St. Isaac’s Cathedral (Isaakievskiy Sobor)
Gold-domed St. Isaac’s Cathedral is one of St. Petersburg’s most recognizable, and most popular, attractions. The 19th-century Orthodox cathedral combines Renaissance, Neoclassical, and Baroque elements, so looks different from many other Russian churches. Rarely used for worship, it now contains an art museum.
Commissioned by Tsar Nicolas I in 1818, it took a full 40 years for French designer Auguste de Montferrand’s designs to be completed. The result was a very lavish building, with a 71-foot (22-meter) dome containing 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of gold. There are many ways to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of St. Isaac’s Cathedral: from the outside, where the gold dome can be seen on the skyline from far away; from the museum inside, which features detailed mosaics among other treasures; or from the colonnade around the drum of the dome, which can be reached via 250+ steps. While the cathedral can be visited independently, it is also a fixture on many St. Petersburg sightseeing tours, alongside other attractions like the Hermitage and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
Things to know before you go
- There’s an admission fee for the cathedral, with summer evening admission being more expensive than regular daytime admission. The use of audio guides is extra.
- Services are only held during major religious occasions.
- The cathedral is wheelchair accessible, with wheelchair lifts at the entrance.
- Concerts are regularly held in the cathedral, in the evenings.
How to get there
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is in central St. Petersburg, within easy walking distance of the Hermitage Museum, the Bronze Horseman statue, and the banks of the River Neva. The nearest metro station is Admiralteyskaya.
When to get there
The cathedral is open from mid-morning until early evening every day, except Wednesdays. It’s open during the evenings in the summer. You can also attend regular choir or orchestra concerts in the evenings.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Another must-visit church in St. Petersburg is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. The architectural style is completely different from that of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and most other architecture in St. Petersburg, as it was inspired by medieval Rusian architecture. Despite resembling Moscow’s famous onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral, built in the mid-16th century, it’s nowhere near as old, being built in the 1880s after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II.
- The Republic of Cats Museum and Café
- Bronze Horseman
- Russian Vodka Museum (Muzey Russkogo Natsional'nogo Napitka)
- Admiralty Building
- St. Petersburg Palace Square (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad)
- Stroganov Palace (Stroganovsky Dvorets)
- Nikolaevsky Palace
- The General Staff Building
- Central Naval Museum
- Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera)
- The Menshikov Palace
- State Hermitage Museum
- Menshikov Palace
- Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan (Kazansky Sobor)
- Mariinsky Theatre