St Petersburg is packed with history, from palaces to Soviet Union arcade games.
Built by former emperor Peter the Great as a ‘window on the West’, Russia’s imperial capital is a treasure trove of art and culture, spectacular palaces and cathedrals. It is also a city that vibrates with its rich maritime and revolutionary history. Whether arriving by plane, train or boat, the approach won’t be disappointing. Wander its narrow cobbled streets, marvel at buzzing Nevsky Prospect, glide along the peaceful canals or cross one of its 342 bridges. And don’t forget to explore Russia’s culinary offerings too. Russian food – when done well – is homely and satisfying and the city’s restaurant offering has boomed in recent years.
Best things to do in St. Petersburg
What is it? Undoubtedly the jewel in St Petersburg’s crown, the former winter palace of the Russian tsars is now a world-class art museum.
Why go? Wander the polished parquet corridors of this fantastic palace and marvel at the riches within. From Rembrandts to post-impressionists, you will need more than a day to take in the splendour of the three million works of art and world culture artefacts within. Don’t miss the 200-year-old clock adorned with mechanical golden peacocks, which still sing to this day.
What is it? Former emperor Peter the Great’s cabinet of curiosities.
Why go? Peter the Great attempted to modernise Russia in the late 1600s. As part of his reforms, he tried to introduce scientific and medicinal advances to the country. This collection, hardly altered since the early 1700s, has more than a million items –– brace yourself for jars of foetuses, preserved body parts and a set of conjoined twins.
What is it? A pastiche cathedral that’s worth a visit.
Why go? No Instagrammer worth their salt will be able to resist the phantasmagoric colours of this bling cathedral. It was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in an assassination attempt in 1881. Its extensive – and expensive – restoration brought it back to its former multi-coloured glory.
What is it? Chain of cosy restaurants serving a line-up of regional dumplings and nothing else.
Why go? These balls are satisfying, whether you’re in a hurry or want to top up on those carbs after a long day of sightseeing. The portions of dumplings – ranging from Russian pelmeny to juicy Georgian khinkali – are always generous.
What is it? A vibey wine bar with friendly staff and a good drinks list.
Why go? It can be tricky – or at least a little pricey – to find good wine in St Petersburg so this fun spot, which serves a wide range of organic, biodynamic and natural wines, is a welcome addition. Staff are chirpy and knowledgeable and are happy to talk about their wares.