Yusupov Palace - St. Petersburg, Russia English Embankment, St. Petersburg

Essential St. Petersburg

Sail down the beautiful rivers
Sail down the beautiful rivers

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Day 1
Arrival | St. Petersburg

Arrival into St. Petersburg, where your private driver will be waiting for you just outside of customs. You will then be transferred to your luxury hotel. Please note this flight is not included in program cost.

Exeter Services: Arrival Transfer

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Day 2
St. Petersburg | St. Petersburg

This morning you will meet your guide in the hotel lobby for a short walk to Palace Square. The focal point of this ensemble is the Winter Palace - an architectural masterpiece of the Russian Baroque and the royal residence of all the Russian Emperors (except Paul) until the 1917 Revolution. The existing Winter Palace is based on three earlier versions, the first two of which were rather modest and were erected under Peter the Great. Here you will enjoy a visit to the Hermitage Museum, a collection of buildings that will take you to another world; a time when Catherine the Great commissioned whole buildings to house an ever-growing collection of the world’s finest art. The former Winter Palace now spans just about every artistic period and holds the largest collection of art in the world.

Later today, or perhaps later in your trip, you could also visit the recently opened General Staff Building, which is now a part of the Hermitage. Designed by Carlo Rossi, one of the central architects that conceived St Petersburg, the General staff building was the headquarters of the army in Imperial times. At just under 2,000 feet it is the longest building in Europe. This is now the home of the Hermitage’s contemporary art collection, including its collection of French Impressionists. This afternoon, your guide will take you into the stately St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Its malachite and lapis lazuli columns are not to be missed! St. Isaac’s was built between 1818 and 1858, by the French-born architect Auguste Montferrand, to be one of the most impressive landmarks of the Russian Imperial capital. During World War II, the golden dome was painted gray to avoid its being targeted by Nazi fire. For those with strong legs, you can climb to the top of the cathedral’s dome for the finest views over St. Petersburg’s historic neighborhood.

The rest of the afternoon will be at leisure to explore the city with your guide. You will enjoy a walk along the famous Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare. The 3-mile-long Nevsky prospect was laid out in 1710, making it one of the city's first streets connecting different bends of the Neva River. St. Petersburg's most famed street starts at the foot of the Admiralty building and runs all the way to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Some of the main sights lining the Nevsky Prospekt include Stroganoff Palace, the neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the Art Nouveau Book House (Dom Knigi), some 18th-century churches and the Russian National Library.

Exeter Services: Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Day 3
St. Petersburg | St. Petersburg

This morning you will meet your driver and guide in your hotel lobby and travel to the nearby Peter Paul Fortress: the birthplace of St. Petersburg. After walking through the many gates and across the bridges and moats, you will begin to get a feel for the late 18th-century era that required such fortification. As Peter’s original outpost against the Swedes, St. Petersburg was born from this fortress and its historical significance is felt to this day by the presence of every Romanov tomb from Peter the Great.

Afterward you may visit the Kunstkammer - the first museum in Russia, established by Peter the Great on the Neva riverfront facing the Winter Palace. It first opened to the public in 1714 with the main purpose of collecting and examination of natural and human curiosities and rarities. Today, the museum’s collections contain roughly one million artifacts and reflect the diversity of traditional cultures in the Old and New World.

Following a break for lunch, payable locally, you will set off for an exploration of Catherine Palace and its fabled Amber Room. This palace was originally designed in the 1750s in the Rococo style by the famous architect Rastrelli (who also designed many of St. Petersburg’s grandest buildings like the Winter Palace, parts of Peterhof, the Stroganoff Palace, and the Smolny Cathedral) for the Tsarina (Princess) Elizabeth, who named it after her mother Catherine I—Peter the Great’s second wife. Later, Catherine II (the Great) commissioned the Scottish architect Charles Cameron to re-design the palace’s interiors in the then-fashionable Neo- Classical style.

After Catherine the Great’s death, the palace remained largely unchanged for over a century until the Second World War when the Nazi army, retreating after the unsuccessful siege of Leningrad, destroyed the palace almost completely. After the war, the magnificent palace and its interiors were thoroughly and painstakingly rebuilt, but renovations at some parts continue.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

During the busy summer months, we highly advise to arrange VIP entrance to Catherine Palace. Historically, our guides could skip the lines with groups of two or less, but we are finding this to be increasingly difficult. With the included VIP entrance, you will enter through the main Golden Gates of the palace with your guide avoiding lines that can have a wait time of well over 2 hours. You’ll be met by a palace representative and taken through the main gates to a private reception area before beginning your tour.

