St Petersburg, whose historic centre is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, is affectionately referred to by locals as the gorod muzei or city museum; and with good reason.
The former capital of a vast empire which once reached from the Barents Sea to the Silk Road and from Central Europe to the Pacific Ocean, St Petersburg is brimming with the history and turmoil that is so beautifully-documented in some 200 museums dotted in and around the city.
The most famous is surely the Hermitage Museum. With more than 1,000 rooms playing host to one of the world's greatest collections of Western European art - some 14 million items in all – it also enfolds the Winter Palace, formerly the residence of the Russian Czars, later ransacked by Bolsheviks.
For a true picture of the life and culture of Russia’s 100 ethnic groups, a trip to the widely-acclaimed Russian Ethnographic Museum will be a must, as will the Kunstkamera, founded by Peter the Great in 1727 as Russia’s first museum and now showcasing curios from around the globe.