St Petersburg Holidays
Breathtakingly beautiful St Petersburg is a must visit destination. Threaded with canals, the magical city is home to regal palaces, striking churches, one of the world’s greatest collections of art and countless other attractions. Modern and sophisticated, yet rich in history, the best time to visit is during midsummer when the nights are filled with sunlight. Perhaps it’s all the beer and vodka, but even in winter when the city is grey and doused in snow, St Petersburg still buzzes with one of the friendliest attitudes you’re likely to find in Russia.
Many of St Petersburg’s myriad of sights are located on and around Nevsky Prospekt. The 200m long Winter Palace is the city’s most opulent palace and was the official residence of the Tsars until 1917. You better put some time aside for a visit to The Hermitage because not only is it one of the world’s great galleries, it’s also home to over 3 million items. Modeled on St Peter’s in The Vatican, Kazan Cathedral is another highlight attraction, so too is the onion-domed Church on Spilled Blood, which was built on the spot where Tsar Alexander was assassinated. Theatre is another favourite local pastime and The Mariinsky Theatre is the most well-known, but by no means only place to catch a ballet or opera show.
More casual and far more affordable than Moscow, St Petersburg offers many diverse dining options. Franco-Russian L’Europe Restaurant is one of the city’s premier restaurants and is where to go to dine on caviar with the city’s elite while Stroganoff is the classic St Petersburg restaurant for travelers wishing to sample some local fare at a fairer price. Famous for its steaks, Stroganoff is even more famous for its vodka starters. As home of Baltika Breweries, St Petersburg is perhaps surprisingly more of a beer-drinking city than a vodka-drinking city though and the street cafes are still some of the best places to drink a beer and sample some no-fuss pelmini or borscht.
Where to Stay
Old Soviet behemoths were long ago the only lodging option in St Petersburg. Now home to a huge array of hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs, visitors can now include international hotel brands in their options of where to stay in St Petersburg. Grand Hotel Europe, W Hotel St. Petersburg and Corinthia Nevsky Palace Hotel are just some of the most luxurious options in town, but the list is constantly updated. More and more boutique hotels, like the elegant Rossi Hotel, are also opening in the city. Remember that advanced reservations are essential if you want to pay a good price, especially in the busy June-August period.
Considering Russia’s reputation for expenses, St Petersburg is perhaps surprisingly an excellent place to shop. Nevsky Prospekt is the city’s main commercial district and is where you can find an abundance of stores selling all manner of souvenirs, along with international clothing mainstays Zara and Benetton. 18th Century Gostiny Dvor is the classic place to shop in St Petersburg and provides a concentration of all of the city’s shopping options into one beautiful arcade-like venue. More shopping options can be found at Chernyshevskya while Vernisazh Market is another good place to fill your baggage allowance.
St Petersburg like a Local
A visit to the theatre is a quintessential St Petersburg experience. The Mariinsky Theatre has been one of the main homes of Russian culture since opening in 1860 and tickets are well sought after. The trick to buying a ticket like a local is to purchase from the kiosks in the city called ‘Teatralnaya Kassa’, or directly from the theatre box office. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy in advance on the World Wide Web? No way, comrade! Online tickets are geared only at tourists and will cost sometimes ten times more than locally purchased ones.