Saint Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city, perched at the eastern tip of the Baltic Sea and the Neva River. Founded by Peter the Great, it was the home of the Czars and the center of Russian culture for 200 years. Renamed Petrograd in 1914 and Leningrad in 1924 (after Lenin's death), the city now again goes by its original name.
St. Petersburg enjoys the image of the most European city in Russia, and the historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Probably the most familiar symbol of St. Petersburg is the equestrian statue of Peter the Great, known as the Bronze Horseman and installed in 1782 on the Senate Square.
The city is known as the “City of Palaces” for its collection of imperial residences, although the most illustrious is the baroque Winter Palace, a vast stately building with over 600 rooms and dazzlingly luxurious interiors which now houses the Hermitage Museum. The Hermitage is truly one of the world's great museums, with an imposing setting displaying priceless works by Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens and more.
Other important tourist destinations include the Peter and Paul Fortress, the bridges on the Neva (which open twice a night to allow boats to pass, the Alexander Nevskiy Monastery and Saint Isaac’s Cathedral.
St. Petersburg has always been known for its high-quality cultural life. Among the city's 50 or so theaters is the world-famous Mariinsky Theater, home to the Mariinsky Ballet company and opera. St. Petersburg also has a longstanding and world-famous tradition in literature.