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St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia|smolnyspb.ru|
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.
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.
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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.