Vitebsky station (Russian: Ви́тебский вокза́л) is a terminus in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Formerly known as the Tsarskoe Selo Station, it was the first railway station to be built in Saint Petersburg and the whole of the Russian Empire.
The station, located at the crossing of the Zagorodny Avenue and the now-vanished Vvedensky Canal, was inaugurated in the presence of Nicholas I of Russia on 30 October 1837 when the first Russian train, named Provorny, departed from its platform for the imperial residence at Tsarskoe Selo. A replica of this train may be seen as a permanent exhibit at the modern station.
The first building of the Petersburg Station (as it was then known) was constructed in timber in August and September of the same year to a design by Konstantin Thon. Since it proved to be too small, it was demolished within twelve years and a much larger structure was erected under Thon's supervision between 1849 and 1852. There were further expansions in the 1870s.
The station became increasingly ramshackle and cluttered as the 19th century went on, until the decision was taken to tear the whole thing down and begin again. Construction started in 1901 and lasted for three years. Stanislaw Brzozowski gave the new two-storey station an ornate frontage in an assortment of historical styles, with decorative reliefs, floriated Jugendstil detailing, outsize semicircular windows and two regular features of 19th-century train stations: a pseudo-Renaissance cupola and a square clocktower.
However, it was Sima Minash's opulent Art Nouveau interior that established the building as the most ornate of St. Petersburg stations. Minash was responsible for the sweeping staircases, foyer with stained glass and spacious halls boasting a series of painted panels that chronicle the history of Russia's first railway. The building's soaring arches and expanses of glass proclaimed the architect's familiarity with advanced construction techniques of the West.
In a departure from normal practice of the Soviet years, the Vitebsk station preserved its elevated train shed, five platforms and luggage elevators almost intact, making it an ideal location for filming Soviet adaptations of Anna Karenina, Sherlock Holmes stories, and other 19th-century classics.
On the other hand, much architectural detail was removed from the facade and halls during insensitive Soviet renovations. Just prior to the tercentenary celebrations of 2003, the station underwent a painstaking restoration of its original interior and Jugendstil decor. Apart from the replica of the first Russian train, curiosities of the Vitebsk Station include a detached pavilion for the Tsar and his family and a marble bust of Nicholas I.
Services from the station run to Central Europe, Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus and the southern suburbs of St. Petersburg, such as Pushkin and Pavlovsk. The station is connected to the Pushkinskaya Station of the Saint Petersburg Metro.