Neva River takes its source in Ladoga Lake, which is the biggest lake in Europe, and only 74 km farther flows into the Baltic Sea. For about half its length (32 km) the river Neva flows within the limits of St. Petersburg.
Neva was a major trading route of Northern Europe, so in the course of many centuries there took place numerous battles. To control these lands the Swede built the Schlusselburg fortress at the outflow of the Neva from Ladoga Lake and the Nieshants fortress at the mouth of the Neva and at its confluence with the Okhta River. Now there located the Smolny Convent and Smolny Palace.
Outlet to the Baltic Sea was very important for the economical development of Russia, so in 1700 Peter the Great began the war with Sweden. The war was ended in 1721, but already in 1703 the city of St. Petersburg was founded. The lands surrounding the Neva were swampy, and not very suitable for living, but already in 1712 the capital was transferred from the ancient Moscow to the city founded only 9 years ago.
Since that period the names of St. Petersburg and the river Neva became a kind of synonyms. St. Petersburg, named after its great founder, was built as the ceremonial capital of the Russian Empire, so it can be rightly considered as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and a ride over the canals of Petersburg and the river Neva is probably a mandatory item of a city tour.
You can go aboard a boat running along the line of the Neva tour on Admiralty Embankment, just opposite the Admiralty. From there the excursion boats go under the Palace Bridge, beyond which one can enjoy the front façades of the northern capital of Russia. To one`s right one can see the Winter and Marble Palaces, and a bit farther the Summer Garden. And to one`s left - the Hare`s Island, where the Peter and Paul Fortress and the symbol of Petersburg – St. Peter and Paul Cathedral – are located.
And beyond the bend of the river Neva you can see the Smolny Female Monastery and the Smolny Palace, and then the Tauride Palace. Near the Okhta Bridge is the end of the Neva tour and excursion boats turn around and come back to the Admiralty Embankment.
During your visit to Petersburg, and especially if you happen to be there at the period of the white nights, you should take a night walk on the Neva embankment at the time when the bridges are drawn. As the Neva has a very intensive traffic, and the bridges are very low, all of them are movable. The most beautiful view is the drawing of the Palace Bridge, which takes place at 1.05 in the night. At the time of the white nights it is fairly light at this hour and there are a lot of people on the Neva embankment.
Not the least curious place on the river Neva is the beach before the Sts. Peter and Paul Fortress. In July and August you can bathe in the river Neva, but even if the water is cold, there are always a lot of young people who relax, associate and get browned, on the beach. Around the embankment there are always many sweethearts lending St. Petersburg a very romantic atmosphere.