If Moscow is Europe's most Asiatic capital, then St Petersburg is Russia's most European city. Created by Peter the Great as his 'window on the West' at the only point where traditional Russian territory meets a seaway to Northern Europe, it was built with 18th and 19th-century European pomp and orderliness by mainly European architects. The result is a city that remains one of Europe's most beautiful; where Moscow intimidates, St Petersburg enchants. Today, despite their problems, residents feel enough affection for their city to call it simply 'Piter' while reform and transformation are giving the city a facelift that's almost 80 years overdue.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track