As with some of my other travel reviews, I will stick to writing about the highlights of my trip to St Petersburg.
1) The Hermitage. We arrived at about 9am and still queued for 2 hours before getting in. People arriving later had waits of up to 4 hours. Either get there first thing (it opens at 10.30am and there were queues when we arrived) or better still, book tickets online and bypass the queue.
2) Student cards. There are a few good discounts for students - the Hermitage was free and we got a discount at St Isaacs cathedral. You don't need to have an ISIC, you can just have your university membership card.
3) Go to the ballet. Kind of goes without saying. We went to the Mikhailovsky and brought tickets the day before, just make sure you buy them at the ticket office and not off touts.
4) The double decker tour bus was fun but not great value for money. Equally the metro was pretty sketchy and there can be long distances between stations. Pack good walking shoes or try and figure out the buses...
5) Try and take a decent map with you. There weren't loads of road name signs, and there is only one tourist information office (official). If you can find it...
6) Take maps in the Lonely Planet trans-siberian guide with a pinch of salt - it often shows restaurants etc... as being in the wrong location.
7) If you go in June / early July, take an eye mask - it doesn't get dark until late and can really upset your sleeping pattern!
8) Try and learn a few words of Russian, and learn the Cyrillic alphabet - it will make life an awful lot easier!
In December 2001 I went on a business trip to Saint Petersburg. The talks were tough, exhausting and, in my (interpreter’s) opinion, as nauseating as persistency of prostitutes who tried to impose themselves in vain on my sweet solitude. So I didn’t have much time to spare, and the few hours I managed to snatch from the busy schedule were spent on two or three walks down the Nevsky Prospekt and some shopping. It wasn’t my first visit to the city. I served in the army there. I frequented it later on. Spent a part of my honeymoon (even though that marriage collapsed soon, some memories of our honeymoon in Saint Petersburg are now bright rather than painful. It was summer and the city seemed to be at its prime then), used to have some friends there. But it was my first visit since the collapse of the USSR. Throughout my weeklong stay in Saint Petersburg I didn’t hear a single foul word on the street, and I am ready to praise the locals to the skies for such a souvenir (we, Moscovites, do not speak Russian – we speak a low language). I’ve always thought that Saint Petersburg looks more like a capital city than Moscow. Now, after I’ve almost used up my lucky share of foreign travels, I think that a Westerner would feel there more at home than in Moscow. If you try and imagine what would become of present-day Vienna after a decade or two of a serious financial and moral crisis, you would get a picture of what to expect in Saint Petersburg. Take crime rate into account, by all means. And if you are going to make a call home and see several international phone booths on the Nevsky Prospekt (not far from the Moskovsky railway station, at the Prospekt's opposite end to the Winter Palace), you’d better ignore them. They are run by a company called "Санкт-Петерk 3;ургские так
;софоны" ("Saint Petersburg Payphones", www.spt.ru)I tried to make a call to Moscow from the place and had to change three to four booths. I counted on a five-minute comfortable, amorous talk with my wife, but, since the line was either dead, or bad, or crossed, I had to squeeze what I had to say into a telegraph-style sentence (I regret - it was not “I just called to say I love you…”).
This must be one of the most amazing cities in the world. There is so much to see and do. It has had many name changes from Petrograd to Leningrad to St Petersburg. Among the locals it is simply known as Peter - after its founder Peter The Great. THE SIGHTS * The Hermitage Museum - if you visit only one sight in the city it has to be here. A day really isn't long enough to see the vast array of exhibits thoug. You can find everything from original works by Monet to Egyptian artefacts and of course you will see the history of Russia too. The settings of the exhibits can be almost as fascinating.Some of the exhibits are in the Winter Palace - setting for one of the most important events in the 1917 revolution * The Church of the Spilled Blood - a typical Russian style church which is very similar in design to St Basil's in Moscow. There are some very interesting icons and mosaics inside. * St Isaacs Cathedral - as well as the interior being of a spectacular design you must go up to the top of the cathedral for an incredible view of the city. You can see for miles on a clear day. * The Marinsky Theatre - no matter how much you have to pay for a ticket you really must try and see a production here. I saw War and Peace and it was a masterpiece - although entirely in Russian they do have a display in English. The interior of the theatre is well worth seeing too. Some fascinating architecture is on display. * Nevsky Prospekt - this is the main street in the city and is filled with designer shops alongside typical Russian kiosks selling almost anything. * The canals - you can take a boat ride on the canals for a fraction of the price you would pay in Venice. This is the Venice of the North. * The bridges - there are numerous bridges connecting the city. On an evening some of them are eaised to let the ships through. We had an amazing (unofficial) nightime trip into one of the raised bridges. <
br>* Peterhof - on the outskirts of the city is a summer palace with lots of fountains. It also has some very beautiful gardens to wander around. This only a brief guide to places. There are many more places to see. NIGHTLIFE There are numerous bars and clubs in the city where the locals enjoy themselves. Places such as the Tribunal have an excellent reputation ... but also the prices to go with that reputation. Some clubs are open 24 hours a day. EATING There is a wide variety of restaurants in the city ranging from Oriental food, to Mexican (Senor Pepes is excellent), to Fastfood joints and typical Russian cuisine. I spent a fortnight in the city and still didn't get to see everything that I wanted. The only downside to a trip is the visa bureaucracy. As regards safety in the city, I actually felt safer here wandering around on my own than in London.
St Petersburg is a breathtaking city. Beautiful beyond belief. As you emerge from the train station, above the clamour of the streets and shabbiness of its denizens, rises beautiful buildings. As you head down the main street, you see that the building of equal splendour line the streets and run round the corners...The scale is huge and just gets larger and larger until you get to a cathedral with a curved arcade of columns that you would swear dwarfed the colloseum. Down every avenue lies a museum or church, all worth the few roubles it costs to get in. And it all just gets grander and grander culminating in the Hermitage and Catherine’s palace. Combined with the Finnish Gulf and Peterhof (Peter’s Palace), St Petersburg is the grandest city I have been to, holding itself with great dignity and grace embued by the days when it was the capital. You can positively feel the city and it’s bygone-heyday. But take a stroll just a couple of streets off the main shopping runs and it’s eerily desolate. A strange city that can’t help but chase what it once had. Don't miss the canal ride. In typical Russian style, our boat broke down in open water when the guide had just told us that it was too cold to survive in those waters! It's the only way to see some of the architecture that fronts onto the water and the guides will let you in on all the insider information.
"Saint Petersburg (Russian: Санкт-Петербург ) is a city located in Northwestern Federal District of Russia on the delta of the Neva River at the east end of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. It is informally known as Piter (Питер) and was formerly known as Petrograd (Петрогра́д, 19141924) and Leningrad (Ленингра́д, 19241991). Founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 16(27), 1703 as a "window to Europe", it served as the capital of the Russian Empire for more than two hundred years. St. Petersburg ceased being the capital when the capital was moved to Moscow after the Russian Revolution of 1917. With about 4.8 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, Saint Petersburg is Russia's second-largest city, Europe's eleventh largest metropolitan area, a major European cultural center, and the most important Russian port on the Baltic. The city has a total area of 1439 square km, which makes it the second biggest city in terms of area among cities with over a million inhabitants in Europe, after London."