Founded by Peter I in 1703, this beautiful city became the designated capital of Imperial Russia from 1712 to 1914. St. Petersburg was a gateway to the West and a distinctly European metropolis with Baroque and neo-classical mansions. The second-largest city in Russia and the country’s principal seaport, St. Petersburg boasts some of the world’s finest art museums, opulent palaces and one of the world’s most talented ballet companies. Many monuments and palaces in and around St. Petersburg are being carefully restored; they represent an important facet of the country’s rich historical and cultural heritage. Some of the world’s most magnificent art treasures are housed in the famous Hermitage; several other museums boast fine collections by Russian and international artists. Strolling down Nevsky Prospect, you will realize the pride of St. Petersburg’s stoic citizens as the former glamour and opulence of its stately buildings begin to emerge once again.