© istock/aapsky
© istock/aapsky

Vasilyevsky Island spit in Saint Petersburg: perfect ensemble

2 minutes to read

Everyone knows Saint Petersburg is not just a city - it’s more than forty islands on which different city’s neighborhoods are located (there’s no information on how many of them there are exactly). Probably, the most well-known out of all is Vasilyevsky Island, and its called a spit - a place where the island connects to the mainland. Perfect architectural ensemble in this part of the city, with rostral columns and the old building of Stock Exchange, known for being printed on 50 Russian rubles banknote, serves as one of the most recognizable and favorite views of Saint Petersburg.

Strategic location

© Wikimedia/Feldstein
© Wikimedia/Feldstein

As we know, emperor Peter the Great founded Saint Petersburg as a city that should have a glorious maritime commercial port. Initially, he had the intention to establish the port in the Petrogradskaya Storona neighborhood located close to Vasilyevsky Island. But because of the shallow water there, he decided to transfer this place to another location. The easternmost part of Vasilyevsky Island was chosen as the strategic point. First of all, the Neva River is being divided here into two armlets - the Great Neva River and the Small Neva River. Second, even visually, the shape of this cape reminds an arrow, or ‘strelka’ as it’s called in Russian. It was evident that something great should be erected here to underline the importance of this place.

Architectural ensemble of the Vasilievsky Island spit

© Wikimedia/Рустам Абдрахимов
© Wikimedia/Рустам Абдрахимов

The most visible point close to the spit of Vasilievsky Island is, without any doubt, the building of the Stock Exchange. It has an appearance of the antique temple similar to Parthenon. Its attic, overlooking the Neva River, there is a composition of sculptures, depicting Neptune together with two rivers - that very picture which can also be found on a 50 rubles banknote.

The iconic view of Vasilievsky Island won’t be complete without two rostral columns. They were built simultaneously with the Stock Exchange building, and firstly, served as lanterns to make the Saint Petersburg port well lit. The appearance of columns refers to Ancient Roman tradition to decorate the columns with the ‘rostra’, the front part of the downed hostile ship, cut out of the main part. These rostral columns were opened in 1815, and up until 1855, they functionalized as lanterns at night and when there was fog. Nowadays, the spit of Vasilievsky island is known for its open-air dancing classes and parties. When the weather is warm, people who are into salsa, bachata, ballroom dancing, hustle, tango, etc., gather near the rostral columns, enjoying dancing.

Visiting the Vasilievsky Island spit is a must if you want to take a look at the city from the iconic angle. While walking along the promenade around the Stock Exchange (Birzhevaya) Square, you can enjoy the view of Peter and Paul (Petropavlovskaya) fortress, as well as the whole picture of Neva River in front of you. Perfect ensemble of rostral columns and the old building of Stock Exchange forms the unique picture of this place known to many Russian people since their childhood.

Vasilyevsky Island spit, St. Petersburg
Vasilyevsky Island spit, St. Petersburg
Birzhevaya Ploshchad', Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 199034

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The author

Maria Selezneva

Maria Selezneva

Hi, I am Maria, or Masha, as Russian speaking people call me. I’m your local guide for must-sees as well as off-the-beaten-track places in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I’ll show you my favourite destinations in both cities, where you can feel the true spirit of local traditions.

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