From Grand Choral Synagogue to the Palace Square:
Main attractions: Grand Choral Synagogue, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Mariinsky Theatre, Theatre Square, Potseluyev Bridge, Khrapovitsky Bridge, New Holland Island, Nikolayevsky Palace, Neva river, Blagoveshchenskiy bridge, the English Embankment, Senate Square, The Admirality, The Senate and Synod Building, The Bronze Horseman Monument, Alexander Garden, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Saint Isaac's Square, Tsar Carpenter statue, Palace Square, Winter Palace, The General Staff Building, Museum of Guards. Alexander Column.
The monumental Neoclassical building was designed by Carlo Rossi in the Empire style and built in 1819-1829. It consists of two wings, which are separated by a tripartite triumphal arch adorned by sculptors Stepan Pimenov and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky and commemorating the Russian victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812. The arch links Palace Square through Bolshaya Morskaya St. to Nevsky Prospekt.
Until the capital was transferred to Moscow in 1918, the building served as the headquarters of the General Staff (western wing), Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry (eastern wing).
The western wing now hosts the headquarters of the Western Military District. The eastern wing was given to the Hermitage Museum in 1993 and was extensively remodeled inside.
Tip 1: From Grand Choral Synagogue to Alexander Garden.
Tip 2: St. Isaac's Cathedral and Square.
Tip 3: From St. Issac Square to Palace Square.
Start: Grand Choral Synagogue. Trolleybuses 3, 22, buses 27, 181. Alight at the Teatralnaya Square. Cross the canal towards Marinsky Theatre 2 (the new building) on your left. Or take bus 181 along Sadovaya and ask the bus driver or the conductor to stop at LERMONTOVSKIY. Walk northward along Lermontovsky (crossing Griboyedov Canal from south to north) until its northern most end.
End: the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum. Plenty of buses, trolleybuses and Metro stations in Nevsky Prospekt - behind (south) to the palace Square. Leave the Palace Square through its southern side, the triumphal arch of the General Staff building, and walk 200 m. along Bolshaya Morskaya St and you arrive to Nevsky Prospekt avenue.
Orientation: this route brings you, slowly, gradually and safely to several highlights of the grand past-capital. the general direction is from south to north, from the periphery to the centre. The whole itinerary is along water - along St. Petersburg marvelous canals, bridges, palaces, religious buildings and anchorages.
Weather: ONLY in bright (also half-cloudy) days. No rain please. Avoid windy days (especially in the New Holland area).
Distance: 10 km. Duration: 1 day.
The Grand Choral Synagogue, Lermontovsky 2, stands in the intersection of Ulitsa Dekabristov, and Lermontovskiy Prospekt. It now stands as a symbol to the perseverance of the Jewish community in St Petersburg - after hundreds years of endurance and disasters. In 1893 the Jewish community, first, felt socially and financially secure enough to build a synagogue and cultural centre, It was designed (by Vasily Stasov) and built in an oriental/Moorish style - and the result is marvelous. From 1884 to 1888 the main construction took place and in 1888 the cupola of the Grand Choral Synagogue was decorated and the process of interior design began. On December 8, 1893 the Grand Choral Synagogue was officially opened and consecrated during a most lavish ceremony. The door was opened with a specially designed silver key and 7 Torah scrolls were brought into the hall. It had taken so many years to be accepted into society and over 24 years to raise money, plan and receive permission, but finally the Jewish community of St Petersburg had their Grand Choral Synagogue. During WW2 a 100-bed hospital for the wounded was organized by the Jewish community, on the premises of the synagogue. And the Synagogue was bombed by the Nazi army during the Siege of Leningrad between 1941 and 1943. However, the hospital remained in operation. During the Soviet Era the Jewish community had a rocky relationship with the authorities and the Grand Choral Synagogue was closed several times and the activities inside the Synagogue were watched closely by the authorities and KGB secret police. In the mid to late 1980’s there was a youth movement and the Synagogue started to fill up again with those wishing to worship. Cultural organisations were formed during Perestroika and concerts were held in the Grand Choral Synagogue. Hard to believe how this building persevered amongst the turbulent rulers of the past hundred years. It is the 2nd largest synagogue in Europe (after the Budapest Neologic Synagogue).
This place is a must to see whether you are a Jew or not. It is particularly notable in its wonderful 47m-high cupola. The interior is breath-taking ! The Synagogue has a magnificent prayer hall, with its stucco friezes and stalactite moldings. The magnificent chandeliers that greet you upon entry into the sanctuary make a wonderful first impression. The Synagogue is praised for its wonderful acoustics and it is said that by placing ones ear in the right place, one can hear the minutest of whispers from way across the opposite end of the hall. Special room for marriage ceremonies, with big windows decorated with geometric shapes. At the end of the room, under a "roof" of cloth, tied to carved wooden poles, stands a bride's chair.
Adjacent to the synagogue are: a Jewish restaurant Lechaim and a Kosher catering shop. In summer, the synagogue also hosts performances with a Jewish cantor and other musicians performing Jewish, traditional and Klezmer music. The synagogue conducts English-language tours of the building, as well as longer tours of ‘Jewish St Petersburg’, all of which need to be booked in advance – see the Synagogue website: http://en.jeps.ru/
Concerts and tourist events (400-500 RUB): http://en.jeps.ru/excursions-and-tourist-services/jewish-concerts-saint-petersburg.html
Opening hours: open everyday except on Saturdays (Shabbat) and other holy days: 08.00 - 18.00 (OCT - APR: 17.00). Services: 10.00 - `12.00 SAT only. Men and women should cover their heads upon entering. Free entrance. On Saturdays and Jewish holidays it is forbidden to take videos or photos on the Synagogue premises. Expect a security detection in the entrance.
Now we walk along Lermontovskiy Avenue (Лермонтовский пр.) from north to south (crossong: Pechatnikov, Rimskogo-Korsakova roads) and meet the Griboyedov Canal. This is a quaint and pastoral of the canal:
We keep walking southward, arriving to Sadovaya street - where we turn to the left (north-east) side of this long and wide street. We continue along Sadovaya, crossing over the Kryucov Canal (links the Moika and Fontanka rivers just south of Teatralnaya Ploschad) and turning LEFT (north) on a small bridge the Griboyedov Canal again (now, from south to north):
We see, in front of us (north), the striking blue, white & gold Baroque St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral with ornate decor which is closely linked to the navy. The beautiful belfry of the cathedral is reflectrd in the motionless water of the Kryukov canal. Here, the two canals (Kryukov and Griboyedov) join the Fontanka River. Standing near the belfry you can see 8 beautiful bridges that create a great symphony combining water, parklands and architecture. St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (Nikolo-Bogoyavlenskiy Morskoy sobor) (Никольский морской собор), Nikolskaya pl., 1/3 was serving as the Russian Navy main shrine until the Russian Revolution. St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral consists, actually, of two separate churches. The lower Saint Nicholas Church is located on the first floor, while the upper church is on the second floor. The upper floor is even more beautiful than the lower one - and open, only, to worshipers. The altar of the upper church was consecrated in the presence of Catherine the Great. The main shrine of the cathedral - a Greek icon of St. Nicholas made in the 17th century with a portion of his relics—is located in the lower church. It has the shape of a cross and crowned by five gilded domes. The church can accommodate up to 5,000 people. It is decorated by Corinthian columns. The walls of the cathedral are decorated with scenes from the history of the Russian Navy. In 1907, two marble plaques were hung on the south wall of the upper church in honor of sailors who died in the Russian-Japanese War in 1904-5. At the same time, in the square next to the cathedral a memorial was erected to all the sailors of the battleship Alexander III who lost their lives in 1905. Its dominating exterior colors are: blue and white. Today, it is one of the best - and last remaining - examples of Baroque architecture. The cathedral is surrounded by a green space in front of it and, both, are located in a bend of Kanal Griboedova in an especially picturesque part of the SPB city. The area was originally settled by sailors in the time of Peter the Great, and the first, wooden chapel was built for them and bore the name of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker. As the area grew along with the new capital, Empress Elizabeth issued a decree to build a stone church for the regiments living here:
The church's beautiful bell tower looms over Kryukov Canal. It is a clear change that the bell tower is separate from the main building:
Unlike many other churches and cathedrals in St Petersburg this cathedral is not a museum but a fully working cathedral for local Russians. It is very peaceful inside. This is still an active church and maintains a sense of respectful worship. Note: it is expected for women to cover their head with a scarf. The cathedral houses 10 spectacular icons in gold frame that were a gift from Catherine the Great. The icons portray saints who are celebrated at Russian Navy celebrations. One of the most revered places in the cathedral is the image of Nicholas the Miracle-Worker, given to the church by Greek sailors, which was taken from Russia by the French in 1812, and returned to Nicholas I by the Prussians in 1835:
We continue NORTHWARD along Kryukov Canal (Kryukova Kanala), along the western side of St. Nicholas park:
On our right there is a black-colored building adorned with interesting decorations and friezes:
After crossing Soyuza pechtnikov road (on our right and left) - we see, on our right (east) the green-white colored building Mariinsky Theatre, (Мариинский театр, Mariinskiy Teatr). www.mariinsky.ru.
THere are, actually, TWO Mariinsky theatres and a bridge connects between them: the Mariinsky I, 1 Theatre Square. Box-office working hours: Daily from 11:00 to 19:00. The Mariinsky II, 34 Dekabristov Street. Box-office working hours: Monday – Friday from 11:00 to 19:00, closed from 14:00 to 15:00; on Saturdays and Sundays box-offices are open from 11:00 to 18:00, closed from 14:00 to 15:00.
The theatre is named after Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Tsar Alexander II. There is a bust of the Empress in the main entrance foyer. The theatre's name has changed throughout its history, reflecting the political climate of the time. The Imperial Mariinsky Theatre and its predecessor, the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, hosted the premieres of many of the operas of Mikhail Glinka, Modest Mussorgsky, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. At the behest of the theatre director Ivan Vsevolozhsky, both the Imperial Ballet (ballet arrived at the Mariinsky theater in 1870) and the Imperial Opera were relocated to the Mariinsky Theatre in 1886. It was there that the genius choreographer Marius Petipa presented many of his masterpieces, including such staples of the ballet repertory as The Sleeping Beauty in 1890, The Nutcracker in 1892, Raymonda in 1898, and the definitive revival of Swan Lake in 1895. When the theatre was designated as principal venue of the Imperial Ballet and Opera in 1886, the theatre was extensively renovated. A lavish inauguration celebration was given at the behest of Emperor Alexander III, in which the first original ballet to be produced at the Mariinsky was given - Petipa's Les Pilules magiques, to the music of Ludwig Minkus. Other world premieres performed at the Mariinsky building included Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov in 1874, Tchaikovsky's operas The Queen of Spades in 1890 and Iolanta in 1892, the revised version of Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet in 1940, and Khachaturian's ballet Spartacus in 1956. Other notable productions included Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerel in 1909 and Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella in 1946. Under Yuri Temirkanov, Principal Conductor from 1976 to 1988, the Opera Company continued to stage innovative productions of both modern and classic Russian operas. Although functioning separately from the Theatre’s Ballet Company, since 1988 both companies have been under the artistic leadership of Valery Gergiev as Artistic Director of the entire Theatre.
