St Petersburg is the most European of Russian cities, imbued with elegance, glamour, and the lingering romance associated with the Romanovs, Russia's last reigning royal family. The rarefied atmosphere emanates from the neoclassical and baroque Italianate buildings that line the graceful streets and canals – it's hard to imagine the swamp that existed here before. It also emanates from the high culture here - from the incomparable Bolshoi Ballet to the vast riches of the Hermitage museum, one of the world's best and biggest, overflowing with great art and relics of Russia's rich past.
St Petersburg has always been rich in ideas - its citizens sparked off the Russian Revolution, the most sophisticated, gilded city in all Russia bequeathing upon the country decades of communist control. But the bohemians have always been here, and remain today, hence the preponderance of performance art and art galleries.
And they know how to party in St Petersburg, with everyone coming out to play during the magical White Nights of the summer, when the sun never sets. International stars of ballet and opera flock to the city during the White Nights festival, to perform at the Mariinsky Concert Hall, while musicians and street performers aplenty flock to the banks of the mighty Neva river where revellers drink, dance and picnic while watching fireworks and the ships go past as the bridges on the river are raised.
There's entertainment to be had all year round in this cultured city - with so much to see, from the famous Bronze Horseman statue, to the Winter Palace, the Peter and Paul fortress, St Isaac's Cathedral, the homes of Pushkin and Dostoyevsky, and a trip by hydrofoil to Peterhof Palace, designed to rival Versailles, and sitting pretty in extravagantly designed gardens that slope down to the waterfront.
Getting here from Moscow can be romantic too, although the overnight train is not quite as charming as that depicted in Anna Karenina, arriving in the early morning light and setting off down the famous Nevsky Prospect is thrilling. As is an alternative option, the delightful river cruise route between the two cities.