At the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland, on the Baltic Sea, stands the city of St Petersburg. In the 18th century, Peter the Great transformed the swampy banks of the Neva River into a fine European-style city, his "window on Europe". Known as Petrograd and then Leningrad, many Russians refer to it as "Piter".
Increasingly cheap flights to St Petersburg touch down at Pulkovo, to the south of the city. The approach to the airport takes in rather grey suburbs and concrete buildings, in stark contrast to the city.
Its attractions are numerous. There are 539 bridges, more than anywhere else in the world. Apart from Peter the Great's modest wooden cabin, and the Winter Palace, main residence of the Tsars and the Hermitage Museum's main building, there are St Isaac's Cathedral and the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, a St. Basil-esque building, a swirl of colourful onion domes, red brick and mosaics.
By far the best time to visit Piter is late May-early June, during the White Nights. As St. Petersburg is the most northern city in the world, the sun does not descend below the horizon enough for the sky to grow dark.
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