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Vasilievsky Island – A Treasure Trove of Attractions

Bordered by two rivers, Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva, and the Gulf of Finland, Vasilievsky Island is situated across the river from the renowned Winter Palace. This district, surrounding the Winter Palace, of Saint Petersburg represents a large segment of the historical center of the city. The famous Lieutenant Schmidt and Palace Bridges connect Vasilievsky Island to the mainland with the Exchange and Tuchkov Bridges connecting Vasilievsky Island to Petrogradsky Island across the Malaya Neva.

The east and south areas of Vasilievsky Island are the oldest, with many buildings dating back to the 19th century. The eastern embankment even has some buildings going back to the 18th century. A number of museums are featured on the eastern tip of the island, known as Strelka (Arrow). The Saint Petersburg Bourse is one of the most notable museums in the area. It is considered to be an excellent example of the Greek Revival style of architecture and has served as the Central Museum of the Russian Navy. This magnificent edifice was designed to dominate the Strelka. The French architect was inspired by the Greek temples at Paestum when designing the Bourse, which was completed in 1810. Two columns made out of red granite are set either side of the Bourse and serve as beacons that, to this day, are lit on ceremonial occasions.

The first museum in Russia was the Kunstkammer, also situated on Vasilievsky Island. This museum is a good representation of the Petrine Baroque style of architecture with external decorations that Peter the Great was particularly fond of. The Kunstkammer was established for the purpose of preserving natural and human rarities and curiosities and contains the tsar’s private collection of abnormal human and animal fetuses. Possibly the most gruesome exhibit in the museum are the perfectly alcohol-preserved heads of Willem Mons, who was said to be the lover of Catherine I, and his sister Anna Mons.

Other notable places of interest on Strelka which date back to the 18th century include the Imperial Academy of Sciences, the Menshikov Palace and Saint Andrew’s Cathedral. The main buildings of the Saint Petersburg State University and the former palace of Peter II are also located on the island.

When you travel to Russia be sure to include a trip to Vasilievsky Island in Saint Petersburg on your list of things-to-do. You will spend many enjoyable hours exploring this fascinating island.


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