Map: Nevsky/Sadovaya Axis

Nevsky Prospekt is bisected by Sadovaya (Garden) Street about halfway between the Griboedov Canal and the Fontanka River, Sadovaya traverses the whole of Savior’s Island and, since the late 18th century, has been a vital means of cross-city communication. Italian architect Carlo Rossi formed the two main architectural ensembles that give the areas around the Nevsky/Sadovaya axis their definition.

Start at (1) Michael’s (Engineers’) Castle, a uniquely mysterious palace and former college of engineering, where Dostoyevsky studied for a time. The castle was built by Tsar Paul (who was murdered shortly after construction was completed in 1801) and is now part of the Russian Museum (www.rusmuseum.ru).

Head south along tree-lined Klenovaya Street, stopping first at Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli’s baroque triumphal (2) equestrian monument to Peter the Great, which makes the tsar appear as a severe Roman emperor.

Cross the wedge-shaped Manezh Square at its thinner end and stop on the corner of Italianskaya and Malaya Sadovaya Streets. On the left is the oversize and showy (3) Merchants’ Club House (27 Italianskaya), now the studios of the popular Channel Five TV station. On the right is (4) Count Shuvalov’s Palace, now home to the curious Museum of Hygiene (25 Italianskaya).

From the palace, head down (5) Malaya Sadovaya Street, which, with its benches, streetlamps, fountains, lilacs, and occasional buskers, has turned into a pleasant haven from the hurly-burly of Nevsky.

At this point cross over (or under) Nevsky and take a look around Ostrovsky Square, at the center of which is St. Petersburg’s only (6) monument to Catherine the Great. Behind the haughty-looking empress rises the recently reconstructed neo-classic (7) Alexandra’s Theater. To the east is the garden of the Anichkov Palace, now with fashion boutiques in its pavilions. To the west of the empress is the multicolumn Russian National Library. Around the curved corner of the Russian National Library, head south along Sadovaya Street. Glance past the railings at (8) Rastrelli’s Vorontsov Palace, now the Suvorov Military Academy (Sadovaya 26).

Cross the road and enter (9) Gostinyi Dvor (Trading Rows) at 35 Nevsky, which began life in the 1750s as a merchants’ inn and which is surrounded by four remarkably long, unadorned strings of two-tier arcades. Since the 19th century this has been St. Petersburg’s most important mall, where people promenade as much as shop.

Cross Nevsky via the underpass and on the sunny side you can visit two neoclassic churches dedicated to St Catherine: the (10) Armenian Church at no. 40 and (12) St. Catherine Church at no. 32. Between the two churches is the (11) Grand Hotel Europe. Enter through the Mikhailovskaya Street entrance to see the hotel’s art nouveau interiors.

The last building on the right down Mikhailovskaya Street at no. 2 is the former (13) Nobles’ Club, since 1921 the home of the St. Petersburg Philharmonia. Its white-column hall has superb acoustics.

Enter Arts Square (Ploshchad Iskusstv), the core of architect Carlo Rossi’s plan for this part of the city. In the center is a Soviet (14) monument to Alexander Pushkin. Beyond is the dominating (15) Mikhailovsky Palace (the Russian Museum), the greatest single collection of Russian art in the world. To the right is the (16) Russian Ethnographic Museum (Inzhenernaya 4), worthy of viewing for its insight into the peoples of Eurasian Russia.

Finish your walk with an amble through the (17) Mikhailovsky Palace Gardens located around the back of the museums. Laid out in the early 1820s you can enter from Sadovaya Street, close to where the tour began.

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