The Imperial Ballet and Opera Theatre had existed since 1783, performing on a variety of stages including the Maly ("Small") Theatre, a wooden building that used to stand near the Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood, the private Hermitage Theatre, and from 1783 Antonio Rinaldi's Bolshoy Kamenniy ("Big Stone") Theatre on the site now occupied by the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, opposite the modern Mariinsky Theatre on Teatralnaya Ploshchad ("Theatre Square"). Rinaldi's building was enlarged and adapted by Thomas de Thomon 1802-1803, and further modified 1826-1836 by Alberto Cavos, the son of composer and conductor of opera Catarino Cavos, to allow the use of modern stage machinery.
The complex is equipped with a splendid cable-bridge and a giant poster of the theatre. Opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres. Through most of the Soviet era, it was known as the Kirov Theatre. Today, the Mariinsky Theatre is home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera and Mariinsky Orchestra. Since Yuri Temirkanov's retirement in 1988, the conductor Valery Gergiev has served as the theatre's general director.
All kinds of photo, audio and video recording of performances or parts are strictly forbidden. During performances all communication devices must be switched to silent mode. It is forbidden to enter the theatre performances with casual clothing, with beverages and/or food, with flowers and with (or under the influence of) alcohol.
Getting there: The Mariinsky Theatre is some distance from the metro. To walk from Sadovaya, Sennaya Ploshchad or Spasskaya metro stations takes around 20 minutes. Walk south from Sennaya Ploshchad down Sadovaya Ulitsa, and take the second turning after the square on the right onto Prospekt Rimskogo-Korsakova. Follow the avenue over the Griboyedov Canal and take the first turning on the right onto Ulitsa Glinki (opposite the St. Nicholas Cathedral). It is then about 150m to Teatralnaya Ploshchad and the Mariinsky Theatre.
If you are coming from Nevsky Prospekt, it is easier to take a bus (27) or trolleybus (3 or 22), from the north side of the street (odd numbers).
Official online tickets are usually your best alternative. All seats available at the box office are available online. Buying online is good because it enables the buyer to directly compare the available seats and choose his/her seats. Registration on the Mariinsky website is required and payment is made by credit card. PayPal is not accepted as of March 2015.
In the process of buying, you will be prompted to choose either Full Rate or Special Rate. The latter doesn’t apply to you unless you are a Russian citizen, living permanently in Russia, officially working there or have a Russian student card. Basically this means that foreign tourists must pay the Full Rate. You can either print your own tickets or get them from the tickets office. You may be required to show your passport if you go to the tickets office:
Northern facade of Mariinsky Theatre (Theatre Square):
The New Mariinsky Theatre (Mariinsky II): In May 2013, conductor Valery Gergiev marked his 25th year at the helm of St Petersburg's historic ballet and opera company by unveiling a brand new theatre, the Mariinsky II. The Canadian firm, Diamond and Schmitt Architects, along with its local partner KB ViPS Architects designed a new building, to be named The Second Stage, with 2,000 seats, which complements the existing, old Mariinsky. Construction began in 2003. Technical difficulties connected with sub-soil problems led to a slowing down of its progress. Construction was completed in May 2013. Blue and gold colors differ the Mariinsky theatre (the old one, Stage I) (about Stage II - see below) from other great theatres of the world. Five-tier Main Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre is kept unchanged after the Cavos rebuilding in 1859:
THe adjacent concert hall (still, part of the Mariinsky Theatre complex) holds 1000 spectators. Address: 20 Pisareva street (entry from Dekabristov, 37). Opening hours of tickets office: Daily from 11:00 to 19:00, closed between 14:00 and 15:00:
The Mariinsky Theatres stand at the west side of the Theatre Square. This is one of the oldest squares of St.Petersburg. As its name indicates, Theatre Square is the site of two theatre institutions in St. Petersburg: the Mariinsky Theatre and the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. The modern Theater square was, originally, named Carousel square because of the round amphitheaters, built for equestrian shows. It was a square of a variety entertainments for the citizens. In 1775 – 1783 the largest theater in Europe by that time was mounted on the square by the architect A. Rinaldi. The Stone (Kamenny) theater (see above) gave the name to the square, but it was called Theater Square officially only in 1810s. After several reconstructions the building of the Kamenny theater was enlarged and renovated for the purpose of St.Petersburg Concervatory - the oldest Russian higher educational musical institute, founded in 1862. During the times of Emperor Nicholas I reign, on the opposite side of the square, was created a Theater – Circus, but after the fire of 1859 the theater was restored to the Mariinsky theater - named after the empress Maria Alexandrovna. The whole square is under heavy reconstructions (as of Summer 2015).
St. Petersburg Conservatory named after N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov, Theatre Square, 3 stands more in the eastern side of the square. THE BUILDING IS UNDER RECONSTRUCTIONS. The St. Petersburg Conservatory which is the oldest music school in Russia was founded in 1862. Its foundation was made possible due to the efforts of a group of famous Russian musicians, including Anton Rubinstein - pianist, composer and the first director of that school. Outstanding musicians from Russia and Western Europe were invited as Conservatory lecturers. The present building of the Conservatory was constructed by architect Vladimir Nicholas in 1896 on the grounds of the Grand Stone Theatre (in Russian: Bolshoy Kamenni) and still has a main staircase and landing of this historic theater. Bolshoy Kamenni Theatre was founded on the order of the Empress Catherine II in 1783 and was the first musical theater in Russia. In this theater in 1836 the premiere of the first Russian opera "Life for the Tsar" by Glinka took place. Among the graduates of the St. Petersburg Conservatory were such prominent musicians and composers as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Anatoli Liadov, Dmitri Shostakovich. From 1944 the Conservatory was named after the famous Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov who was one of its most prominent professors. Picture below from 2008:
The interior of the St. Petersburg Conservatory:
A prominent statue of Rimsky-Korsakov stands in a small garden, between the Mariiensky Theater and the St. Petersburg Conservatory:
In the center of the square is mounted the monument to composer M. Glinka (1906, sculptor Robert Bach, architect Alexander Bach). Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (Михаи́л Ива́нович Гли́нка; 1804 – 1857, was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the fountainhead of Russian classical music. Glinka's compositions were an important influence on future Russian composers:
We continue northward from the Theatre Square along ul. Glinki and arrive to a wonderful sight spot: Potseluyev Bridge (Potseluyev most), 1808–16, by William Heste). The bridge was named after merchant Potseluev who kept a tavern near the bridge. Entrance to the bridge features four granite obelisk with lanterns. The panoramic view of Saint Isaac's Cathedral that opens from the bridge makes it a popular subject of artists paintings. DO NOT MISS THIS SPOT (especially, in the afternoon hours when St. Isac Cathedral is lit by the sunset rays:
We head now to the New Holland Island. We do not choose the shortest route - but opt for walking around the island. Avoid coming to this area in a windy or rainy day. Chances to find a shelter or, even, a restroom are very poor. In a sunny day this round itinerary would be very rewarding. Head west on nab. Reki moyki (наб. реки Мойки) toward наб. Крюкова канала
550 m. Turn right to Khrapovitsky Bridge (мост. Храповицкий), 58 m. Khrapovitsky Bridge (Храповицкий мост) is named after Catherine the Great's personal secretary, Alexander Vasilievich Khrapovitsky, who is best-known to posterity for his popular memoirs of the empress. The current bridge was built between 1965-67 on the site of a wooden bridge that had remained intact for nearly two centuries (1737-1935). A 43-meter, single-span bridge of concrete, the Khrapovitsky Bridge is typical of the 1960s, and unremarkable (except the fine view you gain - while standing on this bridge):
Turn right onto nab. Admiralteyskogo Kanala (наб. Адмиралтейского канала)
Note the old, gorgeous buildings/palaces on your left (north) side:
New Holland Island had been hidden away from the world for long periods of time. The hidden-away, austere grandeur of its dockyards and warehouses have constituted the architectural identity of the entire isolated island. We found New Holland as a romantic corner of St. Petersburg. It is still, mostly, unaccessible due to heavy reconstruction works carried out onto its territory. From the moment of its founding, New Holland has been under naval control. Originally built on the orders of Peter the Great, the island of New Holland in St Petersburg got its name from the Dutch shipbuilders brought in by the Russian ruler to help create his model city from reclaimed swamps. The sizable territory has been used for maintenance of the Russian fleet: in one spot they stored lumber for ship-building, in another they constructed rows of warehouses, a water tank for testing ships and submarines, a naval prison and one of the first radio stations in the country. The island's buildings are still examples of early Russian Classicism. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the island has been given over to the SPB city:
Continue along nab. Admiralteyskogo Kanala (наб. Адмиралтейского канала) until its most eastern end. Cross nab. Kryukova kanala and turn LEFT (north) to Nikolayevsky Palace, pl. Truda, 4. Nikolayevsky Palace in Truda Square is home of famous folk shows. The Nikolaevsky Palace was constructed in 1853-1861 by famous architect Andrey Stakenshneider. It is a great way to end your tour day in St. Petersburg. Traditional costumes make the folk performance exciting and interesting. The performances are approximately 1.5 hours with an intermission that includes drinks and snacks. The palace itself is designed in a classic style with a beautiful garden in the front that is always full of flowers. When entering the palace you will see a grand stairway, which is one of the best places for a photo opportunity. The Nikolaevsky Palace was built in the mid 1800's. Originally the palace served as the residence to the son of Czar Nicholas I. His name ,was Grand Duke Nickoli. At one point is was called the "Palace of Labour" due to the demands of Lenin, but has since had its name restored. the Folklore show take place EVERYDAY at 19.00, 4900 RUB. Come early to secure better seats. THe show-hall is is not a large one. Seats are nor numbered. The stage may be obstructed, from several seats, by two large pillars in front of the stage. Online tickets: http://folkshow.ru/online-reserv#.VgzyLfAas_o
Keep walking north-east along Pl. Truda, in the direction of ul. Glaernaya (ул. Галерная). After 200 m. you arrive to the Neva river, to the Blagoveshchenskiy bridge (Благовещенский мост). The Neva River is an essential part of St. Petersburg's charm. Many generations of locals and visitors to the city have been completely enraptured by long, evening walks along the banks of the Neva during the city's famous White Nights. Very few things can be more romantic than strolling along the Neva's granite-clad embankments and admiring the city's open bridges, the marvelous architecture and the large ships as they pass by:
The Blagoveshchensky (Annunciation) Bridge (Благовещенский мост) is the first permanent bridge built across the Neva River in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It connects Vasilievsky Island and the central part of the city (Admiralteysky raion). The bridge's length is 331 meters and the width was 24 meters. The original name of the bridge was Nevsky Bridge. It was later renamed Blagoveshchensky Bridge. After the death of Tsar Nicholas I, it was named Nikolaevsky Bridge in his honor. The bridge was built in 1843-1850. It was designed by Stanisław Kierbedź, a Polish engineer working in Russia. The architect Alexander Brullov participated in the decoration. The design was a cast iron bridge with twin parallel swing sections at its northern end. At the time, it was the longest bridge in Europe. According to the legend, the Russian Tsar, Nicholas I promised to Kierbedź to give him a promotion for every completed span. After the bridge was completed with eight spans total in it, Kierbedź was promoted to the rank of General, but actually when he started the construction he already had a rank of Podpolkovnik (i.e. lieutenant colonel). The bridge was formally opened on November 12, 1850. Since it was close to Blagoveshchenskaya (Annunciation) Square, it was called Blagoveshchensky Bridge:
The Neva river provides pleasant sights, especially, in a sunny day far away to its northern bank. Walking along its southern bank will discover the various attractions spread over the northern bank on the Vasilevsky Island - The Menshikov Palace:
The Academy of Arts and the University Embankment -
We shall walk 1 km. eastward along the English Embankment, along the southern bank of the Neva river - heading to the Senate Square and Aleksandrovsky Garden. In other words - we turn RIGHT (east) from Pl. Truda to the English Embankment. I recommend browsing the mansions and palaces along the English Embankment ALSO LEFT (WEST) to the turning from Pl. Truda.
