The city of Saint Petersburg was founded by the tzar Peter the Great astride the Neva River in 1703. Peter set his choice on a small island in the delta of the Neva, and laid a foundation stone of the Peter and Paul Fortress on May 27, 1703. This day is considered to be the birthday of the city. The Fortress is in a fine state of preservation at present time. There are quite a few historical buildings in the grounds of the fortress. The most famous among them is – SS Peter and Paul Cathedral.
The cathedral's spire crowned by a flying angel with a cross is the highest dominating structure in the city. The SS Peter and Paul Cathedral is a burial place of the Romanov family. Russian emperors and empresses, and grand dukes and duchesses are buried inside the cathedral.
The city named after Saint Peter grew rapidly under the protection of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Saint Petersburg was the capital of Russia from 1712 till 1918. During a period of prosperity the city saw construction of official residencies such as the Winter Palace and Michael's Castle, palaces for relatives of the Imperial family - Anichkov, Michael's, Nicolas', Mariinsky and Yusupov Palaces - as well as of the sumptuous mansions owned by the Nobility.
The Winter Palace was a permanent residence of the Russian Tzars from 1762 till the October revolution of 1917. Some of the state apartments and living quarters, which have both artistic and historical significance, remained unchanged. Nowadays the Winter Palace is a principal building of the State Hermitage Museum which ranks with the finest of the world's art museums. The museum houses almost three million exhibits. The Hermitage is proud of such masterpieces as works of Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Rembrandt, Titian and others. The Hermitage's Treasure Gallery is famous for the works of Ancient Greek masters, Scythian gold, gold and silver ware of the East, Western Europe and Russia, and collection of jewelry belonged to the Imperial family.
Since the moment Saint Petersburg was founded it tolerated all religions. Churches and temples of different denominations topped by domes and spires are integral part of the city.
The Orthodox Cathedrals of SS. Peter and Paul, Saint Nicolas, Our Lady of Kazan, St Isaac's, Our Savior's Transfiguration, and Holy Trinity built in XVIII and XIX centuries are presently open. Extraordinary architecture of the Synagogue (late XIX century), the Mosque and the Buddhist temple (early XX century) never stops to amaze people visiting the city.
Venice of the North is an allusive name of Saint Petersburg. The full-flowing Neva, the Moika and Fontanka Rvers, numerous canals crisscross the city dividing its central part into forty four islands. Over three hundred bridges link the islands. During the navigation period the bridges across the Neva are drawn. Every night thousands of people come to the embankments to enjoy the view of the bridges and ships passing in and out of the Gulf of Finland. Characteristic of Saint-Petersburg are the so-called white nights, the period covers late spring and summer. It is the time that gives the city romantic view, makes people forget about everyday worries, and turns them into dreamers. The buildings and bridges look magnificent in the white-nights time.
Saint Petersburg is famous for its beautiful suburban residences owned by Imperial family. Peterhof, Tsarskoe Selo, Pavlovsk, Gtchina, Oranienbaum, Strelna, Alexandria. They surround the city like a precious necklace. Peterhof and Tsarskoe Selo are former state residences for official receptions, where ambassadors and ministers came to have private audience with a tzar. It is their grandeur and splendor that strike any visitor to the palaces.
Peterhof is situated on the Southern shore of the Gulf of Finland. It was founded by Peter the Great. The residence comprises of four palaces and almost two hundred fountains which operate without any pump. In the Catherine Palace of the Tsarskoe Selo there is the Amber room. The area of Saint-Ptersburg is 1,300 square kilometers. Population size is 5.0 million people. Saint-Petersburg is regarded as the Cultural capital of the present-day Russia. It is one of the top ten world's cities most frequently visited.