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The New Hermitage was Russia's first purpose-built museum building. You can see it at the northern end of Millionaya Street – a strict classical-style building with a large portico in the centre of its facade. The roof of the portico is held aloft on the shoulders of Atlantean statues, carved from dark granite.
We have Nicholas I to thank for the idea of building the New Hermitage. The suggestion arose after a great fire in the Winter Palace, during which much of the palace burned, while the Emperor's art-collections were saved. The building was designed by Leo von Klenze, a favourite architect of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Nicholas had already seen Klenze's work during his visit to Germany. Klenze had already designed two museum buildings in Munich which became the byword for museum design in Europe – the Alte Pinakotheke and the Glypotheke.
Klenze wasn't based in St.Petersburg full-time during the building work. While he was away, Russian architect Vassily Stasov supervised things. Inevitably jealousies arose, and the Tsar himself had to step in to settle things between the two rival architects. The festivities for the opening of the New Hermitage were marked with the same grandeur as any Royal celebration. Dining-tables were set in each of the three rooms – the Rubens Hall, the Van Dyck Hall, and the Spanish Old Masters Gallery. The light of thousands of candles lent a spectacular atmosphere to the Tsar's banquet.
The portico, with its atlantean statues supporting the roof, was the main entrance to the New Hermitage from its opening until 1917. Today, however, access is via the Winter Palace only.
During the bombardment of WW2 one of the atlantes of the portico was damaged – a lump of German shrapnel pierced his granite torso. Petersburgers have a superstition that the recipe for a happy marriage lies in coming to rub the feet of the atlantes on the day before the wedding.
St. Petersburg is known as Russian cultural capital. It is also called “Northern Palmira” or “Northern Venice” as it was founded on islands in the delta of the Neva River and has a lot of architectural masterpieces.
Nevsky Prospect is the main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. It is a real treasury of Russian culture. The street was planned by Peter the Great as beginning of the road to Novgorod and Moscow. It goes through the historical center of the city, firstly - from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Station and then, after making a turn at Vosstaniya Square, to the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
Life on Nevsky Prospect has always been the object of attention of writers. For example, it was described by Nikolai Gogol in his story "Nevsky Prospect". Fyodor Dostoevsky often employed the Prospect as a setting within his works, such as Crime and Punishment and The Double: A Petersburg Poem.
It is best to start your walk from famous Palace Square where you can visit one of the most prominent world museums – the Hermitage. In the center of the square you will see the Alexander Column, a very popular among tourists place. With Your Audio Guide you will listen to the history of the square and all its attractions (The New Hermitage, The Winter Palace, the Alexander Column and The General Staff Building).
During the tour you will walk through the Alexander Gardens, past the Admiralty, see a lot of historical houses – real architectural “pearls” - Wawelberg's Mansion Apartments, The Sivers-Treiberg House, The Chaplin Brothers House, Chicherin's House, etc. The chief sights of the Prospect include palaces, churches and cathedrals, shopping centers and department stores. Among palaces are the Rastrelliesque Stroganov Palace, the Anichkov Palace, The Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, Grand-Princess Yusopova's Residence and the Mikhailovsky, or Michael Palace.
Nevsky Prospect deserves the name "the street of religious tolerance". Religious buildings are presented by the huge neoclassical Kazan Cathedral, the picturesque Russian-style Cathedral of Our Savior on Spilt Blood – a place where terrorists exploded the Emperor Alexander II, the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, St.Catherine's Cathedral - the oldest Catholic Church in Russia, and The Armenian Church.
Nevsky Prospect is also the city’s central shopping street and the hub of the city’s entertainment and nightlife. For that You can visit the Art Nouveau Bookhouse,Elisseeff Emporium, half a dozen 18th-century churches, , an enormous 18th-century shopping mall “Gostinny Dvor”, a mid-19th-century department store “The Passage” and The Alexandrinsky Theatre, in the yard of which a monument to Catherine the Great is standing.
Your audio guide is glad to present you a wide audio tour of the Nevsky Prospeсt with map and descriptions. With this map, you will never get lost and you will always know what surprise awaits you ahead.