The Vasilievsky Island is a borough in Saint Petersburg situated between the Bolshaya Neva and the Malaya Neva, two main distributaries of the river. Besides the Vasilievsky Island proper it also includes the Dekabristov Island, separated by the Smolenka river, and smaller islets, but the vast northwestern part of the borough offers almost nothing interesting to see, in contrast with the eastern part, which is very rich in landmarks.
Around 1715-1725 the eastern part of the island was projected to become the city center. This project was abandoned with the death of Peter the Great, and in the 1730s the center shifted to the southern bank of the Neva, but several Petrine Baroque buildings here date from that period and the island has since remained the center of the city's academic life. It is now home to the Academy of Arts, Mining Institute, main campus of Saint Petersburg State University as well as the local branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences with its library and several research institutes and museums. The rectangular grid of streets seen today was originally a grid of canals, filled in after 1767. From the 1730s till mid-19th century the eastern part of the bank of the Malaya Neva hosted the city sea and river port, and, though the port eventually moved away, many buildings still standing there were designed for this purpose. In 1850 the first permanent bridge across the Neva, Blagoveshchensky Bridge, linked the island to the city center. Since then the rest of the borough has been gradually built over. Its westernmost parts, reclaimed from the Gulf of Finland, are still being developed.
The island is served by two metro stations of Line 3, Vasileostrovskaya in the east and Primorskaya in the west (in the boring Soviet-era quarters). Additionally, it is accessible from Sportivnaya station of Line 5, which has an exit to the eastern tip of the island.
The island is also served by autobuses, trolleybuses, trams and marshrutkas. By bus, trolleybus or marshrutka you can easily get here from Nevsky Prospekt (and from Moskovsky Rail Terminal).
The eastern tip of the island is easily within a walking distance from the Hermitage Museum, right across the river through Dvortsovy Bridge.
Most attractions are within walking distance from each other. A numbered liniya (line) is just one side of a street, so that, for example, the 4th and 5th lines are two sides of the same street. Be careful and don't confuse Bolshoy Prospekt and Maly Prospekt of this island with the streets of the same name on Petrograd Side.
Most of the historical landmarks are on the tip of the island and along the Universitetskaya Embankment. A stroll along the embankment also provides good views of the opposite bank with the Winter Palace, Admiralty and St. Isaac's Cathedral.
- The ensemble of the Spit (Strelka) of the Vasilievsky island was built in the early 19th century between the academic quarters and the port and is dominated by the Stock Exchange building. It offers an impressive view of the Neva river with the Hermitage and the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Other monuments you'll immediately notice on the Strelka, the Rostral Columns, are yet another symbol of the city. Constructed in 1810 to celebrate the victory over the Swedish navy, the columns are each adorned with six rostra (traditionally, the prows of captured ships), symbolizing the might of the Russian Baltic Fleet. At the base of the columns you'll see sculptures representing the great rivers of European Russia, the Volga, Dnieper, Neva, and Volkhov. In addition to their decorative purpose, the columns also served as lighthouses, and to this day the gas flames are lit on holidays.
- 1 Pushkinsky Dom (Пушкинский дом, Институт русской литературы, Литературный музей), Makarova Embankment (наб. Макарова), 4., ☏ . M-F 11:00—17:00. Since 1927 this domed building of the former customs house, built in 1832, has been home to the Institute of Russian Literature, founded in 1905.
- 2 Museum of Zoology (Зоологический музей), Universitetskaya Embankment (Университетская наб.), 1, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. W-M 11:00-18:00. One of the largest natural history museums in the world. It's in a 19th-century warehouse, and hosts an enormous collection of animals preserved in various ways, stuffed and mounted, pinned, stored in alcohol or as skeletons, with about 30,000 specimens on display. A must-see for any natural history buff, though perhaps not for defenders of animal welfare. It began as a part of the Kunstkamera and steadily grew into its enormous state. Particularly rich are the collections of insects (6,500 species) and birds (2,500 species). Make sure not to miss the complete blue whale skeleton (you will hardly miss it, it is 27 m or 89 feet long), as well as the world's only stuffed mammoth, recovered from permafrost in 1901.