The English Embankment (Англи́йская на́бережная or Angliyskaya Naberezhnaya) is a street along the southern bank of the Bolshaya Neva river. The English Embankment was renamed Red Navy Embankment in 1919. The historical name was restored after the fall of Communism in the early 1990s. It has been historically one of the most fashionable streets in Saint Petersburg, and in the 19th century was called by the French term, Promenade des Anglais. The English Embankment runs perpendicular to the south end of the Annunciation Bridge and spans between the Novo-Admiralteysky Canal and the Decembrists Square, where it becomes the Admiralty Embankment (see below). Today, the Angliyskaya Embankment is one of the most prestigious locations in St. Petersburg and is mostly home to corporate offices located in former palatial houses of imperial Russian nobility and pre-revolutionary foreign embassies. It is very a popular sightseeing destination among tourists because of the wonderful view of the Neva and palaces across the river. The Menshikov Palace and the Academy of Arts building on the Vasilevsky Island across the river. Many boat tours start at the embankment, taking tourists on a journey about canals and bridges of St. Petersburg. The Constitutional Court of Russia moved to the former Senate and Synod buildings at the Decembrists Square and English Embankment in St. Petersburg in 2008. The move, partially, restored Saint Petersburg's historic status, making the city the second judicial capital.
# 60 English Embankment:
The English Embankment was built between 1763 and 1767. It is named after the former British Embassy and the English church that was located at # 56, the building is now occupied by the Travel and Sightseeing Bureau. The English church was built in 1814 and 1815 to a design by Giacomo Quarenghi, it is preserved as architectural landmark. The interior of the English church is highlighted with marble, historic paintings, and boasts a large pipe organ - the only English organ existing in Russia. The last British Ambassador left in 1918, after the Russian Revolution.
Note at # 54 the Palace of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich. This austerely elegant mansion belonged to Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (1878-1918), younger brother of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II. In March 1917, Nicholas II abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Mikhail. However, within a year Mikhail had been shot by the Bolsheviks in Perm. Mikhail Alexandrovich rarely stayed in his palace. From 1914, he commanded the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division, comprised of Muslim volunteers who, under Russian law, were not subject to conscription for military service. When he was on leave he preferred to rest at his residence in Gatchina, and it was there he was arrested by the Bolsheviks. In Soviet times and until very recently, the palace was occupied the All-Russian Society of the Deaf. The premises are currently being leased as office space. It is possible to tour the palace, where some of Meltzer's and Rachau's interiors have survived, including the marble staircase and fireplaces, fine wooden panelling and doors, and an ancient elevator:
Kazalet Mansion – 6 English Embankment:
After walking 1 km eastward along the English Embankment grandiose mansions and past-glamour buildings - we arrive, first, to the Senate Square and, later, to the Alexander Garden (Aleksandrovskiy Sad) (Адмиралтейский пр-кт) - just behind the Senate Square.The Senate Square (Senatskaya Ploshchad), (Сенатская площадь), formerly known as Decembrists' Square in 1925-2008, and Peter's Square, before 1925. On July 29, 2008, the square was renamed back to Senate Square. It is situated on the left bank of the Bolshaya Neva, in front of Saint Isaac's Cathedral. Getting here: from the Admiralteyskaya metro station, turn left and left again down Malaya Morskaya Ulitsa. Follow the road down to St. Isaac's Cathedral and turn right past the Cathedral onto Prospekt Dekabristov. It is around 200 m. along the street to Senatskaya Ploshchad, with the Senate and Synod Building on your left.
The square is bounded by the Admiralty building to the east. The original Admiralty was one of the first structures to be built in St Petersburg. It was designed to be a dockyard, where some of the first ships of Russia's Baltic fleet were built (some with the participation of Tsar Peter himself who, was an expert in shipbuilding). The Admiralty experienced many fires, especially since it was constructed with wood. Anna Ioannovna, the Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740, decided to rebuild the Admiralty with stone. This stonework lasted until 1805. The present Admiralty building was built between 1806 and 1823 by the architect Adrian Zakharov. He turned it into a marvelous example of the Russian Empire style, with rows of white columns, wonderful relief detail and numerous statues. Because the naval officers and wealthy merchants near the former Admiralty became the aristocracy of St. Petersburg, Admiralty Square became the social area for them. Alexander I was not fond of so much upper class influence in this area and gave Admiralty Square more administrative buildings. More changes were made in 1844 when the shipbuilding base was filled in at Admiralty Square and moved downstream (Navigating St. Petersburg). Rows of white columns and numerous statues, such as those of great military leaders, are part of the design plan. A frieze portrays Neptune handing his mighty triton to Peter. Other decorative features bore naval themes as well. The gilded spire of the Admiralty ( "the little ship") is another of St. Petersburg's famous icons and landmarks. The weathervane, a replica of Peter's personal ship, is now a reproduction. The original is housed in the Naval Museum. The Admiralty tower, topped with its golden spire, is the focal point of three of the city's main streets; Nevsky Propect, Gorokhovaia Street and Voznesensky Prospekt, and can be seen along the entire length of each one. The Admiralty was Russia's Naval Headquarters until 1917, and now serves as a naval college. The complex also suffered much damage during the blockade of Leningrad and was continually bombarded by the Germans during World War II. Despite that it is quite iconic, this place is not open to public. Though you can takes photos from the outside:
On the west is the Senate and Synod Building (now headquarters of the Constitutional Court of Russia). This immense building in high neoclassical style was built for the two most important administrative organs of the Imperial Russian government, the Senate and the Synod. The former was the highest legislative and administrative power, while the later was the highest body in the Russian Orthodox Church, introduced by Peter the Great to replace the Patriarchy. Carlo Rossi designed the building with an arch "in the fashion and image of the General Staff Building". Construction of the building took five years, from 1829 to 1834, and it turned out to be the last major project of Rossi's glittering career. From 1925, the building was used to store the Russian State Historical Archive. During the Second World War, the building was badly damaged from shelling, and it was not fully restored until the 2000s. The archive was moved from the building in 2006, and in 2007 a complete and careful restoration of the building was undertaken. It is now home to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, and to the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library. The building also contains apartments designed specifically for meetings between the Russian President and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The building consists of two 100-meter-long blocks joined by a triumphal arch, which leads through from Senatskaya Ploshchad to Galernaya Ulitsa. Rows of Corinthian columns affirm the building's ceremonial character:
The Bronze Horseman Monument adorns the square. This is an impressive, equestrian Statue of Peter the Great in Senate Square. It was commissioned by Catherine the Great, and is now considered to be one of the most famous symbols of St. Petersburg (just like the Statue of Liberty is to NYC). That massive granite slab was found in Finland in 1765, and originally weighed 1500 tons. To help facilitate the move it to its current location, master stone cutters continuously shaped the enormous monolith during shipment, and carved and shaved the weight down to 1250 tons. It is the largest stone ever moved by man, without the use of any animals. It took 400 men nine months to transport the stone across frozen ground to a barge on the Neva River. That effort is considered to be a historic feat of engineering. It then took 12 years from 1770 to 1782 to create the bronze mold of Peter on his horse on top of that colossal piece of granite. There is a carving on the sides of the stone that is in both Latin and Russian that means “Catherine the Second to Peter the First, 1782”. This is obviously an expression of her admiration for Peter the Great -- who is the founder of St. Petersburg, and is considered to be one of Russia’s greatest rulers. An exceptional and mesmerizing work. The blending of the Neva River and St. Isaac's Cathedral, and the "Bronze Horseman" is astonishing. The atmosphere around is always festive. The pedestal on which it stands is called “Thunder Stone” which got its name from the local legend that thunder and lightning split off a piece of the stone giving it its odd shape:
The Alexander Garden lies along the south and west façades of the Russian Admiralty, parallel to the Neva River and the Admiralty Quay, extending from St. Isaac's Cathedral in the west to the Palace Square in the east. It joins together the former Admiralty Square and the Senate (formerly: Decembrists) Square. Alexander Garden was immediately immortalized in Alexander Pushkin’s description in his novel Evgeny Onegin. However, Alexander Garden received its name from another Alexander, Alexander II. Interestingly, the park was built in honor of Peter the Great’s 200th birthday. Because he chose 52 different types of tree species to be planted there, Alexander II earned his name on the plaque (Alexander Garden [Saint Petersburg]). Many historians enjoy reminding tourists and residents alike that Alexander Garden used to be fortification against the Swedes. The English-style garden was designed by Luigi Rusca. Initially, a large part of the Alexander Park was occupied by woody vegetation. Old trees have survived here until now, but new buildings have been added over time. It was formerly known as the Admiralty Boulevard, the Admiralty Gardens, and the Workers’ Garden.
This lovely park is facing St Isaacs cathedral and offers a great fresh air breath before the cathedral visit (see Tip 2 below). Here, in contrary to other Russian parks, you can relax, sitting on the soft grass or on the bench, if the weather allows. The garden is full with activities and has enough shady and sunny places. From the park you get beautiful views of the Neva river and embankments, the solid governmental and of the past-royal mansions around, of which there are many around. The old trees protect from the sun or inclement weather. From Alexander Garden you can see the main monuments of the city from the Winter Palace to St. Isaac's Cathedral. It is a favorite place for walks by locals and guests of St. Petersburg. THe garden or park is equipped with sculptures, busts, fountains, and, of course, the memorable monument of the Bronze Horseman in the nearby Senate Square:
The Admirality - a view from Alexander Garden:
Cross the Senate Square and the adjacent section of Alexander Garden from north-west to south-east and you can't miss the mighty St. Isaac's Cathedral (see Tip 2 below).
