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The State Hermitage occupies six magnificent buildings situated along the embankment of the River Neva, right in the heart of St Petersburg. The leading role in this unique architectural ensemble is played by the Winter Palace, the residence of the Russian tsars. It was built to the design of Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1754-62. This ensemble, formed in the 18th and 19th centuries, is extended by the eastern wing of the General Staff building, the Menshikov Palace and the recently constructed Repository.
Put together throughout two centuries and a half, the Hermitage collections of works of art (over 3,000,000 items) present the development of the world culture and art from the Stone Age to the 20th century. In particular it is worth noting works of Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rubens, van Dyck and so on. You will see paintings of the world famous impressionists, whose collections are demonstrated in the Hermitage.
2.4.2. Peter and Paul Fortress.
A monument of military engineering and architecture, the Peter and Paul Fortress is the historical nucleus of St. Petersburg around which the construction of the city began. The 16th (27th, New Style) of May 1703, when the foundation stone was laid on Zaiachy (Hare) Island by order of Peter I, is considered the date of birth of the northern Russian capital.
The six bastions of the fortress are named in honor of Peter I and his closest associates, who supervised the construction work: Gosudarev (the Tsar's), Menshikov, Golovkin, Zotov, Trubetskoi and Naryshkin. The architectural ensemble comprises the fortified walls, curtain-walls and bastions (1706-40, architect Domenico Trezzini, engineer Burchard Christophe von Mimnich). It also includes St.Peter's Gate (1717-18, architect Trezzini), which is decorated with a carved bas-i relief, The Casting down of Simon Magus by the Apostle Peter by Conradt Ossner, and the Boat-House (1762-66, architect Alexander Wist), which contains a replica of Peter's boat, the "Grandfather of the Russian Navy" (the original is now in the Naval Museum). The building of the Mint (1798-1806, architect Antonio Porto), the Engineers' House (1748-49), the Commandant's House (1743-46, engineer de Marin) and others complete the ensemble.
The focal point of the ensemble is St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral (1712-33, architect Trezzini). Its bell-tower served as the city's watch-tower and became a symbol of the consolidation of the new capital on the Baltic lands. Crowned with a gilded spire, the bell-tower remains the tallest building in the city (122.5 m). The centre piece of the interior of the church is the gilded iconostasis (1722-29), which was executed in Baroque style by Moscow carvers in accordance with a design by Trezzini and Ivan Zarudny. From the very beginning the cathedral served as the sepulcher of the Romanov Dynasty. All of Russia's emperors, from Peter I to Nicholas II, and their families (except for Peter II and Ioann VI) are buried here.
2.4.3. St.Isaac`s Cathedral.
St. Isaac's Cathedral, St. Petersburg's main cathedral before 1917, is an outstanding monument of Late Neoclassicism, and a museum of history and art from 1937. Its history goes back to the year 1710 when a small church dedicated to St. Isaac of Dalmatia, whose memorial day, May 30 (Old Style) coincided with Peter the Great's birthday, was erected near the Admiralty. A second St. Isaac's Church then followed, built in stone on another site. Finally, construction of a third church, designed by Antonio Rinaldi and Vincenzo Brenna, began in 1768 and continued until 1802, but the cathedral was not completed. The present St. Isaac's Cathedral was built between 1818 and 1858 by Auguste de Montferrand. It is one of the world's largest domed buildings (the diameter of the dome is 21.8m).
In addition to its striking architectural and engineering features, the design of the dome and the mounting of the monumental columns, each weighing 100 tons, the cathedral is remarkable for its artistic decoration. Here the Russian visual arts of the time are shown at their very best. Some 20 varieties of decorative stone, including porphyry, malachite, lapis lazuli and marble, were used, transforming the cathedral into a museum of colored stone.
The murals and mosaics were created by leading painters and sculptors such as Karl Briullov, Fedor Bruni, Peter Basin, Vasily Shebuyev, Ivan Vitali, Nikolai Pimenov and Peter Klodt. The total area covered by mosaics is about 600 sq.m.
