St. Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia, famous for its majestic palaces, parks, and museums. The grandeur and opulence surrounding the city never fails to amaze its visitors, old and new. It is a travel experience that will feed your need for fine art and deep history.
St. Petersburg is an artistic powerhouse that thoroughly exceeds expectations. Apart from the stunning architecture and the museums packed with Picasso, it is famed for being home to world class ballet academies, classical concerts, and operas. A slew of big names in the classical genre have graced the halls of St. Petersburg’s theaters.
It has been compared to Venice, with its elegant grand canals that visitors can cruise through one of the 342 bridges in the city. Walking around the city will make you notice more similarities through the architecture of Italianate mansions lined by the canals.
The best time to visit St. Petersburg is in May to June, right in time to experience “Summer White Nights”. It is an epic sight when the northern sun dips below the horizon. The season begins in May, when parks and gardens start to flourish. This peaks in mid-June, when performing arts festivals pack the concert halls and parties go until the break of dawn. Needless to say, this is the most tourist-heavy season in the city.
If you prefer to have a more laid-back experience, plan your travel in early spring, golden autumn, of early winter. St. Petersburg is as picturesque and awe-striking in any time of the year. Its culture still dazzles even in the midst of snow-covered streets. To make the most of your trip, here are some of the most recommended things you should experience in the city.
1. Experience the Scarlet Sails
The Scarlet Sails is the highlight of the white nights season. It is a one-night festival with performances that happens in Palace Square. The festivities close with a grand fireworks show by the Neva River, creating a magnificent view of the sky full of glitz mirrored by the river’s clear waters. It is a vibrant celebration of the arts that you must experience in the city.
The Hermitage has an already grand exterior architecture, but inside it is even more grandiose. It has ceilings that go meters high, adorned with huge chandeliers displaying intricate details.
The museum is full of treasures as it is the second largest art museum in the world. Hermitage houses over three million pieces by the great artists, from Michaelangelo, Raphael, and Goya, to name a few. There are five wings to explore in this grand museum. Expect to spend at least a day reveling its halls and experiencing Russia’s rich heritage.
3. Go up St. Isaac’s Cathedral
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is hard to miss. It is the golden dome that defines the St. Petersburg skyline. It is an actual cathedral that holds worship services. The interiors are obscenely lavish to match its gold exterior.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is open as a museum as well. However, it is especially famous for the views that will greet you upon climbing its 262 steps. The kolomnada or colonnade goes around the center of the dome providing you with spectacular views of the whole city.
4. Tour the Grand Peterhof Palace
The Peterhof is a complex of majestic palaces and vast green gardens. The frontage features a series of fountains that add to the grandness of its entrance. Visit the Peterhof from 11 in the morning onwards to see the fountains putting on a show.
The Grand Palace, the largest of Peterhof’s palaces, has 30 rooms in total. Inside you will find massive grand halls with awe-striking details from the floor to the ceiling. Look around in amazement at how ostentatious everything was built and preserved. It gives you the true essence of a monarchy’s palace.
5. Snap a few photos at the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is where Alexander II of Russia was assassinated, thus the name. It is one of the main attractions in St. Petersburg.
On the exterior, it is visually stimulating unlike any other church you have seen. The details are vibrant and colorful, resembling more of a mosque rather than a church. It is best to visit in the morning to get that perfect photo as it contrasts with the clear blue sky.
6. Go for a walk at the Palace Square
Palace Square is the central city square of St. Petersburg. Many significant events happened here historically such as revolutions that changed the course of the city. The square lights up beautifully at night which makes it perfect for a stroll around its vast open space, with the cool air around you.
7. Visit the pristine beaches
Going to the beach is not a usual part of a tourist’s itinerary to St. Petersburg. However, you would be surprised to see how beautiful the beaches are. You can find some of the best beaches north of the city, fringing the gulf of Finland. Make the most of this slice of the ocean if you ever visit the city over the summer.
8. Indulge in a culinary escapade
Go on the hunt to try the flavors of St. Petersburg. Some of their must-try, traditional dishes include flied smelt, Baltic salmon, Ladoga catfish, lamprey, Lennigrad rassolnik, piozhki, caviar, and the signature Russian vodka.
Lennigrad rassolnik is a soup dish that can only be found in the city, while piozhki is a Russian delicacy much like a samosa with meat, liver, or veggies in them.
There are a lot of restaurants and cafes around St. Petersburg which primarily serve these traditional authentic dishes so you won’t have a problem ticking off items on your culinary bucket list.
9. Cruise the Neva River
One of the most uncommon ways to tour St. Petersburg is through a cruise ship. Nonetheless, this makes you experience a different side of seeing the city. The Neva River spans 74 kilometers and it is the fourth largest river in Europe in terms of amount of water. It is best to join groups that offer tours via cruise ship, to get the best value for your money.
10. Go sledding with dogs
It is a winter wonderland dream to ride on a sled being pulled by huge dogs. Thankfully, dreams can come true in St. Petersburg. Be greeted by the most beautiful Siberian Huskies that will lead this unique adventure. In this activity, you will get to go sledding through a gorgeous forest covered in snow. It is such a feast for the eyes and definitely makes you feel like you’re in a movie.
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