Are you having a vacation or just some days off and thinking of where to spend it? I have a great suggestion for you – spend it in Russia! How odd, you might say – to change English breakfast, day visits to cathedrals and evening walk along the promenade to buckwheat and borsch in a canteen against an oppressive Soviet buildings background? Well if you want, you might find it in this or in any other Russian city for sure, but what I am talking about is absolutely special and unlike the others – it is the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.
Saint Petersburg is an absolute pearl standing on one step with other European cities for tourism, but what it can offer you is defying your stereotypes – it will amaze you with its European look soaked with history and culture, lots of modern places to eat and shop with Russian (not European) prices, and endless politeness, intelligence and openness of the locals.
Saint Petersburg is situated on the Neva River, at the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, on the North-West of Russia, at the border with Estonia and Finland. It is Russia’s second-largest city after Moscow and is home for many foreign consulates, international corporations, banks and businesses.
The city is relatively young, it is a little more than three hundred years old since it was established in 1703 by Peter I (Peter the Great). It used to be a capital of Russia in 1712-1918. This city is the place where Russian revolutions of 1917 took place, as a result of which the monarchy was overthrown and the power of the Soviets was established. The historical events put a stamp on everything including its name: in 1914 it was renamed from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd, then in 1924 it was named Leningrad after Lenin, and in 1991 it took back its original name Saint Petersburg. Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments were declared to be the UNESCO World Heritage Site. As due to its rich past the city has a huge number of parks, museums, theaters and monuments of different epochs, nowadays its second name is “the Cultural capital of Russia” (though originally this winged expression was used by Russia’s first president Boris Eltsin in a different context).
Saint Petersburg is the birthplace of many outstanding individuals, many of which you must know. Here is just a humble tiny example: Russian emperors, President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, writer Dostoevsky, composer Dmitry Shostakovich, poet Josif Brodsky, writer Vladimir Nabokov, musician Viktor Tsoy …
Now you can see the scopes of importance and majesty of the place that I am suggesting you to visit…
Buildings built here before 1917, are almost completely preserved, so that walking along the streets and entering palaces you can see almost the same picture that people would see here hundreds of years ago (perhaps except advertising, automatic sliding doors and other benefits of civilization that would remind you that you are not in the past). At the same time, the fact that the city used to be the capital of Russia till 1918, when the capital was transferred to Moscow, possibly saved it from the destruction of war and saved its historic appearance mainly in the center and in suburbs, though it contains buildings of all ages. The city combines construction of completely different architectural styles: Petrine Baroque, Elizabethan baroque, classicism, eclecticism, modern, neoclassicism, constructivism, Stalinist empire style, residential areas, “Khrushchev-type houses”, “ship-style houses” and buildings surprising with their modernity (have you heard of 374-meters tall Lakhta-Center that has became the tallest building in Russia and Europe?).
I think you must have heard of the White Nights that begin on May, 25-26 and last till July, 16-17. This time when sun shines till late evening, when evening twilight turns into the morning sunrise, is a perfect time for a warm summer romantic walk. One of the popular pastimes for guests of the city is a summer night boat trip under the moveable bridges.
Due to its location, the city has to resist a heavy climate. Just imagine that there are on the average of 62 sunny days a year. Therefore, during most of the year, days with cloudy weather, scattered lighting and high humidity prevail. And yes, we all have become the specialists in all types of rain J I would say that rain has become an integral part of ourselves. There is a definitely kind of enchanting romance in these silent noble city views covered in rain. So the city has its beauty in every type of weather, plus rain is a good reason to go to a nice café, with your friends and family, or alone to soak the city special mood and atmosphere, isn’t it?
Saint Petersburg might be called a complex city, meaning that it has so many interesting things to see and to find out about it that even locals living there might still find things and places for discovering. History lovers will want more time (a week or so) in this city for detailed study. Meanwhile even if you are not a fan of history, or you are just on a business trip or on a weekend vacation, you will love the city! If you are having just 1-2-3 days here, it will bring you as much joy, if you properly plan your trip ahead! When I came here for the first time, I had no organized plan but a big paper map from where I randomly watched where to go, and sometimes a good mate who agreed to be a guide but whose legs were walking faster that I could see sightseeing around on a way that he chose himself. The result was that taking lack of time into consideration, much time or money were spent on routes that did not worth it, while knowing places ahead, I could have made a more interesting and less tiring plan.
I’ve noticed that often 2 weeks of a sea vacation makes tourists lazy for even discovering the outside of the hotel, while 2 days trip make travelers too much greedy for sightseeing. I support neither, I think that history is interesting, but if you have a limited time – you don’t need to run for everything – better make your trip pleasant and interesting for yourself. That’s why I suggest to plan before going so that you enjoy the time and the place. Good plan – pleasant performance.
The most interesting places to see in St. Petersburg are located mostly in the city center and in the suburbs. Mixing them both in one day is quite a tough task, so better dedicate separate days for each one.
If you have a chance to make yourself a walking tour, include the most interesting routes and places you can go through to your plan. If not, you can choose certain place, a café, or on a river embankment, or elsewhere, to observe and just to breathe in the atmosphere of the city.
