So the flight and hotel are booked and you are ready to jump into the plane and set off on your St Petersburg holiday but do you know which places are the best to visit? Here is our best picks for first-time visitors of Russia’s second capital: classical and unconventional too!
Take a Boat Tour of St Petersburg
St Petersburg is widely known as the Venice of the North and the reason for this is that it is located on one of the most beautiful Russian rivers, Neva, and inter-laced with canals going through the whole city. This is why, a boat tour is a must do for anyone visiting St Petersburg. Boat tours usually start running from April and you can enjoy them until middle autumn.
Want to book one in advance? Give us a call!
Climb St Isaac Cathedral
Saint Isaac's Cathedral or Isaakievskiy Sobor (in Russian) is one of the must-see attractions of St Petersburg. It is the main Cathedral of the city and, in fact, it is the fourth biggest single-domed cathedral in the world after St. Paul's in London, St. Peter's in Rome, and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. It is one of the tallest buildings of the city, however, not everyone knows that it is possible to go to the top of it to enjoy the 360-degree panorama of the city. The viewing platform is usually open from May until late October.
Walk along Nevsky Prospect
Strolling along Nevsky Prospect is one of the favourite pastimes for tourists and locals alike. It is the main shopping street with a colourful mixture of quirky independent shops, big brands, traditional Russian food places, cinemas and book shops. More than that it connects the main city attractions such as Admiralty, The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, Saint Isaac's Cathedral and Palace Square. Nevsky Prospect was also the subject of the book with the same name by Nikolay Gogol because of its variety of everything.
Read books in Singer House
One of the places to stop by when exploring Nevsky Prospect is Singer House known as the central House of Books. It is one of the best book shops in the city where you can find books in many languages including English. Get your copy of Nevsky Prospect by Gogol and enjoy it with a cup of tea in the book shop café, which serves delicious teas and deserts!
Image: Ninara, Wikimedia Commons
Explore the Riches of Hermitage
Hermitage, also known as Winter Palace (once the official residence of the Romanov Tsars), must be already on top of your to-do-list. It is the second largest art museum in the world and it boasts works of such renowned artists as Leonardo da Vinchi, Raphael, Rembrandt and more. It is believed that it will take you 11 years to look at every picture for a minute! No wonder many people return here every time they visit the city. Another interesting fact that the museum employs 50 cats! Why? To protect the artworks against rats and mice.
Visit the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Church of the Savior on Blood is one of the most remarkable buildings of St Petersburg visually and historically. It was built at the place where Alexander II, the tsar who abolished serfdom in Russia, was assassinated. Ironically, he was assassinated on the same day he signed the so called Loris-Melikov Constitution to extend democracy. It was abolished almost immediately by his successor Alexander III, who was too afraid to follow his father’s steps.
Take a Day Trip to Peterhof
Fancy a day trip? Why not head to Peterhof for a day? Peterhof is a UNESCO World heritage site and boasts a number of amazing palaces, gardens and spectacular fountains. It was built as a response to the Palace of Versailles by Louis XIV of France when the competition between the monarchs was a common thing. Some of the fountains are very playful as well! Step on the wrong place and it will turn a secret fountain on and soak you! Peterhof is located by the bay of Finland and you can enjoy the amazing views there as well as take a boat back to the city. (The fountains are open from late spring to early autumn)
Enjoy the Famous Russian Theatre
St Petersburg is known as the cultural capital of Russia. One of the reasons for it is a large number of theatres in the city. The Mariinski Theatre is the main theatre of the city. Therefore, we advise that you book your tickets in advance. It is known for its opera and ballet. Another great place is The Mikhailovsky Theatre. It is one of the oldest Russian theatres and very much loved by art enthusiasts.
Watch Rising Bridges
One of the most spectacular sights is bridge openings all around the city. The view is so beautiful and romantic that many marriage proposals happen there and then. Interestingly, rising bridges is not a tourist attraction but a practical necessity. The bridges open every night to let tall cargo ships travel through the city. However, it became a tourist attraction due to the magnificent lights and the beauty of the rising bridges. There are a lot of night tours on offer (by bus and by boat) to let you enjoy the experience in full.
Dive into History at Peter and Paul Fortress
Peter and Paul Fortress is where St Petersburg (or “The Window Into Europe”) began it’s development. Since then it played a number of roles including those of a prison and an execution ground the Bolshevik government. Nowadays, it is the burial place of all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III, with the exception of Peter II and Ivan VI.
Explore the Roofs of the City
St Petersburg is known to Russians as the city of roofs. For many years it was illegal to climb the roofs because of security concerns but the new regulations made it possible! So do not miss an opportunity to enjoy the bird-view of the city by embarking on an unforgettable rooftop tour! (contact us for more information)
Travelling with significant other? There a few great rooftop restaurants like Gastronomika or Moscow available around the city.