A self guided St Petersburg Metro tour
This post is a self guided St Petersburg metro tour along the most beautiful metro stations in St Petersburg. You might be surprised to hear that going on a St Petersburg metro tour is actually one of the cheapest and best things to do in St Petersburg. In fact, it will cost you less than one euro.
The St Petersburg metro might not be as famous as the Moscow metro, but it’s stations are just as ornate and impressive. The ideas to build an underground transport system in St Petersburg go a long way back, but it was under Stalin’s regime that it was finally built.
In Soviet ideology the metro stations were not just a cheap way to transport labourers from A to B in a practical and efficient way, but the stations were also to be the palaces of the people representing the beauty of Soviet life. Lofty ceilings, colourful mosaics and images of Lenin, Stalin and workers still convey the Soviet values long after the revolution and the fall of the USSR.
A History of the St Petersburg metro
The Moscow Metro was the first to be built and after this ambitious project succeeded St Petersburg followed. This project was even more difficult because of the city’s geology and unstable soil. Water was a problem and there was always the risk of floods.
The workers had to go deep underground and the result is that the St Petersburg metro is one of the deepest metro stations in the world with an average depth of below 50 meters.
While in Moscow the depth of the Metro stations were practical so that they could also be used as nuclear bunkers, in St Petersburg it was a necessity because the city was basically built on a swamp.
Although there was less money for decor in St Petersburg, they managed to make the most out of it and some of the stations are superior to those on the Moscow Metro. The St Petersburg metro is still a work in progress and now has 5 lines.
The most beautiful stations are at the oldest line number 1 (red line) and the newest line number 5 (purple line). Both lines are quite different in style and although the construction of line number 5 began just before the fall of the Soviet Union it opened late in 2008. It’s stations are more modern, but have a certain beauty nonetheless.
St Petersburg metro tour along the purple line
This self guided St Petersburg metro tour saves the best for last. The newer purple line has some interesting stations, but are nothing compared to those on the old red line. Built after Soviet times it lacks the grandeur and socialist symbols common in the oldest stations. The purple line focuses more on the city’s history with mosaics of Peter the Great, Greek Gods or landmarks that are nearby.
Sportivnaya is located near the Petrovski stadium and therefore has a sports theme. Mosaics at the entrance depict ancient Greek gods and olympic games. Because my hotel was close to this metro station it is where my St Petersburg metro tour began. You could also start elsewhere on the purple line if that is more convenient and in that case sportivnaya is not a must.
After Sportivnaya, the next station on the St Petersburg metro tour is Admiralteskaya. The deepest metro station in St Petersburg with a total depth of 86 metres. It’s one of the busiest stations as well, because it is right in the center just around the corner of the Hermitage museum and the Admiralty building.
The construction of this station was rather controversial with lots of delays due to water problems in the moist soil and the need to demolish an apartment building that was of historical significance.It finally opened its doors in 2011 and therefore everything looks brand new.
Two consecutive elevators bring you down to the station and the longest elevator is 125 meters long. There are several mosaics in the station. One of Poseidon, the Greek God ruling the ocean, another of navy ships and the largest shows Tsar Peter the Great opening the Admiralty.
After Admiralteskaya, continue the St Petersburg metro tour all the way to Mezhdunarodnaya. This station with its golden pillars is one of the most visually appealing on the St Petersburg metro tour of the purple line. The name translates as international because many streets above this station are named after eastern european cities and countries. Another greek god appears in a large mosaic at the end of the station of Atlantis holding the world.
Obvodny kanal is an optional stop on the St Petersburg metro tour. This station isn’t particularly beautiful, but has some nice images of old St.Petersburg.
Zvenigorodskaya is the last station on the St Petersburg metro tour of the purple line. This nice looking station has a large mosaic of tsar Peter the great with the first soldiers of the imperial Russian army. However, the main reason to get out here is to change to the red line. Zvenigorodskaya connects with Pushkinskaya station.
St Petersburg metro tour along the red line
The red line is the oldest line in St Petersburg and a completely different world from the brand new stations on the purple line. These stations were the palaces of the people and here you find some of the most beautiful metro stations in Russia.
Pushkin is a beloved poet in Russia and therefore both Moscow and St Petersburg have a station dedicated to him. In St Petersburg Pushkinskaya station also connects with the Vitebski railway station from where you can take a train to the village of Pushkin where the poet spent most of his young years.
It’s a beautiful and elegant station with white marble walls, neoclassical lamps and a white monument of Pushkin at the end. You will often see flowers here left behind by locals that still adore his poetry.
After Pushkinskaya, continue the St Petersburg metro tour to Ploschad Vosstaniya or Revolution square named after the square located above. It’s here that the mass protests happened in 1917 that led to the October revolution of the Bolsheviks. There are four bas reliefs depicting scenes of the revolution and Lenin.
After Ploschad Vostaniya we go back to the Technologeski institut station. It is located next to the St Petersburg institute of technology and the station is dedicated to the achievements of Russian science. The decor is simple compared to some of the other stations, but of interest are the 24 bas reliefs of famous Russian scientists.
After the technogeski institut the next station of interest on this St Petersburg metro tour is Narvskaya station. Located above this station is the Narva gate commemorating the Russian victory over Napoleon in 1812. Narvskaya station is rich in Soviet symbols and has beautiful sculptures of Soviet workers such as collective farmers, construction workers, soldiers and teachers.
The construction of the red line started after the second World War under Stalin’s regime. Stalin’s original idea was that every station should have at least one image of him. However, Stalin died in 1953, two years before the opening of the St Petersburg metro in 1955. In the end almost no images of him were placed, except for a mosaic in Narvskaya station that was covered by a wall in 1961.
After Narvskaya, get out at Kirovski Zavod. This station with its grey-coloured marble pillars is dedicated to the main Soviet industries as you will see in the iron reliefs on the walls. If you look closely you will recognize oil, metal production, electricity and coal mining.
Like I said, on this St Petersburg metro tour I have saved the best for last. According to the Guardian, Avtovo is one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world and it is stunning indeed.
The unique design includes white marble and columns faced with ornamental glass. This station is dedicated to the defense of Leningrad during the siege of the second World War. The victory mosaic with a mother and child is also one of the most beautiful Soviet mosaics in the St Petersburg metro.
St Petersburg metro tour practicalities
Going on a St Petersburg metro tour is one of the cheapest things to do in the city and will cost you less than 1 euro. All you need to buy is a token of 55 rubles and you can go in and out of the metro as much as you like as long as you don’t leave the station.
The metro is also one of the cheapest and best ways to get around the city. If you are staying for a long time in St Petersburg consider buying the podorozhnik. This card is not only for the metro, but also other public transportation. You can add as much credit as you like. Therefore you can avoid standing in line to buy a token each time you go.
You can buy the card for 100 rubles at metro stations and specific retail outlets and then top it up. If you return it within 45 days you get the 100 rubles back.
The metro is open between 6 AM and midnight.
St Petersburg metro tour tips
When going on a self guided St.Petersburg metro tour, try to avoid rush hours. This is between 7 – 9 AM and 5 to 7 PM. During these times it can be overcrowded in the metro’s and there are long lines to get on the elevators.
Watch out for pickpockets, especially when it is crowded.
You can follow this self guided St.Petersburg metro tour or make your own itinerary. The St Petersburg metro has a very useful interactive map of the metro to help you plan your route.
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