Main Attractions: Halte Routière de l'Ara, Vence Tourist Office, Porte (Place) du Peyra, Rue du Marché, Place Clemenceau, Porte du Signadour, Boulevard Paul André, Place Frederic Mistral (Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs), Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (Chapel of the Rosary).
Duration: 1/2 day. Weather: avoid rainy or windy days. In this hilly area of the Riviera - you may expect a sudden pour of rain even during sunny days. Distance: 6 km.
Introduction: Vence is an hilly market town with a strong sense of community, which you can feel at the market in the Place du Grand Jardin square. Standing alongside the few bigger markets - you can see the smaller shops there which are still thriving. The big markets are:
There is also a sense of exotic grandeur with the huge and exciting walls running around the town. The main attractions are: the historic city with its ramparts dating from the 13th century, the Cathedral “Notre Dame de la Nativité”, the numerous chapels built over the centuries (The chapel of the Penitent Blancs, rue Isnard, the Chapel Sainte Anne, on the boulevard Emmanuel Maurel) and the fountains and especially many many unique medieval houses. Vence is also a town of special light. It had become the city of past famous painters: Matisse, Soutine, Chagall, Dufy - to name few. In the footsteps of these artists, several cultural places contribute in making Vence a renowned artistic city (The Rosary Chapel, The Museum of Vence - Fondation Emile Hugues, The “Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs”, The Blue gallery - The “Galerie Bleue”). These places invite you to come and discover their heritage and exhibitions.
The #400 bus (see below) lands in Vence new town. Vence is a real town and outside of its ancient central core, the new town can have a slightly gritty feel compared to the fairytale sights of St Paul. Consequently, we recommend a short visit in the old town core. Vence’s pedestrian and circular old town is a treasure trove of beautiful streets with nice views over the hills surrounded by medieval walls. Unlike Saint Paul, it is a bit more functional, with outdoor meat and fish markets every morning but also plenty of beautiful squares, small alleyways, fountains and old streets with beautiful facades to get lost in. It also houses France’s smallest Cathedral, Notre Dame de la Nativité, located on Place Clémenceau with a beautiful golden Virgin Mary on the façade.
Access to Vence:
By Bus: Bus no. 400 goes between Nice and Vence via Saint-Paul de Vence. The bus departs from rue Verdun/Albert 1ere bus stop, opposite Hotel Meridian. The ticket costs just 1.50€ and you can buy it from the driver as you board. If you are using a Nice day pass/week pass/or ten-trip card, it will work for going to Vence, but not to Foundation Maeght or Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Nice - Vence ride takes 75 minutes. If you want to make a free transfer within 2 1/2 hours, you can drop by the Lignes d’Azur boutique (across from train station or just off Place Garibaldi) and buy a Ticket Azur for the same price. This could be useful if you take a tram or bus in Nice before catching the bus # 400, or if you want to see the Foundation Maeght and/or stop at Saint-Paul-de-Vence - before / after visiting Vence. Bus #94 departs from the same place, goes to Vence and DOES NOT STOP at Saint-Paul de Vence. For complete, up-to-date time table of line 400 (Nice-Vence- Nice) (in French): https://www.departement06.fr/documents/A-votre-service/Deplacements/transports-en-commun/dpt06-cadredevie_lignes_400.pdf
The last bus #400 leaves Vence at 19.15 on weekdays, and 19.30 on weekends and holidays (picking up in Saint-Paul-de-Vence 5-7 minutes later). If you miss the last bus, the least expensive way to get back is to take a taxi (or Uber) down to the Cagnes-sur-mer train station and then take the train back (last one around 23.00).
We start at the #400 bus stop at Halte Routière de l'Ara: the Place du Marechal Juin - a square in the new town where Avenue de la Resistance meets Avenue Emile Hagues. This is a wonderful square on its own:
Cross the square from west to east and walk along Avenue de la Résistance eastward. We walk 350 m. along Avenue de la Résistance until we arrive to the Place du Grand Jardin. Here resides (on your left) the The Tourist Office (amid the row of shops). Opening hours: from MON to SAT : 9.00 to 19.00, SUN 10.00 to 18.00. Pick up the free self-guided walking tour of Vence. It marks the main attractions and tells you what they are.
Place du Grand Jardin:
We continue eastward. With your face to the Tourist Office - continue walking to your right (east) and we arrive to Porte du Peyra (The Gate and Fountain Peyra). The name ‘Peyra’ comes from the ‘pierre’ (stone) used for executions. In its current form, the door of Peyra dates only from 1810. The fountain was refurbished in 1822 instead of another fountain, which dated from 1578. From here we shall wander round the circular streets through the main squares: Place du Peyra, Place Clémenceau, Place Godeau and Place Surian.
The Peyra Gate leads to the Place du Peyra (Peyra Square). Here were traditionally the market place and the speakers' stand. People gathered there to discuss the business of the town. In 2005 the site has been fully restored. Here stands Musee de Vence - Chateau de Villeneuve (or: Fondation Emile-Hugues) with its adjoining 12th century watch-tower (which was for long the home of the Lords of Villeneuve). Entirely renovated, the Castle of Villeneuve/ Fondation Emile Hugues is today a leading centre for modern and contemporary art. The buildings were beautifully and tastefully restored. The Chateau functions as an art gallery / museum. The entrance fee is 7€, no concessions. The exhibitions change every few months but seem to be themed around art done in Cote d'Azure. Opening hours: TUE to SUN from 10.00 - 12.30, 14.00 - 18.00. Closed: Mondays, 01.01, 01.05 and 25.12. The west face of the watch-tower retains its original appearance with its arrow-slits indicating an internal staircase:
If you go down the rue du Portail-Levis from the Place du Peyra, you will notice the Place Vieille, mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records, 1996, as the one of the smallest square in France.
in the north side of the square - there is a viewpoint overlooking the Alpes-Maritimes and the villages - north-east to Vence:
From Place du Peyra - we turn right(south-east) along Rue du Marché. Today this is a commercial street typical of a Provençal village. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, it had almost no shops. The ground floors were used for stables or kitchens for the houses:
We head southeast on Rue du Marché toward Ruelle du Marché, 60 m. Turn left onto Rue Alsace Lorraine, 15 m. We turn right onto Place Clemenceau. On our right - there is an arch (and behind it - the town hall or Hotel de Ville) and on our left - a cathedral and a statue. Initially named Place Mirabeau, it later became the Georges Clemenceau Square. Of the former Bishopric remains only the oldest part of the building that closes the northern arcades square, and the Tour (Tower) Saint Lambert. Over the centuries various buildings of the Bishopric were joined at the Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Nativité (see below).
The 12th century Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Nativité is a tiny cathedral, quaint and cute and comparing to other cathedrals there is a sense of humbleness about it. Built in the fourth century on the site of a Roman temple. The cathedral took its final shape in the eleventh or twelfth century. Inside: inscriptions dated to the early third century AND a, tucked away in a corner wall - wonderful mosaic of “Moses saved from the waters” by Marc Chagall. This mosaic radiates a special glow, with side light streaming onto these colorful stones vividly illustrating flowers, fruits, the sun, a rainbow, angels and a newborn Moses being baptized. Next to it is is a charming bulletin board of photographs of babies that have been baptized in the cathedral, showing this is still very much an active church. This is the smallest cathedral in France:
The Tity Hall is next to the Cathedral in the usual pattern forming the main square of a typical European town, with church, civic building, shops and open space, clustered in the center of town. There was a castle here in the 13th century for the Lords of Vence:
From Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Nativité head south on Place Clemenceau toward Place Surian, 40 m. Exit this plaza on the south end, turning left into a small market square, Place Surian, with a few restaurants, cafes, food stores and bars, nice for browsing or a snack. On far end of the plaza continue left at the fork along Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville for two short blocks, passing more nice shops, to Porte du Signadour, a watchman’s tower dating to the 13th century. Until the French Revolution, it was topped by a watchtower that allowed lookouts to watch the horizon. Exit the Old Town through the stone gateway onto bustling Avenue Marcellin Maurel.
Paintings in a gallery opposite Porte du Signadour:
You walk along Avenue Marcellin Maure 150 m. eastward and you have arrived at a lovely square, Place Antony Mars (former Mayor of Town, author of comedies and vaudeville), with a fountain, pizzeria and art gallery. This square was first laid out in 1431, with a fountain built in 1439 for those residents outside the walls.
From here you get a revealing look at the outside curve of the Old Town, where you see houses that used the town wall for foundations or are themselves remnants of the wall, but before 1840 was a solid fortified wall. From the 15th century the inhabitants were allowed to build their homes against the wall, on condition they had an iron grill on their windows.
We continue surrounding the Old Town along Chemin de Sainte-Colombe - passing: Avenue Général Leclerc (on our right), Rue Saint-Veran (on our left), We slight left (west) to Boulevard Paul André and pass narrow, old roads from the 17-18th centuries (Impasse de Cimitiere Vieux, Rue Saint Elisabeth, Rue Pisani) until we arrive to Rue Saint Luce:
On our right (north) - stunning sights of mountains and houses out of the walls, north of the city:
Boulevard Paul André ends in a fork and four roads diverge from it. We continue westward, in the same direction along Rue Fontaine Vieille. Continue and head west on Rue Fontaine Vieille toward Chemin Saint-Pierre, 55 m. Turn left to stay on Rue Fontaine Vieille, 75 m. Turn right onto Avenue Henri Isnard, 140 m and you arrive to Place Frederic Mistral. On your left the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs dedicated to Sainte Agathe and Saint Bernardin. It was built in the 17th century by the friary of the same name. It can be seen from the avenue de la Resistance thanks to its varnished polychromatic tiled dome, and can be entirely discovered from Rue Isnard and Place Frederic Mistral. Classified as a "Historic Monument" in 1944, it is today a place of temporary exhibitions of mostly local artists. Free entrance:
The street continues west as Avenue des Poilus and we walk until its end in a bustling roundabout. Take the turn to the right - Avenue Henri Matisse. Follow the signs of "Chapelle du Rosaire Matisse". We start our walk in the long Avenue Henri Matisse - actually on a BRIDGE OVER A DEEP CHASM. Unbelievable, breathtaking sights on both of the sides.
Over the bridge - on your right the mountains around Vence:
On your left (south) Old Vence:
It is 15 min. walk to the Rosart Chapel.In the fort - we turn left and after 2-3 min. walk we arrive to the Maison Lacordaire, Dominican-run rest home (former girls' school), near the Rosary Chapel:
The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (Chapel of the Rosary) (Rosary Chapel) designed by Henri Matisse is located 466 Avenue Henri Matisse in Vence. It is a good walk from the bridge above. Be sure it fits your taste and check hours it is open before hiking out there (see below). When you arrive it’s easy to believe you’re in the wrong place. Could this simple white building really be “one of the great religious structures of the 20th century”? May we remark now, before you walk - that WE WERE TOTALLY disappointed. First, we introduce the information concerned - and' later, we'll detail, in brief, why we had been so upset with this church...
