This is where most visitors will spend most of their time during a visit to St Petersburg, and it's not hard to see why. Fanning out from Palace Square, where the Hermitage museum is housed in the former Winter Palace of the Tsars, there is so much to do in the so-called "Golden Triangle" that lies between the Neva river to the North and the Fontanka river to the south that you could spend many weeks and months living here and still not see or do everything on offer. In addition to the Hermitage and its various branches, other Museums incude the Russian Museum and the Museum of Ethnography, both on Arts Square.
Take in the sumptuous palaces belonging to members of the Imperial family and the fabulously wealthy families of the day, such as the Winter Palace, the Marble Palace, the Engineer's Castle, and the private homes of the Stroganovs, Shermetevs, and Yusupovs. Stroll down Nevsky prospekt, the city's main artery and lined with Style moderne architecture. Visit the spectacular churches of St Isaac's, Kazan Cathedral, and the Church of the Spilled Blood. Walk along the canals and count off the bridges, or in summer take a boat trip for a different perspective on the city. For the more daring, try a roof top excursion but be warned, it's not for the faint of heart! Otherwise find a bench in a park to sit and watch the world go by.
Unesco describes the historic center of St Petersburg on its World Heritage List as "the Baroque and neoclassical capital par excellence". But what is also remarkable about this historic area is that in contrast to many urban historical areas in other parts of the world, this remains very much a living neighborhood, with some three quarters of a million people resident here, and the schools, universities, clinics, libraries, shops, churches, barracks and all manner of administrative offices needed to support this population.
The restaurant scene is eclectic and there's scarcely a world cuisine not somehow featured in the city. Many places live and die by the tourist trade and are at their busiest from May to August, but there are also plenty of places to dine for locals too, from hole-in-the-wall bakeries to exclusive hang-outs for New Russians with price-tags to match. Try to take in a performance at one of the three great imperial theaters, then find a cozy basement bar for some gluhwein and live music. Whatever you end up doing, the hardest decision will probably be how to get the most out of your visit.
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