At one point in my life, I may have given the title of Europe’s most beautiful city to Venice or Paris, but I couldn’t possibly say that now I’ve been to St Petersburg.
Elegant yet statuesque, if St Petersburg were a woman she’d bring even Casanova down onto his knees.
I’m convinced, if it weren’t for the arduous task of getting a Russian Visa, we’d all be clamouring to get a closer look at her majestic beauty.
Though I can see why Putin might deter a few of you….
Steeped in mysticism, St Petersburg transports you to another world belonging to some of the most dramatic periods in European history. The sense of grandeur left behind from the Tsar Empire is omnipresent, for Catherine the Great was a woman of high extravagance. She made it one of her life’s missions to project St Petersburg as a sight of intense beauty, and it’s safe to say she succeeded alright.
But where there’s beauty belies brutal episodes in human history, including Hitler’s 29-month siege of Leningrad when about one-third of the city’s population of three million lost their lives. And not even did the royals possess immunity to the ill-fated actions of man, as in the case of Tzar Alexander Il, who was assassinated where the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood now lies.
Still, in the face of adversity, St Petersburg can, like any good woman, be characterised for her enduring strength.
A vision of golden spires and gilded domes, of pastel palaces and ethereal cathedrals, St Petersburg is far closer to a fantasy than the reality of any ordinary city. Filled with pleasures for those who court beauty and culture, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of awe and reverence as you walk down streets laden with dramatic sculptures and imposing buildings. The only place I’ve been before that possessed a similar sense of drama is Rome.
With strict geometric lines and perfectly planned architecture, it’s easy to find your way around this lady. Though if at any point you do lose your way, simply navigate yourself back to Nevsky Prospekt and you’ll soon find your orientation once again. Similar to its Baltic neighbour of Stockholm, you’ll discover a trail of picturesque bridges crossing over the grand Neva River.
For a quintessential romantic activity, why not make your way down one of the piers and hop on board a boat to revel in the city from the water?
Whether you travel here alone, with a friend or lover; it’s difficult to bypass the romanticism of St Petersburg. Quite often we call beauty a subjective matter, but I doubt I’d find anyone capable of refuting the physical allure of St Petersburg and really meaning what they say.
With all this attention on appearances, I should really draw attention to the important matter of what lies beneath the picture-perfect facade. The most captivating aspect of St Petersburg, in our image-obsessed day and age, is her combination of beauty and substance.
She’s got a thousand different layers, each alight with something new and surprising. Whether your interest lies in her literary legacy, ornate architecture, rich collection of art or turbulent history – there’s a trifle of things to discover. You’ll never get bored.