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Stunning St Petersburg

It’s not all vodka and furry hats in this part of Russia. St Petersburg has always been a city of innovation, ever since old Peter the Great himself decided that he wanted his very own city built – in a swamp! But from these unpromising beginnings, St Petersburg has morphed from swamp monster to rich cultural treasure on the Strelka.

Perhaps because of the grand architecture lining the main drags of Nevsky Prospekt and Bolshaya Morskaya, St Pete’s inhabitants consider themselves to be quite the Western Europeans, even though the Triumphal Arch and Winter Palaceare Russian through and through. But for all that rich history, St Petersburg’s beatnik bands and bohemian nightlife are propelling it into the future in ways that would have Tchaikovsky spinning in his grave. It’s been over 100 years since this city last caused a revolution, so perhaps the time is nigh…

ST Petersburg’s Top 10

10. Geological Museum An enormous collection of rocks and fossils. If you own a ‘Geology Rocks’ shirt, this is your place!

5. Dvortsovaya Pl A beautiful and very grand square worthy of a few goose bumpy moments.

9. Dekabristov Pl Remember those who made quite the scene here back in the day…

4. Alexander Nevsky Monastery Named for the Patron Saint of St P.

8. Kresty Prison This pre-trial detention centre is a sobering experience, but an interesting one nonetheless.

3. Mendeleev Museum Make your old science teacher proud with a trip to the birthplace of the periodic table.

7. Mikhailovsky Castle A real castle with all the trimmings, including a moat andthe ghost of Tsar Paul I…

2. Bronze Horseman St Peter the Great is immortalised here in all his mammoth, bronze, horsebacked glory.

6. Trinity Cathedral Renovations are taking forever on this thing.

1. State Hermitage Museum Much revered, and rightly so. Arguably the best museum in Russia.

St Petersburg History

  • The Winter Palace – Originally built in 1708 for Peter the Great and his family.
  • Anichkov Palace – One of the oldest buildings on Nevsky Prospekt, it now houses several educational organizations.
  • Yelagin Palace – Built by Carlo Rossi for Empress Maria Fyodorvna, mother of Alexander I.
  • Kamennoostrovoskiy Palace – Once the favourite home of Alexander I, this is one of St Petersburg’s little-known imperial residence.
  • Tavricheskiy Palace – Originally built for Prince Gregory Potemkin, this grand palace located in the centre of St Petersburg was an exemplary aristocratic residence.

St Petersburg Art & Culture

  • Russian Museum – Housed in Mikhailovsky Palace, this museum opened in 1898 and has the greatest collection in arts.
  • Mariinskiy Theatre – Built in 1860, this world-famous theatre has continued to present the world with great artists.
  • The Hermitage Museum – This museum presents gallery upon gallery of classic Western artists and treasures from the East.

St Petersburg Shopping

  • Gostiny Dvor – A huge department store in St Petersburg that was constructed between 1757 and 1785.
  • Kuznechny Market – This market features fresh produce including fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and other fresh products.
  • Belage – You can get antiques especially jewellery, glass, furniture, bronze, porcelain and paintings, especially from Russia and Western Europe.
  • Babushka – This art store has a rich collection of Russian souvenirs.
  • Dom Knigi – House of Books has a huge collection of books on Russian, as well as foreign literature, art and travel.

Gay & Lesbian St Petersburg

  • Tri El Club – St Petersburg’s sole women-only lesbian club.
  • Greshniki Club – An old mansion with four floors, this is a gay club with dance floor and more.
  • Central Station Club – This award-winning gay club is quite impressive, with eight bars, a restaurant and plenty of dark corners.
  • Gay Bar Blue Oyster – Located in the centre of St Petersburg, the bar is most busy on weekends.
  • Gay Club Cabaret – Located near Baltic railway station, a colourful transvestite show after midnight is a specialty here.

St Petersburg Outdoor

  • Summer Garden – Peter the Great was involved in the planning of this beautiful, expansive park filled with trees, flowers and statues.
  • Waterville Aqua park – There’s something for everyone and especially for kids at this huge complex.
  • Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden – The oldest botanical garden in Russia, featuring thousands of species of plants.
  • Alexander Garden – This central garden has a long, rich history and features a fountain that reacts to music.
  • Catherine Garden – This popular public garden in St Petersburg often has local artists selling their works.

St Petersburg Sport

  • Go to the biggest Planet Fitness outlet in St Petersburg to enjoy facilities including tennis, swimming, yoga and spinning.
  • Explore the options of bowling and billiards at Bowling City, the most central outlet of a network of bowling clubs.
  • Indulge in your passion for yoga and aerobics at Smolny, the first and largest chain of fitness centres.
  • Apart from boat tours, you can go for a free walking tour offered by Anglo Tourismo.
  • Watch the top local basketball team, Spartak, play basketball at the Jubille Sports Palace.

ST Petersburg Events

January carries on the Orthodox Christmas celebrations with the International Christmas Film Festival. Family friendly flicks are screened across the city.

The biggest Russian holiday is Easter. Full Orthodox festivities are held at Kazan Cathedral.

St Petersburg celebrates its swampy beginnings on 27 May. Join the festivities on City Day with fireworks and partying.

June brings bloated guts, sore heads and the Beer Festival. Hundreds of revellers descend upon the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Brave the cold in late-December for sleigh rides and folklore shows at the Russian Winter Festival.

When To Go

  • Pack your hat and coat – it’s pretty chilly in this part of Russia. The average temperature is around -8°C (18ºF), but it can get as low as -15°C (5ºF), with a lot of wind to boot.
  • June to August bring warmer weather, with averages of around 20°C (68ºF).
  • During the summer solstice, the days are long, with only a few hours of darkness around 1a.m. In winter, the nights are long and the days are dark.

Getting Around

The metro in St Petersburg is fairly efficient, with four lines covering the city.

Riding a bike is on the up in St Petersburg! Because of the size of the city, it’s quite a handy way to get around.

St Petersburg’s roads aren’t in the best of conditions, and its drivers are even more precarious. Be cautious when riding or driving.

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