Tsar Peter the Great founded this magnificent city in 1703 as a window to the West, a launching pad for his attempt to modernize Russia and open up to outside influences. The architecture is varied and striking, with golden domed churches, and an astounding number of large and extravagantly decorated palaces, consistently evoking wows from visitors. The grandest include the countryside Peterhof, with its lavish gardens and majestic golden fountains cascading down to the Gulf of Finland; and the Winter Palace, within the complex of the Hermitage, one of the world's largest museums, with a collection of some three million works of art and artifacts.
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