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St. Petersburg (Russia)

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St. Petersburg (?????-?????????? Sankt-Peterburg) is Russia's second city, with a population of 4.2 million perched at the eastern tip of of the Baltic Sea and the Neva River.

The Hermitage and the Winter Palace across the Neva RiverThe Hermitage and the Winter Palace across the Neva River
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The Hermitage and the Winter Palace across the Neva River

st Travel Guide :

Understand

Founded by Peter the Great, the former home of the Czars and the center of Russian culture, St. Petersburg was known as "The Venice of the North" in its heyday. Renamed Petrograd in 1914, the city was renamed again as Leningrad in 1924 after Lenin's death. Bombed, besieged and starved during World War II, during the Communist era the city took a back seat to capital Moscow.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the city has been rapidly making up for lost time and is by far the most cosmopolitan of Russia's cities. Now formally known by its original name again, most Russians call it what they always have, the friendly diminutive Piter (?????).

Festivals

May 9, Veterans ParadeMay 9, Veterans Parade
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May 9, Veterans Parade
  • During the last 10 days of June, the longest days of the year, St. Petersburg celebrates the White Nights in a cultural extravaganza. Book early as accommodation and transport can be packed during this time.

Get in

By plane

Pulkovo Airport (LED) serves a wide variety of destinations in nearby countries and within Russia. Terminal 1 serves domestic flights, while Terminal 2 is for international connections. The airport is 17 kilometers from the center.

Taxis infest the airport, but the prices are astounding, working out about 50 euros to get into St. Petersburg. Instead, take a bus to the nearest Metro station, Moskovskaya, which will cost you all of 14 RUR. From there you can get anywhere on the St. Petersburg Metro for a 10 RUR token.

By train

St. Petersburg is a major train hub. The 5-hour train ride from Helsinki (Finland) is one of the most comfortable ways to reach the city. Trains also connect to destinations in the Baltics and Central Europe. Alternatively, you can head inland to Moscow.

There are five principal stations:

  • Moscow Station: for Moscow, NovgorodNovgorod, Ukraine, Belarus. Metro: Ploshchad Vosstaniya and Mayakovskaya.
  • Vitebsk Station : for Pushkin (formerly Tsarskoïe Selo), PavlovskPavlovsk, VitebskVitebsk, Belarus and large foreign cities. Metro: Pushkinskaya.
  • Baltic Station: for Petrodvorets (Peterhof), LomonossovLomonossov (Oranienbaum). Metro: Baltiskaya.
  • Warsaw Station: for Warsaw, Berlin, Budapest, the Baltic states (Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius). Nearest metro: Baltiskaya and Frunzenskaya.
  • Ladozhki Station: For various desinations including Murmansk, Astana (Kazakhstan), and Finland (the luxury express trains Sibelius, Repin and Tolstoi for Helsinki). Metro: Ladozhkaya.

Note: Finland station is no longer used by train to Finland! Currently there seems to be no train service to and from Tallinn

By bus

The cheapest way of reaching St. Petersburg from neighboring countries is long-distance bus. Buses from Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, Finland, the Baltic states and Scandinavia arrive at the bus station. Métro: Ligovsky Prospekt.

By boat

In summer, cruises from Helsinki and Tallinn sail to St. Petersburg. There is also a regular ferry connection from Stockholm, which arrives at the harbor station. Subway: Primorskaya.

Passenger boats also operate on the inland waterway "Volga-Baltic" which links Moscow, the River Volga and Lakes Onega, Ladoga and Neva.

To get out, you could try your luck for Freighter travel, although the port is very large. It would be easier if you have connections in the port. Try to find a dispatcher.

Get around

By subway

St. Petersburg's metro system is second only to Moscow's in size and the best way to get around. Trains are cheap, rapid and very frequent (intervals go as low as 90 seconds in peak hours).

By tram

A more scenic but slower way to see St. Petersburg is by tram.

See

The Hermitage MuseumThe Hermitage Museum
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The Hermitage Museum
  • The Hermitage Museum (http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/) is St. Petersburg's prime attraction, a massive palace-cum-museum showing the highlights of a collection of over 3,000,000 pieces spanning the globe. Ticketing is complex, but the Hermitage itself is 100 rubles for Russians and 350 rubles for foreigners. Entrance is free on the first Thursday of every month.

My advice for foreigners visiting the Hermitage Museum: Get yourself on a tour. They're 200 rubles instead of 350, and include the photography fee and a whistle-stop tour of the museum. Don't accept a tour from the numerous touts hanging around the queue. Instead, march past the queue and in through the main entrance, or the exit opposite if the queue's blocking the entrance (don't worry, you're not queue-jumping). Have a scout around for notices with museum tour times in your native language, or in extreme circumstances, ask at the desk. If you find a good candidate, you're all set to go to the Tours Office to book yourself on it. This is where things get slightly surreal.

