The Peter and Paul Fortress (Petropalovskaia Krepost) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, was Peter the Great's answer to possible attack from the Swedish army. When he reclaimed the lands on the banks of the Neva River, he had the fortress built on Hare Island (Zayachii Ostrov), an island in the Neva. Workmen labored overtime to finish the fortress because they expected an impending attack from the Swedes. The attack never came since the Swedes were defeated even before the fortress was completed. However, the foundation of the fortress (on May 1703) also resulted in the birth of St. Petersburg. In fact, the fortress was the first major structure of the city.
The fortress was designed by Domenico Trezzini, while construction of the six bastions at the fort was supervised by Peter the Great's close friends and were named after them – Peter, Mensikov, Zotov, Trubetskoy, Folovin and Naryshin.
You can enter the fortress through the John Gate (Ioanovskie Vorota), while prisoners entered the fortress through the Neva Gate (Nevski Vorota). The fortress served as a portion of St. Petersburg's garrison and jail for political and high profile prisoners. As part of the tour, you can visit the jail cells of prominent personalities such as Alexei (Peter the Great's son), Trotsky, Dostoyevsky, Gorkiy and Alexander (Lenin's older brother). Alexei was the first to be tortured and killed in the fortress. The security is so tight that no prisoner has escaped from the jail. A visit to a cell would reveal a bed, stool and table. It also featured a 'Dance Floor' which was a place for torturing the prisoners' feet.
Another interesting historic fact is that it was used against the Tsar himself when the Bolshevik demonstrators took over the fortress. They attacked the Winter Palace, which was right across the Neva River.
The fortress also houses the imposing Peter and Paul Cathedral. This is the site where Russian Emperors and Empresses and their families were buried, beginning from Peter the Great to Alexander III, with the exceptions of Peter II and Ivan VI. The remains of Nicholas II and his family, including that of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, were also buried there. Of particular interest are Alexander II's and his wife's gravestones. These were carved from whole slabs of marble and the lids have a gold coated cross. The cathedral's main attraction is a weathervane depicting a golden angel with a cross. The cathedral is also the highest building in St. Petersburg, at 404 feet in height. Another attraction of the cathedral is its 123.2-meter bell tower.
The fortress also boasts of other buildings such as the Mint, the Engineer's Building, the Commandant's House, the boat house and the City History Museum. The Commandant's House features an exhibit of the fortress' history, plus the history of the lands near Neva. The Engineer's building is currently a museum featuring daily life in Leningrad. There is also an Artillery Museum that has a collection of military implements – guns, swords, and other war equipment. There are also battle paintings and military uniforms.
To visit the fortress, come any day, except Tuesdays. An entrance fee is charged.