The world-famous "capital of fountains" or "Russian Versailles" was founded by Peter I. In 1918 the main summer residence of the Russian emperors became state property and by 1941 ten museums of art and history had been opened on its premises. During the war of 1941-45, Peterhof was razed to the ground by the Nazis. Restoration work began in as early as 1944, after the Nazis were expelled from the town, and, for the most part, the ensemble was returned to its former splendor. The first fountain began to operate once more in 1946. The Hermitage pavilion reopened in 1952 and the Great Palace in 1964. In 1966 the Great Cascade was fully reconstructed. Restoration work is, however, still in progress.
Building of the palace and park ensemble and a landing-stage for boats bound for Kotlin Island began in the early 1700s. The first palaces and pavilions were erected, parks were laid out and a network of fountains constructed. These were later repeatedly expanded and modified.
The centre piece of the Peterhof ensemble is the Great Palace, which stands on a natural terrace facing the sea (original building 1714-25, designed by Johann-Friedrich Braunstein, Mikhail Zemtsov and Jean-Baptiste Le Blond). To this day, the palace retains the appearance that it acquired in 1745-55 after reconstruction work was carried out by the outstanding representative of Baroque architecture, Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. The interiors of the palace - the Throne Hall, Peter I 's oak-panelled study (carved by Nicolas Pineau), the Chinese Lobbies, the Portrait Hall, the White Dining-Room, and others - are all master pieces of decorative and applied art.
The picturesque parks play an important part in the Peterhof ensemble. These include the regular Upper Gardens, the Lower Park, the gardens of Venus and Bacchus and the landscaped English and Meadow Parks, amongst others.
Peterhof unique network of fountains has brought it worldwide acclaim. The better-known Great Cascade, consisting of 64 fountains (the largest of which is Sampson Tearing Open the Jaws of the Lion), is the work of the sculptor Mikhail Kozlovsky. Its 225 sculptural decorations were contributed by Fedot Shubin, Theodosius Shchedrin, Ivan Prokofiev, Ivan Martos and others. The Avenue of Fountains, the Fountain of Marble Benches, the Chessboard Hill, the Golden Hill, the Pyramid and the Sun are the only ones of their. kind. There is a total of 3 cascades and 144 fountains in Peterhof parks.
On the shore of the Gulf of Finland stands the one-storey Monplaisir Palace (1714-23, designed by Le Blond, Niccolo Michetti and Braunstein; supervised by Peter I). Items of 18th-century palace decor and Western European paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries taken from Peter I 's collection are on display in the rooms and galleries, that lead off from the central State Hall.
Peter I 's relics, and paintings by Western European artists, can be seen in the Marly Palace (1720-23, architect Braunstein).
The Hermitage Pavilion (1721-25, architect Braunstein) served as the prototype for all similar 18th century pavilions in St. Petersburg and Moscow. The interiors of the vestibule, kitchen and pantry on the ground floor have been restored along with the large hall on the first floor in which 124 Western European paintings are exhibited.
The Cottage Palace in the Alexandria Park was erected between 1826 and 1829 by the architect Adam Menelaws as a summer residence for Nicholas I 's family. It was built in the style of medieval English architecture. Its interiors have been completely restored and now contain display of works by Russian and European painters, as well as diverse objects d'art and sculptures.
2.4.5. Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo).
Work on the palace and park in Tsarskoye Selo was started in the early 8th century at a site called Saari Mois ("elevated land") by the local Finnish inhabitants. The place was eventually transformed into the Russian tsarskoye ), or "Tsar's village". A small stone ace (1717-23, architect Johann Friedrich Braunstein) was first built Peter I 's wife, Empress Catherine I. Between 1752 and 1756, by order of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, the architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli united all the separate parts of the palace to create a single ensemble. The Great (Catherine) Palace, with its majestic and sumptuous 306-m long facade, main staircase and suite of halls, which abound with gilded woodwork, mirrors and amber, ranks among the masterpieces of Russian Baroque.
