When I want to liven up my life with colour, style and glamour, I head for Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg! Russia’s former capital is a vibrant city known for its history, shopping, and abundance of great restaurants and bars. It really is the perfect place for a city break!
I canal-ways find fun things in St. Petersburg!
Because it connects easily to the Baltic and the rest of Europe, St. Petersburg has been western thinking from its founding until the current day.
St. Petersburg was also the location of the first Russian revolution in 1917, which saw the Czars overthrown and the Bolsheviks gain power. The Soviet moved the capital to Moscow, but St. Petersburg still enjoys the prestige of being Russia’s second city with 5.4 Million residents. While Moscow is a monument to Russian power, St. Petersburg is a monument to Russian opulence!
There is just one airport in St Petersburg – so there is no confusion when you land by air. It is easy to travel from Pulkovo Airport to the city centre. Buses 39 and 399 link it to Moskovskaya Metro Station, and marshrutkas (small minibuses) run fixed journeys along this route. The metro runs everywhere around the city, and it is easy for tourists to use. If you would prefer private transport, taxis are also inexpensive. Uber is available, or try the Russian taxi app, Yandex. It is popular for Russians to take the overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The train ride is great fun!
As you may expect from the cultural capital of Russia, there are plenty of things to do and see in Saint Petersburg. Here are some of my favourites:
- The Peter and Paul Fortress is where the city was founded and was built to protect the colony planted by Czar Peter.
- Another iconic place to visit in St Petersburg is the Church of the Saviour of Blood. This church is close to where Alexander II was assassinated by revolutionaries, and its architecture has become synonymous with the city
Don’t be dome and miss the cathedrals!
Here’s a pro-tip: St Petersburg’s main attractions are often busier in the morning because cruise ships take passengers to the museums at these hours. This means that it is better to visit attractions in the afternoon or evening.
- Just out of the city is the Grand Peterhof Palace. This 18th-century complex harks back to the grandeur of the Czars. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is famed for its lavish fountains and beautiful gardens which rival Versailles.
- Palace Square is larger than Moscow’s Red Square and has played a prominent role in Russian history. There you can admire the Alexander Column, which stands at 47.5 metres tall.
- Take a metro tour of the beautiful stations in St Petersburg. Soviet-era metros are famous for their beauty, and St Petersburg is certainly no exception. You can visit them independently or with a guided tour.
- Catch a show at the Mariinsky Theatre. You can often see ballet and opera there and many shows have English subtitles.
- Take a Neva cruise. The river is key to the placement of the city and there is no better way to see St. Petersburg than from the river!
The Hermitage is probably my favourite museum in the world!
- Built in the former workshop of the artist, the Fabergé Museum is an excellent place to view the full opulence of the Russian Empire. The jeweller to the Czars was a master craftsman and creator of the eponymous Fabergé Eggs!
- My favourite place in the city is the Hermitage Museum. Commissioned by Catherine the Great as a palace, it is now one of the greatest museums in the world. The collection of over 3,000,000 artefacts is breath-taking!
Here’s another pro-tip – you can purchase tickets for the Hermitage Museum ahead of time online. Switch the language to Russian before paying on the website for a lower price!
Like any modern metropolis, St. Petersburg has some fabulous restaurants. Here are some of my favourites:
- Delicate dumplings and hearty stews make up traditional Russian cuisine, and these can be enjoyed at the traditional Katyusha Restaurant. This homely establishment serves up pelmeni (Russian dumplings), pies, pancakes and other Russian delights.
- Buterbrodskybar is another traditional eatery, set inside an old factory.
- Alternatively, you could try some delicious Georgian food at Pkhali Khinkali. Georgia was part of both the Russian Empire and the USSR, so this cuisine is familiar in modern-day Russia. Try out Khinkali – these are large flatbreads oozing with cheese and egg on top!
- Mr Bo is a modern eatery where you can dine on Asian-influenced cuisine.
Pass the pelmeni, please!
- My favourite spot to enjoy caviar and smoked sturgeon filets is the Hermitage Café right across the square from the museum. On warm summer days I like to sit outside and drink champagne while snacking on these delicate treats!
Once you’ve had your fill of cultural attractions and delicious food, you might be looking for somewhere for a bit of nightlife. St. Petersburg doesn’t disappoint! Here are some of the best:
- Redrum Bar is the leading brewery in the city – here you can try out AF brew, which inspired a Russian craft brewing revolution! You can also find a nightclub there, which is very popular during White Nights.
- Check out Sidreriya for Russian cider and Chroniki for vodka – from local and global distilleries!
- My favourite for its opulent décor, however, is Saigon Blonde. This Asian themed bar is perfect for cocktails and rubbing elbows with the city’s elite.
Here’s a final pro-tip: If you are wondering when to visit St Petersburg, my favourite time to visit is during White Nights, at the mid to end of June. The sunlight never completely darkens at this time of year and many places are open later. Any time is great to visit and St. Petersburg is busy at this time but the city really comes alive during White Nights!
I try not to sleep when I’m in St. Petersburg, but when I’m forced to, I prefer to stay in an iconic property with St. Petersburg style. Here are my recommendations:
The Gazprom Tower is the tallest in Europe!
- Trezzni Palace Boutique Hotel has fabulous service and ambiance. It harks back to imperial days, with lavish decor inside and out, and has a bar and restaurant on-site.
- Galunov Hotel is slightly less expensive, but still exudes luxury and grandeur, and provides a delicious Russian breakfast every morning.
- Station Hotel S13 offers excellent value, modern rooms in a prime location to enjoy all of St Petersburg’s highlights.
Some people say that if you haven’t seen St. Petersburg, you haven’t seen Russia. There is so much to love in the city of the Czars – you’ll make memories there that you’ll remember for years to come!