Peter the Great designed St. Petersburg as Amsterdam and Venice, with canals instead of streets. About ten bridges were originally built in the city, mainly through ditches and small rivers. Peter’s idea was that in the summer months the townspeople had to move by boat, and during the winter months, when the water froze – on sledges. But after Peter’s death, the construction of bridges continued, and the residents of St. Petersburg chose to move around the city on foot or in horse-drawn carriages.
Temporary pontoon bridges were used in the summer. The first permanent bridge of brick and stone across the Neva was built in 1850.
There are many rivers, canals and lakes within the boundaries of the modern city. 342 bridges are thrown through them. Some of them are small pedestrian bridges, others are huge transport arteries. There are bridges made in different styles with decorations such as lanterns, statues, horses, lions, sphinxes and gryphons. Thanks to the complex network of canals, St. Petersburg is often called the “Venice of the North”.
There are18 drawbridges in St. Petersburg. Most of them open on the schedule every night during the navigation period from April to November. Other bridges are moved by upon preliminary application for the passage of small vessels.
The drawbridges have become a popular attraction. The main tourist route includes 6 of them.
The first permanent bridge across the Neva with a unique cast-iron railing, decorated with hippocampus – mythological creatures with the upper body of a horse with the lower body of a fish.
St. Petersburg was treated with temporary wooden crossings for a long time. Permanent metal bridges began to be built only in the middle of the XIX century. The Russian engineer Stanislaw Kierbedz drafted a project for crossing the cast-iron arches across the Bolshaya Neva to Vasilyevsky Island in 1842. On January 1, 1843, a new bridge was laid.
All work should have been completed in 4 years, but in practice, the deadline was twice as long. The grand opening of the bridge took place only in 1850.
The Annunciation Bridge was the longest in Europe at that time. Its length was about 300 meters
In the early 20th century, the bridge needed a reconstruction. It became too narrow for large ocean vessels. But the First World War and the Russian Revolution of 1917 prevented this plan. The bridge was rebuilt only in the 30s.
The double-leafed bridge is considered one of the most complex structures in the world. Its construction began in 1911. The opening of the bridge was planned in three years, but the severe flood in 1914 prevented this. The bridge was completed only in late 1916. Because of the First World War, it was completed without architectural decoration. Railings and lights appeared in the 30s of the 20th century.
During the Second World War, an aerial bomb exploded near one of the pillars and led to great destruction. The bridge acquired its present appearance only in 1978.
Palace Bridge moves about 300 times a year. Under its wings passes Over 25 ships passes under its wings during the night.
The bridge turns into a huge open-air cinema during the summer film festivals nowadays. The wing of the drawn Palace Bridge from the side of the Hermitage plays the role of a screen of more than 400 square meters.
The moveable mechanism of the Exchange Bridge has no analogues in the world: at the beginning of the raising, the bridge opens to 15 centimetres and the wings roll away from each other. The centre of gravity of the wing is changed, which greatly facilitates the raising.
The Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange, where the Neva is divided into two parts, Bolshaya and Malaya, had been used as a marina of the Trade Port since the time of Peter the Great. Therefore, the first wooden bridge appeared in this place only in 1894.
After the Second World War, the Birzhevoy bridge was rebuilt. The permanent span structures became metal, while the supports and the roadway remained wooden. In 1957, the bridge was severely damaged by ice drift. A new one was built three years later. Its axis was moved to 70 meters downstream of the Malaya Neva.
The tridents of the Roman god Neptune are depicted on cast-iron gratings of the railing. They emphasize the status of St. Petersburg as the sea capital of Russia. The most impressive panorama of the Neva, the Palace Embankment and the Peter and Paul Fortress opens from the Birzhevoy bridge. This is one of the most beautiful views of the city.
The Trinity Bridge is decorated with granite obelisks adorned with double-headed eagles and bronze rostra – the nasal figures of ships. The pedestals of the columns are made of pink granite; the obelisks are made of red polished granite. A cast-iron railing fence of artistic casting is installed on the permanent spans, metal bars on the adjustable span.
In the 1890s, the authorities of St. Petersburg decided to build a permanent crossing over the Neva and announced an international competition. The famous company of Alexander Eiffel, that built the Eiffel Tower in Paris was among the participants. But the best project was recognized by the French Société de Construction des Batignolles. This company proposed a new technology that reduced metal consumption.
Trinity Bridge is surrounded by legends. According to one of them, the famous pilot Valery Chkalov, in order to win the heart of his bride, made a daring flight under the bridge, almost touching the water with the wheels. This story described in the film “Valery Chkalov.” During the film shooting in 1940, stunt pilot Yevgeny Borisenko flew under the bridge six times.
Troitsky is the only bridge in St. Petersburg that is opened during the Scarlet Sails Show. The sailboat, a symbol of a festive evening, has slowly entered the bridge span since 2005.
Liteyny is the second permanent bridge built in St. Petersburg. Even before the foundation of the city, there was a ferry, connecting the left bank of the Neva with the right bank at this place. In April 1865, the floating ferry was broken off after stormy freezing. A decision to build a new bridge between Liteyny Prospect and the Vyborg side was made in 1869.
17 projects were submitted for the projects competition. The first place was given to a British company in December 1872 but the Ministry of Railways didn’t agree with this choice. As a result, the engineer A. Struve and A. Weis won. The laying of the new bridge took place on the 30th of August, 1875.
The Liteyney Bridge became one of the most modern engineering structures at that time. It was the first permanent bridge in the world that was lit by electricity. There were installed lights with electric “candles” – the invention of Russian engineer Pavel Yablochkov.
An air bomb hit one of the spans but didn’t explode during the Second World War. It only pierced the bridge.
In September 1901, the city authorities announced an international competition for the design of a new bridge across the Neva. 16 engineers’ works from Russia, France, Germany, USA, Holland, Austria-Hungary were submitted for the competition. All projects were rejected for various reasons.
As a result, the out-of-competition Professor of Academy of Engineering Grigory Krivoshein and military engineer Vladimir Apyshkov’s project was accepted. The authors proposed to arrange a movable span in the middle of the bed of the Neva and hang the roadway to the bottom of the bridge arches.
The crossing was opened on October 26, 1911, some construction work had been continuing until 1913. The bridge became the first construction on the Neva, which provided the greatest convenience for navigation. The lateral spans at that time were the longest in the city. The bridge is decorated with granite beacons that illuminate the ships at night approaching it.
Bolsheokhtinsky bridge celebrated its centenary in 2011. In October-November of the anniversary year, the left-bank tower of the bridge was opened to visitors for two weeks for the first time.
Drawbridges Opening Time 2020
|Annunciation Bridge||1:25 a.m.- 2:45 a.m.|
3:10 a.m. – 5:00 a.m.
|Palace Bridge||1:10 a.m. – 2:50 a.m.|
3:10 a.m. – 4:55 a.m.
|Birzhevoy Bridge||2:00 a.m. – 4:55 a.m.|
|Trinity Bridge||1:20 a.m. – 4:50 a.m.|
|Liteyny Bridge||1:40 a.m. – 4:45 a.m.|
|Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge||2:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m.|
Where to watch for the drawbridges
From the boat
The best place for a view is considered to be the deck of a small boat, for example, a small craft or a boat. You can also book a night boat tour. During the trip, you can dine or listen to a musical concert. Such excursions start mainly after midnight and last about 1.5 – 2 hours, so it is better to take care of how to get to the hotel in advance when the walk comes to an end. You should get dressed the warm clothes: even on the majority of ships have blankets; it can be quite cold at night.
From the roof
You can also watch for bridges from the roof. The advantage of this option is height: you will be quite high above the ground, and you will be able to see not only drawbridges but also most of the city, decorated with lights. The duration of the event is 1-1.5 hours, which starts after midnight.
Private car tour
The private car tour runs along the embankments of the Neva, includes several stops specifically for watching for the bridges. The trip starts from the Blagoveshchensky bridge and ends at Bolsheokhtinsky. During the Drawbridges night tour, you can see not only the bridges but also appreciate the beauty of the night St Petersburg.
From the land
An alternative can be embankments: Palace, Admiralty and Universitetskaya. It is better to come there in advance, at least 30-40 minutes before the start of the presentation, otherwise, a good place with a good overview will not be found.
Many bridges over the rivers and canals of St. Petersburg are recognized architectural monuments. Most of them were built in the 18th century. Several bridges retained their original appearance.
The modern Anichkov bridge was built in 1841 on the site of an old wooden crossing. An iron fence of highly artistic casting with images of mermaids and mythological sea-horses with fish tails was installed on the stone bridge. Four Peter Klodt’s art groups of “The Horse Tamers” were installed on the granite monumental pedestals and abutments of the bridge in the years 1841-1850.
Horse statues that “look” in the direction of the Admiralty, have horseshoes on their hooves, while statues of horses that face in the direction of Vosstaniya Square don’t have them. A common legend explains this by the fact that in the 18th-century foundry shops and forges were located on Liteyny Prospect. Therefore, the shod horses “walk” from the forges to the beginning of the avenue, and the uncombed horses, on the contrary, face in the direction of Liteyny Prospect.
The sculptural groups of horses were removed from their pedestals and buried in Anichkov Garden during the Second World War. On May 1, 1945, sculptural groups were re-installed on the pedestals of the bridge.
Bank Bridge is an outstanding architectural monument of the first quarter of the XIX century. One of the three remaining pedestrian chain bridges in St. Petersburg and one of the six hanging bridges built in 1823-1826.
Angular sculptures of winged lions brought special fame to the Bank bridge. Figures were cast from iron; wings were chased from copper sheet and covered with gold leaf.
The Egyptian bridge is located on the site where the first chain bridge was located across the Fontanka River. It was built in the 20s of the 19th century. The project was designed by Wilhelm von Traitteur. The bridge architecture reflected an increased interest in the art of ancient Egypt, which was characteristic of the 19th century. Portals, columns, as well as the eaves and other parts, were decorated with ornaments made of hieroglyphs, and cast-iron figures of sphinxes were installed on both sides of the bridge at the entrances.
Egyptian Chain Bridge collapsed in 1905. Sphynxes that decorated the new bridge, built only in 1955, have survived. Obelisks, serving as floor lamps for hexagon lanterns are installed on the granite pedestals of the Egyptian bridge. They are decorated with gilded symbols of the sun god Ra.
Bridge of Four Lions
The Lion Bridge another remaining pedestrian chain bridge in St. Petersburg. It is decorated with figures of lions, which in fact are not only decorative elements. They hide the cast-iron supports of the bridge. The sculpture was supposed to be minted from copper sheets, but then the figures were cast from cast iron.
A small copy of the Bridge of Four Lions was built by Borsig company by the project of the German architect L. F. Hesse on the territory of the Berlin Park Big Tiergarten in 1838
The Lomonosov Bridge is the only bridge across the Fontanka, built according to F-R. Perron’s the standard project, which managed to keep its architectural appearance almost unchanged for 130 years.
The bridge was built at the request of Catherine the Great and was first called Ekaterininsky, then renamed to Chernyshev in honour of Count G. P. Chernyshev. Today it bears the name of the great Russian scientist M. V. Lomonosov.
In the middle of the XIX century, due to the increased movement of urban transport, stone bridges of the tower type: Simeonovsky, Anichkov, Semenovsky, Obukhovsky, Izmailovsky began to rebuild with the demolition of the towers and the replacement of lifting spans with permanent ones. Chernyshev Bridge – the only one which stood unchanged for over a hundred years.
Tower superstructures of the bridge are made in the form of open arbours. There are four granite obelisks with faceted lanterns supported by brackets with gilded figures of sea-horses at the entrances to the Lomonosov bridge.
The bridge suffered from artillery shelling during the Siege of Leningrad: all the iron railings were ruined, granite parapets were dropped, granite lanterns-obelisks were destroyed.