Tsarskoye Selo flourished under Catherine II. It was during her reign that the Church and Zubov Wings of the Great Palace were built alongside the Cold Baths with the Agate Rooms, the Hanging Garden and the Cameron Gallery, in the style of ancient Roman thermals (1780-87, architect Charles Cameron).
The imposing Alexander Palace was erected between 1792 and 1800 by Giacomo Quarenghi for Catherine II 's grandson, the future Emperor Alexander I.
The architecture of the palaces blends harmoniously into the surrounding landscaped parks and gardens. The Catherine Park is punctuated with a host of pavilions (the Hermitage, the Grotto and the Admiralty), designed by such famous architects as Mikhail Zemtsov, Sabbas Chevakinsky, Antonio Rinaldi and Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. It also boasts a variety of fanciful bridges, pergolas and sculptures. To commemorate the victory of the Russian Fleet over the Turks in the Bay of Chesme in the Aegean Sea in 1770, the Chesme Column was erected in the centre of the Great Pond. The landscapes of the Alexander Park with their romantic structures, such as the Chinese Village, the Arsenal and the White Tower, are no less picturesque.
Prior to the 1917 revolution, the Great Palace served as the summer residence of the Russian emperors. In 1918 a museum of art and history opened here. During the Nazi occupation the palaces and monuments of Tsarskoye Selo suffered immense damage and since 1957 repairs and restoration work have been conducted.
The museum houses remarkable collections of paintings, porcelain, furniture and fabrics. Visitors can explore Rastrelli's Grand Hall in the Great Palace and the Portrait Hall with its canvases by Dutch, Flemish, Italian and French artists. Work is currently in progress on the re-creation of the world-famous Amber Room, which disappeared during the Second World War. Details of the contemporary version can already be seen. In terms, of its artistic workmanship, it is in no way inferior to and perhaps, in some respects, even superior to the original. An exhibition, devoted to the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family, occupies the Alexander Palace.
In 1777, work began on an estate by the banks of the Slavianka, given by Catherine II to her son, the future Emperor Paul I. Originally, only two modest wooden cottages were built. Later, in 1782-86, Charles Cameron erected a palace and laid out a park. The harmonious ensemble of Pavlovsk was created within a period of 50 years.
The Great Palace, a splendid specimen of Russian Neoclassicism, is remarkable for its proportionalism and refined decor. Together with the low galleries, leading to the wings (rebuilt in the 1770s by Vincenzo Brenna), the palace looks out onto a large open courtyard. After the fire of 1803, the palace was reconstructed under the supervision of Andrei Voronikhin. The state rooms, which were adorned with sculptures, carvings and paintings, were decorated through the combined efforts of the architects Voronikhin, Cameron, Brenna, Quarenghi and Carlo Rossi, the sculptors Ivan Martos, Ivan Prokofiev, Mikhail Kozlovsky and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky and the painters Pietro Gonzago and Giovanni Battista Scotti.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries a landscaped park was created on the banks of the Slavianka. Part of the grounds - the "Private Garden" and the Great Circles - have retained features of a regular garden, decorated with sculptures and elements of landscape architecture. In the park one can see Cameron's Pavilion of the Three Graces, Temple to Friendship, Aviary and Apollo Colonnade. The on-mental mausoleum of Paul I (To the Husband-Benefactor, 1808-09, by Thomas de Thomon), the decorative Peel Tower (by Brenna) and the Rose Pavilion (by Voronikhin and Rossi) are also situated within the grounds.
After the 1917 revolution, this residence of the Russian emperors became a museum. During the Second World War the palace was ruined by the Nazis and restoration work continued until 1970. Today, all 45 of its rooms are open to visitors, including such gems of neoclassical art as the Italian and Grecian Halls, which are notable for their lavish use of artificial marble, molding and gilding.
Art collections that began to take shape under Paul I and Empress Maria Fedorovna are on display in the halls. Among them are a rare collection of antique sculptures, a superb collection of paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Hubert Robert and Jose Ribera, and examples of Western European and Russian decorative and applied art.
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