St Petersburg

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Travel Guide Europe Russia Northwestern Russia St Petersburg

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Introduction

St. Petersburg - Pushkin

St. Petersburg - Pushkin

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St Petersburg (Caнкт-Петєрбýрг) is the second-largest city in Russia and the 4th largest in Europe. The capital of former czarist Russia, the 'gateway to Europe', the 'Venice of the north' and the largest port of the country, this city has everything and more to make your stay a pleasant one.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Central St. Petersburg - Situated between the Neva in the north and the Obvodny Canal in the south and crossed by the Fontanka and Moika rivers. It includes the Hermitage Museum and the main avenue of the city, Nevsky Prospekt, and is full of architectural monuments of the late 18th-19th centuries.
  • Vasilievsky Island - The eastern part of the Vasilievsky Island has long been the center of the city's academic life. Many examples of the 18th century architecture as well as the famous early 19th-century ensemble of the Spit of the Vasilievsky Island are there. The more western parts have been gradually developed since 1850.
  • Petrograd Side - It hosts the site where the city was founded in 1703 and includes the Peter and Paul Fortress dating back to the first half of the 18th century, but the rest of the borough was mostly built over in the late 19th-early 20th century and is rich in notable architectural monuments of that period.
  • Northern Saint Petersburg - Mostly an urban commuter area of monotonous and often ugly Soviet-era apartment blocks. There are some notable landmarks scattered across it, such as the Academy of Forestry with its park, Military Medical Acedemy, Polytechnical University and Buddhist Datsan.
  • Southern Saint Petersburg - This area boasts gorgeous industrial architecture and magnificent Stalinist buildings. A former industrial borough, it was the place of strikes preceding the revolution of 1917, and the scene of the siege of Leningrad during WWII.
  • Right Bank - Very little visited, this area hosts historical gunpowder factories, a few beautiful churches and parks, the Ice Palace hockey arena and the Ladozhsky Train Station.

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Sights and Activities

Saint Petersburg is simply put one of the greatest sightseeing cities on earth. No visit can do it justice - you'll have to move here to really be able to see all the sights. Really, budgeting a month of full-time tourism would not be unrealistic. And that's after all dramatic events of the 20th century that took place here! Perhaps no other city outside Italy can compare in sheer volume of beautiful, grand things to see.

As the center of the Russian world for 200 years of the Romanov Dynasty, the city reaped the rewards of Peter the Great's impossibly grandiose and tyrannical vision, and the Empire's extreme inequality. The wealth of the wealthy in Imperial Russia was almost unfathomably extreme, and led to the extreme opulence of the palaces and ecclesiastical buildings throughout the city center, as well as the suburban palaces at Peterhof, Lomonosov, Strelna, Pushkin, and Pavlovsk. The greatest concentration of sights is found within the huge area of the center inside the Obvodny Canal, along the south embankment of Vasilievsky Island, and in the southern half of Petrogradsky Island.

Hermitage

St.Petersburg (Hermitage) - Room

St.Petersburg (Hermitage) - Room

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The Hermitage Museum is one of the oldest and most famous museums in the world, located by the Neva river in St. Petersburg. Although founded in 1764, it only opened to the public in 1852. Its collection holds over 3 million pieces, of which around 65,000 are on display. The highlights include a number of paintings by Rembrandt, Madonnas by Leonardo da Vinci, sculptures by Canova and several paintings by Matisse. The museum spreads out over 6 buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, the former residence of the Russian Emperors. Of these, only 4 are partially open to visitors. To avoid standing in line, tickets to the Hermitage can be bought online. In recent years, a number of dependencies of the Hermitage have been established, to include the Hermitage Amsterdam in Amsterdam and Hermitage-Kazan Exhibition Center in Kazan, Tatarstan, while Guggenheim Hermitage Museum in Vilnius is scheduled for opening in 2011.

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Events and Festivals

Stars of White Nights Festival

Held in St Petersburg’s Mariinski Theater, this festival kicks off in May and ends in July, highlighting the Russian love of opera, classical music, and ballet with top artists, orchestras, solo musicians, and conductors showing off their talent.

St Petersburg Beer Festival

The June Beer Festival is one of the all-time favorites in St Petersburg, featuring hundreds of brands laid out at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Thousands attend, and there’s live music and food to keep the party going.

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Weather

St. Petersburg has a continental climate with relatively warm summers and cold winters. Average high temperatures in summer (June to early September) are between 20 °C and 23 °C, with a record of 37 °C. From December to February, days are a few degrees below zero but temperatures can plummit at night, with a record low of -36 °C. The average annual amount of precipitation is around 660 mm with about a third of that in the summer months. In winter, the city is usually covered in a layer of snow.

