One of the most beautiful and harmonious ensembles of architecture in the world, Palace Square remains the main public space of St. Petersburg after nearly three centuries. Like Red Square in Moscow, Palace Square in St. Petersburg has been the setting of many major events in Russian history.
The Winter Palace was constructed on the square between 1754 and 1762 by Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. It was the first building completed on Palace Square, and it became the main residence of the Russian Emperors. Legend has it that upon its completion the area was cluttered with piles of debris, and the public could freely take anything left over. After a few hours, the entire square was cleared by the townspeople.
At the end of the 18th century houses were built on the southern side of the square. This greatly dismayed Catherine the Great, for she had previously admired the unencumbered space from the windows of the Winter Palace. Catherine commissioned Yury Felten to create a worthy architectural counterpoint to the Winter Palace. Although Felten's project was never realized, it formed the basis for Carlo Rossi's grand design for the magnificent General Staff Building, built between 1819 and 1829. With a 580-meter semicircular facade facing Palace Square, it has at its center a magnificent triumphal arch surmounted by the Chariot of Glory with six rearing horses. Completing the ensemble is the Alexander Column, designed by the French architect Auguste Montferrand, and the Guard Corps Headquarters designed by Alexander Briullov.
Today, many public events and concerts are held here throughout the year and Palace Square is a favorite spot for New Year's, Victory Day, Scarlet Sails, and White Nights celebrations.