see + do
St. Petersburg see + do
St. Petersburg is the city on the swamp built in 1703 to be the capital of Peter the Great's Russian empire—from which the czars ruled right up until 1917. Dostoyevsky called his home "the most abstract and intentional city on earth"; guidebooks call it "the Venice of the North." With scores of tributaries and canals, hundreds of bridges, 150 palaces, gracious proportions, wonderful gaudy churches, and huge squares, it's heartbreakingly beautiful. Heartbreaking because, despite native son Vladimir Putin's $1.5 billion tercentennial restorations, great swaths of it are crumbling and shabby; because every great building is surrounded by its own moat of grumpy souvenir sellers who probably have Ph.D.'s; and because you can't quite connect its past to what you see today. The "real" Piter, as the residents fondly call it, is also relatively impenetrable, but there's more than enough to keep first-time visitors busy.