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Vasilievsky Island is the largest of over 20 islands of the Neva river delta. This very island was to become the administrative center of the new capital, as planned by Peter I. Merchant ships were to pass through the entire island via a wide channel from the sea to the Spit. The Tsar divided the entire island by 400 rectangular sections intended for development of houses for distinguished citizens of Petersburg. But the truth was that notwithstanding the menacing decrees of the Tsar, the citizens did not in the least hurry to move to Vasilievsky Island. The Neva’s a wide and unpredictable river. There were no bridges and hardly had the North wind started to raise the waves, they flooded the low island. But still, a lot was built there even during the reign of Peter the Great. Mostly, along the Neva proper.
Peter wanted to cover the entire island with a dense network of canals and turn it into sort of Amsterdam he had seen or Venice he had heard of. Moreover, the canals were to be arranged so that if an enemy managed to seize the first row of the island’s fortifications, it would be possible to flood it.
What regards canals, only three of them were dug. And even those had a short life. It turned out that they didn’t consider the area’s topography and in 1776 they were buried by the decision of the city planning commission.
Vasilievsky Island is a historical district in St. Petersburg, located in the delta of the Neva River. It is bordered by the Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva Rivers in the south and northeast, and by the Gulf of Finland in the west. Two of the most famous St. Petersburg bridges, Palace Bridge and Blagoveshchensky Bridge, connect it with the mainland to the south. Exchange Bridge and Tuchkov Bridge across the Malaya Neva connect it with Petrogradsky Island.
In 1715-25 Peter the Great planned this island to become a city center but those plans were not destined to be fulfilled. There are lots of legends connected with Vasilievsky Island and its buildings. For example, the name of the island Vasilievsky people usually associate with a certain man called Vassily or Basil. The legend says that was the name of one Peter’s foremost gunner officers and military engineers, Vassily Korchmin, who had his artillery battery to ward off the Swedish navy at the spit of the island and got the tsar's letters addressed "To Vassily in the Island".
During the tour you will hear some legends of the island and see all its landmarks. It is better to start the tour from the easternmost tip of the island, called Strelka (or the Spit, literally Arrow) which features a number of museums, including the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange as well as two Rostral columns. The Spit is a place popular for wedding processions and tourists. Nice postcard views on the city are open from here.
The edifices lining the Universitetskaya Embankment along the Bolshaya Neva include the Kunstkamera, The Palace of Peter II, the Twelve Colleges Building, the Menshikov Palace, the Imperial Academy of Sciences, and St. Andrew's Cathedral – all dating from the 18th century.
Museums, State University and the Imperial Academy of Sciences with library tell us the island has been for the recent centuries home to academic life. There is even the House of Academicians.
The island is a very romantic place with many cafes and restaurants, and panoramic views from the embankments. Just download the application “Your Audio Guide” (free) and the excursion. And walk as much as you want. Enjoy the unforgettable views of the northern capital.