5 beautiful churches you have to visit in St. Petersburg

For five months in 2011, I called St. Petersburg home. It was a hell of an experience – sometimes I look back and can scarcely believe how lucky I was to live in such an amazing city.

I’ve wanted to post something about St. Petersburg for a while now but was struggling to find the right angle. Public opinion of Russia in the West is the lowest it’s been for years so I wanted to post something that would remind people of the country’s beauty and rich culture.

Of course one thing Russia is famed for is its churches. And despite St. Petersburg being the most European of Russia’s cities, there are still plenty of beautiful examples to be found. Here are my favourite five.

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral
Никольский морской собор

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral

I stumbled upon this cathedral shortly after moving into my flat in St. Petersburg. It was late February and I decided to go for a walk around the neighbourhood. When I got to the church, it started snowing and I managed to get capture some of my favourite photos from my whole time in the city.

Known as a naval cathedral, the church has always had strong links to the Russian navy and there are numerous memorials to crews of sunken submarines inside.

Chesme Church
Чесменская церковь

Chesme Church in the snow

Chesme Church in the snow

I absolutely love this church, purely for its unique exterior (though the interior is a bit lacking). According to Wikipedia, the church was built in an early Gothic Revival style and is a bit of a rare specimen, which I can definitely believe – I certainly haven’t seen anything similar in Russia.

The church’s location is also quite interesting: found in the south of the city near the Moskovskaya metro station, the church is located in the middle of a housing estate. It really is hidden away and you’d have no idea it was there if you didn’t make the effort to find it.

I love the way it looks in the snow.

The Church on Spilled Blood
Церковь Спаса на Крови

Church on Spilled Blood

Church on Spilled Blood

Probably the most recognised landmark of St. Petersburg, the Church on Spilled Blood is probably one of the most interesting Orthodox Churches I’ve seen: the exterior is ridiculously ornate and the detail goes beyond that of even St. Basil’s. I also like the fact that it juts out into the Griboyedov canal, as it was built on the spot where Alexander II was assassinated.

Despite its impressive façade, I have to be honest and say I just don’t like it very much. It’s impressive definitely, but I’m just not sure if it looks nice. I think I’m more of a St. Basil’s man…

Kazan Cathedral
Каза́нский кафедра́льный собо́р

Kazan Cathedral winter

Kazan Cathedral winter

Located opposite the Church on Spilled Blood, Kazan Cathedral is a giant. It is huge. Modelled on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Kazan Cathedral is the ‘mother cathedral’ of St. Petersburg. Inside, you’ll find queues of believers waiting to pray at the altar and kiss the icons.

I don’t often enter Orthodox Churches (mostly they are deeply religious places and I’m not very religious myself) but the interior of the Kazan Cathedral is jaw-dropping. The scale of it is incredible. Definitely not one to miss.

Smolny Cathedral
Смольный собор

Smolny Cathedral

Smolny Cathedral

Smolny was originally a convent and as such is an entire complex of buildings, with the cathedral at its centre. Today, the cathedral is used primarily as a concert hall and some of the surrounding buildings are occupied by the Saint Petersburg State University.

Now I have to admit, I haven’t been inside Smolny Cathedral. In fact, these photos are the closest I ever came to it – and I only did that once (in my defence, it’s really far from the closest metro stop). Nevertheless, I decided to include the cathedral because it really is beautiful and I have fond memories of the afternoon I visited – on a gloriously sunny afternoon when my friend came to visit me from the UK.

There are more photos of the churches below. You can check out more photos from St. Petersburg here.

Have you visited St. Petersburg before? Would you like to?
Comment below!


17 responses to “5 beautiful churches you have to visit in St. Petersburg

  1. Back when I went on a guided trip of Leningrad the tours did not go to churches, so I don’t think I visited any of those. I’d love to go back to St. Petersburg and see the Hermitage again, and this time maybe even venture out onto the city myself, but that won’t happen any time soon. Some day, I hope… Some day….

  2. I really liked churches in StP too – though I’ve only checked off 3 of your 5. I had no idea about that pink cupcake at all! And Smolny was a bit too far for me to venture out… plus it was gray and cold, and wouldnt be the best visual.

    • The ‘pink cupcake’ as you call it must be the biggest hidden gem in the city – I can’t even remember how I found it, but I love how it looks – I haven’t seen anything in Russia like it.

      Smolny is REALLY far from anything, but I wish I’d made just a little bit more effort.

      Which is your fave in SPB? Any ones in MSK I should look out for?

      • Savior on the Blood is really whimsical, right up my alley – I wish I had gotten there just a wee bit earlier and checked out the interior, I’ve heard it is BEYOND.
        In Moscow, aside from St Basil’s and Christ the Savior (which, let’s admit it, are the usual suspects in every guide book), I dont think I am partial to any particular one. I really like the feel of Novospassky and Vysokopetrovsky monasteries, but it’s probably bc I grew up next to the former and now live to next door to the latter 🙂 Novodevichy convent looks really cool across from the pond it’s on, but it’s far too touristy for my licking – it lacks the proper ecclesiastical air.

      • Novodevichy is top of my list when I next go back to Moscow actually (don’t judge!), but I don’t think any there could beat Yaroslavl for pure numbers – an onion dome around every corner.

  3. Woah, the second one is stunning! When I’ll be visiting St Petersburg (whenever that may be), I’ll make sure I’ll visit it! 😀

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