News / Europe

St. Petersburg Tops Moscow as Russia's Leading Tourist Destination

James Brooke
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — St. Petersburg was built to be Russia’s window on Europe. Now it is becoming the world’s window on Russia. Coming by train, plane and cruise ship, more than six million tourists this year are expected to visit St. Petersburg, Russia’s cultural capital. That is more than the tourist flow to Moscow, the nation’s business and government capital.

With its waterways and canals, St. Petersburg has long been called the "Venice of the North." Now, with visitors outnumbering inhabitants, Russia’s second-largest city may one day rival Italy's Venice in tourism flow.

Emilia came here from Rome to check out Europe’s hot new destination. She said she was surprised by the quantity of things to see and the helpfulness of local people.

St. Petersburg recently opened the world’s largest cruise ship port of call, capable of handling seven ships at a time. In contrast to Russia’s image of tight government controls, foreign cruise passengers now can visit St. Petersburg for three days without visas.

Peter the Great founded the city three centuries ago and it has been witness to a considerable amount of Russian history.

Once the seat of the Czars, the Winter Palace was stormed by the Bolsheviks in 1917. Now, it is the Hermitage Museum, one of the best art museums in the world.

Anya, a Russian tourist, said she loves the history. She said she likes visiting the Czarist palaces and seeing the old costumes on display.

In 1883, Czar Alexander III ordered construction of The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood on the exact spot where his father, Czar Alexander II, had been killed by an anarchist bomb.

Katya, from Uzbekistan, was exploring the church, when she stopped to talk. She said visitors may be wearing jeans and sneakers, but they feel as if they are in the 18th century.

At the airport here, international arrivals are up 25 percent this year. Planning for more growth, officials broke ground last year on a $1.5 billion project to build the region’s largest airport.

This is part of a bigger investment flow directed by two local sons of St. Petersburg - Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Katya said the effort shows, and that there has been a huge amount of restoration, which makes the city shine.

Whether they come by new high-speed train from Helsinki or Moscow, or by one of the 200 cruise ships expected to dock here this year, visitors to St. Petersburg say they find a quality not often associated with Russia - friendliness and fun.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More