The Hidden Treasures of St. Petersburg — a Quick Guide to Visiting St. Petersburg’s Suburbs
As the new tests and deadlines approach, so does the Indian Summer — which is deemed the best time for visiting St. Petersburg’s many suburbs, their historical sights and beautiful park ensembles. Such places as the Amber Room in Pushkin or Petergof’s fountains are among St. Petersburg’s most famous tourist attractions. Still, there’s a lot more to the region than these two popular destinations.
Vyborg, Pavlovsk, Kronstadt, Strelna — these are only a few of the places you can go on a one-day trip and have a great time. From immersing yourself in history at Gatchina’s Priory Palace that once served as headquarters for the Knights Hospitaller to appreciating the melancholic beauty of the Russian North in Pavlovsk’s parks — the choice is vast, so anyone can find something to their liking. The road to most places listed below takes about an hour.
Kronstadt — a calm municipal town on Kotlin island in the Gulf of Finland. The town’s history is closely intertwined with the Russian Navy, so most of its sights are Navy-themed, the main being the Naval Cathedral on the Yakornaya (Anchor) square. The closeness of the sea and the quiet atmosphere make it ideal for walks; you can also go on boat tours around the island or to the many island forts surrounding it.
Strelna is a small settlement with a rich history that has been residence for Russian tsars and princes since the 18th century. Its' major palaces that suffered greatly during World War II have been restored to their original designs, and are now used to host different international events.
Gatchina is famous for its parks — from the Palace park with its stone piers and monuments to the Wild Park, which name speaks for itself — it’s generally more of a forest. Gatchina’s Great and Priory palaces are both really different from the ones in St. Petersburg’s other suburbs and offer a range of enticing exhibitions. Be sure to check what’s on, as the Palace hosts many events, such as musical or history-related festivals.
Oranienbaum in Lomonosov (the name of the town) is another famous palace ensemble on the Gulf of Finland, the only one to remain pristine as it wasn’t taken during WWII. There are three major complexes in the ensemble — The Grand Menshikov Palace, Petershtadt and the "Own Country House", each a sight to see. The surrounding town is really picturesque, especially it’s old center, and has a unique "historic" atmosphere.
Pavlovsk is located 30 km (or 19 miles) south of St. Petersburg — you can get there in less than an hour. The town developed around the Pavlovsk Palace, a major residence of the Russian Imperial Family and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Obviously, the Palace and the surrounding park are the town’s main attractions — the latter is a must-see for anyone who is interested in park design or simply loves nature, as it is a rare example of a classic English landscape garden built in Russia and later implemented with different styles.
Vyborg is located almost on the Finnish border — lying in the boundary zone between the Russian and European worlds, Vyborg has taken more from the latter and has a Swedish feel to it.
The city features Russia’s only medieval castle, which often hosts folk, musical and history reenactment festivals, as well as many other historical sights. The nearby Monrepos Park — an architectural and natural museum reserve — is one of the region’s most beautiful places.
When going to Vyborg, plan your time carefully, as there’s much to see and the road takes some time (about 2 hours + you should mind the train schedule); staying overnight might be a good idea.
There are other places to visit around St. Petersburg, like the old Russian fortresses of Priozersk or Shlisselburg; though they may not offer such things as exhibitions or guided tours, they are still great places to get out of town. Keep up with our news to get more detailed information in a future series of articles.