Romanov St. Petersburg

Russia dominated news headlines in 1917. The February revolution (March in the Gregorian calendar) saw the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II bringing an end to several hundred years of rule by the House of Romanov. The October Revolution introduced communism to the world.

While the political landscape of St. Petersburg underwent vast subsequent change, evidence of royal rule remains throughout. This post covers the sites associated with Romanov St. Petersburg.

A general travel guide to the city can be found in my Visiting St. Petersburg post.


Although Peter the Great was born in Moscow his years of travel convinced him to found a Baltic coastal city in 1703 inspired by what he saw in Amsterdam. He named his city after Saint Peter with the burg part coming from the Germanic name for a fort. A decade later he declared the city Russia’s capital and the Peter and Paul Fortress became its first major building.

Peter the Great (1682-1725)

Peter and Paul Fortress St. Petersburg
Entrance to Peter and Paul Fortress from St John’s Bridge (Ioannovsky most). This defence fort was used as a prison. The fort’s cathedral is the burial place of all but two of Russia’s tsars.
Nevsky Prospekt St. Petersburg
Nevsky Prospekt – St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare
Alexander Nevsky Monastery St. Petersburg
Alexander Nevsky Monastery
Grand Cascade Peterhof St. Petersburg
The Grand Cascade garden feature at Peterhof Palace, the elaborate and spectacular royal summer palace located approximately 20 miles west of St. Petersburg.

Elizabeth I (1741-1761)

Winter Palace St. Petersburg Russia
Winter Palace – Commissioned by Empress Elizabeth in 1754 the building was complete in 1762 where it became the official imperial residence until 1917
Smolny Cathedral
Smolny Cathedral

Catherine II better known as Catherine the Great (1762-1796)

Bronze Horseman Statue Peter the Great St. Petersburg
Bronze Horseman Statue – Unveiled in 1782 Catherine II commissioned this in honour of Peter the Great and it was re-named after Pushkin’s epic poem. The square in which it is situated was the site of the 1825 December uprising.

Alexander I (1801 – 1825)

Strelka Rostral Columns St. Petersburg
Rostral Columns – These lighthouses on the right of the picture are located on Vasilyevsky Island
General Staff Building Palace Square St. Petersburg
General Staff Building on Palace Square which is now part of the State Hermitage museum
Kazan Cathedral St. Petersburg
Kazan Cathedral – Although commissioned under Paul I construction and unveiling were during Alexander’s reign

Nicholas I (1825-1855)

St Isaac’s Cathedral – Although commissioned under Alexander I construction took place during the reign of Nicholas I. It opened in 1858 during the reign of Alexander II
Palace Square St. Petersburg
Alexander Column (right side of picture) – Located in Palace Square and built from 1829 – 1834, Nicholas I dedicated this to his older brother Alexander I for defeating Napoleon.

Alexander II (1855-1881)

Mariinsky Theatre St. Petersburg
Original Mariinsky Theatre with Mariinksky II to the right of the picture

Alexander III (1881-1894)

Church of the Saviour on spilled blood - Commissioned in 1883 by Alexander III as a memorial to his father Alexander II who was assassinated at this site in 1881
Church of the Saviour on spilled blood – Commissioned in 1883 by Alexander III as a memorial to his father Alexander II who was assassinated at this site in 1881


While Romanov St. Petersburg had some of the most architecturally elaborate and aesthetically-pleasing buildings in the world, construction involved a large amount of slave labour. This labour grew increasingly frustrated with the opulent lifestyles of the monarchy versus their own impoverished conditions.

In January 1905 striking workers gathered in Palace Square to present a working conditions petition to Nicholas II but were met with force by the Winter Palace guards.

WWI AND 1917

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, St. Petersburg changed its name to the more Slavic-sounding Petrograd and found itself fighting the Austro-Hungarian & German empires.

In February 1917 thousands once again gathered around the Winter Palace and Palace Square but this time the Tsar’s experienced troops were fighting on the Eastern Front. The job of quelling protestors fell to a small number of inexperienced soldiers who eventually sided with the protestors.

A provisional government was set up in the Winter Palace and Tsar Nicholas II abdicated a number of days later. Russia ceased to be a monarchy but the communist era that followed would not only change St. Petersburg but would have repercussions throughout the world up to the present day.

Read about Russia’s soviet era sites in my Communist Tour St. Petersburg post. Practical travel information can be found in my  Russia Travel Tips post.


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