The Peter & Paul Fortress

The Peter & Paul Fortress was the first building to be constructed in St. Petersburg, and is located on Hare Island. The date of its founding - 27th May, 1703 – is considered to be the birth date of the city itself. Today, the grounds of the fortress are huge museum complex and one of the city's most attractive features.

Fascinating Facts

  • On the central avenue through the Fortress we find a rather peculiar modern sculpture of Tsar Peter the Great. The sculptor, Shemakhin, shows the Tsar as a grotesque figure – with his head too small for his bulky body. This was no accident, nor even a joke, but quite intentional – when creating the statue, the sculptor worked on the basis of people's appearances in Russian ikons.
  • By long-standing tradition, a cannon-shot is fired from the battlements at noon.
  • There were even Soviet-era plans to demolish the fortress, and replace it with a vast sports stadium. Luckily, this plan was never carried out
  • Within the fortress is the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul – the tallest in St. Petersburg. Its bell-tower soars to a height of 122.5 metres. The bell-tower is capped by the figure of an angel – considered a local landmark.


The layout of the Fortress was personally laid out by Tsar Peter the Great, and the French military engineer Joseph-Gaspard Lambert de Guerin. The fortress was built to protect against possible Swedish attacks. But in fact, there was never a single such battle in the area.

Almost from the time of its first completion, the Fortress fulfilled a dual role as a political prison. It was a prison used to confine the most dangerous political prisoners – who included the Tsar's own son, Grand-Prince Alexei. Other unwilling guests included Princess Tarakanova; the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky; the writer Maxim Gorky; the philosopher Chernyshevsky, and the well-known Revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, there were even executions carried out at the Peter & Paul Fortress.

The Fortress covers the entire area of Hare Island – which got its name from the infestation of these rodents which was found there in the early days. There is an even a monument to the former hares of Hare Island.

What to see

  • The SS Peter & Paul Cathedral within the Fortress – built specially as a royal necropolis for the burials of the Romanov royal family, after the capital moved to St. Petersburg.
  • The St. Petersburg Mint was in the Fortress, founded in 1724, and one of the largest in the world. The Mint produced coins, ceremonial military orders and medals until 1942.
  • The National Museum of St. Petersburg is within the Fortress. Its displays illustrate the fascinating history of this 300-year-old city.
  • Can you believe that this gruff-looking military fortress and former prison even has its own beach? It is a favourite sun-bathing spot in summer, with views of the city's palaces, and the Winter Palace.
  • The Trubetskoy Prison, which was turned into a museum in 1924, was used to hold those accused of political offences in the Tsarist era.
  • The Fortress even has a Museum of Space Exploration and Rocket Technology – where you can find out more about the contributions Russian cosmonauts have made to modern science.

Guided Tour to the Peter and Paul Fortress

You can book a tour in English on our website.

Send us a request to find out all the information you are interested in. This request is free and without obligation.
Request the Tour
Thank you for contacting us! Our manager will be in touch as soon as possible to finalize the details. Close