From the missing contents of the Amber Room to the stopped clock of the Hermitage, St Petersburg is full of eccentric facts and foibles

From Slavic Petrograd to Communist Leningrad, St Petersburg has had as many names as it has identities. Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great as a “Window on the West” during a great period of upheaval in Russian history, the city has always been a sophisticated capital, proud of its history but looking squarely in the face of the future. Here, we look at some of the more surprising facts about St Petersburg ahead of your next trip.


St Petersburg is the seventh largest city in Europe after London, Paris, Moscow, Madrid and Manchester. It’s also the most northern city in the world, with a population of over one million.


The Hermitage Museum holds around three million works of art. We bet it will take you more than a day trip to see them all.


The city has its own beach next to the Peter and Paul fortress. Often as popular in winter as it is in summer thanks to the presence of “walruses” (those that believe in the health effects of very cold water), we’d recommend wearing a wetsuit!


It is home to the Krasin icebreaker of 1905, a vessel that has been preserved as it was originally. Book in for a tour of the departments and prepare to be amazed.


In the White Dining Room of the Hermitage Palace the clock is stopped at 2:10am. This is when the Provisional Government of Russia came to an end, after being arrested by the Communists on 25th October 1917.


The fabulously opulent Amber Room (full of amber panels, gold-leaf and mirrors) at the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo was raided by the Nazis during WWII but has since been restored, after items were found in Germany and returned home.


Designed to accommodate 14,000 standing worshippers, Isaac Cathedral’s dome is plated with pure gold.


At the centre of St Petersburg, the 48-metre Alexander Column is not fixed into the ground but stands straight, entirely thanks to its own weight.


Some of the city’s most famous residents include artists like Karl Brullov and Ilya Repin; poets Alexander Pushkin and Anna Akhmatova; writers like Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoevsky; and musicians such as Peter Tchaikovsky and Dmitri Shostakovich.


Korushka is a popular Russian fish dish and there is even a Korushka Festival each spring in almost all restaurants in the city. Plus, there is Korushka-named restaurant all year around on the Neva river side next to Peter and Paul Fortress.

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