- 3 Kunstkamera (Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Кунсткамера, Музей антропологии и этнографии), Universitatskaya Embankment (Университетская наб.), 3 (close to the Palace Bridge; enter around the corner on Tamozhenny Pereulok; buses 10, 191; Trolleybuses 7 to stop 'Биржевая площадь'), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Su 11:00-18:00, closed every last Tuesday of the month. This museum, hosted in the Baroque building constructed in 1714-1728, is primarily famous for its one-room freak show collection of 300 year-old deformed foetuses in formaldehyde (of which you are not allowed to take pictures). But the Kunstkamera is also an etnography museum, and most of its collections display the artifacts of indigenous peoples from various parts of the world. It also hosts a collections of historical scientific instruments,like compasses and experimental generators. It is the oldest state museum in Russia, established by Peter the Great in 1704 to host his personal collection,with objects collected during his travels across Europe. A significant part of it has been purchased from Dutch merchants. Foreigners 200 руб, Russians 100 руб.
- 4 Academy of Sciences (Росси́йская акаде́мия нау́к, pronounced as Rossíiskaya akadémiya naúk, shortened to RAN or, in Cyrillic, РАН, pronounced as RAN), Universitetskaya Embankment 5. Neoclassical building by Giacomo Quarenghi, 1783-1789.
- 5 Novobirzhevoy Gostiny Dvor (Near the port and the stock exchange). A square yellow building with arcades built in 1800-1815 as a market , now home to several departments of Saint Petersburg State University.
- 6 The Twelve Collegia (Здание Двенадцати коллегий, Петербургский университет), University Embankment (Университетская наб.), 7/9, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Closed on Sundays. Now the main building of Saint Petersburg State University, it was built in the style of Petrine Baroque in 1722-1744 to house the Russian government. It may be difficult, though not impossible, for a stranger to persuade the guards to let him/her in. There is a bookstore there, perhaps a good pretext. All along Mendeleevskaya liniya for its entire length, the main entrance is in the middle of the building.
- 7 Palace of Peter II, Universitetskaya Embankment 11. It was built in 1727-1761 as a palace for Peter II, who never came to live here. It has long hosted the departments of philology and oriental studies of Saint Petersburg State University.
- 8 Manege of the Cadet Corps, Universitetskaya Embankment 13. Built in 1756-1759.
- 9 Menshikov Palace (Меншиковский дворец), Universitetskaya Embankment (Университетская наб.), 15, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:30-17:30. This Baroque palace, built for a close associate of Peter the Great in 1710-1714, became the first stone building of the city. Now it is home to a museum run by the Hermitage, which displays art and culture of the early 18th century.
- 10 Rumyantsev Park and Obelisk (Румянцевский сад и обелиск), between the 1st and 2nd lines along Universitetskaya Embankment (Университетской наб.). The big obelisk in honor of Count Peter Rumyantsev's victory in the Russo-Turkish War of 1791 in the center of the park was created 1799 and moved here from the Field of Mars in 1818.
- 11 Russian Academy of Arts (Российская академия художеств), Universitetskaya Embankment, 17. Russia's largest center for advanced study in the arts, until the 20th century the only school of its kind in Russia. The impressive neoclassical building was built in 1764-1788.
- 12 Research Museum of the Academy of Arts (Научно-исследовательский музей Академии художеств) (Inside the Academy of the Arts), ☏ . W-Su 11:00-18:00. A huge collection of drawings, prints, paintings of both Russian and Western artists, as well as casts and sculptures, all on display across three floors of the Academy. The models of great Petersburg architecture, of the Smolny Monastery, St Isaac's Cathedral, Mikhailovsky Castle, etc., are especially worth seeking out.
- 13 Authentic Ancient Egyptian Sphinxes (Сфинксы из Фив), Universitetskaya Embankment (Университетской наб.) (on a quay in front of the Academy of Arts). 24/7. You wouldn't expect it, but these two granite sphinxes are three thousand years older than the city! They date from the 14th century BC and were excavated in 1820 in the temple of Amenhotep III near Thebes in Egypt. Upon seeing them, the Russian writer and diplomat Muravyev wrote to the Tsar, and convinced him to purchase the statues for display in Petersburg. They were installed in 1834. Oddly enough, sphinxes seem to be popular in the city - there are another six made by Russian sculptors lurking about. Free.
