portant churches (Kazan Cathedral, Church on Spilled Blood), finest urban architecture,
liveliest shopping zones, lushest parks, and slices upon slices of Russian life. Taking about
two hours (not counting sightseeing stops), this walk offers a fascinating glimpse of the
heart of the city.
It also gives you a taste of the smog, congestion, and general chaos with which the city
perennially grapples. Pickpockets are brazen here (blurring the line between petty theft and
mugging), as are drivers—it's essential to be watchful, remain calm, and cross the street
only at designated crosswalks (and even then, use caution).
As Nevsky Prospekt cuts diagonally through town from the Admiralty building (the
bull's eye of this city's urban layout), it crosses three waterways. We'll focus on the first
mile-and-a-quarter stretch to the Fontanka River—though you could carry on all the way
to Uprising Square and beyond.
• Begin your walk on the vast square behind the Hermitage.
Palace Square to the Admiralty
The impressively monumental PalaceSquare (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad)—with the arcing,
Neoclassical General Staff Building facing the bubbly, Baroque Hermitage—lets you
know you're in an imperial capital. It oozes blue-blood class. The Alexander Column hon-
ors Czar Alexander I, who built the square in the early 18th century to celebrate Russia's
military victory over Napoleon. Along with Moscow's Red Square, this is the stage upon
which much of modern Russian history has played out. On January 22, 1905, the czar's
imperial guard opened fire on peaceful protesters here, massacring hundreds (or possibly
thousands). Soon after, in 1917, the czar was ousted. The provisional government that re-