A century after the February Revolution, when mutinous Pavlovsky Regiment soldiers attacked and freed prisoners from Peter and Paul Fortress (before imprisoning Tsarist officials in 1917), this most famous of Russian historical monuments continues to attract visitors from far and wide.
Located at Hare Island, on northern bank of the Neva River, the Fortress – despite its relatively unfair centuries-old reputation as a brutal prison with over-crowed prison cells – is in fact a charming, modern-day highlight of any visit to St Petersburg.
This is especially so during the summer months’ White Nights Festival (end of May – to mid-July), when the city opens its doors in an explosion of culture and carnival; bringing together a lively street-vibe with the local population welcoming visitors from around the world, in celebration of all things artistic. Offering a range of daily concerts, ballets, operas, as well as Neva River Scarlet Sails and fireworks event.
That said, I recommend a visit to Peter and Paul Fortress as any time of the year. Not only for its impressive cluster of buildings, famous gilded angel-topped cupola Bell Tower and Peter and Paul Cathedral, but also the assortment of stunning gardens and magical river-fortress ramparts.
If you are there during the summer months, remember that the ramparts, perfectly located on the riverfront, turn into one of the city’s most iconic outdoor swimming and sunbathing spaces. Particularly exciting during the Sand Festivals period, when the beaches enjoy a fairy-tale collection of monster sand-castle constructions.
Away from the hustle and bustle of central St Petersburg, you can while away the day in city beach mode, with stunning, well spread out Fortress exhibits ready and waiting when the outdoor festival activities get too much. Certainly is a great spot to view the White Nights sailing boats and evening fireworks displays.
The Cathedral is particularly impressive, not only for its enthralling interior, but also due to the adjoining Grand Ducal Mausoleum, the final resting place of all but two of the Russian tsars. The Mint Building, empty Trubetskoy Bastion prison cells and city Museum also combine to give the Fortress a rather surreal inner-peace ambiance.
An inner piece that one hopes will envelop all thing FIFA World Cup 2018 which takes 14th June – 15th July 2018.
Whatever your mode of transport, if you are planning a trip north of the river to Peter and Paul Fortress during the summer White Nights period, don’t get stuck on the wrong side of the Palace Bridge at night as the bridge stays open to allow the festival boat traffic to pass under it until 5am the following morning.