To get to the Tours Office from the main entrance, go forward past the cashiers, and turn left down the corridor. The Tours Office is in front of you at the end, and may or may not be marked. Get yourself a place on your tour, collect the bit of paper, go to cashier No. 5 (who is not with the rest of them, instead turn left out of the Tours Office and she's in a box at the end of the corridor), pay, get your paper stamped, take it back to the Tours Office and get it checked, stamped again and muttered over and then you're ready to brave the coat dungeon.

Bags aren't allowed in the museum (and neither are cameras without the appropriate ticket), so stash them in the busy cloakroom.

  • Our-Lady-of-Kazan Cathedral (Kazansky Sobor).
  • Saver-on-the-Blood Church (built at the site of Emperor Alexander II's assassination).
  • Saint-Isaac Cathedral
  • Admiralty
  • Smolny
  • The bridges on the Néva, which open 2 times per night to allow boats to pass.
    Bridges by nightBridges by night
    </a
    Bridges by night

Do

There are many things to do in the evenings, for example music, dance, circus, opera. Performances start early (6pm). Do not be put off by the length of an opera at the Mariinski Theatre as there are many intervals. And the language is not an obstacle: the text is translated above the scene.

Learn

Work

Buy

  • Nevsky Prospect is St. Petersburg's Champs-Élysées, lined with department stores and fancy shops.
  • Gostiny Dvor is the city's oldest and largest shopping center, dating to the mid-18th century. The name means "Merchants' Hotel", as its old role was to provide both shops and housing to merchants from far away.
  • Passazh is the Harrods of St. Petersburg, a smaller shopping center for the elite.

Eat

Budget

Night sceneNight scene
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Night scene

Mid-range

  • Kafe Tbilisi, Sytninskaya ul., 10, 2329391, Metro Gorkovskaya behind the market. Georgian food. The dishes prepared in pots are excellent.
  • Kafe Ket, 22 Ul. Stremyannaya. In a country where only 1% of the population is reported to eat out in a restaurant more than once a year, Kafe Ket is a wonderful alternative to the pushy alternatives which have no place in the city other than to cater for the culinary whims of busloads of foreign tourists. This little restaurant serves the nicest Georgian food I've ever tasted, and they even make a reasonable job of trying to translate the menu into English.
  • Acquarel, next to the Birzhevoy bridge, 3208600, Right on the water this restaurant offers Italian food alongside a French/Asian fusion menu. Friendly people, delightful atmosphere, and a wonderful view, Acquarel is a wonderful and delicious dinner option or even a great place to relax and get a drink in their lounge chairs.

Splurge

Vegetarian

  • The Idiot, 82, Moika Emb., 3151675. A wide variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes, in a cosy cellar, totally un-SPB-like.

Drink

St. Petersburgers know how to party.

Nightclubs

  • Tunnel (???????). Zverinskaya Ul (Metro: Sportivnaya), 1 (http://www.tunnelclub.ru/). Reputedly Russia's first techno club and certainly its most legendary, Tunnel is back after an extended shutdown. This disused bomb shelter isn't exactly pretty and the crush and "face control" at the entrance when the doors open at 12 midnight sharp are legendary, but the crowd and the DJs are worth it. Entry 250-350 rubles depending on who's playing.
  • Griboedov (?????????). Voronezskaya Ul. 2 (Metro: Ligovsky), 2 (http://www.griboedovclub.ru). A suitably spaced out place for a club whose name can also be interpreted as "the mushroom eater", the acts here are famously offbeat, especially on weekdays when you're as likely to find a poetry reading as live reggae or a DJ spinning psychedelic trance. Also hidden in an underground bomb shelter, open daily except Tuesday.

Sleep

Budget

  • Nordhostel, 3 (http://www.nordhostel.com). For about EUR20 you get a perfect hostel located in the very center of the city - a stone's throw from the Hermitage. Free internet access and continental breakfast.

Sleep Cheap - Located on Mohovaya Ave, reasonably priced (700 rubles) accommodation. Very hard to find (go to number 18, and through the dark tunnel), no Internet Access or hot water (for a couple of weeks during the summer).

Mid-range

  • Hotel Moskva. 2 Alexander Nevsky pl (Metro Ploschad' Alexandrogo Nevskogo), tel. +7 812 274-4001. Incredibly gargantuan concrete monolith that continues to carry forward the Soviet traditions of former monopoly operator Intourist. Ugly and user-hostile, but the location right above a subway station is excellent and the price can be right, especially if booked in a package.

Splurge

Contact

Stay safe

St. Petersburg has a somewhat dangerous reputation, although mafia gang wars are unlikely to affect the average tourist. Skinhead gangs are a problem if you are Black or Asian. Much of the police force is corrupt and best avoided. Avoid travel alone at night and do not get into altercations with drunken Russians.

Cope

Get out

  • Pushkin — a city 25 km south of St. Petersburg, with beautiful parks and palaces.
  • Peterhof — the sumptuous "Russian Versailles"

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