Peter and Paul Fortress: St. Petersburg Museum of History

Peter and Paul Fortress

Peter and Paul fortress is not just a museum, it’s a whole complex encompassing two most famous crowd magnets – St. Peter and Paul Church and the former jail (so sinister it was once even branded “Russian Bastille”). Peter-and-Paul fortress itself is an open-air museum, St. Petersburg Museum of History offers a walk along Peter the Great’s streets, stepping on the same cobble-stones as the renowned tsar, and see his plans for the city construction.




In May 1703 the first stone in the foundation of the new fortress was laid, thus breaking ground for a new city. May 27 entered the history as the birth of St. Petersburg.

Remember: it’s this fortress-town Peter called after medieval strongholds – Sankt-Peter-Burg (the city of Apostle Peter), and then the name spread onto the town growing around it. By the way, here you will find a contemporary statue of Peter the Great. Many consider, that it doesn’t resemble any traditional depictions of the most renowned Russian tsar. However, sculptor Shemyakin employed Peter 1’s death-mask to show the emperor’s real face.

St. Petersburg Museum of History is not just a set of exhibitions, it’s also a number of activities:

  • Make a wish and cast a coin at the monument to Hare escaping a flood;
  • Walk on the roof of the bastions and enjoy stunning panoramic views;
  • Find the cannon that shoots exactly at noon every day;
  • Weather permitting, take a helicopter ride and view our city from air;
  • Get a souvenir coin coined at the St. Petersburg’s oldest mint still operating in Peter-and-Paul Fortress


Four Gates of Peter and Paul Fortress

There fortress has 4 gates, but the most popular entrance is St. John’s gate from the side of the ravelin with the same name is the most famous entrance to St. Petersburg Museum of History. All the walk-in visitors use this triumphal arch of a gate, reminding us of Peter 1’s victories in the course of the Great Northern War. It happens to be the oldest triumphal gate preserved till nowadays in our city.

Entrance to the citadel itself is free of charge. But every inside visit on its territory requires a ticket.

The ticket offices are located by St. John’s Gate, on the grounds of the ravelin with the same name, turn left as you enter. Information on the current exhibitions is available here too.

St. Petersburg Museum of HistoryLooking at Peter and Paul fortress from across the Neva, one can spot the Neva Gate. This access from water, where the commandant’s boat was moored, also got a sinister name “the Death Gate”. Those convicts, who were sentenced to death, were lead through this gate and taken by boats to execution sites.

Tourists who come in big or small groups use a different way in – across the Crownwork canal to the parkings. They enter either through the Crownwork Gate or Alexei Ravelin Gate, close to the jail.

No matter through which gate people enter the fort, the roads, lanes and passages eventually lead to the principal square in front of St. Peter and Paul Church.


Peter-and-Paul Fortress: St. Peter and Paul Church

St. Peter and Paul church is probably the busiest venue of the fortress-town. People on cultural and historic “crawls” come here to see this kind of Romanov dynasty memorial park that’s evolved here:

  • 50 tombs of the Russian rulers and Romanov family members are inside St. Peter and Paul church itself
  • A special burial vault next door has 17 tombs of Grand Dukes – the tsar’s closest relatives
  • 19 fortress commandants had the honour of being buried by the side of the Imperial family vault, at the wall of the church.

Some locals come to see the tomb of the city’s founder in particular. The church also attracts people who are curious to see or would like to honour Nicholas the Last and his family. Stories of Catherine the Great’s intrigues, Russian Hamlet – Paul I and terroristic acts of Alexander II’s time are enthralling.

The cathedral itself is a fine example of the early 18th century baroque style, so characteristic for Peter 1’s period (even nicknamed “Petrine baroque” or “Dutch baroque” as Peter habitually took after Holland).

St. Petersburg Museum of History: the Jail

St. Peter and Paul ChurchThe other most frequently visited sight on the grounds of the fortress is the former political prison. Here you will find out:

  • What brought Peter 1’s son Alexey to jail,
  • Who was “Cockroach” princess and why powerful Catherine the Great was afraid of her,
  • How to use a tapping alphabet,
  • When and how the only prison break happened,
  • What was in common between write Dostoyesky, general Ermolov, revolutioner Trotsky and lady-in-waiting Vyrubova,
  • And many other mysteries, intrigues, life-stories and tragedies or the past.


Petersburg Museum of History Visit

To add Peter and Paul Fortress to your tour itinerary, please contact us at

At least 3 options of visit are possible: a tour of the fortress (outdoors), a tour of the fortress with a visit to the cathedral and a tour of the fortress including visits to the cathedral and prison.

Of course, if time permits, it is possible to spend half a day on the territory of the fortress, browsing permanent and temporary exhibitions and have a meal in a fine restaurant with gorgeous views of the historic city centre. Let us know you preferences in this respect.