The Palace Square is the central square of St. Petersburg and is one of the most famous squares in the world. It is located next to the Hermitage Museum and just a few meters away from Nevsky Prospect, the main avenue of the city. The Palace Square took its current shape in the days of Alexander I who wanted to make it a monument to the Russian victory over Napoleon.
The most famous building on the Palace Square is the Winter Palace. Built in 1764, this baroque-style palace has white-and-azure facades and is decorated with statues positioned along the upper perimeter of the building. An ornate gate opens into an inner yard of the Winter Palace where guests of the royal family would arrive in their carriages in olden days. Since its creation, the Winter Palace has served as the official royal residence of Russian monarchs. Following the 1917 Revolution, the Provisional Government of Kerensky was seated there. Nowadays, the Winter Palace is a part of the Hermitage Museum.
Facing the Winter Palace from the southern end of the square is the General Staff Building. Shaped as an arc, this Empire-style building was designed by the Italian architect Rossi. The facade of the General Staff Building stretches 580 meters and consists of two parts which are connected with a Triumphal Arch. Decorating the arch is a Roman-style chariot of the goddess of Victory which symbolizes Russia's victory in the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon Bonaparte. Although the General Staff Building has always been occupied by army offices, several halls were recently converted into exhibition rooms of the Hermitage Museum.
The central point of the Palace Square ensemble is the Alexander Column. Designed by the French architect Montferrand it is named after Emperor Alexander I, the victor of the Napoleonic wars. It is made of a single red granite slab which measures 47 meters high and weighs over 500 tons, which makes it the tallest column of its kind in the world. Thanks to the uniqueness of its construction, the Alexander Column stands under its own weight and no special attachments are used to keep it in balance.
The eastern side of the Palace Square is occupied by the building of the Guards Corps Headquarters which was built by the Russian architect Bryullov, brother of the famous Russian artist Karl Bryullov. The Western side of the Palace Square represents an opening into the Nevsky Prospect and the complex of the Admiralty, thus, making the Palace Square an integral part of the downtown architectural ensemble of St. Petersburg.
The Palace Square has has witnessed many historic events including the Bloody Sunday of 1905, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, as well as night-long vigils in the name of democracy during the 1991 Communist coup.