Exeter International Extraordinary Experience

While visiting Catherine Palace, you will also be invited into the Amber Room workshops where craftsmen rebuilt the famous amber panels lost in World War II.

Exeter Services: Private Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Day 4
St. Petersburg | St. Petersburg

This morning your driver and guide will take you to see one of the largest collections of purely Russian art at the Russian Museum (the former palace of Grand Duke Michael). We suggest you start at the ancient Russian icons (including a tremendous collection of Rublevs) and end with some of the most famous 20th Century Russians- including Kandinsky. Of particular note is the rarely-seen Repin collection- including Imperial portraits that were hidden during the Communist period. Repin paintings have the feel of French Impressionists but are uniquely Russian.

Next you will stop at St. Petersburg’s first Fabergé Museum, a must see, that has opened at the Shuvalov Palace on the Fontanka Canal. The palace houses the celebrated Fabergé collection of the Link of Times Foundation owned by Russian Entrepreneur Viktor Vekselberg, which, with its over 1500 choice pieces, now easily outranks the comparatively small collection of the Kremlin Armoury Museum. Mr. Vekselberg has assembled the most formidable collection in the world of works by this great Russian master craftsman, best known for his celebrated million-dollar Imperial Easter Eggs.

Later, you will see the ornate Church on Spilled Blood on Canal Griboyedova. The Church on Spilled Blood is so named because it stands on the spot where the Emperor Alexander II was assassinated on March 1, 1881. Its unique design was inspired by St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. This is the only church in the world covered completely inside and out by mosaics of tiles and precious and semi-precious stones. This is one of the most extraordinary buildings in St. Petersburg and is well worth the visit. During the Bolshevik revolution, the church fell into a state of decline, and only recently has it been fully restored to its former glory.

This afternoon, weather permitting, you will have a private boat tour of the canals of St. Petersburg. This is one of the most enchanting ways to explore the city, as you take in the sights while gliding along the canals and rivers of the city, past the Winter Palace, the Mariinsky Theater, the Summer Gardens, and many other important sights. The boat ride is an optional excursion and is not prepaid. Your guide will make the arrangements for you if you are interested and you can pay for this excursion on site.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Day 5
St. Petersburg | St. Petersburg

Today we recommend visiting the Oranienbaum and its hidden gem: the Chinese Pavilion. Unlike many of St. Petersburg’s palaces, the Oranienbaum was spared during World War II. The exquisite interiors of the Chinese Pavilion, including a gallery of magnificent ceremonial rooms, have therefore remained virtually intact since the date of its construction in 1769 as the personal palace of Catherine the Great. The Chinese Pavilion is only open in the summertime and is weather-dependent. This palace will close unannounced due to inclement weather.

Afterward you will visit Peterhof, to see first-hand the palace’s countless fountains and gardens. Peterhof Palace (or Petrodvorets in Russian) is often called the Russian Versailles due to the prominence of the gardens and fountains. Walk through the gardens to see Peterhof’s most enchanting treat- the trick fountains. While here you will want to visit the Grottos of Peterhof. The tremendous variety of fountains is one of the principal features of Peterhof, where their extravagance and playfulness indicate the atmosphere of early 18th century Russia. You will journey underneath the fountains and learn of their remarkable engineering and history.

While strolling through the lower gardens of Peterhof, you will come to one of Peter the Great’s favorite buildings, including his very personal residence, Mon Plaisir (“my pleasure”). This tiny palace has low ceilings (which Peter preferred) and sits directly on the banks of the sea. This was his summer palace and was often used on his way coming and going to Europe through the harbor at Kronstadt.

When the weather cooperates in the summertime, a special treat is to take the express hydrofoil either to or from Peterhof. The thirty-minute ride takes you out of the city traffic and into the Baltic Sea! Your guide will go with you on the hydrofoil and your driver will meet you at the palace. Cost of hydrofoil is included in your tour.

If you are interested, your guide will take you to the Kuznechny Market. This is the best of St. Petersburg’s local markets and is a hive of activity with enthusiastic vendors pressing you to taste every vegetable and fruit imaginable.

Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide (8 Hours)

Hotel: Hotel Astoria

Day 6
Departure | St. Petersburg

Today meet your private driver and assistant for your transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Please note this flight is not included in program cost.

Exeter Services: Departure Transfer

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