Nevsky Prospekt may sound like a great title for a spy movie but translated it really just means Neva Avenue. Sounds ordinary, doesn’t it? But, like the Champs Elysées in Paris or Broadway in New York, this road in St. Petersburg is anything but common.
One of the oldest roads in a relatively new city (Moscow is 800 years old, St. Petersburg ‘only’ 300), it is a thoroughfare full of outstanding sights. First laid out in 1710, only a few years after the city’s founding in 1703, it stretches 5km (3 mi) along a section near the Neva River. Once subject to periodic flooding, visitors can now conveniently walk alongside the many canals that transect the road.
Along its length lie dozens of shops, restaurants, and some of Russia’s most outstanding architectural sights and museums. Here, between The Admiralty and the Moscow Railway Station, visitors can find many of St. Petersburg’s finest things to see and do.
There is the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, monuments to Catherine the Great, the Russian National Library, and dozens of more sights. Relatively unchanged for a hundred years, it offers a historic look at one of the world’s great cities.
There is the spectacular Art Nouveau building at No. 56 completed in 1906, not far from a large bronze monument to Catherine the Great. At No. 28 is the Kazan Cathedral, with its distinctive semi-circle of 96 massive columns. Further on at No. 18 is the Literaturnaya Cafe, said to have been frequented by the Russian writer Pushkin. At No. 17, across the Moika River, is the Baroque Stroganov Palace completed in 1760.
No. 15 is the site of one of the former Tsarina Elizabeth’s palaces (as of 1919, the House of Arts). At No. 14 is one of the three buildings erected here since the Bolshevik Revolution. It’s notable as well for the sign that dates from the Siege of Leningrad warning locals of air raids. St. Petersburg was called Leningrad for many years until the dissolution of the Soviet system when it reverted to its historical name.
Visitors to Nevsky Prospekt should be sure not to miss the shopping complex of Gostiny Dvor. Taking up the entire block, you can find a hundred things to buy. Take care, many shops don’t take credit cards! Even the grocery stores here are works of art. The Yeliseev building has enormous crystal chandeliers, gilded ceilings, and stained glass windows.
The Doema Tower built in 1804 is worth a look, and not far away is a fascinating Armenian Church completed in 1780. Just down the street is the former Singer Mansion, once the home of the sewing machine magnate. It now houses a large book store and has some interesting architectural touches, such as a cone-shaped tower topped by a large glass globe.
Be sure to catch the Anchikov Bridge, with its magnificent four statues of men on horses near the Baroque Anitsjkov Palace, completed in 1750.
Double your pleasure on Nevsky Prospekt by seeing many of the sights during the day, then take a drive down the road at night. Ablaze with lights, it’s a European spectacle in this most un-Russian of cities.