St. Petersburg is sometimes called the ‘Venice of the North’ for all its canals. But canals would be a great inconvenience without bridges to walk across them. Luckily this city of 101 islands has over 500, and many are stunning.
The first bridge ever built there was erected in 1703, the year of St. Petersburg’s founding. It connected the Peter and Paul Fortress to the rest of the city.
One of the oldest is the Anichkov, the first to cross the Fontanka River, though the design has been modified over the centuries. First built of wood in 1721, it took its present form in the 1840s. Adorned with four renowned horse sculptures and sporting ornate iron railings, it’s well worth a long look.
Another of that vintage is the Lomonosov Bridge, though its present design is from 1912. Part of a seven bridge project to cross the Fontanka River, it holds four, short towers whose columns are topped by small cupolas. That it doesn’t soar like the Brooklyn Bridge is an advantage in this case. One can get a close up look at the excellent design.
One of the more recent is the Palace Bridge that spans the Neva River from Vasilevsky Island to University Embankment near the Winter Palace. Completed in 1916, it has a relatively simple design. But it is of the drawbridge type and there are excellent views of the Peter and Paul Fortress and other sights from the location. Go early to watch the spans rise for the morning river traffic.
The Trinity Bridge, completed in 1903, is one of the main traffic arteries between two sections of St. Petersburg. But its style is easily the equal of its utility. With a series of graceful arches topped with carved obelisks, it is one of the city’s most beautiful spans. The short spires are topped with lamps and sport ornate scepter and anchor carvings on the base that make it well worth a visit.
One of the smallest is the Bank Bridge, only 1.85m/6ft wide. Pedestrians will appreciate the decorative iron railings, but the most outstanding parts are the four short tower elements. They feature life-sized iron griffins (winged lions) with golden wings.
Some similar elements grace the Egyptian Bridge, designed 150 years ago by the same engineer, P. Sokolov. Though the original collapsed in 1905, it was reconstructed in 1955 and holds the original-style sphinxs on granite pedestals, along with other artistic elements. The human head atop the lion’s body touts a golden headband that is alone worth the trip.
One of the most distinctive in many ways is the Blue Bridge, spanning the Moika River. The widest in St. Petersburg at nearly 100m (~320 feet), it was first built in 1818 at 41m/134ft wide, then the single span was widened in 1843. The name reflects its bright color and forms part of the area surrounding St. Isaac’s Square.
It would take days to explore even a fraction of St. Petersburg’s bridges, but a day spent seeing at least a few of the more outstanding designs makes for a great outing.