Peter and Paul Fortress is where you can get a feel for St Petersburg’s more than 300 year old
The crown jewel of St. Petersburg lies at the center of the Peter and Paul Fortress on Zayachy Island (Hare Island), across the Neva River from the heart of the city. The Peter and Paul Cathedral, with its tall, needle-like spire, towers majestically above its surroundings in tribute to the spirit of Russia.
Designed by Domenico Trezzini, this preeminent
attraction stands bathed in lights which cast an aura of mystique that
St. Petersburg is famous for. Built to protect Russia’s new capital from a possible Swedish attack, today it has become a popular tourist complex, home the famous Cathedral of the Saint Apostles Peter and Paul and The Grand Ducal Mausoleum along with numerous museums, galleries, and amazing river-side views.
History says that the first sketched plan of the fortress, following the natural shape of the island was made by Peter himself. While the construction of the cathedral, a Baroque masterpiece, began in 1712 to replace the
wooden church built when Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg.
The cathedral was one of the first in Russia to be decorated with paintings and icons. The wall of icons and religious paintings was carved by Moscow craftsmen in the 1720s and contains 43 original icons from the 18th century. The bell tower of the cathedral is the world’s largest Orthodox bell tower and at the base of the tower lay the tombs of the Romanov monarchs.
Inside, the stunning gold altar, dramatic pillars, exquisite paintings and ceiling frescoes are accented by light pouring through massive arched windows. Visitors are allowed to take photos of the interior, but flash is not permitted, so those wishing to capture memories of the Peter and Paul Cathedral should plan their visit keeping the brightest daylight hours in mind.
The Peter and Paul Fortress is the cradle of the city, and as such is one of the historic symbols of St Petersburg admired both by locals and tourists for its remarkable beauty against the night sky and its rich history.
The construction of Peter and Paul Fortress marked the beginning of Saint Petersburg, a city that was destined to be capital of the Russian Empire for over two centuries. A tour inside the Island will take you from royal tombs and prison blocks to historical museum exhibitions, and much more. To learn more click on the links below or scroll down the page.
Peter and Paul Cathedral is the oldest Russian orthodox church in St. Petersburg, and it serves as the burial site for the 18th century Romanov dynasty. The final resting place of emperors and empresses, the tombs of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander II and their families are interred here
In 2006, the remains of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, wife of Alexander III and mother of Nicholas II, were retrieved from Denmark and laid to rest beside her husband, as per her wishes.
A tour inside the Cathedral will allow to admire not only the tombs of the tsars but also the iconostasis, a wide range of traditional art compositions created in Moscow in 1720, and then brought to St Petersburg, installed and gilded.
For your information, on July 17, 1998, the remains of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna, Princess Anastasia, Prince Alexei and their other three children executed by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918, are entombed in The Chapel of St. Catherine the Martyr. Although the chapel is separate from the cathedral and entry is roped off, visitors come to share solemn reverence for this poignant chapter in the history of Imperial Russia.
The Grand Ducal Mausoleum, built during 1896-1908, is a shrine to the Grand Dukes and Duchesses and those who married into the Imperial House. An available diagram outlining the location of each burial vault shows the extensive lineage of the Romanov family and defines The Peter and Paul Cathedral as having distinction that goes beyond the history of Russia to being passionately called the soul of Russia.
The Peter and Paul Fortress has six bastions with walks up to six metres thick. In no particular orders these are the name of the erected bastions: Menshikov Bastion; Sovereign's Bastion; Naryshkin Bastion; Trubetskoi Bastion; Zotov Bastion; Golovkin Bastion.
Inside you can find gun-slots and an extensive military artillery, which was used in the past to pour down heavy fire on attackers, rending such fortress impregnable. Also, when walking through these bastions you can admire extensive casemates, which were used a a prison in Peter's day.
The Trubetskoy Bastion Prison is a museum with a large complex of cells where many important people have been imprisoned, such as Maxim Gorky, Leon Trotsky, and even Fyodor Dostoevsky to name just a few.
This is the first cannon to have fired to mark midday on 1873, which you can still find today on the fortress wall.
The boathouse is another interesting place you will find inside the fortress. This building hosts the boat in which Peter learned to sail and that he brought to the fortress in 1723. The original boat is now in the Central Naval Museum, while an exact copy stands in the Boathouse.
The Mint displays coin collections and commemorative medals that were usually designed by Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli. While, the Printing workshop contains printing and ceramica relics. The mint was moved from Moscow in 1724 and originally housed in the Trubetskoi and Naryshkin bastions.
The crownwork was an additional fortification in the shape of a crown located on the opposite site bank, which separates the Peter and Paul Fortress from Birch Island to the north. Today it has become the Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineering and Communications. A quirky but good place to visit which connected with the history of the Fortress.
St. Petersburg locals who are familiar with different ways to reach The Peter and Paul Cathedral unanimously suggest walking. The quickest route with the most spectacular view is a walk across the Troitsky Bridge. The best advice provided to visitors is to obtain a map of the city, mark your hotel and The Peter and Paul Fortress and from there, it will be easy to figure out your walking route.
For those who are too far to walk, you will need to get to Nevsky Prospect Metro Station and take the one stop route to Gorkovskaya Station. Disembark and turn right, walk 5 minutes to the Neva River and you will see the entrance to the fortress.
Lastly, you can also take the trams No. 6 and Bus No. 40, which would drop you out straight in front of the gates.
Visiting the island is free, so anyone can enter the fortress and walk around, but if you wish to visit the Cathedral and the graves of the former rulers and their families together with
its numerous prisons and other exhibitions you must buy a ticket for each place you plan to see.
You can purchase tickets for all expositions, temporary exhibitions, museum programs only at the museum’s ticket offices, which are located near the entrance. The museum does not carry out the electronic sale of tickets either on the official website of the museum or on any other sites.
If you are visiting Peter and Paul Fortress in winter, you will have no problem at all getting tickets. Summer, however, is a different matter and we recommend you to come early in the morning since you can’t buy tickets online.
Written by Davide C.