Cycling tour of the Fontanka and Moika Embankments

This fascinating 10 km (6 mi) biking tour of St. Petersburg embankments takes in the major landmarks.

Having circled around St. Isaac’s Cathedral, we’re in front of a European Neo-Classical building, which once housed the German Embassy. This is the most recent building in Isaac Square. It is now home to the Northwest District Office of the Justice Ministry.  
Aleksandr Demianchuk/TASS
Also in Isaac Square, between the Mariinsky Palace and St. Isaac’s, stands the monument to Emperor Nicholas I, created by Auguste de Montferrand. The emperor had already passed away in 1856, when construction began on this monument. It was unveiled in 1859.  
Past the Yusupov Palace, we approach the building of the former Alexander Military Academy of Law, which is now the Military Transport University of the Rail Corps. As we pass Glinki ulitsa, we’re also passing the Potseluev (Kissing) Bridge on our right, and the Krasnoflotsky (Red Navy) Bridge shows up ahead.  
We ride by the library of the P.F. Lesgaft National University of Physical Culture and Sports, then we hit the Khrapovitsky Bridge.  
Leaving the Khrapovitsky Bridge, we can see the grand ducal Alexeevsky Palace, housing the House of Music since February 2006.  
In Lotsmanskaya ulitsa, we are in the vicinity of the St. Petersburg State Maritime Technical University and the Admiralty Shipyards Museum. Now we hit the heart of the city district called Kolomna – the scenic Repin Square – and we find ourselves on the Fontanka River Embankment.
Yury Belinsky/TASS
The two-story Sheremetyev Palace (now Museum of Music, also known as Fontanny Dom), stone-built in 1750, is across the Fontanka from where we ride.

Ticket office. Staterooms of Sheremetev Palace Exposition: Wed 1 p.m. - 8 p.m., Thu-Mon 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Collection of musical instruments: Wed 1 p.m. - 8 p.m., Thu-Sun 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
The Ciniselli Circus, Russia’s oldest, stands behind Belinsky Square.
Aleksandr Demyanchuk/TASS
Emperor Paul moved to Saint Michael’s Castle on November 1, 1800. The wall plaster had yet to dry and the huge halls were filled with fog. On the night of March 1, 1801, a group of Guard Corps officers unhappy with the Emperor and his reforms wandered through the foggy rooms to his bedchamber where they strangled and trampled Paul to death.

In 1819, Saint Michael’s Castle was given over to the army’s Main Engineering School and from then on the building was known as the Engineers’ Castle. The most famous graduate of this school was the writer Fedor Dostoyevsky who, it should be noted, never put the knowledge and skills acquired here to any use.

Today the castle is home to a branch of the Russian Museum. The bridge to the only entrance to the castle has been restored. There’s even a monument to Emperor Paul in the inner courtyard.

Ticket offices: Mon, Wed, Fri-Wed 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Thu 1 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
We find two Inzhenerny Bridges and two Sadovy Bridges where the Fontanka and Moika Rivers meet. This is the place to stop and dig the Chizhyk-Pyzhik monument below, down the granite embankment, and then enjoy a ride across the sprawling Mars Field. From here, we head towards the Moika Embankment and the bridge spanning the Griboedova Canal and the Moika.
Yury Belinsky/TASS
We ride along the Moika till we get to the Pevchesky (Singers’) Bridge, and the Palace Square opens up on our right. As we continue on our way, we cross Nevsky prospekt once again on the Zelyony (Green) Bridge. A little farther on, we roll onto the Krasny (Red) Bridge, from where we can spy the end of our route: the Blue Bridge on Isaac Square.
Yuri Belinsky/TASS

The palace of pre-revolutionary Petersburg’s most flamboyant couple — Felix and Irina Yusopov — located at Moika Embankment is the traditional place of pilgrimage for the fans of detective stories, most of them from abroad. This was the place where Grigory Rasputin was killed, but you won’t be allowed into the basement where this tragic story took place on your own. The palace is full of splendid grand halls, a greenhouse, a living room equipped with early-20th century wiretaps and a real theatre.

Ticket offices: 10:45 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Anichkov Palace was built by Rastrelli for the morganatic marriage of Empress Elizabeth to Count Alexei Razumovsky. Catherine the Great bought it and gifted it to her favourite, Grigory Potemkin, who in turn sold it to the Treasury. The palace was occupied by the children of Paul I - Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna and then the future Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich, who in time became Emperor Nicholas I. After Alexander III’s accession to the throne, he decided not to move to the Winter Palace and ruled Russia from here. Nicholas II gave the palace to his mother, Empress Maria Fedorovna, who was its last owner.

