To Russia with Love: St. Petersburg Metro

by Chris on March 26, 2012

Riding the subway might not be a normal tourist activity. But in the St. Petersburg Metro, where stations such as Kirovsky Zavod and Avtovo boast original examples of Stalinist-era art and architecture, you wouldn’t want to miss it.

This is second in my series on things to do in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Avtovo, St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

One of the most interesting things I saw in my few brief days in Russia were the elaborate St. Petersburg Metro stations, decked out with marble, chandeliers and Soviet-era art.

Avtovo, St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

Plans for an underground had been in place in the Soviet Union before World War II, but it wasn’t until after the war, during the years known as the Khruschev Thaw, that the subway became a reality. Although life in the Soviet Union became slightly less repressive during this time (roughly mid-1950s to early 1960s), Communist ideals were still firmly in place. The Metros in both Moscow and St. Petersburg (then Leningard) were designed as “palaces of the people,” places that would honor going to and from work.

Kirovsky Zavod, St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

The St. Petersburg Metro is still one of the most used subway systems in the world, and one of the deepest. It may also be one of the cleanest that I’ve ever seen; as you can see from the photos, the stations are kept immaculate. There’s no garbage or graffiti marring the walls or floors.

Kirovsky Zavod, St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

The artwork and detailing in some of the older subway stations was still made in the elaborate Stalinist architecture style (which Khruschev later denounced as excess). At Kirovsky Zavod station, which opened in November 1955, the  column tops highlight different Soviet industries. The station was named for the Kirov machinery plant, which is nearby.

Kirovsky Zavod station, St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

There’s also statue of Lenin at the end.

St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

On our city tour, our guide Olga took us to Line 1, where we rode the subway from Kirovsky Zavod to Avtovo, another one of the original stations opened in 1955. The riders on the subway seemed as commuters would anywhere, although the atmosphere was decidedly quieter than what you might see in New York or Chicago.

To get to Line 1 from the historic center, take Line 2 from Nevsky Prospekt two stops to Technologichesky Institut. From there, transfer to Line 1 toward Prospekt veteranov. The three most elaborate stations – Narvskaya, Kirovsky Zavod and Avtovo – are all in a row. It should cost you 20 rubles each way (about 70 cents).

Avtovo station is considered a shallow station, but it’s still quite gorgeous, with huge chandeliers, white marble and  a mosaic dedicated to the Leningrad Blockade. The entrance features a neoclassical cupola.

Avtovo, St. Petersburg Metro, Russia

While riding the subway isn’t a normal tourist activity, I appreciated having this glimpse into daily Russian life and learning about the history that influenced it. If you have a few days in St. Petersburg, it’s definitely worth a look. I’ve heard that some of the ones in Moscow are equally grand.

My trip to St. Petersburg was sponsored by The Eurail Group, but my opinions are my own. 

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lane March 26, 2012 at 6:44 am

Dear New York, Please take a lesson. Thanks, Me


Alexa Meisler March 26, 2012 at 10:34 am

This subway looks like a museum. It’s gorgeous! It’s sad to know that’s it is rare to find train stations this clean anywhere in the world. Which makes this subway and a must see and must use! Thanks for sharing. Great shots!


Laura March 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Oh, another great treat about gorgeous St. Petersburg. Thank you.


Gorilla Safaris Uganda March 27, 2012 at 10:36 am

This place totally amazes me. I wish i could travel like you Chris. I once had a job that helped me travel to many places around the globe but never got to visit this awesome location – St Petersburg. Hopefully some day i will. My adventure instincts are still much alive….


Andrey March 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm

//I’ve heard that some of the ones in Moscow are equally grand

Moscow Metro is even more amazing than Spb one!!!


Chris March 30, 2012 at 7:30 am

I’ve heard that. I would love to go to Moscow and check them out.


The GypsyNesters April 3, 2012 at 7:12 am

We are huge subway fans! We love cities that give each station character and, as you say, subway tourism is not normal, but we do it all the time. Though we have to say the “palaces of the people” bit creeped us out a bit. -David and Veronica


cheryl April 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

The subway stations are gorgeous. I never would have thought they’d incorporate such beauty!


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