From the years 1948 to 1951, legendary French artist Henri Matisse worked tirelessly on plans for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, (the Chapel of the Rosary), designing every element if the building, from the exterior to the details of decoration. This may sound strange, given that Matisse devoted most of his career to painting, and considered himself an atheist. A culmination of his long artistic trajectory, it was the first time that a painter had entirely designed every detail of a Chapel in such a comprehensive way, and remains a potent manifestation of Matisse’s artistic sensibility in his mature years. Matisse drew up the plans for the edifice and every detail of the decoration — from the ceramics, stained glass windows, ornaments, and paintings, which Matisse created specifically for the chapel. Matisse was involved in every part of the work. He chose the warm brown stone of the altar because of its resemblance to the colour of bread. He designed the bronze crucifix on the altar, the candlesticks on the altar, the confessional door, the three holy-water stoups, and the blazing patterns adorning the priest’s chasublesthe candle holders, the small tabernacle and even the priests’ vestments. In 1941, Matisse developed cancer and underwent extensive surgery, which he almost didn’t survive. The artist lived for most of the year in Nice in the south of France, and during his long recovery there, he sought help from a lady named Monique Bourgeois who responded to his advertisement seeking ‘a young and pretty nurse’. Bourgeois tenderly took care of the ailing Matisse, and took great interest in his work. Matisse built the chapel for this nurse who had cared for him during the latter years of his life in which his health was compromised: a celebration of human relationship. This huge undertaking of Matisse's final decade, which he made so feverishly, was no less intense and no less important than his early paintings.The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary was inaugurated on June 25th, 1951.By the summer of 1951, when the chapel was finished, Matisse was so frail that his physician forbade him to attend its consecration. The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence is a unique building which was designed and constructed by Henri Matisse, as a monument to the gratitude he felt towards his nurse Monique Bourgeois. The history of the chapel and the purpose behind its construction are proof of a labour and love, rather than a purely religious undertaking. It has a simple white exterior measuring 15 by six metres, with a roof of blue and white tiles. The white chapel is famed for its stained glass windows that reflect a myriad of exquisite colours onto the white marble floors. The completed chapel contains three sets of stained glass windows — making use of a THREE COLOURS: green (nature), dominant yellow (sun) and deep ultramarine blue (sea) - reflecting the Mediterranean surroundings. The two windows beside the altar depict abstract theme, entitled the ‘The Tree of Life’. The opposition between the richly coloured stained-glass windows and the monochrome murals dominates the chapel. On the wall behind the altar is a large image of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Dominicans. Adorning the side walls are abstract images of flowers and an image of the Madonna and Child, all created in black outlines on white tiles. The child is supported by nothing. On the back wall of the chapel: the Via Dolorosa: the traditional fourteen stations of the cross. Matisse chose to incorporate all of them on one wall in a single cohesive composition.
The Rosary Chapel is open: MON, ,WED, SAT - 14.00 – 17.30. TUE, THU 10.00 – 11.30, 14.00 – 17.30. Mass on SUN at 10.00. Closed from 15 NOV to 15 DEC and holidays. Admission entry: 6 euros (!). NO PHOTOS ALLOWED INSIDE.
We found that regional French Riviera museums associated with Matisse, Picasso and other famed painters (in Nice, Antibes, Vence, St. Tropez) need to upscale their site or attraction and are, basically, tourists' expensive traps ! The Matisse Museum in Nice presents 3rd league pictures and the Rosary Chapel in Vence is, more or less, the same. Totally commercial, uninspiring, uninviting, the stained glasses are very basic. You hardly see the chapel from the entrance or from the street outside. The "gallery" that one enters after the chapel is no more than a corridor with "works" displayed which are unattractive sketches. The garden at end of the 'corridor' is inaccessible. And, you are charged with €6 for almost nothing. There were two frustrating experiences in our trip to the French Riviera - and the two of them concerned with Matisse...
'Tree of Life' Stained glass behind the Altar:
The Rosary Church is built on a terrace with a panoramic view south towards the ancient town of Vence, View of Old Vence from the Rosary Chapel:
We walk 750 m. (15 minutes) back from the Rosary Church to Vence Bus station (Halte Routière de l'Ara). Head west on Avenue Henri Matisse toward Chemin du Claoux Supérieur, 250 m. Slight left to stay on Avenue Henri Matisse, 300 m. Turn left onto Avenue Victor Tuby, 160 m. Sharp left onto Avenue Emile Hugues, 50 m and we face the Halte Routière de l'Ara.
Oxford Centre - Part 1- circular route around Carfax Square.
Main Attractions: Carfax Square, Carfax Tower, Town Hall, Blue Boar Street, Christ Church College, Christ Church Meadow, War Memorial Gardens, Broad Walk, Poplar Walk, Thames river bank, Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Martyrs' Memorial, Macdonald Randolph Hotel.
Duration: 1/2 day. The other half of the day can be devoted to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford Centre. This 1/2 day route ends, exactly, in the Ashmolean Museum gates (see our blog "Oxford - Day 1 - The Ashmolean Museum".
Start and Finish: Carfax Square. Weather: This route is suitable for any type of weather. Distance: 3-4 km.
Accommodation: I stayed in a private apartment (through AirBnb) in the north of Oxford - a few metres from the Oxford Canal. Walking along the canal is beautiful and peaceful. The place is surrounded by the green and the enchanting song of the birds. Not too many people, but just enough to make you feel safe, plus lovely boats anchored alongside and a view of nature. The lovely river is framed by the very old houses and some boats which bring an atmosphere of simplicity and joy. It took 10-15 minutes walking to the town centre. To catch the bus to the Blenheim Palace Blenheim Castle) - it is a 5 minutes walk to the Woodstock Road - where you catch the S3 bus line, direct to the palace gates. It's just wonderful to be walking outside along the canal and countryside. The paths along the canal (you can walk only along one side of the canal) are asphalted or are tramac ones. No mud and no problem to carry your trolley as well with you...)
Introduction: Oxford was a center for learning as early as the 12th century. Today, its namesake university is a centralized collective of 38 self-governing and financially independent colleges.
We start at the Carfax Square. It is the ancient heart of the City, where the four roads from the north, south, east and west gates met: St Aldate's (south), Cornmarket Street (north), Queen Street (west) and the High Street (east). It is considered to be the centre of the city. The name "Carfax" derives from the French "carrefour", or "crossroads".
Carfax Square (south-west corner) - St. Aldate's x Queen Streets:
Carfax Square (south-west corner) - Cornmarket x Queen Streets:
Carfax Square (east corner)- High Street:
Dominating the Carfax square scene is Carfax Tower. Carfax Tower is located at the north-west corner of Carfax. It is all that remains of the 12th-century St. Martin's Church. It is now owned by the Oxford City Council. It was the official City Church of Oxford. In 1896 the main part of the church was demolished to make more room for road traffic. You will notice the impressive clock and quarterboys (the 16th century originals are in the Museum of Oxford, adjacent to the Town Hall on St Aldate’s). The tower still has a ring of six bells. There is also a clock that chimes the quarter hours:
You can climb to the top of the tower for a view of the Oxford skyline. The tower is open: Daily. APR - OCT 10.00 - 17.30 (16.30 in October). NOV-MAR 10.00 - 15.00 (16.00 in March). Adults, Seniors, Students: £2.20, Children £1.10. You only need a few minutes at the top of the tower, but the view is worth the climb. Keep in mind that the climb is restricted to very few visitors. There is no much place on top of the tower and it takes several minutes to stay there. There are, approx., 100 narrow, tight winding stairs to climb up. You have to be patient and polite and allow people to pass you either going up or coming down. Worthwhile. Alternatively, climb the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, to get a panoramic view of Oxford roofs (see our "Oxford - Day 2" blog).
Cross the road at the lights to the Cashmere Wool Shop at the top of St Aldate’s (nothing interesting to see there) and proceed down to St Aldate’s Town Hall (on your left) (there are accessible toilets in the Town Hall). It is a centre of local government in the city and also houses the municipal Museum of Oxford. Oxford's Town Hall or Guildhall was built on this site in 1292. It was replaced by the first Town Hall in 1752. The building was demolished in 1893 and the current building was completed in 1897. The new building originally housed the public library and police station as well as the city council. During the First World War, the building was converted into an hospital. From 1916, it specialized in treating soldiers suffering from malaria. In 1936 Oxford City Police moved to a new police station further down St Aldate's. The central public library is now in the Westgate Centre in Queen Street. Not much to see inside, but it is worth to take some 10-15 minutes there...:
Its door is surmounted by the City’s coat of arms. ; enter by the level entrance at the top of St Aldate's). If time allows the Town Hall is mostly accessible and there is a computer terminal in reception where you can take a look at virtual tours of the views from the top of Carfax Tower, parts of the Town Hall and the Museum of Oxford:
The Assembly Rooms, Oxford Town Hall with its ornate stone fireplace decorated with William Morris tiles and oak-paneled walls. This room, the Main Hall and a number of other areas in the Town Hall became hospital wards which contained a total of 205 beds. In the Town Hall today, there is a certificate recording the appreciation of the Army Council for the use of the building as a military hospital 1914-19:
I recommend of visiting the small gallery inside the town hall ground floor (free entrance) with exhibits of local Oxford artists like Yvone Mebs Francis:
Immediately, beyond the Town Hall, on your left (along St. Aldate stree) - turn left to the Blue Boar Street. In the corner is the Museum of Oxford. Open: MON-SAT 10.00 - 17.00, SUN 11.00 - 15.00. It tells the history of Oxford, and show the results of recent excavations (Oxford was a walled town...). Very small. Two rooms only. Free:
Continue along the Blue Boar Street until it meets the Alfred Street. It is one of the oldest pubs in Oxford, England, dating back to 1242. Do not miss the Bear Inn with its fascinating collection of ancient ties. There are over 4,500 snippets of club ties placed in glass showcases that cover the walls and the ceiling. The collection started in 1952 by the landlord, Alan Course, who has worked as cartoonist at the Oxford Mail. Tie ends were clipped with a pair of scissors in exchange for half a pint of beer. The ties mostly indicate membership of clubs, sports teams, schools and colleges, etc'. THe pub is closed in the mornings and the place is humming with conversation (more of the upper class...) from the early evenings:
Return to St. Aldate Street and continue down to the main entrance of Christ Church College. Impressive but expensive and busy. The space for tourists to walk around is very limited. Open: MON-SAT: 10.00 - 17.00, SUN: 14.00 - 17.00. Last entry: 16.15. The Hall is frequently closed between 12.00 and 14.00 (students (in term) or resident guests (in vacation periods) have lunch). Last entry into the Hall or Cathedral will be 15-30 minutes prior to the closure time detailed above. Note: July and August (particularly ,weekends) are very busy. Expect queuing up for entry into Christ Church. Tickets sold either in the online shop www.visitoxfordandoxfordshire.com or in the Oxford Visitor Information Centre. Prices (standard Rates, (Hall and Cathedral Open): 1 April - 30 June: adult - £8, concessions - £7. 1 July - 31 August: adult - £9, concessions - £8. 1 September - 31 December: June: adult - £7, concessions - £6. The self-guided tour takes you through the Cathedral and through the Dining Hall. Many other parts are closed to most of the visitors. No need for maps. You easily flow with herds of visitors along well-signed route along two floors of the main complex building. The entrance is quite expensive, but, nevertheless, both the Grand Dining Hall (the inspiration for Hogwarts) and the Cathedral are sights to behold. Staff was always polite, friendly and efficient.
