The Fontanka River

The Fontanka is a small river of the Neva Delta in St. Petersburg. At one time, the Fontanka marked the southern city limits of St. Petersburg, where its banks became lined with the costly mansions of the city's well-to-do. The article will give you more detailed factual information about the Fontanka's place in the city history of St, Petersburg, and the buildings to be seen along it.

Fascinating Facts

  • Until the year 1714, the Fontanka had been just another of early St. Petersburg's numerous marshy waterways of the Neva Delta. As perhaps you can hear in its Russian name, it got its title when it was rerouted to provide a reservoir water source for the great fountains in the city's Summer Gardens.
  • In the early years, the Fontanka's embankments were built of wood. The granite embankments we see today were only begun towards the end of the 18th century.
  • The river is lined with a number of unusual and unique bridges, along with a large number of attractive and historic buildings. This is one of the reasons why a stroll along the Fontanka is a favourite activity among tourists.
  • The Fontanka Embankments are protected as one of Russia's most significant sites of cultural heritage, under a government nationwide initiative.


The first wooden bridges in St. Petersburg were built over the Fontanka from 1714 onwards – at a time when the river was 200 metres wide. The work was undertaken quickly, but was halted after the death of Tsar Peter the Great.

Over 1742-1743, the embankments were strengthened and shallow waters were cleared. The river was given its present name during the reign of Empress Anna Ioannova. On her orders, fountains were installed on the right bank in the Summer Garden.

The Fontanka Embankments were then rebuilt in granite, with steps down to the water level. By the late 19th century, passenger steamboats were already in operation.

What to see

  • The main attraction on the Fontanka River are its fifteen bridges. The Anichkov Bridge is probably the most well-known, with its famous statues showing the stages of training a horse. Another famous bridge is the Egyptian Bridge, decorated by cast-iron sculptures of sphinxes.
  • Famous buildings along the Fontanka include the Church of St Panteleimon, the Scheremetyev Palace, the Catherine Institute, and the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace.
  • The Mikhailovaky Fortress is situated on the right-hand bank of the river, opposite the Summer Gardens. Today the palace houses a section of the State Russian Museum.
  • The Shuvalovsky Palace contains a privately-owned museum collection of works by Fabergé. Other visits along the Fontanka might include the Anichkov Palace, and the ensemble of buildings on Lomonosov Square.
  • There's a popular folk monument called Chizhik-Puchik, which appeared in 1994 on the embankment near Mikhail Castle. It is one of the most miniature monuments in St. Petersburg. Tourists passing on excursion boats love to try to land a coin on the statue's base – and make a wish, if they succeed in doing so.

Guided Tour

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