Designed around a series of canals, St. Petersburg is still very much a city on the water—rich with history and historic buildings that will bring you back into the great past of Russia. Art, architecture, music, and books are all celebrated in St. Petersburg, truly one of the grandest cities you will ever visit.
- It's Included:
- Air transportation from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Helsinki, Finland
- Accommodations for 4 nights at the Radisson Sonya Hotel or similar
- 12 meals: 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 4 dinners
- Included tours: St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, Peterhof
- Exclusive Discovery Series events: Contemporary Russia discussion, Home-Hosted Dinner
- Exclusive services of a local Grand Circle representative
- Gratuities on this extension for local guides and motorcoach drivers
- All transfers
Depart today on your flight to St. Petersburg.
Upon arrival in St. Petersburg, your local Russian guide will meet you at the airport and assist with the transfer to your hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel, you'll have time to settle in and freshen up before heading out on an orientation walk. The balance of the afternoon is at leisure to relax after your flight.
Tonight, get to know your fellow travelers better over dinner at your hotel.
After breakfast this morning, attend a discussion on contemporary Russia and get a glimpse at the nation's vision of the future.
Then, your panoramic tour of the city begins. The magnificent architecture of opulent theaters and palaces, stately monuments, and statues lining the well-designed boulevards all await your discovery.
Pushkin called St. Petersburg “Peter the Great's Window to the West.” Known today as “the Venice of the North,” the city has 42 picturesque islands, more than 60 canals, and hundreds of bridges. It's a city of dazzling beauty, with magnificent palaces and museums full of treasures. The historic Winter Palace and Peter and Paul Fortress preside over the great Neva River, which flows through the city, dividing it north and south. Drink in the wonderful views along the riverbank.
After pausing for lunch at a restaurant, you'll spend most of the afternoon visiting the Hermitage. Formerly the Winter Palace and home of the tsars, today it's one of the most splendid and glorious museums in the world.
Originally built for the Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great's daughter, the palace became part of the Hermitage museum, which was established in 1764 when Catherine I began her private art collection. Today, more than 1,000 rooms house nearly three million exhibits and displays representing some of the greatest art in the world. The staggering collection of art and paintings range from ancient Egypt to early 20th-century Europe, all housed in a complex of buildings magnificently and lavishly adorned with gold leaf, malachite, jasper, agate, and marble. Savor the masterpieces of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, a full range of French Impressionists, Van Gogh, Rodin, and many more of the world's great artists.
Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
This morning, join us for a visit to the chief monument to Peter the Great’s reign, the Peter and Paul Fortress. On May 27, 1703 (considered the city’s birthdate), Peter the Great laid the foundations of the fortress on an island in the Neva River to protect the city and Russia’s access to the sea from the Swedish armies during the Northern Wars. Within the fortress is the St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral, whose spire is topped by a golden angel holding a cross, a figure that is now a symbol of the city. Peter the Great and all the Russian emperors and empresses are buried here, and the Cathedral recently made headlines when the remains of the last Romanov family (Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children) were laid to rest here.
After lunch at a local restaurant, consider coming with us on an optional tour through the countryside to one of the great tsarist palaces. Built for Peter the Great’s wife, Catherine I, and expanded by his daughter, the Empress Elizabeth, Catherine Palace is a striking example of Russian Baroque architecture. Catherine Palace was burned to the ground in the great World War II siege of Leningrad, and the restored building that stands today is said to be the finest replica in the world. Its 600-foot façade glitters in all its former glory, with elegant white columns and ornate gold moldings set against an azure background. Perhaps you’ll view one of the Palace’s most famous rooms—the Amber Room—featuring amber panels, mosaics, and mirrors.
After an included dinner, the remainder of the evening is at leisure. Or join us for an optional ballet performance from one of several St. Petersburg ballet companies.
Please note: The optional Catherine Palace tour must be purchased in advance of your departure.
Enjoy the morning at leisure to make your own discoveries.
Or, join an optional tour featuring a cruise along St. Petersburg's picturesque waterways. You’ll begin your cruise in the historical center of the city, and journey along several different rivers and canals, until you enter the main waterway—the Neva River. When the city was founded, there were no bridges across the river, and boats and ferries were the main means of transportation. The river served, in essence, as the main street of the city, as Peter the Great intended. During your boat ride, you’ll admire the noble architecture of the 18th- and 19th-century mansions overlooking the river embankments, as well as many bridges featuring elaborate cast-iron railings and lanterns.
Then visit the splendid Yusupov Palace. Yusupov Palace was owned by one of the wealthiest families in Russia, and stands just beyond the “Bridge of Kisses.” Built by Vallin de la Mothe in 1760, the palace’s claim to fame is as the place where Prince Yusupov murdered Rasputin in 1916. Here you’ll see where it all took place, as you browse rooms that have been restored to evoke the eerie atmosphere of the night of the murder. Another palace highlight is its private theater, one of the most beautiful of its kind in all of Europe.
After an included lunch at a local restaurant, set out for the Gulf of Finland to visit the summer palaces of Peter the Great at Peterhof. In 1714, Peter the Great asked for a “Versailles by the Sea” as a summer residence. King Louis XIV referred to Versailles as a “hunting lodge,” and the tsar called his summer residence a “cottage,” which is actually the name of one of the smaller palaces that was the home of Tsar Nicholas I. In reality, it was a grand palace, and the park surrounding it contains several other smaller palaces. The original Grand Palace was virtually destroyed during World War II, but many of its treasures had been moved to safety before German occupation. Today, the palaces have been faithfully restored to their original splendor. You’ll see the remarkable Grand Cascade—an extraordinary fountain ensemble made up of three waterfalls, nearly 150 fountains shooting more than 2,000 jets of water, and a myriad of statues and sculptures. After more than 250 years, its waterworks continue to operate without pumps, relying on a system of gravity. Your excursion consists of a walking tour of the magnificent grounds and a visit to Catherine’s cottage, or one of the smaller palaces on the site.
We have a special dinner planned for this evening. You’ll visit a Russian family in their home for an evening of relaxed dining and conversation. This is a rare opportunity to spend some time with people who make their home here—and get their firsthand impressions of how Russian life has changed since the collapse of communism.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Helsinki. You'll be provided with a boxed lunch to enjoy as you travel. During the day, other travelers on your Norwegian Coastal Voyage & Lapland Cruise Tour will arrive in Helsinki. You join the group as described in Day 2 of the main itinerary.