The Old and Beautiful Vasileostrovsky Borough of St. Petersburg
Vasileostrovsky borough is one of the oldest in St. Petersburg. This part of the city has existed since St. Petersburg’s founding. Its streets are called Lines, and among the residents and visitors you will find many students and creative people.
The most famous and favorite landmarks of Vasilyevsky Island are the spit of the island, Rostral Сolumns, The Russian Academy of Arts, The Twelve Colleges building, The Old Stock Exchange building, Menshikov Palace, and St. Andrew’s Cathedral. And this isn’t a comprehensive list.
There are several interesting theaters in Vasileostrovsky: The Satire Theater on Vasilevsky, the Choral Theatre of St. Petersburg, Small Drama Theatre, Laboratory On.Teatr Theater, Music and Drama Theatre Ne Kabuki, Komik Trest Theater, Kukolnyi Dom Puppet Theatre, and St. Petersburg Drama Theater Visavi. The Choral Theater holds interesting concerts in which artists combine choral singing, movement, and acting. The Laboratory On.Teatr Theater is the first and only place in St. Petersburg where young directors are welcome, and each performance is something unique.
Walking around Vasileostrovsky borough you will discover many interesting landmarks and the long and very eventful history of the city.
Hidden gems of Vasileostrovsky borough
Griffins Tower, also known as Digital Tower and Lone Optimist Tower, is an interesting red brick building which is a part of ancient Poehl and Sons Pharmacy (thence the local name Quarter of Apothecaries).
Griffins Tower’s allure is in the mystical rumors and legends associated with the location. Unbelievable stories abound about people were mysteriously changed while living here in times past.
It is believed that William Poehl made his attempts to in Griffins Tower. The tower is named for the griffins who, according to legend, were created by alchemists and still guard the building today. The tower’s outside walls are covered with constantly changing numbers. Sometimes they form the happiness code (or the code of universe) and apparently, if you are by the Tower at that moment, all your wishes will come true. Unfortunately, Griffins Tower is hidden in a private courtyard, so in order to see it you need a guide or resident to let you in.
Address: 18, 7th Line, Vasilevsky Island
Temple of the Holy Blessed Xenia
The Orthodox Temple of the Holy Blessed Xenia is located at the Smolensk cemetery where Blessed Xenia was buried. She is considered to be the city’s patroness, though it’s unknown when and where she was born. After her husband died, Xenia gave away all of their property to poor people and wandered for 45 years, praying every night. She was considered insane until people realized that she had simply chosen a different path in life. The Temple of the Holy Blessed Xenia was established during Xenia’s lifetime. It is said that if you pray there, miracles will happen. The temple works daily from 10 to 19 for public prayers.
Address: 24, Kamskaya St., Vasilevsky Island (Smolensk cemetery)
The House Number 17 on the 2nd Line has an eventful history. In the 1730s, a wooden Lutheran Church of St. Catherine was built where the house is now. At the end of 18th Century, it became a Lutheran School. In 1854, the Karpov architecture project established a three-story building at the site. This house was first owned by Doctor Solski, M.D., until his son, dignitary D.M. Solski, took over ownership in the 1860s. In the 1930s, two additional floors were added, and in 1993, V.V. Putin bought apartment Number 24 on the fifth floor.
Address: 17, 2nd Line, Vasilevsky Island
Monuments and sculptures
Monuments and sculptures are an important symbolic and cultural part of St. Petersburg. When you walk on Vasilevsky Island you’ll pass many stone and copper guardians of the city’s history.
The Universitetskaya embankment of Neva River alongside Vasilyevsky Island is decorated with sculptures of ancient Egyptian sphinxes. At their feet you’ll find griffin heads, said to bring happiness when touched.
Address: 17, Universitetskaya Emb.
Monument of I.F. Kruzenshtern
The Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment is home to a beautiful monument dedicated to I.F. Kruzenshtern, the first Russian explorer to circumnavigate the globe. He traveled on the ship Nadezhda in the early 19th Century, and cadets still hold several traditions associated with this monument.
Address: 17, Lieutenant Schmidt Emb.
Monument of Horsecar
The Monument of Horsecar can be spotted near the exit from the Vasileostrovskaya metro station. Horsecars are one- or two-story carriages drawn by one or two horses and were one of the main vehicles in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the 20th Century. They were very difficult to drive and often had problems with wheels and rails. The monument was established in 2004 (and changed in 2005 and again in 2009) in what’s known as the tram center of St. Petersburg, because the largest number of tram routes were laid there.
