When you are planning a Baltic cruise for 2013, including an excursion to St Petersburg might not be something you immediately consider doing. However, this is one of the most beautiful and intriguing cities in Europe, with a fascinating history.
As a result, it's well worth making time to step on to dry land here. You will be able to spend an enjoyable day strolling the streets and admiring the architecture, which is more western European in style than Russia's capital Moscow.
Here you will find many of the buildings have a baroque or neoclassical design, and so seem less stereotypically Russian than, for instance, Moscow's Saint Basil Cathedral with its bright coloured, onion-shaped domes.
Alternatively, you cold make a beeline for a specific site in city. Here are three of our favourites.
Peter and Paul Fortress
This fortress is located in the delta of the River Neva, which flows majestically through the city. It was built on the orders of Peter the Great, who ruled over the Russian Empire in the latter half of the 17th century. Following his decision to reclaim land along the waterway, he demanded that a large fort be constructed to ensure the Swedish troops would be unable to invade.
However, in the end the site was used less for keeping people out and more for keeping them in. Among its many incarnations, it was used as a jail for political prisoners, which included the likes of Trotsky and Dostoyevsky. Peter the Great's own son Alexei even served time here.
You will also want to step outside and admire the Peter and Paul Cathedral that is situated at the heart of the fort. This was the first church in St Petersburg to be constructed of stone and features a golden angel at the top.
The State Hermitage Museum
You might be more familiar with this property under its original name of the Winter Palace. This was the main residence of the ruling tsar and his family until the early 20th century, when Nicolas II was forced to abdicate in 1917. After this, the Romanovs were imprisoned at Alexander Palace, while the Winter Palace was used as the seat of the Russian provisional government.
However, this all changed when members of the Red Army stormed the property, looted from it and caused untold damage. While it lay in this state for some time, it was later transformed into the State Hermitage Museum, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Here you can see paintings by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.
Such is the size of the palace, it takes a long time to get around so you could either spend a day here or plan a route that will take you past some of the most famous works. Leave time to admire the museum from the outside as well, as the sheer scale of it and its beautiful green and white facade make for an arresting sight.
The Russian Museum
If you're a fan of art, this is another stop to include on your tour. While the painters on display here are not as famous as those represented in the State Hermitage Museum, it is a great place to see the evolution of Russian art from the 18th to 20th century.
Just like the tourist attractions mentioned above, this building has taken on numerous incarnations over the years. Most notably, it was Mikhailovsky Palace, home of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia.