Gogol described Nevsky Prospect as St. Petersburg’s “universal communication” and this definition remains relevant today. As you travel from one end of the city to the other, it is practically impossible to miss Nevsky. Nevsky Prospect is the perfect place for a stroll. The best-dressed women, the most expensive cars, all kinds of shops and huge department stores, pedestrian zones and street musicians, temples of all religions, architecture representing every style, theatres, cinemas and libraries - all of these and more can be found on Nevsky Prospect.
Nevsky has a “bright”, northern, even-numbered side, which is always sunny in the summer, and a “dark”, southern, odd-numbered side, which stays in shadow. Looking at the “dark” side from Kazan Cathedral towards Ostrovsky Square, you can see how one piazza merges rhythmically into the next. It is one of the best examples of the European Empire style.
Walking along Nevsky Prospect from the Admiralty building, the first intersection on the dark side is where the thoroughfare crosses Malaya Morskaya Street. Facing the intersection is the Wawelberg Bank, a huge black building that looks like a Venetian palazzo. It was built in 1910 by architect Marian Peretiatkovich.
Walking further along the dark side of Nevsky Prospect, between Bolshaya Morskaya Street and Moika Embankment, you will see the Chicherin House (№15). Across the street, on the other side of Nevsky, is the Empire-style Kotomin House built by Vasily Stasov. From the time of its construction, the building housed St. Petersburg’s first confectionery shop, founded by two natives of Switzerland, Wolf and Beranget. On 27 January 1837, at 4pm, Alexander Pushkin, who lived nearby, came into the shop, had a glass of lemonade and met his friend Konstantin Danzas who was to serve as his second in the duel with Georges d’Anthès. From here, the friends went to Chernaya Rechka, where Pushkin was fatally wounded.
Next to the Green (Policeman) Bridge across Moika River are numerous floating wharfs for the tourist motorboats and water taxis.
After the Moika, Nevsky Prospect widens and becomes more elegant. On the shadow side of the street is the Stroganov Palace, one of the best examples of the Russian Elizabethan Baroque style. The palace is home to a branch of the Russian Museum. In the courtyard, there is a restaurant and some remains of garden sculptures - two small garden sphinxes, figures of Flora and Neptune and six cast iron pedestals depicting lion masks.
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Walking along the same dark side, aligned with Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street is the Mertens Trade House (№21) with its huge, three-storey paned arches. The house was built in 1912 by the famous Polish-born architect Marian Lalewicz.
Several hundred Dutchmen lived in St. Petersburg in the nineteenth century, mainly dealing in chocolate, cacao and exotic fruit. The Dutch Reformed Church with its dome and four-pillar portico stands on the other side of Nevsky Prospect (№20).
The Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, along with the buildings belonging to the church (№22 and №24, taking up an entire block of Nevsky Prospect between Bolshaya and Malaya Konyushennaya Streets), is the principal place of worship for local Lutherans. The church was built by Alexander Bryullov, a famous court architect and the brother of famous Russian painter Karl Bryullov, whose works include the large-scale The Last Day of Pompeii.
Right behind the church is Saint Peter’s School, often referred to as Petrischule. This is the city’s oldest German school and it was originally affiliated with the church. At the beginning of the twentieth century, 1,200 boys and girls studied here. Its graduates include architect Carlo Rossi and composer Modest Mussorgsky.
The end wall of the Lutheran church complex opens up onto Malaya Konyushennaya Street. Several years ago this area became the city’s first pedestrian zone. On the street you will find a graceful Meteorological Weather Pavilion, built in early 20th century by Nikolai Lancere. The modern-day Swedish Consulate stands on the corner of Nevsky Prospect and Shvedsky (Swedish) Pereulok.
The odd-numbered side of Nevsky Prospect has long belonged to the Swedish community. The first Swedish church was built in 1769, but it was soon found too small to accommodate all parishioners. The new Evangelical Lutheran, with the capacity of 1,200 people, was built in 1865 the Romanesque Revival style by the Swedish architect Karl Anderson. The adjacent tenement house was constructed by the famed architect of St. Petersburg, Swedish national Fedor Lidval (Fredrik Lidvall), in 1904-1905.
Kazan Square is a garden square in front of Kazan Cathedral. In 1837, in honour of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812, two monuments were erected in front of the cathedral. The monuments depict the two commanders-in-chief who led the Russian army against Napoleon: Mikhail Kutuzov and Mikhail (Michael Andreas) Barclay de Tolly. The monuments are the work of sculptor Boris Orlovsky.
If you cross the square and reach Griboyedov Canal Embankment, you will see the House of Books on the opposite side of Nevsky Prospect. This is one of St. Petersburg’s iconic buildings. It was built by Pavel Suzor as the headquarters of the Russian branch of American company Singer and locals still call it the Singer House. The building is topped with a glass-roofed dome crowned with a globe. Today, the building is home to a large book store.
At 95 metres (295 ft) wide, Kazansky Bridge is the second widest bridge in St. Petersburg (the widest is the Blue Bridge. The bridge offers a magnificent view of the Church of the Savior on Blood, which was built on the on the site of the murder of Emperor Alexander II.
The archway of Nevsky Prospect metro station adjoins the corner of Engelgardt House (№30), whose facade has remained unchanged since 1830. The building houses the Small Hall of the St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonia (also known as Engelgardt Hall).
After Engelgardt House, we come to a small square in front of the Catholic Church of St. Catherine. This Catholic cathedral was built on Nevsky Prospect in 1782 using designs by French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe. The work was supervised by Antonio Rinaldi.
On the square in front of the church, local artists sell their paintings and drawings.
The side wall of Grand Hotel Europe overlooks Nevsky Prospect, while the building’s main facade stretches along the left side of Mikhailovskaya Street, which connects Nevsky Prospect with Arts Square and Mikhailovsky Palace (the Russian Museum). The hotel’s interiors were remodelled in the Art Nouveau style at the beginning of the twentieth century in part by Fedor Lidval.
On the other side of Nevsky Prospect is a series of one-storey shops called Silver Rows, built in 1787 by Giacomo Quarenghi for the city’s silversmiths and jewellers.
Next to this complex is the tower of the city Duma (parliament). The five-corner, five-tier tower was built in 1804 by Giacomo Ferrari and was used as a fire tower. In the event of a fire, special multicoloured balloons were hung on a metal frame fastened to the roof - the combination of colours let the firemen know which part of the city was affected by the fire.
In the middle of Dumskaya Street is a two-storey pavilion with six Doric pillars. This is Rusca Portico, named in honour of the architect who built it in 1806. In 1963, during the construction of the metro station "Nevskiy Prospekt", the portico was dismantled and built in 1971-1972.
Across from Gostiny Dvor, on the other side of Nevsky Prospect, closer to Mikhailovskaya Street, we see the Armenian Church of St. Catherine. The church was built by Yuri Felten as a small, single-domed shrine. Building №40, which belonged to the church, is a rare example of a residential house that has not been touched by reconstruction since Pushkin’s time.
The next building, №44, which was built in 1909 by Boris Girshovich for the Siberian Trading Bank is now home to the famous Nord Confectionery.
The Passage department store (building №48) was built in 1848 by architect Rudolf Żelaziewicz. The three-storey covered arcade with a glass roof stretches from Nevsky Prospect to Italian Street. The store’s interiors, with their fretted ceilings, inlaid flooring, iron footbridges connecting the floors and a theatre auditorium, have been preserved. The theatre auditorium is now used by the State Academic Vera Komissarzhevskaya Theatre.
The corner of Nevsky Prospekt and Malaya Sadovaya Street (№56) is occupied by the huge Eliseyev Emporium building. The Art Nouveau store was built in 1903 by the architect Gavriil Baranovsky. The facade sports two huge sculptures made by Amandus Adamson. The sculptures personify commerce (Mercury, the god of commerce, has a pile of fruit at his feet) and shipping (the Eliseyev merchant family had its own fleet). The interiors of the two-storey shopping space, including the stained-glass windows, wall and ceiling plaster moulds, chiselled metal bars, marble shop counters decorated with redwood and bronze, and the light fittings, have all been restored.
Across from the Eliseyev Emporium is Ostrovsky Square. The central part of the square is occupied by the Catherine Garden with a monument to Empress Catherine sculpted by Mikhail Mikeshin. The pedestal is made of three kinds of marble - red, dark grey and light grey. The Empress’ statue is surrounded by the most prominent figures of her age.
To the right of the monument is the National Library of Russia. Its main building comprises three parts. The facade niches are decorated with statues of Herodotus, Cicero, Tacitus, Virgil, Demosthenes, Hippocrates, Euripides, Euclides, Plato and Homer. The frontispiece is adorned with statues of Nike goddesses, exalting a book surrounded by a crown of laurels. On the roof is a statue of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
Behind the theatre runs Architect Rossi Street (Ulitsa Zodchego Rossi). This is where you can find the famous Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet. The street forms a square whose width is equal to the height of its only two buildings. The length of the street is just 200 metres (630 ft) and many of the local residents believe it to be the most beautiful street in the world. The street ends in semi-round Lomonosov Square which opens onto Fontanka River. The houses at Fontanka, adorned with Doric pillars, were also built by Carlo Rossi.
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.
Anichkov Bridge is famous for its Horse Tamers sculptures. The four sculptural groups depicting a young man and a horse were designed in 1850 by Russian sculptor Baron Peter Klodt.
The theatre was built by Carlo Rossi and named in honour of Alexandra Fedorovna, the wife of Nicholas I. In the 20th century, it acquired the unofficial name of “directors’ Mecca” as many great stage directors, including Vsevolod Meyerhold, Sergei Radlov, Nikolai Akimov, Grigory Kozintsev, Georgy Tovstonogov and Igor Gorbachev, used to work with this stage. Today the theatre’s artistic director is Valery Fokin. The audience and critics respect his desire to add original interpretations of the classics to the theatre’s repertoire, and like the fact that he invites stage managers and theatre companies from abroad, as happened with the Comédie Française.
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Gostiny Dvor - St. Petersburg’s largest shopping centre - was built during the reign of Catherine the Great. It took more than two decades to construct the stone building, which was completed in 1785. The total length of its walls is about one kilometre (0.6 miles). The building has entrances from four streets and has four “lines” - the Neva line, the Perina line (entry from Dumskaya Street), the Surova line (entry from Lomonosova Street) and the Zerkalo line (entry from Bolshaya Sadovaya).
The Kazan Cathedral was built in 1811 specifically for the miracle-working Kazan icon of the Mother of God. The cathedral was built in accordance with designs of Andrei Voronikhin, a serf of the president of the Russian Academy of Arts Count Alexander Stroganov. The count was so impressed with the future architect’s artistic talent, that he sent him to Moscow to study, later gave him his freedom and in every possible way encouraged Voronikhin to comprehend art in all of its forms.
In 1812, came the Patriotic War and after each victory it became a tradition to hang the banners and flags of the prostrate French military units in the cathedral. The icon stand was made from the silver trophies. In 1813, the military commander Mikhail Kutuzov was laid to rest here.