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Top 10 Reasons Why Saint Petersburg May Be the Most Beautiful City in the World

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands
The world is full of wonder, but few destinations please quite like this Russian city. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Reasons Why Saint Petersburg May Be The Most Beautiful City in the World. For this list, we’re looking at the various aspects of this city that make it so uniquely beautiful, enchanting and inspiring.
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Top 10 Reasons Why Saint Petersburg May Be the Most Beautiful City in the World

The world is full of wonder, but few destinations please quite like this Russian city. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Reasons Why Saint Petersburg May Be The Most Beautiful City in the World.

For this list, we’re looking at the various aspects of this city that make it so uniquely beautiful, enchanting and inspiring.

#10: It’s a Cultural Capital

Every year, the European Union designates a city as the “Capital of Culture” for one calendar year. Given that Russia is not a part of the EU and is not considered a potential candidate, Saint Petersburg is unlikely to ever be selected. Be that as it may, Saint Petersburg has earned itself a similar title, that of “cultural capital”, and it’s one without a time limit. Saint Petersburg is recognized not by an official body, but rather by general consensus, as the most culturally significant city in Russia and among the most culturally rich places in the entire world. It’s Historic Center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while the city as a whole is home to some 8,000 monuments.

#9: It Has a Long, Rich History

A “cultural capital” requires a rich history in the arts, and in that regard, Saint Petersburg is indeed blessed. Founded in 1703 near the site of an existing fortress, Saint Petersburg was the country’s capital city in the time of Imperial Russia. For centuries, it served as a gathering point for creatives types from a wide variety of disciplines, including music, painting, architecture, science, theater, dance and more. This history of the arts has shaped Saint Petersburg into the city it is today. Everywhere you look, modernity coexists with testaments to its past. Boasting over 200 museums, countless cultural establishments and numerous architectural wonders, the city once known as Leningrad is as historically-rich as they come.

#8: The Architecture

Saint Petersburg has something for everyone, but architecture enthusiasts in particular will spend a lot of time picking their jaws up off the floor. Walking through Saint Petersburg will make you feel as if you’ve travelled back to a more lavish and opulent age. Palaces, museums, churches, government buildings, they all tend to be exceedingly ornate, without coming across as homogeneous. In this one city you’ll find numerous shining examples of neoclassical and baroque architecture, as well as buildings in the Stalinist, modern and neo-gothic styles. The iconic Palace Square is surrounded by some of the city’s most famous structures, including the Hermitage. Is it any wonder that Saint Petersburg has been dubbed an “open air architecture museum?”

#7: The Cafés

Nowadays, pretty much every city has its own distinct coffee culture, and in Saint Petersburg, there are numerous cafes being run by forward-thinking coffee lovers. But Russians have historically served black tea, not coffee; and in Saint Petersburg, you’ll find a distinct cafe and restaurant heritage dating back centuries. Some have been around that long, like Literaturnoye Kafe, the Literary Cafe, a frequent haunt of famous 19th century writers, including Alexander Pushkin and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, that still operates today. Others, like Cafe Singer, are housed in historic buildings, and aim to recreate the old world charm. Or how about the Soviet Era Pyshechnaya, a beloved hole in the wall that simply serves tea, coffee, and pyshki, a type of Russian doughnut?

#6: It’s the Greenest of Russia's Major Cities

Saint Petersburg might be a city of architectural wonders, but part of its charm is how well it balances all of that man-made grandeur with natural beauty. Like so much else in the city however, the parks and gardens found in Saint Petersburg are immaculately maintained, well-planned out and, (more often than not), date back centuries. Arguably the most famous green destination in the city is the Summer Garden(06_GettyImages-1051834378, GettyImages-948096452), which was designed by none other than Tsar Peter the Great, the city’s founder. Between New Holland, the Tauride Gardens, Yusupov Gardens, and the Kirov Central Park of Culture and Recreation, there’s no shortage of picturesque green spaces to be enjoyed during your stay.

#5: It's Entirely Different in Summer and Winter

Considering everything we just said about the beautiful greenery to be found in Saint Petersburg, you’re probably thinking that a summer trip is in your best bet. And yes, summertime is indeed a great season in which to visit this cultural capital, especially considering all of the festivals. On the other hand, winter is not without its own massive charms. While the harsh Russian winter played a role in defeating both Napoleon and the Nazis, appropriately-dressed travelers not bent on conquest will find Saint Petersburg to be a gloriously picturesque, snow-covered wonderland come wintertime. The frosted trees and snow-adorned architecture are like something out of a fairytale, and there’s no shortage of festivals and activities to help you appreciate the setting.


#4: Canals and Bridges

It might not be the only city to use the moniker, but Saint Petersburg has been called a “Venice of the North” due to its elaborate canal system, as well as the Neva, Moyka and Fontanka rivers. Water plays a unique role in the city planning of Saint Petersburg, intertwining itself into the very fabric of the city. Not only do these waterways add an extra layer of charm to the overall landscape of the town, they also necessitate one of Saint Petersburg’s other claims to fame, the bridges! Hundreds upon hundreds of bridges dot the city, ranging from modest but romantic stone structures to more elaborate ones, including 22 drawbridges.

#3: White Nights

One of the most notable things about Saint Petersburg, at least in terms of geography, is just how far north it is. Most human settlements that close to the pole would face serious climate-related challenges, but the Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Seas both help to keep temperatures relatively comfortable. Its location also affects the amount of sunlight it receives throughout the year. Because of its high latitude, Saint Petersburg experiences its famous White Nights, which run from mid-June to early July. During this span, night and daylight essentially blend together. The effect is surreal, utterly enchanting and has become one of the city’s biggest draws for international travelers.

#2: The Sheer Elegance and Opulence

We’ve already touched on this multiple times, but it’s hard to convey just how uniquely beautiful Saint Petersburg is. Until you wander its historic streets for yourself, it’s difficult to imagine so many breathtaking structures existing in one city. But there’s even more to it than that. Yes, the structures themselves are incredibly impressive, but it’s the attention to detail, both inside and out, that make this city one of a kind in its opulence. Buildings like the legendary Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace are ornate from floor to ceiling. Whether it’s a chandelier or a doorknob, everything you encounter is likely to be the most beautiful version of it you’ve ever seen. From churches to fountains, Saint Petersburg is a city constructed with incomprehensible attention to detail.


#1: St. Isaac’s Cathedral

Realistically, one could spend an entire trip to Saint Petersburg visiting nothing but religious sites. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, with its medieval russian architectural style, is mind-bogglingly elaborate. From its candy-colored, heavily textured domes, to its unparalleled mosaic work, it will leave your jaw on the floor. And though there are numerous churches and cathedrals that deserve attention, the crowning jewel is St. Isaac’s Cathedral (or, Isaakievskiy Sobor) which now serves as a museum. This Russian Orthodox marvel is, by some measures, the fourth largest cathedral in the world, and a must-see for any lover of art and architecture. Honestly, it’s hard to put into words the feeling when you walk through its doors. You’ll just have to go experience it for yourself!
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