Address: Crossroad of 6th and 7th Lines and Sredny Prospekt, Vasilevsky Island
Monument of V.D. Korchmin
The monument of V.D. Korchmin, the closest fellow campaigner to Peter the Great, is another important monument near the Vasileostrovskaya metro station. Korchmin led the defensive artillery battery defending from Swedish attacks during construction of the Peter and Paul fortress. Peter the Great signed his letters and orders to Korchmin “To Vasily on the Island”, and thence the name Vasilevsky Island.
Address: 7th Line, Vasilevsky Island
Monument of Academician Sakharov
Interesting monument of Academician Sakharov is located near the library of the Russian Academy of Science. Sakharov was a Soviet theoretical physicist and one of the creators of the hydrogen bomb. He is said to be a complicated and ambiguous man. Perhaps it’s because the sculptor tried to depict this ambiguity that reactions to the monument are so varied.
Address: Academician Sakharov Square (near the Library of Russian Academy of Sciences [ap. 1, Bircshevaya line])
Sculpture Park of Philological Faculty of St. Petersburg State University
The Philological Faculty of St. Petersburg State University is located on the Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment. Inside the Faculty’s courtyard is a park of contemporary sculpture. There are many interesting sculptures, including Bench of advice, Hippo, Fountain of Love, Time break, Peace Tree, and Garden of Gethsemane. The park is only open on Saturdays from 1 p.m., and the sculptures are covered with transparent film in winter.
Address: 11, Lieutenant Schmidt Emb.
Many of St. Petersburg’s wonderful museums are located in the Vasileostrovsky borough.
Museum of Contemporary Art “Erarta”
The largest Russian museum of contemporary art, “Erarta,” is housed in a five-story former factory. The museum includes exhibits of contemporary artists which reflect their creative views on familiar things. Erarta also hosts various concerts and performances.
There is a café in the museum building as well. It carefully supports the concept of the museum with an artistic interior and creative dishes. They also offer a large collection of wines – more than a hundred varieties – and the terrace offers a great city view in summer.
Address: 2, Litera A, 29th Line, Vasilevsky Island
Kunstkamera is one of Saint Petersburg’s oldest and most valuable museums, founded by Peter the Great. At the beginning he collected and kept unusual and sometimes disgusting things. Later his odd collection became the museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. There you can learn about the customs and traditions of different nations and see ancient archaeological finds from around the world, including a variety of animal and human remains. The main peculiarity of the museum is a famous Anatomical Theatre with many individual human and animal organs in test-tubes.
Address: 3, Universitetskaya Emb.
Metro Museum is considered to be one of the most interesting museums dedicated to public transport in St. Petersburg. Visitors can see the virtual underground world, get to know subway secrets and learn about some of the difficulties that metro workers have to face. This is a multimedia exhibit.
Address: 29, Ul. Odoevskogo
Museum of Urban Electrical Transport
If you want to sit in a car from the first trolleybus and tram models you should visit the Museum of Urban Electrical Transport. There you will discover what it meant to be a conductor in the 20th Century, and you can take a small tour by museum tram or bus.
Address: 77, Litera A, Srednij Pros., Vasilevsky Island
People love miracles, and the Optical Museum gives everyone a chance to touch the magic of optical illusions. St. Petersburg University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics organizes the exhibits. You can learn how to create an illusion, what is a mirror’s secret, how music can play with light, and much more.
Address: 14, Bircshevaya Line
Icebreaker Krasin Museum
The Icebreaker Krasin Museum teaches about feats and dangerous journeys across the Arctic Ocean. Icebreaker Krasin was a hero during the epoch of the great polar discoveries. It was built in the British shipyards in 1917 and became a witness to many historical events of the 20th Century. It was considered the world’s best icebreaker during the first 35 years of its existence. The museum includes a large collection of works of decorative and applied arts, graphics, and porcelain. You can also see original navigation devices, photo and film documents, and the seaman’s essentials.
Address: 23rd Line, Lieutenant Schmidt Emb., Vasilevsky Island
Vasileostrovsky borough of Saint Petersburg is full of wonders and mysteries. It bridges old traditions and modern trends. Walking in this part of the city will help you get more familiar with the city’s history, feel the unique atmosphere of St. Petersburg’s past, and get acquainted with potentials for the future.
Translation by Nadezhda Vasileva
Edited by Arbor Dahlin