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St. Petersburg: 12 best sights in the city of the czars

By Bruce Holmes, for CNN
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
The massive dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral is made of 100 kilos of pure gold. Designed and built by French architect Auguste de Montferrand and completed in 1858, it can be seen far out into the Gulf of Finland. The green and white building in the foreground is the Winter Palace. Home to Russian czars from 1732 to 1917, it now houses the Hermitage Museum. The massive dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral is made of 100 kilos of pure gold. Designed and built by French architect Auguste de Montferrand and completed in 1858, it can be seen far out into the Gulf of Finland. The green and white building in the foreground is the Winter Palace. Home to Russian czars from 1732 to 1917, it now houses the Hermitage Museum.
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St. Isaac's Cathedral
Hermitage Museum
Grand Peterhof Palace and Grand Cascade
Cathedral at the Peter and Paul Fortress
The Bronze Horseman
General Staff Building
Rostral Column
Church on Spilled Blood
St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral
Tourist boats on River Neva
Nevsky Prospekt
Palace Square
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • International Economic Forum attendees will have plenty of distractions in "Paris of the East"
  • Massive dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral is made of 100 kilos of gold
  • Church on Spilled Blood was built on spot where Czar Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881

Editor's note: This story was originally published in March, 2013 and updated June 19 to coincide with the International Economic Forum.

(CNN) -- Several thousand of the world's most powerful people are in St. Petersburg this month for the city's annual International Economic Forum.

The only problem? While we at CNN Travel would be the last to deny that macroeconomics can be a thrilling subject for discussion, there also happens to be a bulbous onion-shaped dome's worth of once-in-a-lifetime type touristic distractions in Russia's spectacular "Paris of the East."

St. Petersburg showcases a vivid history from czarist Russia, through Communism (it was long called "Leningrad") to the present day.

Established in 1703 by Czar Peter the Great, Russia's second-largest city lives up to its reputation as the country's cultural capital, with astounding palaces, churches and museums.

Scroll through the gallery for highlights -- if you can keep your mind off neoclassical theory, that is.

Tourist information: www.saint-petersburg.com

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