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

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