All about The Spit of St Basil's Island (Saint Petersburg)

The Spit of St Basil's Island

The Spit of St Basil's Island is often called one of the most inspiring and readily recognisable locations in St. Petersburg. It's the eastern promontory of St Basil's Island, and divides the River Neva into two – the Great and Lesser Neva Rivers. The striking architecture and picturesque appearance of the waterfront here offers a harmonious and memorable view.

Fascinating Facts

  • The semicircular appearance of the Spit was in fact created from landfill during the building of the city. It extends the length of the cape by over 100 metres.
  • During the days of the Siege of Leningrad, the Spit was used to house anti-aircraft positions.
  • An interesting tradition developed during the soviet period – newly-weds would come to the Spit, and crack bottle of champagne on the walls. This symbolised the start of their happy, long, and unclouded family life together.
  • From 2006 until 2009, one of Europe's largest fountains surged skywards at the end of the Spit. The fountain operated with special lighting effects, and even music. However, from 2009 it was turned off again.

History

Construction on St Basil's Island began during the lifetime of Peter the Great. The Tsar put the project in the hands of Italian architect Domenico Trezzini. The original idea had been to erect buildings in the layout of a closed-in square. But a few years later, the Tsar had the idea of making St Basil's Island the city centre, which meant a radical reworking of the plans which had already been started. More administrative buildings were ordered for St Basil's Island, along with a Merchant's Hall, a cathedral, and the Stock Exchange.

It was in the 1720s that the foundations of the first buildings were laid along the embankments of St Basil's Island. Even so, its northern banks turned out to be much more suitable for ships, but not so popular for buildings. Houses for noble families were built, along with a Merchant's Hall. By the end of the 18th century a building for the Academy of Sciences had been erected, and a building for the Gottorp Globe.

The final appearance of the Spit took shape in the 19th century. Over 1805-1810 the new Stock Exchange building was put up, in a classical style – with statues of ancient sea deities. The architectural ensemble was completed by the Customs Warehouse, which was built between 1826 and 1832 to designs by I.V. Lucchini.

What to see

  • The memorial sign, given to the city by Customs Officers to mark St. Petersburg's 300th Anniversary.
  • University Embankment – a place where we find not only architectural sights, but also the famously mysterious St. Petersburg sphinxes.
  • The rostral columns - which originally served as the first lighthouses for ships.
  • There are many interesting museums along the embankment of St Basil's Island – the Museum of Optics, the Museum of Spices, the Museum of the St. Petersburg Metro, the Museum of Electric Transport, and the Ice-Breaker Krasin.
  • There are also Troekurov's House, the Brusnitsyny Mansion, the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin – you can take photos in front of them.
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