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The cultural heart of Saint Petersburg: Vasilevskiy Island

If you want to immerse yourself in the true flavor of St. Petersburg, then feel free to go to Vasilevskiy Island. Here, new buildings coexist with the buildings of the 1700s, and centuries of history are intertwined in an intricate architectural ensemble. There are many unusual and unique museums - from the exhibition of spices and optics to anatomical samples with the unique mutations and physical abnormalities. Here are a wonderful view of the city over the sea surface and the unique arrangement of the streets. It is impossible to get lost on the island - you will want to come back here again once having visited the island!

How to reach Vasilevskiy Island

The easiest and fastest way to reach the island is to take the metro to Sportivnaya, Vasileostrovskaya or Primorskaya stations, or to get to the Sportivnaya stop by buses No. 1, 3M, 6, 24, K-30, K-120, K-690.

Vasilyevsky Island at the beginning and today

Until 1715, the area of Vasilyevsky Island was buried in the verdure of forests and was practically not built up. At the beginning of the 18th century, the western part of the island was turned into a cemetery, where the first builders of St. Petersburg were buried - inhuman working conditions led to a huge number of deaths, sending hundreds and thousands of people to the graveyards. Perhaps this page of history can be called the most tragic and unseemly in the fate of the island. Later, Smolenskoye cemetery was opened on the island.

The first solid building on the island was built only in 1710-1720 on the very bank of the Neva - it was the Menshikov Palace, which became the first stone building in the northern capital. By the way, Knyaz Menshikov received the title of duke from Peter the Great. Windmills were built on the island instead of the artillery battery, which covered the navigable channel. Later the naval defense center was moved to Kotlin Island.

Emperor Peter the Great had an idea to turn the island into a real Venice, and for this reason the Italian architect Trezzini developed projects of parallel canals-streets and intersections-avenues had to form the basis of the building. Later this idea was abandoned, as the canals were quickly shallowed and covered with earth, but the streets are still called lines.

The main part of the buildings was erected on the eastern part of the island - public and residential buildings were built near the Neva River. The Academy of Sciences, the building of the Twelve Collegiums and the Kunstkamera became the most significant ones. In 1737, the island entrenched for the Vasilevskiy part of the city, and soon became a separate area where the city’s port was moved to in the 1830s.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Spit of Vasilevskiy Island (Strelka) became one of the most important elements of the architectural ensemble of the island. Later, the need to link the island with the Admiralty side arose; for this reason, the first permanent bridge - the Blagoveshchensky Bridge - was built across the Neva.

The construction started in the 18th century continued in the second half of the nineteenth century - new public buildings and industrial facilities were built, including the largest legendary factories - Baltic, Cable, Siemens-Halske and Siemens-Schukkert.

By the sixties of the 19th century, the alluvial territories of the west part of the island turned into a new district, becoming the ceremonial and hallmark of St. Petersburg. Construction was carried out under the direction of Evdokimov, and then Sokolov and Sokhin. The new area includes the Morskaya Embankment, the Square of Maritime Glory, the Marine Station and the Pribaltiyskaya Hotel.

The development of Vasilevskiy Island does not stop even today - the city government plans to expand it in the south-west by about 30% towards the Neva Bay.

Interesting facts and myths of Vasilevskiy Island

  • Vasilevskiy Island was first mentioned in the 1500 - at that time fishermen lived there;
  • The island was supposed to be the center of the city - it was conceived in the Leblon project. There were going to build a port, government buildings and other facilities, but the idea was unviable due to the location of the island;
  • Until the end of the 18th century, the island resembled little Venice - canals stretched along its lines, which became shallow over the years;
  • The first residential buildings were built along Bolshoi Prospect - some of them can be seen in their original form today;
  • By the way, the width of Bolshoi Prospect is 85 meters. It was originally planned as a mainline for ships from Strelka to the Gulf of Finland;
  • Surprisingly, the narrowest street of the city is also located on the island - Repin street is only 6 meters wide;
  • Before the revolution, housing prices on Vasilevskiy Island were lower than on the opposite bank. Students, poor Bohemians and some officials settled here;
  • For a very long time, the Spit of Vasilevskiy Island was not settled, and the first building appeared here only in 1805-1810 - it was the Exchange building. Later, the first stone building, the Menshikov Palace, was built on Strelka;
  • It’s impossible to get lost on Vasilevskiy Island - its linear and immaculately simple layout makes it easy to get to any place and never go wrong;
  • The original Exchange building, which was built according to the Quarenghi project, was demolished into bricks and used for embankment before the construction of the Thomon Exchange. The architect went berserk when he found out about this act of vandalism, and Count Stroganov, who led the Academy of Arts at that time, attempted to reconcile the architects. He put the Quarenghi building up for an auction in the hope that someone would buy it, but there were no applicants, and the old building was destroyed to the ground. But two million bricks from it were nevertheless used for the construction of a new Exchange building.

