Journey to the Past: Anastasia’s St. Petersburg


Before our 2 days in St. Petersburg, Russia, we watched Fox Animation Studios’ movie, “Anastasia” – one of our favorites growing up! I recently watched the movie again and recognized many of the places we saw in St. Petersburg and while many parts of Anastasia’s story weren’t exactly historically accurate in the movie, many of the places were!

First some background information: “Anastasia” is the tale of Anastasia Romanov. The Romanovs were the Royal family of Russia (aka the Tsars) who ruled from 1613-1917. Their reign was ended with the Russian Revolution when the Bolshevik Red Army executed the Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina and their 5 children. When the bodies were later recovered not all of them were found, supporting rumors that the youngest daughter, Anastasia, survived. The rumors were later proved false by DNA evidence but the movie plays on the idea that Princess Anastasia survived.

The movie begins in Catherine Palace and later this is where Anya (aka Anastasia), Vlad, and Dimtri meet (as confirmed by the passerby that Anya asks for directions)!  The palace was one of the summer homes of the Romanov family, initially commissioned by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine I. The initial modest planned 2 story residence was transformed into the grandeur that it became thanks to their daughter Elizabeth.'s Palace

Walking into the Grand Hall, it is easy to imagine the extravagant balls that were held here, just like the one at the beginning of the movie. Decorated in the Baroque style, there is gold plating everywhere you look and the room spans the width of the palace with large windows and mirrors lining the walls on both sides. This layout of mirrors and windows makes the ballroom appear even larger than it already is!

Full of tourists instead of dancers!

At the very beginning of the song “Learn to Do It”Anya learns she was born in “a palace by the sea”, which you later find out is the Peterhof Palace. Named after Peter the Great, the Peterhof Palace sits along to the Gulf of Finland with a canal leading all the way to the rear of the palace. The end of the canal is home to many gold plated statues and fountains known as the Grand Cascade.

The last building that caught my attention during the movie was only shown in a pan of St. Petersburg. Within the cityscape you can make out the unique top of the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. The church stands on the spot of Russian Emperor Alexander II’s assassination in 1881. According to our tour guide this was what Russia considers to be its first act of terrorism. Unlike most cathedrals, no traditional church services were or are held in this church; the only ceremonies that happen in this cathedral are weekly remembrances for Alexander II and sermon readings.


I have always loved the movie Anastasia and it was so neat to see some of the places from the movie in real life! And it was great to learn the true history behind the different buildings in St. Petersburg that are shown or referenced in the movie. Keep an eye out for some of these landmarks next time you watch it….it’s on Netflix now, what are you waiting for?!

*Please note all screenshots from Fox Animation Studios’ ‘Anastasia’ were found here*

A Russian Grocery Store

Two summers ago, our family went on a 9-day cruise on the Baltic Sea, stopping in 6 different cities. As cruises tend to go, we were only able to spend a day in most of the cities, so this series of posts is all about how we tried to make the most of the short time we had in each one!

During our short time in St Petersburg, Russia we made a quick stop at a grocery store. It was our mom’s idea, and initially you might wonder why in the world would they do that??  But what better way to get a peak into every day life than checking out a local grocery store? And we had a blast exploring it!


At first glance, once you get inside, it looks a lot like a supermarket in the U.S., but we had so much fun going around and seeing the different departments and noticing differences from what we’re used to!


Our favorite was the dessert section, specifically the ice cream! Our favorite find was the tubes of ice cream, just like the tubes of cookie dough we have in the States.

It was also fun recognizing brands that we have in the US but seeing the labels with writing in another language, another alphabet! We spotted Lays potato chips and had fun trying to figure out the flavors by the pictures since we couldn’t read the language. We also found treats and juices with Disney Princess and Cars characters on them. We even found different types of “kid wine” aka sparkling juices, another fun find!


Our tour guide and the locals were definitely getting a kick out of how fascinated we were by everything, its all normal to them! While we learned a lot about the history of St. Petersburg at all of the tourist attractions we visited on our two days in the city, this quick grocery store visit gave us a little peak into everyday life here.

St. Petersburg, Russia, Day 1

 Two summers ago, our family went on a 9-day cruise on the Baltic Sea, stopping in 6 different cities. As cruises tend to go, we were only able to spend a day in most of the cities, so this series of posts is all about how we tried to make the most of the short time we had in each one!

The next city we visited on our cruise was St. Petersburg, Russia, and it was the only city that we had two days in! Unlike the rest of the cities, we didn’t have the option of exploring the city on our own – we had to get a two-day visa before our trip and have an official tour booked (either with the cruise line or otherwise) to get through customs into the country. Like we did in Berlin, we opted not to do the ship’s tour and found another tour that we booked before we left home.

Our tour guide picked us up in the morning and we began our day by heading out of St. Petersburg to Peterhof, about 19 miles outside of the city. Peterhof was the official summer residence of the Russian Tsars, often called the “Russian Versailles.” We first took a tour of the Grand Palace (sadly they don’t allow photography inside).


Next we went out back to see the Grand Cascade, the most impressive of the many fountains at Peterhof, and walked through the lower gardens.

Through the gardens and past even more fountains, we ended our tour of Peterhof by boarding a Hydrofoil boat! We took it across the Gulf of Finland back into St. Petersburg where it dropped us off right by the Winter Palace.

Hydrofoil boat in front of the Winter Palace

Before actually visiting the Hermitage, we went to the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood. It was built in the colorful traditional Russian style in the early 1900s on the spot where Russian Emperor Alexander II was assassinated.


Then we went to the Winter Palace, which was once the Russian tsars’ winter residence and is now the main building of the Hermitage Art Museum. We walked through some of the living halls of the palace and saw artwork by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo among many others (all but one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as Kathryn pointed out!).


DSCN2150_2     Hermitage

After our visit to the Hermitage, we made our way back to the cruise ship for the night. Stay tuned for St. Petersburg Day 2!