Built from scratch in the 18th century, St Petersburg was intended as the grandest city in Europe, an irrefutable declaration of Russia’s modernity and power. Against all the odds, the heroic vision of its early planners survives, and has been embellished by extraordinary collections of art. In the company of Russian art specialist Andrew Spira, we give both the Russian Museum and the Hermitage their due, and also venture out to the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. There are many European cities with fine Rococo and Neoclassical buildings, but none can match St Petersburg’s architectural integrity. Its monumental scale, architectural heritage and world-class collections combine to create an unforgettable experience.
We meet at Pulkovo, St Petersburg’s airport, at 4pm. The coach transfer to the hotel is followed by our first lecture, and dinner together.
The day begins in the heart of the city, beneath the gilded spire of the Admiralty Building, but our main focus is next door in the Winter Palace of the Tsars. Here, the Hermitage Museum’s world-class collection includes Leonardo’s Madonna Litta, Michelangelo’s Crouching Youth and a room full of Rembrandts. We finish with the St Nicholas Naval Cathedral.
A day of Russian art, 18th-century palaces, and the tombs of the Tsars, as we tour the Peter and Paul fortress, the Menshikov Palace, and The State Russian Museum – which is home to a beautiful collection of icons and landscapes, as well as the energetic avant-garde art of Kazimir Malevich. We end the day with the flamboyant onion domes and impressive mosaics of the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood.
A day of royal palaces. We begin with a transfer to Tsarskoye Selo on the outskirts of the city, for a private tour of the vast and opulent Catherine Palace. The palace was looted and burned by the Germans during the Siege of Leningrad, but has been restored in spectacular style. We also visit Pavlovsk Palace, designed by Scotsman Charles Cameron, and the ground-breaking Neo-Gothic Chesme Church.
After our second lecture we return to the Hermitage. This time we focus on the galleries of the General Staff Building, which now house the 19th, 20th and 21st-century art. Monet’s Poppy Field, Matisse’s Dance and Picasso’s Three Women are all here, along with significant works by Cézanne, Degas and Gauguin. A free afternoon offers the chance to further explore the collections at your own pace.
The Neoclassical Shuvalov Palace was once the social hub of St Petersburg, and now houses the Fabergé Museum. It is our final port of call, before a transfer to the airport, where the trip finishes by 1pm.
Since graduating from the Courtauld, Andrew has worked as a specialist in Russian icons at the Temple Gallery in London, a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum and Programme Director at Christie’s Education. His book The Avant-Garde Icon: Russian Avant-Garde Art and the Icon Painting Tradition was published in 2008. He has led numerous study tours to Russia and elsewhere.
£1,420 per person sharing in a double room
£1,645 for one person in a double room
The price includes the speaker and a tour manager, accommodation with daily breakfasts, one dinner with wine, transport by private coach, local guides, admissions to sites as mentioned in the itinerary.
Please note flights are not included.
Many of the palaces are vast as well as magnificent. Expect to be on your feet for extended periods. Visa Citizens from most countries require a visa to enter Russia. Further information and instructions how to apply are available at www.visitrussia.org.uk.
There is no minimum number of clients required for this trip to run.
Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book to make sure you are happy with the advice for the places you are visiting.