The Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya krepost) stands on its own small island in the River Neva, separated from the north bank by a channel about 70 meters wide.
The fortress was founded by Peter the Great in 1703, just before the building of the city began. But despite its sold walls, it has never protected St Petersburg from anything except dissent.
It served as a prison and place of execution during the time of the Tsars, and many free-thinkers spent time in the grim cells of the Trubetskoi Bastion. One of the most famous was Fyodor Dostoevsky, author of "Crime and Punishment".
In its middle stands the gleaming gilded spire of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. All the Tsars of Russia from Peter I to Alexander III are buried here.
The last of the Romanov dynasty, ill-fated Nikolai II, was also reburied here in 1998. He had been shot 80 years earlier at the order of the leader of the October Revolution, Vladimir Lenin.
Just across the water is the Strelka, one of St. Petersburg’s most beautiful spots. Strelka means arrow, which refers to the shape of the end of Basil Island, where the River Neva divides into the Greater and Lesser Nevas.It offers spectacular views of the Winter Palace.
In the middle of the Strelka is the old St Petersburg Stock Exchange, now used as a naval museum.
On either side are 32-metre Rostral Columns, from which the bows of ships project. The imagery comes from ancient Greece, where captured enemy ships were important trophies.
This tip of land is a favourite spot for newly-weds to come and be photographed, no matter how cold and wet the weather.