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Right now you are at the place where the Palace Bridge spans the Neva River. The bridge was named after the Winter Palace standing on the opposite bank. The length of the five-span bridge is 260 m. Its width is almost 28 m. The weight of its metal structures is over 8K tons. Most of it falls on the two rising wings of the central span and their counterweights. During navigation on the Neva, at half past one am, the bridge lifts its wings to give way to ships. It’s really spectacular and fascinating to watch. To enjoy the view, the local romantics and tourists flock to the Neva from all over the city.
A permanent bridge connecting the Palace and Exchange squares of Petersburg replaced a wooden pontoon ferry that used to be located here on the Neva River. As it often happens, the emergence of such a significant architectural structure caused heated debate. The project designers were chided for the fact that the bridge completely closed the Admiralty building to those standing on the Spit. And vice versa, that people walking on the Palace Embankment were deprived of the pleasure to enjoy the historic buildings of Vasilievsky Island. Eventually, the dust settled and the silhouette of the Palace Bridge with the raised wings is now one of the main symbols of the city on the Neva River.
The bridge was opened in December 1916. It was the wartime and a week before the opening day Grigori Rasputin was killed in Petersburg. Therefore, the ceremony was modest and no representatives of the royal dynasty took part in it. Moreover, the bridge was commissioned with obvious deficiencies – its decoration was not completed. They had to deal with the railings, bars, lamps, and the other decor already in the Soviet years.
A year after the October Revolution, the bridge was renamed Republican bridge. But it didn’t catch on so in 1944 the original name Palace Bridge was restored.
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.