Russia has brought us so many wonderful things. Vodka, banyas, caviar, and leggy dames who strut with the likes of Gisele (and make us momentarily believe that three days at the gym might transform us into one too).
So, as a tribute to our heritage, we wanted to give our readers a cheat sheet of Things to See and Do in St. Petersburg, a destination known for her stunning gardens and opulent monuments.
White Nights is reason enough. And no, we’re not talking about Baryshnikov in white tights (but now we’re thinking about him). We’re talking about those long summer days. With her network of canals and baroque architecture, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in the Europe of Russia. With art galleries, classical concerts, and a decidedly beatnik flair, St. Petersburg is one of the most interesting destinations in the world.
1. For opulence, stay at Orient-Express’ Grand Hotel Europe, located in the heart of St. Petersburg. Recently completing an extensive restoration project to 10 of its historic suites. Each suite has its own original interior that reflects the rich history of both the hotel and St. Petersburg. From Pavarotti to Romanov, their suites were named and inspired by famous Russians and guests who left their mark on the hotel. Each suite has windows overlooking the picturesque center of St. Petersburg – Arts Square, with its monument dedicated to the great poet, Alexander Pushkin. Don’t forget to hitch a ride on the Katarina, a luxury yacht owned by the hotel, that will take you on a water view ride of the sights. Dating back to the 1820s, the Grand Hotel Europe is classified as a national and cultural landmark and is under a preservation order as a historical monument.
2. The Caviar Bar & Restaurant at the Grand Hotel Europe also offers a true taste of fine Russian cuisine, an extensive selection of caviar, and a superb selection of domestic and imported vodkas (they even have a vodka sommelier!). The finest vodkas are served crisp and cold – the perfect accompaniment to an assortment of caviar, smoked fish, blini and dried black bread. You can also try out Tolstiy Fraer, a Russian pub, for classic Russian food, from beef stroganoff to dumplings, you can’t go wrong.
1 Kirpichny Pereulok, St. Petersburg
3. In the off-season, for those on a budget, other relatively expensive hotels can be affordable, like the Petro Palace Hotel and the Hotel Pushka Inn. Both are located near Palace Square and St. Isaac’s Cathedral. Rooms as low as 2,500 rubles in the winter.
4. Letniy Sad (Gardens). The most amazing thing about the gardens are the stunning statues. Perfect in the summer, you’ll even spot swans courting in the lake.
5. Dvortsovaia Ploshchad (Palace Square). Okay, so this square was the site f some rather famous uprisings like Bloody Sunday in 1905, when when confused palace guards opened fire on peaceful demonstrators. Today, a beautiful area lined by the Winter Palace and the sweeping majesty of the General Staff building, this square is one of the world’s most impressive inner-city areas. Like Red Square in Moscow, during the Revolution of October 1917, the alleged “storming” of the Winter Palace was also launched from this square.
6. The Winter Palace of Peter. Located on the Neva, this was the principle residence of Peter the Great, and he died here in 1725. A view into the Versailles of St. Petersburg.
7. Yusupov Palace, Yelagin Palace…. more spectacular palaces…
8. While you’re at it, check out Art Vokzal, an industrial space and club for experimental art and music.
9. For authentic Russian nightlife (just be prepared, dance clubs are for the youth, da), there are a slew of clubs. Belgrad, Bridge Lounge, Che, Datscha, Fish Fabrique, and Sinners (the long-standing gay club, complete with stripteases!) The list of bars and clubs is endless and some seem to open and close frequently, but we found this handy site for nightlife, written by travelers from Russia:
10. For the theater, Akimova Comedy Theatre and Alexandrinksy Theatre are top notch architectural gems and perfect venues to see both modern and classic works. Can I get a Swan Lake? Yes, you can! The good thing about ballet? It doesn’t matter what language it’s in.