St Petersburg’s Highlights

St Petersburg or “Peter” as the locals call it surely is one of the most interesting big cities in Europe. No skyscrapers but extravagant palaces, magnificent cathedrals and vast museums. What surprised me most is how clean and modern St Petersburg is! Pulkovo airport stands out as impressive as Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport and there is no trash in the streets of the city center. Roads are in good condition and traffic isn’t the mad hell you had imagined. Visiting in winter is a nice way to discover the city with less tourists, and I was lucky to have the best possible weather (snow on the ground, freezing temperatures and some beautiful sunlight!). You need to spend at least a few days in the city to experience a major part of what it has to offer.

St Petersburg skyline on a cold winter day
St Petersburg skyline on a cold winter’s day

Russian Ilyushin planes at Pulkovo airport, St Petersburg
Russian Ilyushin planes at Pulkovo airport

The Palaces

I tend to think St Petersburg resembles Helsinki…ten times bigger and with palaces. Massive and very sophisticated palaces.

Winter Palace

The most well-known and centrally located one. Also home to the Hermitage museum, clearly one of the world’s most beautiful museums. But don’t expect Russian masterpieces there, as the Hermitage only exhibits foreign art (for Russian art head to the Russian Museum, see below). I highly recommend to hire a guide for your visit, as the size of the place can be overwhelming.

Winter Palace at night
Winter Palace at night

 

Cat crossing at the Hermitage
Cat crossing at the Hermitage

 

Throne Room, Winter Palace, St Petersburg
Throne Room, Winter Palace

 

Winter Palace from St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg
Winter Palace from St Isaac’s Cathedral

 

Baroque furnishing in the Winter Palace, St Petersburg
Baroque furnishing in the Winter Palace

 

Lightshow at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg
Light show at the Winter Palace

 

Don't you think the dog resembles a well-known Russian politician...?
Don’t you think the dog resembles a well-known Russian politician…?

 

Yusupov Palace

Also very close to the city center, Yusupov is not to be missed. A lot more intimate than the Winter Palace, still as much extravagant. My favorite spots: the small theatre and the Oriental Room. No need for a guide here, audioguides are very informative and included in the entrance fee.

The Theatre, Yusupov Palace, St Petersburg
The Theatre, Yusupov Palace

 

Oriental Room, Yusupov Palace, St Petersburg
Oriental Room, Yusupov Palace

 

The Princess' Bedroom, Yusupov Palace, St Petersburg
The Princess’ Bedroom, Yusupov Palace

 

Catherine Palace

Located south of St Petersburg in a small town called Pushkin. To reach it you need to take the metro and a bus, but the easiest way is to ride a cab. No need for a guide here either, as the palace is easy to visit and mainly about admiring the somptuous interiors around yourself. Top spot: the Amber Room, with amber everywhere (the only place where pictures are for some reason forbidden…). Unfortunately most of the things you see in the palace are only replicas of the original destroyed ones…

Catherine Palace's bulbs, St Petersburg
Catherine Palace’s bulbs

 

Details of the Catherine Palace, St Petersburg
Details of Catherine Palace

 

Ball Room, Catherine Palace, St Petersburg
Ball Room, Catherine Palace

 

Light contrasts, Catherine Palace, St Petersburg
Light contrasts inside Catherine Palace

 

Doorknob, Catherine Palace, St Petersburg
Doorknob, Catherine Palace

 

Tea room, Catherine Palace, St Petersburg
Tea room, Catherine Palace

 

Staircase inside Catherine Palace, St Petersburg
Staircase inside Catherine Palace

 

The Metro

Being mainly built on a swamp, St Petersburg has the world’s deepest metro system! The stations on the red line (line 1) from city center to the south are worth a visit. Not as grandiloquent as Moscow’s metro stations, but still quite gorgeous and different from what we are used to.

St Petersburg's metro
St Petersburg’s metro

 

Entering the world's deepest subway system, St Petersburg
Entering the world’s deepest metro system

 

Churches

As extravagant as its palaces are St Petersburg’s many churches.

Church of the Savior on Blood

The most iconic one with its bulbs. Very central location along a canal. Beautiful at any time of the day and better looking from outside to me than inside.

Church of the Savior on Blood at twilight, St Petersburg
Church of the Savior on Blood at twilight

 

Blue hour and the Church of the Savior on Blood, St Petersburg
Blue hour and the Church of the Savior on Blood

 

Church of the Savior on Blood at night, St Petersburg
Church of the Savior on Blood at night

 

Church of the Savior on Blood from inside, St Petersburg
Inside the Church of the Savior on Blood

 

St Isaac’s Cathedral

Central as well and impressive from inside but interesting mostly because of its Colonnade from where you get a 360-degree view of the city, flat and extended in front of your eyes.

St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg
St Isaac’s Cathedral

 

Inside St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg
Inside St Isaac’s Cathedral

 

Admiralty Building from St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg
Admiralty Building from St Isaac’s Cathedral

 

Constitutional Court of Russia from St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg
Constitutional Court of Russia from St Isaac’s Cathedral

 

Trinity Cathedral, St Petersburg
Trinity Cathedral from St Isaac’s Cathedral

 

St Nicholas Naval Cathedral

Small and intimate, highly photogenic.

