Spit of Vasilievsky Island

Strelka Vasilevskogo ostrova

This is the place that divides the Neva River into the Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva rivers. The Spit of Vasilyevsky Island is one of the most important and most enchanting architectural ensembles of the city dating its history to the Peter the Great era. It is actually a full-scale outdoor museum with a whole lot of architectural masterpieces designed in various styles. The spit features the Literature and Zoological museums, Soils Study Museum, Academy of Sciences, the Twelve Collegia and the Kunstkammer.

In 1810 the complex of the Old Stock Exchange was erected to become the architectural center of the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island created by architect Jean-Francois Thomas de Thomon. This imposing building is styled to resemble Antique temples. In order to make the ensemble look more vivid an artificial mound was constructed to push the spit towards the delta of the Neva River. The ramps and stairs leading to the water are decorated with giant granite spheres which, as a legend goes, were made by architect Samson Sukhanov by sight without any precision instruments.

In front of the Stock building the architect placed two rostral columns with allegorical figures symbolizing Russian rivers (or, according to another version, a divinity of the Sea and that of Commerce): the Neva, Volga, Dnepr and Volkhov. As a decorative element the architect used the snouts of ships that are symbols of might and greatness of the Russian Fleet. This tradition, to decorate columns with snouts of defeated enemy ships comes from the Ancient Rome. In the 19th century the columns were used as lanterns. Bowls with lit oil were placed on their tops in order to produce a pillar of flame. The lanterns were operating at night and in foggy weather serving till 1885. In 1896 they were electrified, and today due to energy-efficiency reasons they are illuminated by gas and only on festive occasions.

The spit is a favorite spot of the citizens and guests of the city being a marvelous place to have a walk or to spend a holiday. During the Soviet times a wedding tradition originated, according to which the newly-weds come here to crush a bottle of champagne against the wall of the quay to make it a sign of their future happy family life. Here just married couples can also set some white doves free as another symbol of happiness.

Address: Birzhevaya Sq., 4 (Birzhevaya ploschad, 4)
How to reach: Admiralteyskaya, Gostiny Dvor, Nevskiy Prospekt metro stations
Coordinates: 59.944071, 30.306492