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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs