This is second in my series on things to do in St. Petersburg, 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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s also statue of Lenin at the end.
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.
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.