Vasilevskiy Island is surrounded in mystery and legends like any old place, and here are some of the most popular among residents of St. Petersburg:

  • It is believed that in ancient times magi lived on the island - they performed mystical rituals and ceremonies at local burial grounds and among mysterious stone labyrinths;
  • There is a legend that the forests of Vasilevskiy Island became the place where the good magician Finn, who helped Ruslan to save his beloved from the spell of Chernomor and Naina, learned the magic.

What you should be definitely seen on Vasilevskiy Island

Vasilevskiy Island can be fully considered a cultural heritage, but a huge number of museums and monuments located on its territory are of particular interest:

Erarta Museum

This museum consists of five floors filled with samples of modern art - there are both permanent and temporary exhibitions and halls. Various contests, workshops, excursions and quests are regularly held for children and adults.

Optical Museum

This is the only interactive exhibition in Russia that demonstrates optical illusions and technologies from past centuries to modern times. You can examine the exhibits, touch them, perform various experiments - create a rainbow, draw spheres, play laser musical instruments and even control cosmic particles!

Metropolitan Museum

Here you can see the models of cars of different periods - from the first samples to the most modern trains, as well as a fragment of the head car, where drivers are trained to manage the train. You can learn more about the work of dispatchers, go down to a depth of 60 meters underground!

Spice Museum

There are three spice museums in the world, and one of them is located on Vasilevskiy Island. Here you can get acquainted with a huge amount of spices from different parts of the world, participate in workshops on the use of spices in cooking, relax in a coffee shop and buy spices, cereals, sauces and teas from different countries.

Perfume Museum

This private museum belongs to the school of perfumers and demonstrates the history of the creation of the twentieth century fragrances and the best examples of modern toilet water, perfumes and colognes. The tour takes place in the format of tea drinking, where a specialist tells you the history of each museum sample and allows trying it - perhaps here you will find your perfect flavor!

Museum of Mendeleev

The apartment-museum keeps his studies, books and personal belongings of his family. Of particular interest is the tablecloth, where famous contemporaries of Mendeleev left their autographs with chalk, and later his wife embroidered them with silk thread.

Museum of Zoology

This is one of the oldest city museums - it was created in 1832. Here you can see samples of world fauna, a collection of animals from more than thirty thousand exhibits - this collection is the third largest in the world. Of particular interest are exhibitions of tropical birds, Asian vertebrates, mammoth halls, expositions of corals and mollusks.


This is the first museum in Russia, approved by Emperor Peter the Great, and one of the most interesting in St. Petersburg. Here you can find a huge collection of ancient objects, lifting the veil of secrecy over the everyday life of different nations and different eras, as well as an exhibition with the wonders and anomalies of people and animals anatomy.

Naval Museum

This is one of the largest museums in the world - it houses more than seven hundred thousand exhibits and about two thousand ship models from various eras. The museum was founded in 1805, and by the 20th century it became famous throughout the world. In the museum, you can see not only ship models, but also various weapons, canvases dedicated to the sea, banners, documents and blueprints, jewelry and exhibits from the officers' cabins.

The icebreaker "Krasin"

This steam ship-museum is a working icebreaker, built in the early 20th century - it is still in the navy and is ready to sail at any time. You can visit the museum only as a member of the excursion - you can go either to the cabins and on deck, or to the engine room - these are two separate excursions.

Kuindzhi Museum

The museum is located in the apartment where the famous landscape painter spent the last 13 years of his life surrounded by family and students. The apartment has preserved the furniture and personal items, the works of the master and his students.

Menshikov Palace

It was built in the era of Peter the Great and became the first stone building in St. Petersburg. This palace is the only legacy of Menshikov that has survived to our days.

Brusnitsyn Mansion

This mansion dates back to the end of the 19th century and it is a model of eclecticism - the house has not been restored and all interiors, decorations and luxurious pieces of furniture in the Renaissance style have been preserved in their original form. By the way, the estate is often rented for shooting films, commercials and music videos.

Rumyantsevsky Garden

A small cozy garden is a great place to relax between visits to museums and walks around the island. The garden is surrounded by a graceful cast-iron fence, and the busts of Surikov and Repin are hidden under the shade of the trees there.

Assumption Church

This huge church can accommodate up to two thousand parishioners - from 1956 to 1991, an ice rink was even organized here! Due to this reason, the church lost its floor and wall paintings. Only by 2013, the interiors of the church were fully restored, and today the church takes parishioners, conducts active social, educational and charitable activities.

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