The different periods left their marks on the palace. The grand staircase and a second-storey suite of rooms with a winter garden built in the 1870s by Ippolit Monigetti are what remains of the building’s imperial glory. The “fairytale rooms” painted in 1936 by Palekh icon painters based on Pushkin’s fairytales and Gorky’s stories represent the heritage of Soviet times.
The older residents of St. Petersburg remember the times when you had to spend a night at the doors in order to buy a ticket for this theatre. The company of Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater included some of the best Soviet and Russian actors who dedicated dozens of years of their lives to its stage. Most of them are already dead, but some elders, such as Oleg Basilashvili and Alice Friendlich, still go on stage and are still one-of-a-kind.

The current artistic director Andrei Moguchy breathed new life into the theatre itself and into its company. He combines technical methods and the classical Russian drama school. The result is the outstanding benefit performance of Alice Friendlich titled “Alice” that centers on the adventures of Alice in Wonderland and some very personal memories of the actress herself. Moguchy has also staged a dispute performance “What is to be done?” based on Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s pamphlet and “The Drunks”, a play written by modern playwright Ivan Vyrypaev; both these performances are always a sell-out.

Aleksandr Demianchuk/TASS
Alexandr III’s brother Sergey Alexandrovich and the Killer of Rasputin – Nicholas II’s nephew Dmitry Pavlovich – lived here.
The house is adjacent to the gloomy Priazhka river, which is mentioned more than once in the works of Alexander Blok. The poet lived here from 1912 to 1921. Currently the building houses his apartment museum.
Ruslan Shamukov/TASS

The first St. Isaac’s Church was very simple, basically a log-house decorated with a spire made by the Dutch master Harman van Boles who also made the spire of Peter and Paul Cathedral. St. Isaac’s Church was one of St. Petersburg’s main temples, and Peter the Great married his second wife Catherine here. When the church fell into disrepair, it was decided that a new one, this time made from stone and closer to Neva, should be built. That decision was fateful as the river flooded often and eroded the soil, so that the church sunk and was dismantled. 

Construction of the third St. Isaac’s Cathedral began in the time of Catherine the Great and was completed by Paul I. In his desire to act in defiance of his mother Paul went too far, personally interfering with construction and the result was ridiculous. Paul’s son, Alexander I, decided to rebuild the cathedral and the design competition was won by the young Frenchman August de Montferrand. He spent the next 40 years building the cathedral and died shortly after finishing his work. The magnificent decoration of the cathedral — the sculptures, the bas-reliefs, mosaics, frescos and stained glass — made a great impression on the residents. 

Today, St. Isaac’s Cathedral is primarily a museum and church services take place rarely on extraordinary occasions. The main tourist attraction is the colonnade, which during the White Nights season is open all night, until sunrise.

Ticket office: 10:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Aleksandr Demianchuk/TASS
A unique memorial of industrial architecture of the early Classicism is represented by two man-made islands in the estuary of Neva river. The famous arch, through which rafts passed, can be found in architecture school books throughout the world.
Aleksandr Demianchuk/TASS

The main symbol of St. Petersburg, a monument to Peter the Great at the Senate Square, was erected in 1782 on orders from Catherine the Great who sincerely admired the first Russian emperor. The monument bears witness to this admiration: Peter is presented as a crown-bearing victor, who not only spurred and reared up Russia thus preventing its fall, but also saved the nation from its enemies and the opponents of reforms, symbolised here by the dangerous snake tramped by the emperor.

There are lots of legends regarding this monument and after the publication of Pushkin’s poem everyone began to call it the “Copper Horseman”, even though the horseman and his horse are actually made of bronze. 

This is a unique place: in December 1825, the tragic events that later became known as the “Decembrist Revolt” unfolded here. The principal governing bodies-the Senate and the Holy Synod — were also located on this square. Now their space is taken up by the Constitutional Court and the Presidential Library. Whichever way you look at it, the Senate Square is a symbol of both the revolt and common sense. The Bronze Horseman is a favourite backdrop for wedding photos: the newlyweds drink champagne and break the glasses for good luck. The lawns around the monument are one of the rare places where you can lie on the grass without being reprimanded.