Along Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment
- 14 (Военно-морской инситут), Naberezhnaya Leitenanta Schmidta (наб. Лейтенанта Шмидта), 17. The oldest naval academy in Russia, founded by Peter the Great in 1701. Some of its most famous graduates include Ivan Kruzenshtern, Rimsky-Korsakov, and many others. The building was completely rebuilt in 1798.
- 15 Ivan Kruzenshtern Statue (Памятник Ивану Крузенштерну), Across from Naberezhnaya Leitenanta Schmidta, 17. A statue of Admiral Ivan Kruzenshtern, was built in 1870 in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the renowned Admiral's death.
- 16 Church of the Assumption of Mary (Церковь Успения Пресвятой Богородицы ?), Naberezhnaya Leitenanta Schmidta, 27. This five-domed church was built in 1897. In 1935, as happened to many churches in Russia, it was converted by the Soviets into a warehouse, but in 1993 it was reopened for services. The ongoing careful renovations began in 1996.
- 17 Barracks of the Finland Regiment, Between the 19th and 20th lines along Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment (close to the Mining Institute). They include the former palace of the Dolgorukovs along the 20th line.
- 18 Mining Institute Museum (Горный институт,), 21st line V.O.(21 линия В.О.), 2, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. By appointment for group tours only. One of the largest and oldest geological museums in the world, containing more than 230 0,000 items, collected from more than 80 countries. Even if you don't make it inside on a tour, it's worth passing by to admire it's imposing 1811 Imperial-style façade.
There are also many notable buildings, streets and museums in the inner part of the island, including:
- St. Catherine's Orthodox Church.
- 19 Repina Street. The narrowest street in Saint Petersburg, 5.6 m (18 ft) wide.
- 20 St. Catherine's Lutheran Church, Bolshoy Prosp., 1.
- 21 St. Michael's Lutheran Church (Евангелическо-лютеранская Церковь), Bolshoy Prosp., 18.
- 22 St. Andrew's Cathedral (Андреевский собор — Собор святого апостола Андрея Первозванного), 6 line V.O. (6 линия В.О.), 11, ☏ . Perhaps the most beautiful religious building on the island, built in 1780. The main cupola is framed by three narrow towers, and is topped by a two-tiered belltower. The gilt, three-layered iconostasis inside is an impressive 17 meters tall.
- Andreevsky Market (Андреевский).
- Poehl's Farmacy.
- Fire Hall, (Б.проспект ).
- 23 Museum of Electrical Transport, Srednyy pr. (Средний пр.), 77 (M 'Василеостровская'), ☏ . Tu-Su. It is based at the old Vasileostrovsky tram depot in Saint Petersburg which was built in 1906 - 1908. 250 руб.
- 24 Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art (Музей современного искусства Эрарта), No 2, 29th line, Vasilyevsky Island ( 29-я линия, Васильевского острова, дом 2.), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. W-F 10:00-22:00. Erarta is Russia's largest private museum of contemporary art (with over 2,800 works in its permanent collection). Every year, Erarta stages more than 40 temporary exhibitions alternately focusing on painting, sculpture, video art, fashion and design. The building features a café (3rd floor), a restaurant, and Erarta Home Stores offering gifts, books, prints, interior décor items, and more. 600 руб for a daily ticket.
- 25 A horse-drawn railway (trolley) monument (Памятный образец конно-железной дороги (конка)), Boulevard Andreevskiy 6-7 lines in Sredniy prospect ( Андреевского бульвар у Среднего проспекта) (near the metro station "Vasileostrovskaya").
- 26 [dead link] Church of the Mother of God the Merciful (Церковь Милующей иконы Божией Матери), Bolshoy prospekt, 98. note the sign on the wall towards Prospekt Bolshoy which says in red text: ХРИСТОС ВОСКРЕСЕ! ("Christ has arisen")
- 27 Musical Gate (Музыкальные ворота), Bugskiy pereulok (Бугский пер.), 1.
