Things to do in St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg is the “Venice of Russia” with over 300 canals and inlets to the Baltic Sea. Our cruise ship, the Seabourn Quest, cruised up the Neva River and approached the city. We raced to the top deck to see its skyline. Onion domed churches and towers surrounded us, and we were excited to explore Russia’s first modern city, built by Peter the Great, but named after St. Peter.
As we went ashore, an elderly man greeted us by playing his violin. Fitting for a place brimming with art and culture. The waterways were lined with trees, and parks blossoming with lilac.
Our first stop was the Four Seasons St. Petersburg to meet our driver Vladimir, and local guides Marina, Ekaterina, and Galina, who would each show us various highlights throughout the day. The Four Seasons used to be a palace, and now renovated to a hotel. It is beautiful! Built in 1820, it is known as “The Lion Palace.”
We began our tour, and created this list of recommended places to visit while in St. Petersburg and the surrounding area.
WHAT TO DO– The Top spots in St. Petersburg Russia
- “The Church of Spilled Blood”: Alexander III built this Cathedral as a tribute/remembrance of his father who is buried in this Russian Orthodox Cathedral. At first glance, it seems that the entire Cathedral is covered with paintings, then we realize the paintings are really mosaics!!! Over 23,000 square feet of intricate mosaic art in this Cathedral.
- Faberge Museum: Visited the Fabergé collection located in the renovated Shuvalov Palace on the Fontanka River. There are 4,000 pieces of art objects of all kinds – jewelry, silverware, decorative and fine art. But the real highlight are the famous Fabergé Imperial Eggs filled with surprises. Carl Fabergé was a famous jeweler who designed intricate presents for the Czars and their families.
- Hermitage Museum: Formerly home to Russian tsars, the Winter Palace is now called The Hermitage Museum. Founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, this museum is one of the oldest in the world, housing some of the most extensive art collections. Our guide told us that if we were to admire every painting or work of art in the Hermitage for 30 seconds, it would take more than 30 years and we would walk 26 miles while doing so. Aside from the gold gilded rooms, elaborate tapestries embroidered with silver and gold threads, and light fixtures made of crystal and silver/gold/bronze weighing tons, there were paintings by Rembrandt, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso. We visited the Chapel where Nicholas and Alexandra were married, their children blessed/baptized.
- Peterhof Palace: About 1 hour north of St. Petersburg, Peterhof, magnificent summer home of Peter the Great is definitely worth a visit. Situated on 300 acres with immaculate gardens and impressive 144 garden fountains. The great cascade or stair case of water leads to the Gulf of Finland. The lavish rooms and galleries inside are filled with paintings, art, furniture and chandeliers and more.
- Saint Isaac’s Cathedral: Considered the main church of Imperial Russia, this cathedral took 40 years to build. On the exterior, there are enormous columns made of granite, marble, to the opulent interior adorned with malachite, lapis lazuli, and many frescos and mosaics of Christ life.
- St. Catherine’s Palace: Tsarksoe Selo is a wooded area in the Pushkin area, just outside of St. Petersburg. Catherine the First (wife of Peter the Great) loved this area and wanted to build a home here. Peter the Great presented this palace to Catherine in 1710. It served as the Imperial family’s summer residence until the last Czar. Some call St. Catherine’s Palace the “Versailles of Russia.” The architecture and art fill the rooms and galleries. Don’t Miss! The Amber Room & the Throne Room.
- Drive St. Petersburg or Take a Scenic River Cruise: We took a driving tour to see the highlights of this city – down the main street Nevsky Prospect to the Fine Arts Square, passing a Ballet school (Academy of Russian Ballet) and the Russian Museum. We saw many churches, theatres, and palaces built by the greatest architects of the Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Another great way to see the city is taking a scenic river cruise.
- Mariinsky Theatre: You can see world-class ballet and opera performances at this theatre.
- Try Borscht! Visit the Four Seasons St. Petersburg Hotel and savor this classic Russian red beet soup. Here’s the recipe compliments of Executive Chef Andrea Accordi, click here.
We loved visiting St. Petersburg and learning about its history, art and culture! You need more than a couple days to see all this city has to offer. Next trip, we hope to visit Peter & Paul Fortress, and the Menshikov Palace, Vladimir and Yusupov Palaces, Alexander and Pavlovsk Palaces, and more treasures at The Hermitage.
Global Adventuress would like to thank the Four Seasons St. Petersburg for organizing our tours with local guides and drivers.
We also would thank Travelpro for the carry-on spinner suitcase, a favorite of travel crews and avid travelers.
Special thanks to artist Diane Stone for the watercolor paintings of the scenes and skylines from this Scandinavian & Baltic Cruise. More of her artwork can be found at: www.DianeStoneArt.com
Seabourn is a fabulous luxury cruise line that cruises through the Baltic and Scandinavia regions, as well as worldwide.
TravelPro: High quality luggage, preferred by flight crews, frequent travelers, and the Global Adventuress Team.
TRAVEL ADVISORIES & SERVICES
RWTI: Applying for a Russian visa can be overwhelming, so we recommend contacting Rainier Travel to help prepare your visa paperwork and vouchers. They helped us expedite the process.
U.S. Passports & International Travel: The U.S. Department of State provides helpful information at this site including passport & visa requirements, embassy locations, and safety & security.
LEARN SOME RUSSIAN!
Welcome = Dobro pozhalovat’
Good Morning = Dobroe utro
Good Evening = Dobryj vecher
Goodnight = Dobroj nochi
Goodbye = Do svidanija
How are you? = Kak pozhivaete?
I am fine = Vse horosho
Thank you = Spasibo
You are welcome = Pozhalujsta
I don’t understand = Ja ne ponimaju
What? = Chto?
When? = Kogda?
How? = Kak?
Where? = Gde?
At what time? = V kakoe vremja?
How many? = Skol’ko?
Expensive = Dorogo
Cheap = Deshevo
Yes/No = Da/Net
Left = Nalevo
Right = Napravo
Straight ahead = Pryamo
I want = Ja hochu
I want to go to = Ja hochu pojti
Train Station = Zheleznodorozhnyj vokzal
Airport = Aeroport
Today = Segodnja
Tomorrow = Zavtra
Yesterday = Vchera
Now = Sejchas
Later = Posle