St Nicholas Naval Cathedral, St Petersburg
St Nicholas Naval Cathedral

 

Peter and Paul Cathedral

On the other side of Neva river and founded on its own island is the Peter and Paul Cathedral, in a more western style. Also other buildings to visit around it, inside what’s called the Peter and Paul fortress.

Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg
Peter and Paul Cathedral

 

Peter and Paul Cathedral from inside, St Petersburg
Peter and Paul Cathedral from inside

 

The Peter and Paul fortress, St Petersburg
The Peter and Paul fortress

 

Food

St Petersburg definitely is more about what you see than what you taste. I wasn’t very convinced by Russian gastronomy… It somehow lacks creativity and surprising flavors to me. Maybe it’s because I am not a big fan of fish and sturgeon caviar is totally overpriced anyway. A couple of things I liked a lot though: borscht soup and pelmeni (especially those cherry pelmeni for dessert!). To wash down with some ice-cold Russian vodka, of course.

Borscht soup at Severyanin restaurant, St Petersburg
Borscht soup at Severyanin restaurant

 

Pelmeni at Dom restaurant, St Petersburg
Meat pelmeni at Dom restaurant

 

Traditional Russian pickles at Dom restaurant, St Petersburg
Traditional Russian pickles at Dom restaurant

 

Pelmeni for dessert at Dom restaurant, St Petersburg
Pelmeni for dessert at Dom restaurant

 

Museums

As you know I am not keen on museums, unless they are about something very one-of-a-kind. And there is one like that in St Petersburg: the Fabergé museum.

The Fabergé Museum

Everybody knows Fabergé and its famous eggs. Here you can see some of the very few real ones in the world and they are simply gorgeous masterworks, each of them with a particular feature. Aside from the eggs the museum offers a highly enjoyable visit in a sophisticated yet comfy atmosphere. After your visit head to the very nice museum’s café, all in red tones.

Staircase at Fabergé Museum, St Petersburg
Staircase at Fabergé Museum

 

Blue Room, Fabergé Museum (that's where the eggs are exposed), St Petersburg
Blue Room, Fabergé Museum (that’s where the eggs are exposed)

 

My favorite egg of the Fabergé Museum (yes, it's a clock!), St Petersburg
My favorite egg of the Fabergé Museum (yes, it’s a clock!)

 

Fabergé Museum's Café, St Petersburg
Fabergé Museum’s Café

 

The Russian Museum

Kind of a must-see, though I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Full of Russian art, from early times to the 20th century. Close to the museum you must visit Beluga Deluxe store! It’s the most incredible souvenir shop I’ve ever been in. Everything Russian you can think of is there. From amber jewelry, matrioshkas of all kinds, sturgeon caviar to malachite statues worth thousands of dollars, all presented in a design concept.

Russian Museum at night, St Petersburg
Russian Museum at night

 

Staircase at the Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Main staircase at the Russian Museum

 

A painting of the Russian Museum, St Petersburg
A painting of the Russian Museum

 

Arts Square, Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Arts Square, Russian Museum

 

Walking

Like any city, St Petersburg is best discovered by foot to catch all those important feelings and details. Where Nevsky Prospekt (the city’s main street) is crowded and noisy, the canals are quiet and peaceful.

An inner courtyard, St Petersburg
An inner courtyard

 

Coffee truck on Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg
Coffee truck on Nevsky Prospekt

 

Voskresnaya Shkola Pri Svyato-isidorovskom Khrame, St Petersburg
Voskresnaya Shkola Pri Svyato-isidorovskom Khrame

 

That's a lot of wires!
That’s a lot of wires!

 

A driveway, St Petersburg
A driveway

 

Frozen Neva River and city skyline from the Trinity Bridge, St Petersburg
Frozen Neva River and city skyline from the Trinity Bridge

 

Russian police car, St Petersburg
Russian police car

 

Petrogradsky Island from the Hermitage, St Petersburg
Petrogradsky Island from the Hermitage

 

Frozen pipe, St Petersburg
Frozen pipe

 

General Staff Building on the Palace Square, St Petersburg
General Staff Building on the Palace Square

 

Partly frozen canal, St Petersburg
Partly frozen canal

 

Kunstkamera from the Hermitage, St Petersburg
Kunstkamera from the Hermitage

 

Old woman on Lions Bridge, St Petersburg
Old woman on Lions Bridge

 

Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg
Kazan Cathedral

 

Accommodation

During my visit I stayed at Pushka Inn, only a couple hundreds of meters from the Winter Palace. Overall this small and modern hotel can be recommended. Towels could be softer, pillows of better quality and a minibar in the room would be nice, but service and helpfulness of the staff were above expectations.

Comfort room at Pushka Inn, St Petersburg
Comfort room at Pushka Inn

 

 

 

 

 

 

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