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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 09 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Jennifer Eremeeva

The dazzling cupolas and sky-blue facade of Smolny Cathedral, rising up from its waterside location on the River Neva, are one of St. Petersburg’s most arresting sights. Commissioned by Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth, to assuage her frequent pangs of Catholic guilt, Smolny was designed by her favourite architect, the Italian Bartolomeo Rastrelli.

Arguably his most magnificent creation, Rastrelli designed a traditional, five-domed Russian cathedral, but embellished it with exquisite interiors, and a baroque facade in her favourite shade of turquoise.

Climb the 277 steps to take in the spectacular views from the cathedral’s bell tower, and if you’re visiting independently, time it when a service is taking place, to witness the full drama of a Russian orthodox service.

Price from: £3
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Getting there & doing it

Smolny Cathedral is a major highlight on most city tours and hop-on-hop-off bus routes. The nearest Metro station is Chernyshevskaya. Allow around an hour.

Anyone is welcome to attend a service. Orthodox services are conducted with the congregation standing, so popping in and out is fine, as long as you observe a respectful silence. Men and women should wear modest clothes with their arms and legs covered, and women should cover their heads.

When to do it

The cathedral is open every day, all year round. There are regular service held throughout the day.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Hotel Indigo Tchaikovskogo

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[2.7 miles]

Hip decor and stunning rooftop views are the hallmarks of this Indigo hotel, located minutes from the Summer Gardens.

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Grand Hotel Europe

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[3.8 miles]

St. Petersburg’s grand dame, a 5-star luxury hotel that harps back to more graceful, elegant age.

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Pushka Inn

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[4.2 miles]

Cosy, classic but affordable accommodation in a historic hotel, located just moments from the Hermitage.

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Kempinski Hotel Moika

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[4.3 miles]

Enjoy 5-star luxury accommodation just steps from the Hermitage, with incomparable views of the city’s major landmarks.

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

St Petersburg

Northwestern Region, Russia

On the shores of the Baltic, Russia’s dazzling cultural capital is a treasure trove of art, music, literature, and history.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Walk Nevsky Prospekt

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[2.7 miles]

Wander through history as you traverse St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, Nevsky Prospekt – a grand, 3-mile boulevard of elegant facades, imposing buildings, basilicas, monuments and theatres.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 2

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Faberge Museum

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[3.3 miles]

Discover the art of Peter Carl Faberge, creator of the Imperial Easter Eggs, in the museum dedicated to his craft.

Best for ages: 8+ | £5

Russian Museum

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[3.7 miles]

Russia’s rich tradition of visual arts is celebrated in the network of buildings and gardens of the State Russian Museum, housing 400,000 exhibits dating back to the 10th century.

Best for ages: 18+ | £5

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

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Dostoevsky Museum

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[3.4 miles]

Dostoyevsky’s apartment/house museum, located in the Haymarket, is where much of ‘Crime and Punishment’ is set and offers fascinating insights into the writer’s life and work.

Best for ages: 18+ | £3

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Kuznechny Food Market

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[3.5 miles]

Kuznechny Market offers a chance to step off the sightseeing trail and visit the city’s largest farmers’ market, with fresh produce, meat and fish. Open daily except Monday.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Philharmonic Hall

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[3.8 miles]

Enjoy a night of Russia’s outstanding classical music at the elegant Philharmonic Hall, right in the center of the city.

Best for ages: 18+ | £30 | 2+ hours

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Museum of Political History

Museum of Political History

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[3.9 miles]

This museum dedicated to Russia’s political history is housed in the exquisite art nouveau mansion gifted by Nicholas II to his mistress, a prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre.

Best for ages: 18+ | £6

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Round-ups that include this experience

101 World’s greatest historic buildings

Multiple countries

The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that still stand out and inspire. Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.

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