafes and restaurants of all price ranges and dozens of different cuisines right on Nevsky, as well as many more just a block or two away. Sushi lovers will be especially happy with the abundance of sushi joints ranging from moderately priced chain stores to rather fancy Japanese restaurants. Of all the various cuisines encountered on Nevsky Prospect, some of the best food can be found in Georgian restaurants, especially for fans of BBQ. Russian cuisine is abundant here as well, with many cafes that serve traditional Russian fare 24 hours a day. In short, there are food options from nearly every major European, Asian, and even North American cuisine all along this one street. If you find yourself with a free day and can’t decide on a single destination or don’t want to spend a ton of money, just find Nevsky Prospect and start walking, you can’t walk this street and not experience the unique fusion of history and modern culture that characterizes St. Petersburg.
By: Patrick Ryan
Term: Spring 2015