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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 26 June, 2023
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.

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

St Petersburg

Northwestern Region, Russia

Shining domed towers of orthodox cathedral

On the shores of the Baltic, Russia’s dazzling cultural capital – and former home of its lavish Tsars – is a treasure trove of art, music, literature, and history. Home to one of the world’s greatest museums, the State Hermitage.

Round-ups that include this experience

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