Travel Guide to St Petersburg, Russia
By Ross Williams, Contributing Editor
“St. Petersburg is dripping with gold!” Often described such and considered to be the most tourist-worthy city in Russia, and with its exquisite architecture and museums, this city of roughly 5 million inhabitants serves to highlight some of the best features of the former Soviet Republic. Here you will be able to marvel at the imposing statues, tranquil gardens, and grand palaces as well as become enthralled in the history of the country. St. Petersburg is home to two of the world’s best art museums as well as the world famous Palace Square, where the revolution began. All this presents a great opportunity for visitors to take in the artistic and historical splendor of the biggest country in the world.
To avoid the notoriously cold winters here in Russia, you may want to time your trip for the warmer summer months between May and August, but there is no to need spend too much time worrying about getting here for the much hyped White Nights period. It is possible to witness bright warm evenings throughout the summer months. This is the perfect time to enjoy a city that is friendly, compact and full of wonderful things to see and do.
Walking is by far the best way to get a look at St. Petersburg and you should set aside a day to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. The backstreets of the city that runs along the canal near to Nevsky Prospekt, the view from the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the beautiful Summer Gardens should all be a priority on those bright sunny days. As the clouds settle in, which they often do without a moment’s notice in this part of the world, you can head into the Russian Museum and learn more about Russia’s turbulent history.
Do Some Planning
There is much to see and do in St. Petersburg and depending on the length of your trip you will need to make a tight plan to ensure that you get to see the best of the city. A three or four day trip that is planned well is usually enough to get a full dose of life, history, and the future of St. Petersburg.
The main street here is Nevsky Prospekt and a leisurely walk along it will help you to get some familiarization with the city. Most of the city’s attractions are centered around this street and along the canal so when you first get here you may just want to walk along and make a note of where you would like to go on day two.
The remaining days of your trip could be dedicated to the top attractions in St. Petersburg such as heading to the top of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and taking in the amazing view, wondering around the Peter and Paul Fortress, and touring the Hermitage.
How to Get Around the City
The city is compact enough for you to access all the main features on foot, but if you would rather take advantage of the transportation there are metros, trams, buses and of course taxi’s available. The type of transportation that will be most convenient will really be dependent on how far you want to travel.
The Metro – If you just want to get around the city then the Metro may not be the best option for you. For longer trips however, you will most definitely want to rely on the Metro service, which is actually pretty reliable. You buy metal tokens at the station for 30 cents per trip and this gives you access through the turnstiles.
Buses and Trams – In order to give yourself more of chance of tackling the unfamiliar stops and routes of the tram and bus system, you should arm yourself with a street map. These can be purchased at The Mir bookstore located at Nevsky 13 or Dom Knigi at Nevsky 28. Failing that, you can pick one up at many of the street stalls that are dotted around.
Taxis – Taxis are a very good option and quite cheap for trips around the city. The average trip within the city will set you back around $2, but longer trips could reach into the region of $5. There are metered cabs available as well as unofficial ones, but it is probably a safer bet to find the official metered operators as the unofficial ones may try to make up the price to their favor.
Must See Sights
There is a diverse mix of things to see and do in St. Petersburg, but there are some things that should make it to the top of your itinerary so that you do not miss an opportunity while you are in this part of the world.
The Hermitage Museum – This is considered to be one of the world’s greatest art museums, with a vast collection of art from top European artists. If you are a lover of art you could easily end up spending your entire trip marveling at the various collections within. You may be better off picking a particular artistic period that is of interest to you and heading straight for that. Admission is $8.
The Russian Museum – The Russian museum is another top museum and is often preferred by those that are not particularly keen on art that can easily be viewed in other more famous cities such as Paris and New York. The Russian Museum has an interesting collection of prerevolutionary Russian art, most of it from between the 18th and 19th centuries. Admission is $7.
St. Issaac’s Cathedral – The top of the St. Isaacs cathedral offers some of the best views of the city, but it will require a little effort to get to the top. The climb up the colonnade stairway will be well worth the climb, and the $3 admission fee. There is also a museum inside the cathedral which can be accessed for a further $8 admission fee.
Nevsky Prospekt – The most popular street in St. Petersburg is Nevsky Prospekt and with good reason. Here you can see some spectacular architectural highlights such as the arch at the General Staff Building, located at Bolshaya Morskaya ulitsa. The Kazan Cathedral is also located on the Nevsky Prospekt along with several interesting shops and some great views of the canal.
There is accommodation to suit every budget and taste here in St. Petersburg, from a basic hostel to a luxury hotel.
The St. Petersburg International Hostel is a popular choice as it is operated just like many of the other hostels located in Western Europe. There are 60 beds, English speaking staff, and breakfast included in the $17 per night price.
If high-end luxury is more your thing then you may consider the Nevsky Palace, which is one of several 5* hotels located in St. Petersburg. During high season (the summer months) you can expect to pay around $400 for a single room.
Packaged trips are available which incorporate flight and accommodation, and this may be more worthwhile if you are just taking a single trip to St. Petersburg. You should also ensure that you have taken care of your transfer to and from the airport beforehand or you will need to rely on the Metro system. THE END
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