St. Petersburg is built around a network of canals and rivers, with a total length of about 186 miles. They contribute to the unique atmosphere creating a glittering mirror in which the golden domes and fairytale palaces of the city are reflected. A cruise along the Moika and the Fontanka Rivers is another chance to appreciate history and splendid architecture of this beautiful city. In the beginning the city's bridges were usually known by their color: Red, Blue, Green. The Blue Bridge at 328 ft. wide is the widest.
The area around the Moika River boasted a number of riverside mansions and was one of the city's most fashionable addresses. One such mansion on the Moika is the Yusupov Palace that belonged to one of the wealthiest families in Russia. It is famous for being the murder scene of Rasputin, the Siberian peasant who exerted his malign influence over the Russian court. Your cruise along the Moika has you passing such notable landmarks as St. Isaac Cathedral, a famous gambling club that Pushkin, the eminent Russian poet, described the club in his novel "The Queen of Spades". Also seen is a group of yellow buildings that form the Teachers' Training University. At the time of Catherine the Great it used to house the orphanage instituted by the empress. Before leaving the Moika, you'll pass by the Stroganov Palace, a baroque masterpiece of Rastrelli. Count Stroganov who owned the palace in the late 18th century was the president of the Academy of Arts and a noted collector. The Stroganovs amassed their huge fortune through the monopoly they held on salt, which came from mines in their vast territories in the north.
Your boat cruises under the Choir Bridge, which takes its name from the Choir Hall located nearby and then turns onto the Fontanka or Fountain River. Its name goes back to the early 18th century when the water of the river used to feed the fountains of the Summer Gardens. On the right bank of the Fontanka stands the Summer Palace of Peter the Great. Peter had his rooms on the ground floor and his wife's rooms on the first floor. The Summer Gardens and the Summer Palace used to be the center of the city's social life. On the left bank you'll see the former Law School which counts Peter Tchaikovsky as one of its first graduates.
Continuing on, you'll pass the "Salt Town" - a former warehouse for storing salt which dates back to the 18th century. The present day building was erected in 1870 for an All-Russia industrial exhibition. Further along, St. Panteleimon's Bridge across the Fontanka is Russia's first chain bridge. It is decorated with double-headed eagles perched on laurel wreaths. At this point, your boat turns back onto the Moika River where you will the Engineers' Castle built for Paul I. The castle originally had drawbridges and moats since Paul was afraid of assassination. Unfortunately, soon after moving in he was killed by a group of his courtiers. On the right is the Swan Canal leading into the Neva. It is named after swans that were once drawn to its peaceful waters. Next is the Field of Mars square. It used to be a military parade ground for Russian troops.
One of the last landmarks you will see is considered one of the most beautiful churches in St. Petersburg - the Church of the Spilled Blood. This marvelous Old Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated on March 1, 1881. Built in 1883-1907, the church is designed in the spirit of the sixteenth and seventeenth century Russian architecture, inspired particularly by St. Basil Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square. The best Russian painters, masters of stone carving, ceramic and enamel took part in the decoration of the Church and it is truly magnificent.
Following your canal ride, there will be an opportunity for shopping at some local souvenir stores and a break to enjoy a complimentary cup of tea or coffee before transfering back to the pier.