What to do in the city of the Tsars?

When you will be in Russia, you will be able to visit much more than Saint-Petersburg. For example, Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia) and other interesting cities.
However, the aim of this article is to give you an overview of what I enjoyed the most in the city of Peter the Great.

Do not be afraid to speak to Russian people. Most of the time they are kind and ready to help you. I noticed that they are very happy when you truly try to speak their language.

The cost of living in Saint-Petersburg is equal and sometimes cheaper than what we see in Montreal.

  • Cellphone: I used WhatsApp to make calls so I decided to buy an unlimited data package. I was very surprised when they told me the price. It costed only 500 roubles per month which is around 11$ (spring 2017).
  • Bus and metro: A bus ticket is 40 roubles which is about 1$. In the metro the price is approximately the same. However, you can buy a monthly pass with a student discount by showing your student card.
  • Taxi: I recommend you to use Uber. At first, I adopted another taxi app but after a while I noticed that the service was poor. When I switched to Uber, everything was fine and sometimes the price was even cheaper. By the way, be aware of taxi drivers who offer you a ride from the airport or elsewhere. They usually charge you more than the normal price because they know you are a foreigner.

Remember that the list below is an overview of what I liked. It is not the truth, just an opinion. Moreover, in the list, you won’t find bars or clubs adresses since I do not like to go in these places.

1. Open-air activities and Parks

  • Veliki Novgorod: This city is one of the oldest in Russia. It is located in the country side south of St-Petersburg.  It will change the way you perceive Russian people. I recommend you to visit the Kremlin (city fortress) with its St. Sophia’s Cathedral constructed in 1050. You also should visit the Novgorod State museum located in front of the monument Millenium of Russia. On the first floor there is an exhibition explaining the history of the city. On the second floor you find one of the world’s largest exposition of Russian icon painting.
  • Yusupov Garden, Mikhailovsky Garden and Tauride Garden: Saint-Petersburg has a lot of parks but these ones are my favorite. They are big, they have lakes and mature trees. It is ideal for romantic walks or just to read on a bench.
  • Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin (Ethnographic Park Bogoslovka): There you will find authentic copies of wooden buildings of the North-West Russia. It was built recently by a private fund founded in 2003. The carpenters followed strictly the methods of construction of the ancient times. In fact, the buildings are constructed without nails.

  • Loft Project ETAGI: This center is very interesting since it hosts different events and has a great rooftop platform. In winter you can enjoy a hot cranberry drink while contemplating the city view.

 

2. Theatre

  • Marinsky Theatre: The ballet of this theatre is just breathtaking. Everything is amazing. The costumes are great and the dancers along with the music produce a perfect harmony.
  • Tsekh Theatre: If you like experimental theatre, you should consider this one. It is small and the actors are very convincing. It is only in Russian language.

 

3. Museums

  • Peterhof Palace: Normally, at the end of April, the fountains of the palace are on. You can go by bus or by boat. The site is exceptional. Apart from the sublime fountains you can enjoy the gardens and the coast of the Finland Gulf.
  • Catherine Palace in Pushkin: This palace was the summer residence of the Russian tsars. You will find plenty of gold and well decorated rooms like the Amber room. I have to say that it was sometimes a bit too much but it’s worth seeing anyway.
  • Hermitage Museum: Originally, it was the Winter Palace of the Russian tsars. This epic museum is so big that we can not see everything in one day. A part from the extensive collection, the building in itself is already a piece of art. I highly recommend you to visit it at least once.
  • Yusupov Palace or Moika Palace: Before the bolchevik revolution, this palace belonged to the Yusupov family, one of the richest in Russia. A part from the palace itself, there is a choir that sing a cappella. If you have a chance to hear it, you will surely be impressed. Of course the singers are very talented but what is the most impressive is the acoustics of the room. It is a feeling that I can not describe. You have to hear it to understand.
  • Palace of Gatchina: This palace is not as impressive as Catherine’s Palace or as the Hermitage but I think it’s still worth seeing. I suggest that you take the train because you will be able to see the houses of ordinary Russian people. You will probably see people from local towns which are quite different from the people we see in big cities. The palace is made from stones and is more modest than the other Russian palaces.
  • Fabergé Museum: Last but not least, in this museum you will find jewelry, cases, brooch and the famous eggs of the Tsars. I suggest you take an audio-guide and take the time to understand what you see. The objects alone can be uninteresting but when you understand the context in which they were made, it changes everything.

 

4. Churches

  • The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood: It was built on the place where the tsar Alexander II was murdered. The diversity of the colors and the abundant details make this church exceptional. It is a must see.
  • Smolnyy Cathedral: The exchange students studying politics or international relations are privileged to have their campus right on the site of this amazing cathedral. If you study in another field, take a little of your time to come and see it.
  • Saint Isaacs Cathedral: The interior of it is very beautiful. However, what I liked the most, was the view of the city on the roof of the cathedral. You can visit it with friends or alone. In any case, it is an adventure to walk up the stairs of the building and pass through narrow doors.
  • Kazan Cathedral: This church is active. This means that you have to be discret when you visit it. Its architecture is very interesting as it does not follow the usual style of Orthodox churches.

 

5. Best cafes

  • Bushe (beside the Kazan Cathedral): Their omelet with fish is a pure delight. They have great choice in the menu and the atmosphere is nice.
  • Katyusha (on Nevsky avenue): Entering this cafe is like entering into a fairy tail. The decoration as well as the seats and tables reminded me of Alice in wonderland. The service was exceptional and the atmosphere very intimate. The tea and the cookies are very good.

6. Best restaurants

  • Cheburoom (on Liteyny avenue) : The food is simple and tasty at the same time. Whether you order a chicken soup or a club sandwich, you will most likely enjoy your meal. Plus, it is very affordable.
  • Frikadelki (close to Russian Museum): It is a sophisiticated cafeteria where the food is cooked right in front of you. You can also buy desserts and drinks separately. I highly recommend the hot transsiberian express cocktail. I ordered it without alcohol and for me, it was a major discovery. There is a perfect balance between the sweet and sour taste. I tried this cocktail in other restaurants but Frikadelki makes it in a way that is unbeatable for me.
  • Khochu Kharcho: This is a georgian food open 24 hours. I can’t remember the name of the meal I ordered. Nevertheless, most of their food is good and most likely unknown by foreigners. Good place to discover new flavours.
  • I’m Thankful for Today: Great service though the restaurant is often full of people. The classic burger, for me, is the best. It leaks but its very tasty.

 

If you have any questions do not hesitate. It will be my pleasure to answer you.

Из России с любовью, Oliver Roy !

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