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Getting There

By Plane

St Petersburg Pulkovo Airport (LED) is the main gateway to St. Petersburg. There are numerous airlines serving destinations throughout Europe and further away. It is the main hub of Rossiya which has flights to/from Almaty, Amsterdam, Antalya, Arkhangelsk, Astana, Baku, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Bishkek, Chelyabinsk, Copenhagen, Dubai, Dushanbe, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Helsinki, Heraklion, Hurghada, Irkutsk, Istanbul, Kaliningrad, Khabarovsk, Kiev, Krasnoyarsk, Larnaca, London, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Murmansk, Novosibirsk, Odessa, Paris, Paphos, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Prague, Rhodes, Rome, Rostov-on-Don, Salzburg, Samara, Samarkand, Sharm el-Sheikh, Simferopol, Sochi, Sofia, Stockholm, Tashkent, Tel Aviv, Tenerife, Thessaloniki, Tyumen,Volgograd, Yekaterinburg and Yerevan.
British Airways offers direct flights from London-Heathrow to St. Petersburg. Alternatively, one can opt to fly on a low-cost airline from the United Kingdom to Riga and onwards take the overnight train to Vitebsky station in St Peterburg.
Marshrutkas (minibuses) run on several lines, some of them following the city bus routes (and using matching line numbers). Pulkovo Airport is served by two regular bus lines (no. 13 and 39).

By Train

St. Petersburg has four major railway stations, with long-distance connections to all directions.

  • Vitebsky station is serviced by international trains from the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Belarus, Ukraine and Central Europe.
  • Baltiysky station offers another connection with Riga.
  • Finlyansky station is serviced by the direct international train to Helsinki and other destinations in Finland. There are four daily high-speed trains in each direction between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. These trains take about 3.5 hours to cover the route. Trains also stop in Tikkurila, Lahti, Kouvola and Vainikkala in Finland and in Vyborg in Russia.
  • Ladozhsky station offers connections up north to Karelia and Arkhangelsk, as well as another direct connection to both Helsinki and Moscow, but most trains to the capital leave from Moskovsky station, which is by far the largest of the five.
  • Moskovsky station offers connections with Moscow, central Russia (Voronezh) and southern Russia (Sochi).

By Bus

International buses and buses to major cities in Russia all leave from the main bus station (Avtovokzal), near the Obvodny Kanal metro station. Some may make additional stops elsewhere in the city; see below. Buses are the preferred method of travel to/from Estonia and Latvia, but generally do not make sense for travel to Finland or within Russia.

The process of crossing the border by bus takes much longer than when travelling by train or air. Border agents only speak Russian and are sometimes not aware of visa requirements, which leads to delays.

Eurolines provides services to and from Helsinki. Two daily buses provide services to Vyborg and St. Petersburg from Helsinki, one of which originates in Turku. There's also one daily bus from Tampere and three weekly buses from Lappeenranta. Check Matkahuolto for more information about prices and schedules.

By Boat

Germany:

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Getting Around

Down deep

Down deep

© All Rights Reserved UStravel23

St. Petersburg is huge, and many of its outskirts are not safe for those who do not speak Russian and/or stand out as tourists. But, why bother with them at all, in a city where there is so much to see closer to the centre?

By Car

Taxis are always available but are much more expensive at night. Every private vehicle is a potential taxi. Flagging down a vehicle and paying for a ride somewhere is perfectly normal in Russia and quite popular although ill-advised for tourists. Safety is, of course, an issue. As a rule, you should never get in a private cab if it already has passengers inside.

Refuse requests from the driver to take on more fares unless you reached your destination; if he insists, ask to stop at a safe-looking place, pay and leave. If the driver stops for gas, step out of the car, take your belongings, and get some fresh air while he is fuelling it. Those travelling alone (men and women) should wave off any suspicious ride for any reason whatsoever. Gypsy cabs which linger near popular bars and restaurants at night have been known to be especially dangerous, with several instances of druggings and robberies.

Drivers do not usually speak English. Watch out for overpriced taxis outside Hermitage museum. They have meters that run at 4 times the rate of regular taxis. Negotiate a flat fare before getting on the taxi. If the driver insists on using the meter you should walk away.

By Public Transport

St. Petersburg's public transport network is extensive and efficient, if often overcrowded. The metro certainly is still the best way for visitors to get around the city, as it covers nearly all of the city's neighbourhoods, with new stations opening almost every year. In addition, it also has some spectacular station architecture. The cost of a ride with the metro is 28 rubles.

Other transport is varied (buses, trams, trolleybuses, marshrutkas), but not so difficult to use with the help of a few pointers. There is only one real disadvantage of the public transport system; the lack of nighttime services (the public transport work approximately from 06:00am to 12:00am), so if you are going to stay out after midnight, you will have to rely on taxis or book a private transfer.

