The famous Russian author Gogol wrote that 'to step onto Nevsky Prospect is to step into the atmosphere of a fairground'. He was not wrong – with its inviting shop windows, evening illuminations and the elegant facades of its historic buildings, there is something cheerfully engrossing about Nevsky Prospect that makes us want to forget our daily problems.
- During the 18th century the avenue was called Bolshoi Perspektivny. It only acquired its present name in the 1780s, when it was extended to run as far as the Alexander Nevsky Lavra Monastery.
- The famous bend in what ought to have been a straight avenue arose to keep the city's main street from running through a bog.
- Locals say it is best to walk along Nevsky on the even-numbered side, since it enjoys the best of the sunshine. The opposite side is more shady, by comparison.
- The width of the avenue varies along different sections. For example, near to Gostinny Dvor department store, and metro station, it can be up to 60 metres across – while closer to the Moika River it is just 25 metres in width.
- Nevsky Prospect is the warmest location in the city. The summer temperature on Nevsky is always three degrees warmer than in the outskirts – while the difference in winter can run to up to ten degrees.
The Prospect emerged as the main road leading from the centre of the city to Moscow. While the Prospect was being built, it was not only problems with felling intervening woods, or draining the bogs along the way, but also with the small rivers which crossed its path, and thus needed to be bridged.
The new city avenue quickly gained mass popularity, and by the mid-18th century they began to rebuild the road in stone. It was on Nevsky Prospect that the first use was made of oil-lamps for street-lighting in Russia.
In the city's early years, Nevsky Prospect was lined by both stone and wooden buildings. However, after the great city fire of 1736, it was resolved to build only stone buildings along the main avenue. Most of the buildings we admire along Nevsky Prospect today appeared in the latter 18th century and after. By the height of the Russian Empire, visitors might find Public reading-room, banks, and the State Duma, or Parliament.
Nevsky also saw the appearance of different places of worship, for various confessions. Public squares, such as Kazan Square and Znamenskaya Square, were laid out. During the soviet era, the avenue was named 25th of October Prospekt – but the name never caught on. Latest technologies were always tried here first – including such novelties as traffic lights, and trolleybuses.
What to see
- Each building along Nevsky has its own history, and each one is unique. The major sightseeing attractions are located, perhaps not coincidentally, along the odd-numbered side of the street – including Kazan Cathedral, the Catherine Square, Gostinny Dvor, and the Anichkov Palace – along with the Stroganoff and Beloselsky-Belozersky Palaces.
- The Green Bridge. Its history dates back to the early 18th century, when it was the first bridge across the Moika River, which then marked the city boundary. Today, the area of the Green Bridge is one of the most popular tourist zones in the city.
- The even-numbered side of Nevsky became a point where numerous non-Russian-Orthodox churches and chapels appeared – including Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, German and Dutch Lutheran Churches. It was also the side which attracted the largest numbers of banking halls and finance buildings.