St Petersburg Destination Guide
St Petersburg Holidays
Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, this mesmerising water city is often referred to as the Venice of the North. And for good reason – the city is filled with well preserved examples of stunning baroque architecture and strikingly beautiful bridges that arch over its many canals.
St. Petersburg is a prime travel destination for lovers of the arts and antiquities, culture vultures and historians, and fun-loving festivalgoers. In fact, the all-round sensory experience that Russia’s second largest city provides is incredibly hard to top.
To view medieval Russian architecture in all its glory head to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. Completed in 1907 after 24 years of construction, this awe-inspiring church pays homage to medieval Russian architecture and romantic nationalism, contrasting the baroque and neoclassical buildings you’ll find elsewhere throughout the city. Step inside and discover 7,500 square metres of vibrant mosaics that completely cover the walls and ceilings.
To view the largest collection of paintings in the world, make the State Hermitage Museum your next stop. Set across 6 historic buildings including the majestic Winter Palace, this is one of the largest, oldest and most impressive museums in the world. Leonardo, Rembrandt, Rubens and Matisse all grace the walls, while Egyptian antiquities and prehistoric art fill the halls. With more than 3 million items under its roof, even an entire day won’t be enough to see everything so plan ahead to catch your must-sees.
Don’t forget to add the Peter and Paul Fortress to your St. Petersburg itinerary. Set on Zayachy Island, this imposing fortress was the original citadel of St. Petersburg before being used as a prison from around 1720. These days it houses a history museum along with an ancient cathedral and mausoleum, where the Romanovs are buried. After your explorations, take in panoramic views from the fortress walls, below which lies a beach that attracts locals in the summertime.
The food in St. Petersburg just keeps getting better and better, with fine dining Russian fare, international cuisine and local specialties all on the city’s collective menu. Vasilievsky Island offers elegant dining experiences, while Sennoy Market is the place to be to sample Central Asian Uzbek food. The local specialty is the Russian blini (pancake), which can be found at food stalls around the city.
The buzzing main street of Nevsky Prospekt is known for its diverse international flavours including sushi, Mexican and Indian. This strip also has a lively bar scene if you fancy a drink after dinner. Beer drinkers, be sure to try the local brews – Baltika, Tinkoff and Nevskoye.
Where to Stay
Late May to early July is the famed White Nights period, when the city never gets dark. This is a hugely popular time to visit St. Petersburg so it’s wise to book as far in advance as possible. A range of international and up-market hotel chains can be found on Nevsky Prospekt. If you’re in the mood to splurge, there are a number of luxury 5-star hotels around town, many of them set within grand historic buildings that boast gorgeous opulent interiors
Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main strip, is lined with boutiques and department stores. For something a little cheaper, the daily market opposite the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is a popular place to grab souvenirs. The vibrant Kuznechny Market is a lovely place to pick up local delicacies including fresh honey and caviar. And of course matryoshka nesting dolls are everywhere – could you possibly leave St. Petersburg without one?
St Petersburg like a Local
When in St. Petersburg, do as the locals do and take in an opera or ballet at the majestic Mariinsky Theatre. For something more relaxed, seek out the beautiful gardens around town. The Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden, the oldest in Russia, has a spectacular collection of plants and greenhouses. When the weather is warm, pack a picnic and head to the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress.