Everybody visiting Saint Petersburg knows where to go if they want to feel the rhythm of the city’s heart. Ladies and gents, please welcome the iconic Palace Square in Russian ‘northern capital’. At the same time, there’s also a unique architectural ensemble formed by the beginning of the 19th century and the famous State Hermitage Museum, one of the most important cultural institutions in whole Russia.
Until the middle of the 18th century, there was nothing at the Palace Square but the huge space for celebrations of different kinds, cattle grazing, and training of the military troops. Later on, the first building appeared there, and it was the famous Winter Palace, the residence of Russian tsars. Now it hosts the collection of the Hermitage Museum. The Winter Palace has its baroque charm, while its annexes are built in neoclassical style.
Just in front of the Winter Palace, there is a building with a huge arc, crowned with a quadriga of victory goddess Nike together with two Roman warriors helping her. This is the General Staff Building, constructed on demand by Emperor Alexander I of Russia. He considered the Palace Square a great place to commemorate the victory of the Russian Empire over Napoleon troops during the Patriotic War of 1812. In the very center of Palace Square, the Alexander Column was erected. It also celebrates Alexander I of Russia as an emperor who won the war against Napoleonic France. At the very top of it, there is a subtle angel holding a cross. It has an accompanying inscription, namely ‘To Alexander I, grateful Russia’.
Back in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the Palace Square was used for hosting different parades. The infamous workers' demonstration called ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1905 was also held at Palace Square. Twelve years later, this very square faced the final battle of the October Revolution, after which the Soviets took over the power in Russia. In 1918, the Palace Square was named after Moisei Uritsky, a Bolshevik revolutionary leader, but the historical name was returned to the square in 1944.
Since then, the Palace Square became a space for hosting different events, such as the City Day celebrations with parades, festivals, sports marathons, and concerts. For example, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Placido Domingo, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, and many others performed there since the 1990s.
Also, the history of Saint Petersburg horsecar began near the Palace Square, in the second half of the 19th century. Almost half of a century later, the first trams and buses also started their routes nearby. As of recently, the Palace Square has been completely pedestrianized.
When you enter the Palace Square, you just realize how vast it is - it really reminds of some spacious field where you at once feel comfortable. Being an iconic square in Saint Petersburg, it sees a lot of people, especially those long queues of art lovers who want to visit the Hermitage Museum. But, it also breathes with history, and everyone coming to Saint Petersburg should sense it.
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