Thanks to the Summer College and my internship in Russia, I could spent more than three weeks in the “Venice of the North”. During that time I walked several times across the city center of Saint Petersburg and the surrounding cities. I tried most of the tourist attractions and here is my first hand advice on 11 Things To Do In Saint Petersburg.
1. Visit Peter and Paul Fortress
This fortress is the landmark of St. Petersburg. It was build by Peter the Great and served as his fortress, later as a prison and currently as a grave yard. The island is dominated by the citadel of St. Petersburg. All the family members from the family Romanov (Peter the Great) are buried here. Each full hour you will hear a specific melody played by the cathedral’s bells. I advise you to come at noon, that way you can experience local tradition which is firing of the cannon from the bastion.
2. Take a Boat Tour
St. Petersburg is one of the cities where a boat trip makes sense. I took even two, one by day and one at night. Both were worth it. During the day the boat takes you through the center where you will experience the city from a different angle. At night you can see the main attractions in St. Petersburg – Bridge Opening. Be sure to ask for a better price. Mostly they sell it for around 750 rub (1EUR = 70rub Nov. 2015), but they can go down to 500 rub or less if you ask for it. Off season 200 rub.
3. Bridge Opening at 1:30am
Every night at 1:30 am hundreds of people wait to see the highlight. Be aware that afterwards you will not be able to cross the Neva until 5 am when the bridges close. There is only one metro line (violet) which runs the whole night (at least it did back in summer).
4. Play old Russian games at the Soviet Games Museum
This is a cool place for every game enthusiast. Here you can play some really old soviet games. The museum is separated into two areas. In one you can play modern digital games and in the other one old Russian games. I have tried only the second option and it was quite funny. It is even more fun if you visit it with couple friends.
5. Walk through the city center
Petersburg’s city center is really beautiful and the best way to explore it, is by feet. It’s free and you can see the main sights of the city. I suggest you walk to the following destinations :
- Church Saviour of the Blood
- Field of Mars
- Troitskiy Bridge
- Peter and Pavel Fortress
- Isaac’s Cathedral
- Anticafe FD
- Market Place (Food)
- Kazan Cathedral
I created a tour guide for your ease, it takes around 3 hours and you will be able to pass majority of the main sights. You can view the full size map here.
Savior of the Blood Cathedral looks just amazing from the outside, from the inside it did not impress me that much, but decide for yourself. If you plan to visit Ermitage there might be quite a big queue, so keep in mind to wait a while, students have free entrance upon showing your student card.
6. Visit Anticafe
A great concept which I first experienced in Russia is the Anticafe. You pay for the time you spend in this coffee house while enjoying unlimited tee, coffee, biscuits & wi-fi. I know about two in St. Petersburg right at the Nevsky Prospekt (main street). One is called FD and is located at Nevsky Prospekt 11. You need to ring the bell and say that you want to go into the FD Anticafe (top floor).
Second Anticafe I would recommend is called Zifferburg. Particularly on weekend nights (concerts) or in cold weather it’s a cool place to hang out. You will find it at the top floor of Nevsky Prospekt 48 (first you need to pass a small shop/coffee).
Both Anticafes are hard to find, usually it’s meant for locals and cool people like you (since you read this) who want to experience a part of the local life.
7. Go up to the Saint Isaac’s Dome
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral is another famous sight of St. Petersburg. It’s enormous and the construction was combined with many problems due muddy ground of Petersburg. This is also the reason why the metro is so deep under the ground. What I recommend is to check out the dome. You will get a nice view over the city center. You can buy tickets separately. Students with a valid ISIC card will receive a discount.
8. Relax at the Krestovsky Island
At the Krestovsky Island you will find the famous amusement park of St. Petersburg. Even if you are not into roller-coasters, a couple minutes walking will bring you to the Central Park of Culture and Recreation which I highly recommend to visit. It’s a great place to relax and to check out the Finnish gulf. You need to take the violet metro line from the center to the “Krestovsky Ostrov” station to get there.
9. Watch a Football Game
As you might know in 2018 the FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia. Saint Petersburg is home of Zenit, a famous Russian football club. If you have some spare time, get yourself a ticket. It costs something around 700 rub. The atmosphere at the stadium is great and it’s also cool to experience the Russian security control at the entrance.
10. Visit Pushkin
Pushkin is the location where you will find another huge palace build by the Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great. I have been to Peterhof Palace and Hermitage and for me it’s not worth the visit. What’s worth visiting are the surrounding gardens. The park in Pushkin is beautiful and absolutely worth it (and free). To get there take the Marshrutka (Minibus) from the metro station Moskovskaya (blue line).
11. Visit Peterhof
Another landmark of St. Petersburg is Peterhof, an enormous complex inspired by Versailles. The fountains in Peterhof are beautiful and I recommend to visit it in summer. The fountains are turned off in winter and there is not much to see. You can visit it by speed boat departing from Hermitage or a Marshrutka (Minibus) from the station Avtovo (red line).
If you want to experience nightlife in Saint Petersburg, I advise you to go out in a group where at least one talk good Russian and is familiar with the area. A famous street for bars and clubs is called Dumskaya (right next to the Nevsky Prospekt). Nightlife for tourist without any knowledge of Russian might be dangerous. I have already heard many stories and even saw a dead body in front of one of the clubs, so behave yourself.
If you look for a good place to eat, try the “Market Place” restaurant. You will find them everywhere, they offer great fresh, local food for a good price.
If you look for an accommodation, check out the Baby Lemonade Hostel. It’s 10 min walk to Nevsky Prospekt, clean and cheap. I will write a review on it in the upcoming days, so stay tuned.
I bet that this covers the best places you can visit in and around St. Petersburg. I wish you a great journey to this beautiful city. Let me know about your experiences and if you would add anything else that’s worth seeing. You can also read my post about the Summer College Experience in St. Petersburg. P.S. To experience all of this I recommend to stay at least five days in St. Petersburg.
Let me know what’s your favourite one 🙂
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