Christ Church is Oxford’s grandest and largest historic college. It's easily the most visited college in Oxford. It is formally, called 'Christ Church' only, or informally, ‘The House’. No other college has produced more British prime ministers than Christ College. 13 PMs had emerged from this college ! It is considered to be the most aristocratic college of the University of Oxford in England. It is the second wealthiest Oxford college by financial means. The college got, recently, worldwide reputation for being the main site for filming of the movies of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. With fans of the teenage wizard flocking to see film locations, visitor numbers at the CCC Cathedral have risen to 350,000 a year. The Christ Church's high-ceiling Dining Hall was a model for the one scene throughout the films (with the weightless candles and flaming braziers)...but the actual filming happened on a set at the Leavesden studios. The city of Christchurch in New Zealand is named after Christ Church College in Oxford. Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice in Wonderland books. He wrote "Alice" for Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. His real name was Charles Dodgson, and he, was also a student and then a lecturer at Christ College. Although he is most famous as a novelist, he was also an exceptional mathematician. Dodgson was a student in Mathematics at Christ Church for 48 years. The New Library of Christ Church houses the best collection of Lewis Carroll's work anywhere in the world.
The Meadow Building (main building entrance):
No entry from Tom Gate:
Christ Church College Meadows - opposite the main entrance:
The famous ‘Tom Tower’, over the entrance to the college, was designed by the architect and ex-student of the college, Sir Christopher Wren in 1681. Wren completed the structure, dubbed Tom Tower, in 1682. It is now one of the most famous of Oxford's "dreaming spires". The 7 ton bell in the tower is known as ‘Great Tom’, and it chimes 101 times every evening at 21.05, once for each of the original 101 students of Christ Church. This is nine o’clock Oxford time, the City being five minutes west of Greenwich. People in wheelchairs are permitted to enter the college here, passing under Tom Tower:
Take a turn around Tom Quad, the largest quadrangle in Oxford, at the centre of which is a pond, originally created partly as a reservoir for the college. The present statue of Mercury replaces an earlier one, damaged in 1817. The inner court is, most of the time, closed. Please DO NOT interrupt the silence of the students and other dwellers:
Inside a inner courtyard of Christ Church:
It is the only college in the world which is also a cathedral. The Cathedral can be entered by a ramp built with the entrance lobby. It is the smallest cathedral in England and contains the Shrine of St Frideswide. The Cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, before the college was founded, and has Romanesque and Gothic architecture. This shrine was built in 1289, and it houses the relics of the 8th century nun, Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. The college was founded in 1525 by the powerful Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and was originally called ‘Cardinal College’. Wolsey was himself a former member of Magdalen College. He became Master of Magdalen in 1500, but that was merely a brief stopover on his meteoric rise to power as chief advisor and chaplain to Henry VIII. In 1525 Wolsey, also founder of Hampton Court Palace near London, acquired the Augustinian priory on the site of St. Frideswide's abbey. Wolsey had the site cleared, and began construction of a grandiose complex of buildings around a green quadrangle (now known as Tom Quad - see below). However, Wolsey lost favor with King Henry VIII, because he refused to support the King’s plan to marry his second wife, Anne Boleyn. By the time of Wolsey's death in 1529 the college was still incomplete - not surprising considering the scope of Wolsey's project. King Henry VIII re-founded the college in 1532 as ‘King Henry VIII’s College’ and then renamed it ‘Christ Church’ in 1546. This was after he had separated from the Church of Rome and created the Church of England. The royal connection with Christ Church continued during the English Civil War (1642-1646). King Charles chose Christ Church as his residence (his army kept their cattle in the Great Quad and kept hay for the cattle in the Cathedral), while his wife, Henrietta Maria, with her court or household lived in the nearby Merton College. Charles I court sat in the Deanery, and the royalist "Parliament" convened in the Great Hall. The king attended service in the church daily, sitting in the Vice-Chancellor's stall:
Nave of Christ Church Cathedral looking to the altar:
Choir and organ of Christ Church Cathedral. The organ is a 43-rank, four-manual and pedal instrument built in 1979 by Austrian firm Rieger Orgelbau:
Stained-glass windows inside the Cathedral. The St. Frideswide Window - St. Frideswide Shrine (the most ancient chapel in the Cathedral):
A large rose window of the ten-part:
The Nowers Monument - statue of giant knight, 2m. height from the 14th century:
The finest surviving section of Christ Church original foundation is The Hall (the Dining Hall). It is this Renaissance splendor of the Grand Hall that attracted the makers of the Harry Potter films to build a replica of the Hall in their London studios. Actual scenes from the movies were filmed here, and on the grand stairs leading to the Hall. The dining halls at the University of Chicago and Cornell University are both reproductions of the splendid dining hall at Christ Church. It shows the Renaissance magnificence of the original Cardinal College, and suggests the scale it might have reached had it not been for Wolsey’s fall. Until the 1870s this was the largest Hall in Oxford, but then the newly-founded Keble College ensured that their hall was slightly larger (legend has it by only a single metre). Built in the mid-1500s, the hall itself was not used during Harry Potter filming.
Stairs leading to the 2nd floor, to the famous Dining Hall (on which Professor McGonagall welcomes the first-year students in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone):
Be sure to admire the ceiling of the Dining Hall, a wonderful example of sixteenth-century built by Humphrey Coke, Henry VIII’s chief carpenter. The walls are adorned with a number of portraits, each celebrating famous members of the college from Queen Elizabeth to W. H. Auden. At the far end, the founder of Christ Church, Henry VIII, is portrayed above a bust of the current queen, Elizabeth II. The table at the far end of the Hall is known as High Table and it is here that senior members of the college dine. Academic fellows or Deans of the college are known as Students, always with a capital S to distinguish them from undergraduate students:
On your immediate right upon entering the Hall, is a portrait of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll - famed author of Alice in Wonderland - see above). It was painted by Hubert von Herkomer, based on photographs. Upon exiting the Dining Hall, keep your eyes on this portrait - he'll surely be keeping his eyes on you:
Look for the large stained glass window, featuring characters from Alice above the fireplace as well as brass characters in the fireplace itself.
The Christ Church Picture Gallery contains a modest collection of Renaissance art, the most notable of which features the bibilical Judith holding the severed head of Holofernes. For visitors who wish to see the entire college, the entrance is at Meadow Gate. If you start from there, the Picture Gallery is located in the last quadrangle, known as Canterbury Quad, designed by the British architect James Wyatt (1746 - 1813). To visit the Picture Gallery without visiting the rest of the college, enter through Canterbury Gate off Oriel Square (from King Edward Street), only a couple of minutes walk from the High Street. The staff member(s) at the gate will direct you to the Picture Gallery. Open: JUL-SEP, daily, MON - SAT: 10.30 - 17.00, SUN: 14.00 - 17.00. OCT - MAY, closed Tuesdays, MON, WED - SAT: 10.30 - 13.00, 14.00 - 16.30, SUN: 14.00 - 16.30, JUN, closed Tuesdays, MON, WED - SAT: 10.30 - 17.00, SUN: 14.00 - 17.00. Prices: Adults - £4.00 Concessions - £2.00. The Picture Gallery is independent of the admission charge to the rest of the Christ Church College. Visitors who have bought a ticket to visit Christ Church are entitled to a 50% reduction of the Gallery ticket. Every Monday at 14.30 visitors can join a tour through the Gallery with tour guides. The Picture Gallery is especially strong on Italian art from the 14th to 18th centuries. The collection includes paintings by Annibale Carracci (The Butcher's Shop), Duccio, Fra Angelico, Hugo van der Goes, Giovanni di Paolo, Filippino Lippi (The Wounded Centaur), Sano di Pietro, Frans Hals, Salvator Rosa, Tintoretto, Anthony van Dyck and Paolo Veronese, and drawings by Leonardo de's Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Albrecht Dürer and Peter Paul Rubens and a great range of other artists, especially Italians:
Filippino Lippi's - The Wounded Centaur:
The Butcher's Shop by Annibale Carracci, c. 1580-1590:
Leonardo da Vinci - Grotesque Head:
Generally spoken, I think the Christ Church College is a VERY beautiful site and immaculately kept. Lovely British History and a wonderful sense of going back in time and seeing how it was once used in the past. Excellent experience with much to see and enjoy plus many photo opportunities.
If you have time a visit to the grounds is pleasant and is possible to as far as the river on accessible paths. The landscaped areas, actually, The Meadow (at the south of the Central Building), the War Memorial garden (at the west of the Central Building) - are an experience in its own. The exceptional conservation area (Grade 1 registration) extends to the east bank of the Cherwell river. The only disabled access is from St Aldate's, through the war memorial garden. Christ Church Meadow is a rare open space at the heart of Oxford, open to the public all year round. Though seemingly tranquil, the meadow is highly used as a site for sport, entertainment and recreation. During the Civil War it proved invaluable as a defense against the Parliamentarian forces. It was the location for some of the earliest balloon flights in England: in 1784 James Sadler, ‘the first English aeronaut’ rose from Christ Church meadow, landing six miles away after a half-hour flight. In May 1785 Sadler again ascended from the meadow, this time with the statesman William Windham as a passenger. The meadow is enclosed by the rivers Cherwell and Thames. The Thames is known as the Isis whilst flowing through the city. The Isis is home to the college boathouses where rowing teams gather to train and compete. Every summer the major intercollegiate regatta takes place (better known as Summer VIIIs) as it has done since the competition’s inauguration in 1815. Crews from across the university descend annually on the Cherwell to compete in a four-day competition. Fittingly, Christ Church has been the most successful men’s crew, with 32 victories:
The War Memorial Gardens, in memory of members of Christ Church, Oxford, is located east off St Aldate's at the western end of Broad Walk, which leads along the northern edge of Christ Church Meadows.
We leave the CCC and continue walking along the tarmac, the Broad Walk path, which separates the Christ Church College from The Meadow. Broad Walk is wide walkway running east-west on the north side of Christ Church Meadow and south of Merton Field. The walkway starts at St Aldate's Street though the Christ Church War Memorial Garden at the western end of the College premises. The River Cherwell is to the east at the southern end of the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens (see below):
You'll pass, on your left - the entrance way to Merton College. The tower of Merton College Chapel dominates the view north from Broad Walk across Merton Field, beyond Dead Man's Walk and the old city wall which run parallel to Broad Walk, connected via Merton Walk. Along the Broad Walk - there are fantastic views of Christ Church and the Cathedral. You can follow the Broad Walk over toward Merton College and head up the Merton Walk up to Merton Street, or remain on the Broad Walk all the way to the Oxford Botanic Gardens (if the route is not blocked):
Your way to the east might be blocked (due to reconstruction works). So, we return to the Christ Church College main entrance and start walking southward along a tarmac path which leads from the CCC southern gate to the Thames river. Opposite to the main entrance, the tree-lined Poplar Walk, (or New Walk) laid out in 1872 by Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, leads down (south) to the River Thames. It is a very pleasant walk until we reach the Thames river:
The Poplar Walk is, approx. 5-10 minutes walk from the north to the south. The large path meets the Thames river near Folly Bridge to the south. At this point, the river is known as "The Isis" and is the location of the end of rowing races for Oxford University events such as Eights Week in the summer and Torpids in the spring. Now, there are boathouses a little further down (more to the west) the Thames river meets with the River Cherwell.
The Poplar (New) Walk ends in the Thames river:
With our back to the Poplar Walk and our face to the Thames River (south) - we turn RIGHT (west) and walk along a (muddy) path (Christ Church Meadow Walk), on the Thames river bank, leading, back east to St. Aldate Street. After 5 minutes walk west along the Thames - we arrive to the Salters' family basin and boats' letting business and the 'Head of the River' pub and cafe':
From 'The Head of the River' pub - return to St. Aldate's Street and turn RIGHT, heading along the St. Aldate's back to the Carfax Square. You'll pass, on your right, the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments. Open: MON - FRI afternoons from 14.00 - 17.00 throughout the year. Closed: SAT-SUN and during the dates 19-31 AUG 2016. One of the largest collections of musical instruments in the world. The Bate has over 1000 instruments (mainly for Western classical music), on display, from the Renaissance, through the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and up to modern times. The collection is named after Philip Bate, who gave his collection of musical instruments to the University of Oxford in 1968 for teaching and academic uses only:
We continue walking northward, crossing the Carfax and continuing along the Cornmarket Street which starts as a pedestrians-only road. On our left the Mcdonald's restaurant. We cross the Broad Street (on our right) and George Street (on our left) and Cornmarket street continues as Magdalen Street with Hotel Randolph on our left. The Martyrs' Memorial, on our right, is a stone monument positioned at the intersection of St Giles', Magdalen Street and Beaumont Street, just outside Balliol College. It commemorates the 16th-century Oxford Martyrs - three Anglican bishops who were burned at the stake under Queen Mary in the 1550s: Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer. The actual site of the execution is close by in Broad Street, just outside the line of the old city walls. The site is marked by a cross sunk in the road. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the monument was completed in 1843. The inscription on the base of the Martyrs' Memorial reads: "To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI".
Behind the Memorial Monument is the Balliol College. Opposite, on our left is the Ashmolean Museum:
We turn left to Beaumont Street. We can visit the leading 5-star hotel in Oxford: the Macdonald Randolph Hotel. Hotel is full of old English charm. It is a landmark building with elegance and charm. The hotel has played host to prime ministers and presidents, and its renowned Morse Bar (just inside the front door) is instantly recognizable as the watering hole of the famous detective, Inspector Morse:
Now, turn to the next route for the rest of day (at least 3-4 hours) - the "Oxford - Day 1 - The Ashmolean Museum" blog.
El Ravel: Tip 2: from La Boqueria to Palau Güell:
Start: La Boquria End: Palau Güell.
Main Attractions: Parroquia Sant Pau del Camp, Teatre Tantarantana, Plaça del Pedró, El Gato de Botero, Filmoteca de Catalunya, Carrer d'en Robador, Església de Sant Agustí, Mosaic de Joan Miró o del Pla de l'Os, Palau Güell.
Our first destination (after leaving Mercado La Boqueria) is Parroquia Sant Pau del Camp in Carrer Sant Pau, 101. It is approx. 1 km. walk from La Boqueria. Turn right onto La Rambla. Continue to follow La Rambla 250 m and turn right (on the 4th road to the right) onto Carrer de Sant Pau. Go through 1 roundabout, 650 m. The Sant Pau del Camp is on your left. This small Romanesque church along the Carrer de Sant Pau is a haven of peace, away from the noise and bustle of Barcelona's Raval quarter. Its thick stone walls display the mysteries and wonders of a primitive architectural style steeped in symbolism which tells us about the past when convents dotted the Barcelona landscape. Sant Pau del Camp, commonly known as Saint Paul of the Countryside comprises an old church and an attached monastery. The ancient Romanesque church of Sant Pau del Camp usually holds claim to being the oldest standing church in the city of Barcelona, a title for which it competes with the Chapel of En Marcus and Sant Pere de les Puelles. The first documentary evidence of Sant Pau del Camp occurs in the 4th century, when a church dedicated to St. Paul is described as having coming within the newly expanded city walls. The term “camp” means “field”, indicating the fact that the site was originally set outside the city; a similar building title recording the original site of a congregation can be found in the example of London’s famous church of St.Martin-in-the-Fields. Something reasonably substantial was probably built on the site, since column capitals and other sculptural items from the Visigothic period (7th and 8th centuries) can be found in the facade and in odd corners of the present structure. OPening hours: MON - SAT: 10.00 - 13.30, 16.00 - 19.30. Prices: 3 euros, concessions (pensioners): 2 euros, student - 1 euro. Guided tours in Catalan (with reservations in advance) - Sundays - 12.45, FREE (no guided tours in the 2nd and 3rd Sundays of August):
In 1096 Catalan nobles Geribert Guitard and his wife Rotlendis offered the site to the Benedictine monks of the Monastery of Sant Cugat, in the northern suburbs of Barcelona. They, in turn, offered the site to the Pope, and in 1117 the monastery was re-founded as a dependent of Sant Cugat, as documented in a bull of Pope Urban II. Although the Pope ordered that the Bishop of Barcelona and members of the City Council look after the monks, in practice they were largely administered by the Benedictines in Sant Cugat. The cloister was completed about 100 years later, and outbuildings continued to be added as needed. By 1098, a local noble family of the Bell-Lloc region had completed the restoration of the church, and it was a Benedictine monastery by 1117. For many years the Catalan noble family of Bell-Lloc were the protectors of the monks, and their names appear in a number of the graves on the site. Construction on the new church probably began around 1127 and continued until the end of the 1200’s. In 1577 Pope Gregory XIII issued a bull ceding control over Sant Pau del Camp to the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat. This move proved to be unpopular with the resident monks, and so in 1593 this union was terminated. In 1616 the Monastery was united with the Monastery of Sant Pere de la Portella, which lay close to the Pyrenees, and apparently most of the Benedictines from Portella decided to leave the mountains and move down to better accommodations at Sant Pau del Camp. The 19th century essentially killed off the monastic community here, as it did in many other places in the city. In 1808 during the Napoleonic wars, Sant Pau del Camp was occupied and turned into a hospital, and later a barracks, which it remained until 1814. The monks returned briefly, but in 1820 the monastery was closed and the chapel became a parish church. Sant Pau del Camp continued to be simply a parish until 1828 when the monks again returned, only to be finally expelled in 1835. The chapel became a parish church again, and the rest of the complex was sold off as public property, with most of the buildings eventually being torn down. Fortunately, in 1896 the cloister was saved and re-integrated to the building. Like many others, the church was burned by the Socialists in 1905 and in 1936, but was subsequently restored and parish life restored.
Indeed, the monastery's church and cloister are in an extremely good state of repair. The simple structure, with its cross-shaped ground plan and three apses, has simple decorations along the top of the row of blind arches around the outside, which are underpinned by head-shaped reliefs. The main doorway of Sant Pau's church, with its round arch, beckons us inside this peaceful building. The principal door to the church is reached from the Carrer de Sant Pau. The door is flanked by two columns supporting the round arch. The decoration of the door complex is in the Visigothic tradition: two marble Visigothic capitals, presumably recovered from the older building, carry imposts with geometrical motifs. The facade carries the symbols of the four evangelists: at the base of the arch we find a lion (St Mark, on the left), an ox (St Luke) and above the arch, on the wall, a winged man (St Matthew) and an eagle (St John):
The monastery itself is so old that there are no accurate historical records that can confirm exactly when it was established, but experts are of the opinion that the monastery was formed in the 9th century. The first complex stood in its original form till the year 985, when the edifice was attacked and almost destroyed by Muslim soldiers, forcing the monks to abandon it. Several years later, in 1096, the structure underwent restoration and new monks arrived to take control of the order. Once again, it was attacked in 1114. In 1117, the monastery became the priory of Sant Cugat after which it underwent a second round of restorations. The building, as seen today, is adorned with scenes from the Bible, along with those of animal life, vegetable motifs, monsters and various scenes from life. if you look at the capitals you'll discover all kinds of geometrical, plant-like and fantastic motifs. Two of them are particularly eye-catching: Adam and Eve, standing next to the tree with the serpent, and a women being tormented by two toads which are devouring her breasts. The tympanum of the church has an image of Christ with Saint Paul and Saint Peter. The building has been declared a National Monument:
Hand of God:
Adam and Eve tempted by the Serpent (picture below, left side):
This small and intimate space in Barcelona's Raval takes us back to the past of Barcelona city's convent neighbourhood and, from the church, we come out into the Sant Pau del Camp's monastery splendid cloister with its polylobulate arches. Like a game of I-Spy, if you look at the capitals you'll discover all kinds of geometrical, plant-like and fantastic motifs. Two of them are particularly eye-catching: Adam and Eve, standing next to the tree with the serpent, and a women being tormented by two toads which are devouring her breasts. Time has certainly stood still at Sant Pau del Camp's church and monastery.
