Distinguished guests: Famous foreign visitors to St. Petersburg

While it may not be immediately obvious from the city's demographics today, St. Petersburg has historically been one of Europe's most cosmopolitan cities. Since its founding by Peter the Great, when the population at times numbered more foreigners than Russian-born citizens, the city has welcomed foreign visitors with open arms, and they in turn have made an incalculable contribution to the history and culture of the city.

In a tradition firmly established by Peter the Great, Russia's imperial rulers consistently looked beyond the borders of their empire for the talent needed to advance and enrich the country's culture and technology. In the 18th century, it was Italians that gave the city its art, architecture and music, Frenchmen its ballet and society manners, and Germans and Scots its engineering and industry. Since then, talented individuals from all over the world have made the city their home.