Saint Petersburg is a Gorgeous City
Saint Petersburg is my favourite city in the world. In the last 3 years, I was fortunate to visit this city multiple times. I already wrote a blog about how the city looks like in a snowy winter trip. However, I thought it’s a good idea to share this blog about my impressions of the city in the summer time.
Saint Petersburg is a charming city; I like how the city earned many nicknames such as “the cultural capital of Russia”, “the northernmost metropolis in the world”, “the Venice of the North”, “the city of white nights”. It is truly the cultural capital of Russia as a short walk in the streets of Saint Petersburg makes you immediately feel that you are in an open space museum. Peter the great built the city in 1703 (no surprise how it carries his name).
In this blog, I will list down 15 things you should do, explore, experience, and enjoy during your trip to Saint Petersburg. After reading this blog, I am sure you will understand why would someone call it “the most beautiful city in the world”.
1. Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood
This beautiful church is one of the most remarkable sites of Saint Petersburg. It was built on the site of Alexander II’s assassination (he was fatally wounded there, to be precise). Hence, the name “Saviour on the Spilled Blood”. The church has a gorgeous medieval Russian architecture and contains more than 7500 square metres of mosaic and that’s more than any other church in the world. The entrance fee is only 250 Rubles (3.30 USD)
2. Winter Palace and Palace Square
Palace Square (along with Winter Palace) is another remarkable landmark of the city of Saint Petersburg. Palace Square is the central city square of Saint Petersburg and of the former Russian Empire. Many dramatic historical events took place in this square such as 1917 October Revolution.
Opposite to Alexander column (the focal point of the square), there is the Winter Palace which was the official resident of Russian Tsars 1732 to 1917. Today it is another major landmark of the city of St. Petersburg and it houses one of the greatest museums in the world, the Hermitage Museum.
3. Hermitage Museum
Hermitage museum is the second largest art museum in the world; it has a collection of over 3 million items including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The museum is huge so I recommend that you buy the 2-days ticket so that you can thoroughly enjoy its massive collection. Buy your ticket online to avoid the long queues and always buy your tickets from the official site as international agencies will charge you extra. Click here to view the museum’s homepage. 2 days ticket costs around 23 USD.
4. Grand Maket Russia
This miniature museum is one of my favourite spots in the city. It’s a model layout that represents different regions of Russia from the Baltic to the Pacific. It’s the 2nd largest model layout in the world (After the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg). The place is impressive and will inspire you to visit different parts of Russia.
5. Peterhof Palace
Peterhof (or the Russian Versailles) is one of the most visited sites in St. Petersburg (it’s actually located outside the city). This marvellous site houses Peter’s summer palace. The site is magnificent but can get incredibly crowded in busy summer months so I recommend that you start your trip there early in the morning.
Peterhof Palace is located outside the city and there are different ways to visit it; my recommendation is to take the Suburban train from Baltiyski station towards Oranienbaum but you need to make a stop in old Peterhof station (Staryi Petergof) and then you can either walk or take a bus towards the entrance of Peterhof Palace. On the way back, I highly recommend returning to St. Petersburg with Hydrofoil. It’s more expensive but it’s worth it, you will have beautiful views on the way back.
6. Palace Bridge
Palace Bridge that spans the Neva river in Saint Petersburg between Palace Square and Vasilyevsky Island. In the summer, Palace Bridge draws at 01.50 am so be there 10 or 15 minutes before and wait for the bridge to draw while sipping some hot Russian tea. Be ready to take some great photos!
7. Saint Petersburg Mosque
Many people wouldn’t believe that there’s a massive mosque in St. Petersburg. It was built in 1913 and was the largest mosque in Europe (Outside Turkey) when it was built. The mosque is huge and very beautiful, from outside and inside. It’s a hidden gem.
8. C-189 Submarine Museum
If you are into submarines, you must check this out; it’s C-189 Soviet diesel submarine built in 1954 and now was turned into museum. Ticket costs around 5.5 USD. I had a guided tour and truly enjoyed the conversation with an awesome guide who knows every inch of his submarine.
9. The Icebreaker “Krasin”
This icebreaker was built in 1916 during the Russian Empire era and now has been fully restored and turned into a museum. It’s very interesting to spend an hour wondering inside this gigantic icebreaker which had a long history in exploring the Arctic sea. Ticket costs around 4 USD.