- 28 Church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God (Khram Voskreseniya Khristova, Церковь во имя Смоленской иконы Божией матери), Ulitsa Kamskaya (Камская улица), 24, ☏ .
There are also a couple of museum ships:
- 29 Krasin (Ледокол-музей «Красин»,), Naberezhnaya Leitenanta Schmidta (наб. Лейтенанта Шмидта), ☏ . Built in England in and overhauled in the 1950s, is a Russian/Soviet icebreaker with a distinguished career in polar exploration and rescue operations. Since the 1990s she has been moored as a museum ship in front of the Mining Institute.
- 30 Narodovolets Submarine D-2 (Д-2 "Народоволец"), Shkipersky protok (Шкиперский проток), 10, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. W-Su 11:00-7:15. A small museum aboard a World War II submarine, dedicated to the actions of the submarine throughout the war (run by the Naval Museum).
- STS Mir. This is a three-masted, full-rigged Russian ship
- 31 Museum of contemporary art Artmuza (Музей современного искусства Артмуза), 13 liniya 70 (10 min from Vasileostrovskaya metro station), ☏ . 11:00-22:00. Museum of contemporary art and the largest creative cluster in St. Petersburg. In 2013, the premises of the former musical instruments factory "Muzdetal" turned into an association of creative people in the field of painting, sculpture, design and interior, transforming the industrial building into a cultural place for creativity and recreation. Free.
Enjoy the beautiful scenery!
The Academy of Arts and the Naval Museum have very interesting souvenir shops. If you are leaving St.Petersburg by ship and want to do some last minute authentic Russian food and beverage shopping (i.e. you want to bring home a bottle of vodka), there is a Polushka (Полушка) grocery store at the corner of Ulitsa Gavanskaya and Prospekt Sredniy, less than 10 minutes by foot from the harbour. On the other hand, there's a tax free shop in the harbour terminal.
- 1 McDonald's (Макдоналдс), prospekt Srednii, 29A (metro Vasileostrovskaya), ☏ .
- 2 Pizza Hut (Пицца Хат), prospekt Srednii, 36/40 (metro Vasileostrovskaya), ☏ .
- 3 Subway (САБВЭЙ), line 7A, 32 (metro Vasileostrovskaya), ☏ . Other unit near metro station Primorskaya.
- 4 Cafe Old Tbilisi (кафе Старый Тбилиси), В.О. 4-я линия, 7 (near the Vasilieostrovskaya metro station). 11:00-23:00 daily. You'll probably be the only foreign visitor to this small unassuming place on Vasilievsky Island, but the great Georgian food is worth the short metro trip. 650 руб.
- 5 [dead link] Restobar Artist (рестобар Артист), В.О. 13-я линия, 70 (10 min from the Vasilieostrovskaya metro station), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 12:00-21:00 daily. Creative food, in creative claster Artmuza. 750 руб.
There are not as many options here as in the Center.
Most travellers choose to stay at the Center. But there are a few options available in this district.
- 1 [formerly dead link] Hostel Avantage, 1 Line, 24. Vasilievskiy Island (Tram 6 or 40 to stop 'Кадетская линия/ Средний проспект'), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 7 min from metro, free WiFi, fridge, microwave. from 500 руб per person.
- 2 [dead link] Morskoy Vokzal Hotel, 1, Morskoy Slavy square (Bus 128 to stop 'Площадь Морской Славы'), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In the Sea Passenger Terminal, 2 minutes' walk from the main exhibition centre LenExpo. 130 rooms including 73 double rooms, 53 single rooms, 4 suites. All rooms have bathroom, phone, TV. Breakfast included. starting at 1600 руб.
- 3 Park Inn by Radisson Pribaltiyskaya, 14 Korablestroiteley Street, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Overlooking the Gulf of Finland. 1193 rooms. Hotel services include a business centre, a fitness centre, an on-site spa, a hairdresser, gift shops, currency exchange, visa support and concierge, 24-hour medical services and a free shuttle to the city centre.