we come out into the Sant Pau del Camp's monastery splendid cloister with its polylobulate arches. Like a game of I-Spy, The cloister’s arches, unique throughout Europe, reflect a strong Muslim influence, playing with volumes and depths in Arabic style
The tombstone of the second count of Barcelona, Wifred II (897-911), son of Wifred the Hairy, was discovered in the monastery during sixteenth century restorations:
From Sant Pau del Camp head southwest on Carrer de Sant Pau toward Carrer de les Carretes, 180 m. Turn right onto Ronda de Sant Pau, 550 m. This is a pleasant tree-lined avenue.Here, you can make a short detour to the Teatre Tantarantana. From Ronda de Sant Pau turn right to Carrer de les Flors, 22 where the Teatre Tantarantana resides. A place of contemporary and alternative theatre productions. It is a rather small theatre in Barcelona. The Tantarantana Theatre now consists of more seats as well as a larger stage capacity for 125 spectators. The theatre basically displays experimental plays and contemporary works. The plays performed here are well appreciated and usually sold out. Other attractions include entertainment for children in the form of puppet shows and pantomimes. These shows are usually scheduled for early evenings in order to accommodate children and their parents. Tickets can be booked in advance, and one may be able to purchase them by contacting the theatre:
Turn right onto Carrer de Sant. Note the building #8 (on your left) in Carrer Antoni Abat:
Walking 110 m. further eastward along Carrer de Sant Antoni Abat will bring us to Plaça del Pedró. Two roads converge into Plaça del Pedró: Carrer del Carme, that leads to the Barcelona Cathedral and Betlehem Church and Carrer de l'Hospital that down to the medieval Sant Pau hospital and La Boqueria market: a clear choice between soul and body. Named for a stone pillar (pedró) marking the fork in the road, the square became a cherished landmark for Barcelona Christians after Santa Eulàlia, co-patron of Barcelona, was crucified here in the 4th century. As the story goes, an overnight snowfall covered her nakedness with snow. The present version of Eulàlia and the cross was sculpted by Barcelona artist Frederic Marès and erected in 1951:
The grandiose Sant Pau hospital is nearby. We ignore it at the moment and devote a whole blog (allow, at least, half a day) for this wonderful attraction.Our next destination is the most southern end of Rambla del Raval. This is the newest of Barcelona's Ramblas. It runs from Carrer Sant Pau to Carrer Hospital, and has become one of the meeting points for the communities of immigrants who live in this part of Barcelona. The construction of the avenue led to the demolition of a number of streets and insalubrious buildings. The street collaborates in the social integration of disadvantaged groups, and has also become a perfect public space for all kinds of cultural events. a broad avenue which attracts people from diverse social, cultural and geographical backgrounds. The inauguration of the Barcelo Raval new hotel in 2008, the opening of modern restaurants and the new Cinematheque (the Filmoteca) transformed the Rambla del Raval into one of the favourite streets among young locals and visitors who see how the district is changing day after day. Our stop is at the end of the avenue, the El Gato de Botero: an enormous Cat statue by Fernando Botero which looks on impassively with a smile on its face. It feels right at home here. Head northeast on Plaça del Pedró toward Carrer d'Erasme de Janer, 20 m. Turn right to stay on Plaça del Pedró, 30 m. Turn left onto Carrer de l'Hospital, 150 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Rambla del Raval and walk down further for 230 m. The El Gato de Botero is on the left. Fernando Botero's Cat was purchased by Barcelona City Council in 1987. From then until 2003 the cat wandered the city's streets in search of a permanent site. His first stop-off point was the Parc de la Ciutadella, near his fellow animals at Barcelona Zoo. Then he was taken to a site by the Olympic Stadium, and a few years later he was put in a little square behind Barcelona's medieval shipyards. Finally, in 2003, the decision was taken to move him to a permanent location at the end of the newly created Rambla del Raval:
Head northwest on Rambla del Raval toward Carrer Sant Antoni de Pàdua, 10 m. Turn right onto Carrer Sant Antoni de Pàdua, 40 m. Continue onto Carrer de Sant Josep Oriol, 80 m. Turn right onto Plaça de Salvador Seguí for 60 m. and the Filmoteca de Catalunya, Plaça de Salvador Seguí, 1-9 will be on the right. You can "catch" foreign-language films (translated into Catalan). Some of them are even FREE. In addition to two cinemas totalling 555 seats, the Filmoteca comprises a film library, a bookshop, a cafe, offices and a dedicated space for exhibitions. In 2012 the Filmoteca de Catalunya relocated to its current headquarters in El Raval:
Head BACK northwest on Plaça de Salvador Seguí toward Carrer de Sant Josep Oriol, 60 m. Turn right at Carrer de Sant Josep Oriol, 40 m. Turn left onto Carrer d'En Robador. Carrer d'en Robador is a dark narrow street in the heart of La Rambla. It was famous for being Barcelona's red light district in the past. Nowadays, it is much more conservative, but nevertheless, has preserved the atmosphere. There are many bars on this street:
Head northwest on Carrer d'En Robador toward Carrer de Sant Rafael, 130 m. Turn right onto Carrer de l'Hospital, 120 m. Turn right onto Plaça de Sant Agustí to see the The church of San Agustín (in Catalan , Església de Sant Agustí ,Plaza de San Agustín, 2). It is also called San Agustín Nuevo (in Catalan , Sant Agustí Nou ) to distinguish it from the church of the old convent of San Agustín , also sometimes called San Agustín Viejo (in Catalan , Sant Agustí Vell ). Popularly known also as the "Cathedral of the Poor". It is a single-nave church, very spacious, with side chapels, covered with a barrel vault with lunettes. The unfinished façade is the work of Pere Costa:
From here we move to our almost final destination in El Raval - Mosaic de Joan Miró o del Pla de l'Os, La Rambla. Head northeast on Plaça de Sant Agustí toward Carrer de l'Arc de Sant Agustí, 30 m. Turn left to stay on Plaça de Sant Agustí, 30 m. Turn right onto Carrer de l'Hospital, 110 m. Turn right onto La Rambla, 15 m. The Mosaic de Joan Miró o del Pla de l'Os is on the left. The mosaic is circular like the cosmos and its basic colours are: yellow, blue and red. Tens of thousands of people walk over Joan Miró's pavement mosaic in the centre of Barcelona's Rambla. It goes unnoticed by some, others stop to look at the characteristic colours used by the Barcelona-born artist. Joan Miro chose this spot, near his birth house in Barri Gothic, in 1976 and designed this wonderful, colorful mosaic in the pavement. This place is close to the Passatge del Crèdit, the exact place where he had been born 83 years earlier. His intention was for passers-by to walk over the mosaic, and he wasn't concerned about it getting damaged. However, over the years, the cobblestones deteriorated and the colours faded, and in 2006, the Barcelona City Council decided to restore this Joan Miró's milestone to mark its 30th anniversary:
Now, we move to our last final attraction in El Ravel - Palau Güell. From Mosaic de Joan Miró o del Pla de l'Os, La Rambla, head southeast down along La Rambla toward Carrer de Sant Pau, 220 m. Turn right onto Carrer Nou de la Rambla, walk 70 m. and Güell, Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5 Palau Güell will be on the left.
Note: you may arrive to the palace at the late afternoon hours. Be in-sync with the following opening hours. Summer opening hours (1st April to 31th October): 10.00 - 20.00. Winter opening hours (1st November to 31th March): 10.00 - 17.30 pm. Closed: Mondays, except public holidays, 25th and 26th December, 1st January and Third week of January (for maintenance). Prices: GENERAL - €12, CONCESSIONS - €9, FREE - Children under 10 years of age. The audio tour is included in your entry fee. They do have 'free tour days' during the week, so check with them ahead of time to avoid paying the entrance fee. Public Transport: On the metro: The closest metro station is Liceu, line 3. By bus: Numbers: V13, 59, 91, 120 and Barcelona Bus Turístic Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona. On the FGC local railway: The following Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) lines go to Plaça Catalunya (Catalunya station): L6, L7, S1, S2, S5, S55. There is no food or drink sold inside. Opposite the ticket office in the street you can find a supermarket to get a bottle before you enter. Toilets - in the entrance.
There's little place to seat and relax inside but at the very entrance. If you come from a long walk - rest before the visit. This old house is 5 or 6 stories high with lots of stairs to climb. It's not an enjoyable place to visit if you have problems walking or in a wheelchair.
Palau Güell (1886-1890) is a magnificent example of domestic architecture in the context of Art Nouveau. "Palau Guell" was built between 1886 and 1888 by the Catalan architect Antoni.Gaudi for the Industrial tycoon Eusebi.Guell. It was the home of the Güell i López family until they moved to Park Güell. Palau Güell was one of the first important commissions Antoni Gaudí received at the start of his career. Eusebi Güell (industrialist, politician and patron of the arts) wanted Gaudí to build him this peculiar urban palace as an extension of the family home on La Rambla. This casa was the first commission that Gaudi undertook for Guell. Gaudí designed a functional palace adapted to the family's needs in both their private life and the intense cultural and social life they led. A lot of his early architectural ideas are incorporated in this home. The building is noteworthy for its innovative conception of space and light. In building Palau Güell Gaudí used a variety of solutions based on very personal approaches and created exceptional expressive forms, the fruit of his imagination, using noble traditional materials (stone, wood, wrought iron, pottery, glass, etc.). It is a wonder that Guell did not live here for many years. It was declared a historical-artistic monument by the Spanish Government (in 1969), Cultural Asset of National Interest by the Catalan Government and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (in 1984). As an early work, the building contains the essence of Gaudí's later works and is fundamental to understanding his architecture. We found this building a great surprise and found it very interesting. We think it was also the most reasonably priced attraction in BCN and in our opinion well worth the money. Directions are easy to follow. Allow, easily, 1-1.5 hours admiring every detail. The house is quite spectacular inside but it’s the colourful and interesting chimneys on the roof that made it for me. Every room has different architecture, different types of walls and ceiling and lighting. The woodwork everywhere throughout the building is incredible. The organ in the main lobby is played each half hour. Unfortunately, the outside appearance is not something special. So, if you are not planning to visit it inside then there is no reason to go and see it from outside:
Basically I'll give only an outline on what to see in each city, places to say and costs. The method of this trip is to go where your feet take you... You'll reach where you need to.
Generally speaking, the cities are divided into the old city surrounded by a wall (the 'state') and the city outside the wall. Most of the action occurs inside the the walled city.
In every Riad we visited, we received a very user-friendly map with all the sightseeing in the city.
Day 6 – Spending the night at Adrian and Lucia’s
We had breakfast on the balcony with the view and left at 8:00 to Dubrovnik. It was early so we managed to find a parking space in the lower level of the city. The moment we got out of the car we absorbed the ambiance of the place. There was a man playing an instrument, another man performing his mime act, and lots of tourists everywhere. Later in the evening we learned actor, Roger Moore was in town, so maybe that was the reason for the public gathering. We were enchanted by the walls of the city.
After lunch we skipped with the car to a parking lot closer to the old city and conquered it within 2 hours of walking. Carrera pedestrian mall, the market, the promenade, we loved it all. From there we continued in the direction of Poreč. On our way out from the city we got a bit lost after receiving the wrong directions.
Cusco was the most important city in the Empire, and the place of residence of the elite. The city was organized around a central plaza where the roads lead to the four provincial governments.
Important architecture in Cusco includes palaces and schools that were built for the elite, temples such as Coricancha, or temple of the Sun, and a very important network of roads.
"…As soon as we landed in Sydney, we fell in love with the city.
“Our” Sydney is the charming botanical gardens, the beach, the opera house, Circular Quay, The Rocks, Taronga Zoo, The Harbor Bridge, strolling around in the shops before Christmas, the NSW gallery, Sydney Tower, Paddington’s market, cheap backpackers, and Kings Cross".
We felt like going back to the islands as we felt we had missed some of it during our previous tour. We arrived to the islands quickly; exploring some shops, and continuing to the Latin square. The streets and alleys were full of people, the restaurants were open and the shops were lovely. We just randomly walked around, to smell, see, and watch, until we became tired. We looked for an ATM to withdraw some cash, and also for something to eat. We checked both tasks and it was already evening, and it's time to go back to our apartment.