10. Mariinsky Theatre
The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic theatre of opera and ballet in Saint Petersburg and was opened in 1860. Here they play one of the finest ballet performances in the World and I was fortunate to watch Swan Lake ballet show there. When you book a ticket, make sure that you book it from the official Russian site (if you buy it through an agency, you will pay extra).
11. Russian Railway Museum
If you are into trains, you will love this museum. I love trains so I spent half a day there. You can see steam locomotives and train carriages from the imperial era in the 19th and early 20th century to the latest electric trains from 21st century. It’s a spectacular museum especially for those who love to see the details of this amazing industry. It’s situated next to Baltiyski station. The museum is huge and some of the train locomotives and carriages are placed outdoor so expect to spend a few hours there. Ticket costs 300 Rubles only (4 USD).
12. St. Petersburg from rooftop
There are many spots where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city of Saint Petersburg. For this purpose, I highly recommend climbing up St. Isaac’s cathedral. Furthermore, there is a lovely cafe on top of Hotel Indigo called Vino I Voda, the sunset view from there is magnificent.
13. Peter and Paul Fortress
It’s the original citadel of Saint Petersburg founded by Peter the Great in 1703. One of the most magnificent sites in the city. You can easily spend hours there as the fortress houses the city history museum and the Peter and Paul cathedral. All the Russian Tsars are buried there except Peter II and Ivan VI. The remains of Nicholas II and his family and entourage were re-interred there, in the side chapel of St. Catherine, on July 17, 1998, the 80th anniversary of their deaths.
If you have more time to spend in Saint Petersburg and if you run out of places in the centre and you wish to explore areas outside the city then I highly recommend having a trip to Kronstadt. In my case, my friend picked me up and we drove there so it was quite convenient but in case you don’t have a car, you can take a ferry from the cruise terminal in St. Petersburg to Kronstadt. The cathedral there is stunning.
15. Food in Saint Petersburg
For many people (including myself), food is a very important topic. I enjoy good food from all over the world and to say the truth, before my 1st trip to St. Petersburg, I didn’t have high expectations about the food there but it turned out that I was totally wrong! Food in Saint Petersburg is incredibly delicious; both Russian and international restaurants are amazing and it generally costs much less than in any other Western European or North American city while the quality of the food is amazing. I tried traditional Russian pancakes with caviar and smetana (sour cream), Georgian food, Borsh (famous Russian soup), Chicken Kiev, even delicious freshly made Russian style doughnuts called “Pyshki” and so many other things. Restaurants there are excellent and chefs are like artists! Enjoy the photos below.
As I stated before, Saint Petersburg is my favourite city in the world. I love the city and I can’t get enough of it. I wish to get the chance to live there someday; either to work or to learn Russian language.
However, like any other city, the city isn’t perfect as it can be really dark and cold during winter months. Even during the summer, it can be rainy and gloomy. However, I was lucky with the weather in all my trips to the city.
About getting there, the good news is; citizens of a total of 53 countries (including EU citizens) can now apply for eVisa to visit St. Petersrbug and it will be valid for a duration of 8 days to visit SPb and Leningrad region. For more information about visa, click Here. The bad news is, citizens of some countries such as Canada, USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand still need to apply for a visa in advance as a Russian embassy, consulate, or visa centre. Furthermore, it’s easy to fly to Saint Petersburg as various international airlines have daily scheduled flights there. Also, Saint Petersburg is a major railway hub and connected to many European cities (for example, you can take a high speed train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg and be there in 3.5 hours).
Best time to visit the city is definitely the summer. I visited the city end of the summer and I was once there in the winter. Late Summer was definitely a great time to enjoy the city but I wish to visit it during white nights (June 11th to July 2nd). However, the city will be packed with tourists during white nights and prices of accommodation can be inflated.
I highly recommend staying in Airbnb apartments as there are many good options there with great reviews and affordable prices. Luckily, I had an amazing experience with my Airbnb hosts there. However, there are many other options such as hotels and hostels and cost is generally less than in Europe and North America.
I love the people in Saint Petersburg! They are generally laid back and educated. They are very proud of their city and they know a lot about the history of it. I visited the city a few times so I have many friends there. Every time I go out, I feel that I am out with a city guide who wants to show me a lot about the beauty of their city.
Extra things to visit: Catharina’s palace (I covered it in a previous blog), a walk in Nevsky Prospekt, Kazansky Cathedral, Cruiser Aurora and New Holland.
I can’t recommend Saint Petersburg enough! Plan a trip there once coronavirus nightmare is over! 🙂
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions and if you like this blog, just share it 🙂