You would probably start your walking tour from around the central metro stations.
Nevskiy prospect – the main street of the city, leading to the very heart of the city. Most of interesting sites are located on this street, so walking on it straight towards center, you will get an idea of the city. You can get there from metro stations Ploschad’ Vosstaniya (Mayakovskaya), or Nevsky prospect (Gostiny Dvor), or Admiralteyskaya (closest to the center).
Kazan Cathedral is an active Orthodox church, near Nevsky prospect metro station. It was built in 1801—1811 . With its colonnade containing of 96 columns, it resembles the majestic St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Entrance is free.
Church of the Savior on Blood, rises on Griboedov channel near Nevsky prospect metro station. It is brigh, colourful, built in “Russian style” of architecture and resembles St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Though its history is not cheerful, it was built on the site where Russian Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in March 1881.
Palace square is one of the main symbols of St. Petersburg. It is the biggest square and pedestrian area of the city, located at the very beginning of Nevsky prospect. In the center of the square there stands the Alexander Column. From the square you can see the building of the Winter Palace with the Hermitage Museum. The square is actually more than twice bigger than the Red square in Moscow.
The Alexander Column, raised on the Palace square. It is dedicated to the victory of Russia in the war with Napoleon. The column is a single piece of red granite with a height of 47.5 meters and weighing about 700 tons, crowned with the figure of an angel with a cross. Actually the column is not fixed and is held on the pedestal solely under the weight of its weight. So the author of the monument Montferrand began to walk near the column himself, thus convincing the citizens in the safety of the construction.
Hermitage Museum, taking five historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, the former residence of Russian emperors that stands on the Palace square. It was established in 1764, and is still the largest museum in the world, with the largest collection of paintings. Here you can see works of art and monuments of world culture, from the Stone Age to our century. Here you will see artworks of the pretty-well-known names: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Goya, Titian, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Picasso… Naming the things and authors that you can see here is just impossible. Actually it would take several years to get around the Hermitage, stopping near each exhibit, even for a minute. So take into account that the museum collection is so large that visiting it properly will take at least one full day. So better visit it when you are unlimited in time.
Russian Museum is located on Engenernaya str., 4, not far from Nevsky prospect metro station. It has the largest collection of Russian art in the world. Among the most famous artworks that you can see here are works of Karl Bryullov (“The Last Day of Pompeii” etc.), Ivan Aivazovsky (“The Ninth Wave”, etc.), Ilia Repin (“Burlaki on the Volga” etc.), Vikor Vasnetsov, Vasiliy Surikov, Nokolai Rerikh, Malevich and others. I personally recommend you to visit it, as it is impressing, bright, warm and giving the idea of the wide Russian soul.
Isaaq Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Russia. It is especially loved by the tourists (and the locals too) for its panoramic 360 degrees observation deck at a height of 43 meters.
Neva river Embankment, including Palace Embankment (Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya), Kutuzov Embankment, Admiralty Embankment are actually the streets from where you can see the wide Neva River and Fortress of Peter and Paul.
Peter and Paul Fortress, takes a whole island opposite the Dvortsovaya Embankment through the Trinity Bridge (Troitskiy Most). It was the original citadel of St. Petersburg, Russia, founded by Peter the Great in 1703. Later it used to serve as the main political prison of Russia. At the same time, this is just a beautiful impressive place surrounded by a thin strip of beach.
On the Neva river Embankment and the river channels in the center there are also the boat piers where you can get on a boat for a trip along rivers and channels. I personally love it.
I am not a guide, I am a lawyer in Saint Petersburg and I just love this city. This short description does not pretend to a full story about the sights, but this is just to inspire you and give you an idea of the city.
Once you are tired, visit a café to rest and to complement emotions with a cup of coffee or a delicious food.
You will never have a problem of where to eat here.
These are just some examples of places that I can personally recommend:
Zinger Café, 28 Nevsky Prospect, http://singercafe.ru/en/. It has a panoramic view on Nevsky Prospekt and Kazan Cathedral.
Chainikoff (Чайникофф), a wide chain of round-the-clock coffee houses with good prices, http://www.chainikoff.ru/
Tan Zhen, a chain of Chinese restaurants http://www.tang-ren.ru/page/about.htm
Dve palochki (Две палочки), a chain of Japanese restaurants http://dvepalochki.ru/
Del Mar Restaurants http://delmar-spb.ru/
Tandoor, Indian Restaurant, 10 Admiralteysky Prospect. https://tandoor-spb.ru/ , for lovers of delicious Indian cuisine. It would also be good for romantic dates.
There are hundreds of other good and interesting places, naming them all is as difficult as to name all the sightseeings in St. Petersburg.
I would be very glad to meet people dear to me to share the impressions from exploring the city together…
If you ask me to show you the city, I would consider it an honor and do it with a big pleasure.
Thanks to all the people who were with me making the pics attached to the article.
Thank you, Dear Reader.
Anna S. Menshova
Tel. +7 967 590-73-79