ROUTE No. 2
PALACE SQUARE: ALEXANDER COLUMN – GENERAL STAFF BUILDING – WINTER PALACE (THE HERMITAGE) – FORMER GUARDS HEADQUARTERS – ADMIRALTY; SENATE SQUARE: BRONZE HORSEMAN – FORMER SENATE AND SYNOD BUILDING – FORMER HORSEGUARDS MANEGE; ST. ISAAC’S SQUARE: ST. ISAAC’S CATHEDRAL – MYATLEV’S HOUSE – FORMER GERMAN EMBASSY – STATUE OF NICHOLAS I – BLUE BRIDGE – MARIINSKIY PALACE – ASTORIA HOTEL – ANGLETERRE HOTEL
The Palace Square is one of Europe’s greatest squares, lined with historic monuments commemorating Russia’s victory over Napoleon. The square was created in very much its present form in the first half of the 19th century. In 1819 Alexander I commissioned plans from Carlo Rossi. Rossi’s bow-shaped design for the General Staff Building resulted in a square of unusual shape and size, and ideal venue for marches and parades.
The centerpiece of the Palace Square is the Alexander Column . It was designed by architect Auguste de Montferrand and completed in 1834 as a monument to the Russian victory over Napoleon. The overall height of the column is 47,5 meters, even higher than Trojan’s Column in Rome. Cut from a single block of granite, this 700-ton monolith is not attached to the pedestal in any way, and is supported only by its own weight. The column is surmounted by the figure of an angel of peace, the visage of which bears considerable similarity to Russian Tsar Alexander I.
The southern side of the square is taken up by the former General Staff Building  designed in 1819 by architect Carlo Rossi. The building consists of two wings divided by a triumphal arch, linking Palace Square with Nevskiy Prospect. Atop the arch is a sculpture of a Victory, standing in a chariot drawn by six horses.
Opposite the General Staff Building stands the magnificent Winter Palace , the largest of the architectural components which make up the Hermitage Museum. The present Winter Palace, designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1754-1762, was commissioned by the Empress Elizabeth. Designed in opulent Baroque style, the palace served as the winter residence of every ruler of Russia starting from Peter III.
The Classical building which forms the east side of the Palace Square is the former Guards Headquarters . It was built in 1837-1843 to the plans of architect Alexander Bryullov. Its unpretentious facade forms a successful transition between the Winter Palace and the General Staff Building.
Opposite the Winter Palace lies the Admiralty , originally founded by Peter the Great in 1704 as a fortified shipyard. The building we see today was built between 1806 and 1823 by architect Andreyan Zakharov. Its spire is crowned by a frigate-shaped weather vane, that has become the symbol of St. Petersburg. Today the Admiralty houses the Naval College.
Moving along the Admiralty Embankment you soon reach the Senate Square The name of the square has been changed more than once over the years. It was first called Senate Square, then Peter’s Square, and in 1825 became the Decembrists’ Square to recall the group of young officer aristocrats who attempted the overthrow of the Tsar here in December 1825. In 2008 the original name was returned to the square.
The focal point of the square is the famous Statue of Peter the Great  known as “the Bronze Horseman” after the poem of that title by Alexander Pushkin. The statue was created by French sculptor Etienne Falconet between 1766 and 1778. The pedestal is made of a single piece of red granite in a shape of a cliff. The huge 1600-ton pedestal rock was brought from the village of Lakhta, 10 km outside of St. Petersburg and is known as “Thunder Rock”. From the top of the cliff Peter shows the way for Russia, while the snake trampled beneath the hooves of Peter’s horse symbolizes opposition to the Tsar reforms. Ironically, the “evil” snake serves as a third point of support for the statue. The monument was meant to be a tribute by Catherine the Great to her famous predecessor on the Russian throne. For that reason both sides of the monument bear the dedication “To Peter the First from Catherine the Second”, in Latin and in Russian.
To the right of the monument stands the yellow edifice that was once the home of the Senate and Synod  – the civil and religious governing bodies of pre-revolutionary Russia. Its twin buildings united by an arch were designed by Carlo Rossi in the mid 19th century.
The building with the eight-column portico alongside the Senate and Synod is the former Horseguards Manege . It was built by Giacomo Quarenghi between 1804 and 1807. Now it hosts temporary art and trade exhibitions.
Another great square around the Admiralty is St. Isaac’s Square. The square is dominated by St. Isaac’s Cathedral , from which it takes its name. The overall height of the cathedral is 101,5 meters, which makes it the world’s fourth largest single-domed church after St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Paul’s in London and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. The cathedral was named after St. Isaac of Dalmatia whom Peter the Great considered to be his patron saint. The present cathedral designed by architect Auguste de Montferrand is the fourth and final version dating from mid 19th century. Its construction started in 1818 and was completed 40 years later. The cathedral can accommodate up to 14000 visitors at a time. Its interior is decorated with marble, malachite, lapis lazuli, porphyry, jasper and other materials. After visiting St. Isaac’s, functioning primarily as a museum, climb up to its colonnade for a stunning panoramic view of central St. Petersburg.
Opposite the garden in front of St. Isaac’s Cathedral stands the massive building faced with rough red granite. It was built for the German Embassy and was used as such for a short time, until the beginning of World War I in 1914. One of the outstanding 20th century German architects, Peter Behrens, was responsible for the building design.
Next to the former embassy you can see the oldest building in the square, known as the Myatlev’s House . It was built in 1760s supposedly by architect Antonio Rinaldi. Alexander Pushkin, who was on friendly terms with the poet Ivan Myatlev, often visited the house.
In the center of St. Isaac’s Square, in front of the cathedral, stands an equestrian Statue of Nicholas I , unveiled in 1859. The monument’s granite, porphyry and marble pedestal is decorated with figures representing Faith, Wisdom, Might and Justice; while bas-reliefs depict episodes from the Emperor’s life.
St. Isaac’s Square southern end continues across the Blue Bridge, which is so wide that you hardly realize the Moyka River is flowing beneath it. The bridge gets its name from the color of its sides facing the river.
Beyond the bridge, the Mariinskiy Palace  flies the Russian tricolor. The palace was originally built by architect Andrey Stakenschneider for Nicholas I’s oldest daughter Maria. Nowadays it houses the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg.
On the eastern side of the square stands the Astoria Hotel , built by architect Fyodor Lidval in early 20th century. Adjacent to Astoria on the corner of Malaya Morskaya Street is the Angleterre Hotel .
Two most identical buildings standing opposite one another on both sides of the square were formerly the Ministry of Agriculture. They were designed in an Italian Renaissance style between 1844 and 1853.