- The Rostral Columns
Vasilievsky Island is connected to the historic heart of St. Petersburg by Palace Bridge. The main attraction of the island is the ‘strelka’ (spit) which has brilliant views of Peter and Paul Fortress, the Hermitage and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The Rostral columns can be seen from the other side of the embankment and were originally lighthouses for the port. The sculptures decorating the columns are considered to be embodiments of four key Russian rivers: the Volga, Dnepr, Neva and Volkhov. Until the mid-19th Century, Vasilievsky spit was in fact a trading port. With the passing of time, the buildings of the ensemble, designed by Jean Baptiste Toma de Tomon at the beginning of the 19th Century, found themselves occupied by predominantly cultural institutions.
At the centre of the ensemble, recalling ancient temples, is the building of the Stock Exchange (1810). Today, it is home to the Naval Museum. There are several other museums on this small island including the Kunstkammer. The oldest museum in St. Petersburg and often referred to as the Ethnographical and Anthropological Museum, includes many oddities and is not one for the fainthearted! Other museums include the Zoological and Soil Science museums, Pushkin House and Mikhail Lomonosov Memorial Museum. Along University Embankment, as well as the Kunstkammer, are the buildings of the Saint Petersburg State University. The Twelve Colleges are now all part of the university but were originally built for the government ministries.