By Bike

The city is not bicycle-friendly. There are some designated lanes, but they are rare and don't form a network. Cycling alongside car traffic is very dangerous and cannot be recommended to anybody not used to the local habits of driving.

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Eat

Nothing, absolutely nothing, tastes better than hot Russian crepes (bliny/блины, pronounced blee-NYH, or just bleen for one) with caviar, mushrooms, caramel, berries, or what have you with a cup of tea on a cold winter street. Teremok (Теремок) is the street-corner kiosk "chain" for bliny but it now has indoor fast food spots around the city, along with Chainaya Lozhka (Чайная ложка) and U Tyoshi Na Blinakh (У тёщи на блинах).

The other really tasty local offerings for street food/fast food include pirozhki (one: pee-rah-ZHOK, several: pee-razh-KEE), shawarma (шаверма), and pyshki (пышки). Pirozhki are fried buns stuffed usually with beef, vegetables, potatoes, and mushrooms, and are easy enough to find, but not quite as widespread as in Moscow. Shawarma is a decidedly Saint Petersburg phenomenon (i.e., you won't find much of it in other Russian cities), served mostly by Azeris, and is everywhere - in cafes and on the street. Russians swear up and down that the street shawarma is either made of rats or will just make you sick, but by God, the street vendors cook up the most delicious kababs you'll ever find. Pyshki are Russian doughnuts, wonderful with coffee, and are strongly associated with Saint Petersburg. The place to get them in the center is named, naturally, Pyshki, at Ul. Bolshaya Konyushennaya 25.

For restaurant dining, offerings are diverse. Forget whatever you've heard about Russian food - it's delicious. A pretty unique place to eat Russian cuisine would be the attractive restaurant on the grounds of the Peter and Paul Fortress. International, Western European, Asian fusion (Russified Chinese food is really good, but requires a culinary dictionary to order), etc. are just as easy to find as Russian, and sushi is very popular. Some of the most exciting food to try comes from the former Soviet Republics. Georgian cooking, despite its obscurity, is one of the world's great cuisines, and should not be missed. The Central Asian (usually Uzbek) restaurants are a lot of fun too.

Here is a comprehensive list of some restaurants in historical districts which can give an insight of St. Petersburg gourmet diversity: Eating out in St. Petersburg

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Drink

The city acts as a beer destination for Moscovites visiting St. Pete for business or vacation reasons--hence its pubs frequently have a much wider choice of beers than an average pub in Moscow (not to mention other cities in Russia). St.Petersburg, being the fatherland of the most popular beer in Russia - Baltica (Балтика), is considered the beer capital of the country, while Moscow is more of a Vodka Capital. Baltica, by the way, comes in a large variety of numbers. Numbers 7 and 8 (seem-YORK-uh, vahs-MYOR-kuh) are the most popular: seven is a lager, eight is a Hefeweizen-style wheat beer.

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Sleep

The best area for a tourist to stay in is generally considered to be near the Nevsky Prospekt Metro. Indeed, one of the nicest hotels in the city (Evropa) is right there. You'll be able to walk to most of the main attractions, and there are tons of restaurants, shops, cafes, clubs, etc. right on Nevsky. Staying off Nevsky along one of the beautiful canals, though, would also be a fabulous idea.

A less expensive option near Nevsky Prospect is Hotel Vera and is one of the few hotels which offers full handicap access for guests.

The Swiss B&B swissSTAR is located in the historical centre of the city, close to metro station "Sennaya Ploshad". swissSTAR has a total of 8 rooms, 5 of which with ensuite bathroom. Accommodation from €40 per night incl. breakfast. Tel. +7 911 929 2793. Email: info@swiss-star.ru.

View our map of accommodation in St Petersburg

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Keep Connected

Internet

Russia is a huge country, and excess to the internet varies a lot. The main cities and tourist places have (free) wifi excess at lots of places, like restaurants and cafes (McDonald's is always a safe bet). Internet cafes are present in larger places as well. Rural areas and especially if you venture into remote and/or mountainous areas have little excess at all. Most travellers will find connections though when using their phone or tablet.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The emergency number is 112. The country code for Russia is 7. Russian phone numbers have an area code with three, four or five digits (according to their province), followed by an individual number with, respectively, 7, 6 or 5 digits, always yielding 10 digits in total. The three digit code 800 is used for toll-free calls. Mobile phones always have three-digit "area" codes and seven-digit numbers. Calls within any one area code may omit the area code (except in Moscow). Inter-area code calls within Russia: 8 (wait for tone) full Russian number including area code. The international access code for dialling outwith Russia is the sequence of 8 (wait for secondary tone and then) 10. International calls to Russia, as always, replace the plus sign (+) in the international phone format with the local international access code for the country you're calling from, followed by Russia's country code of 7 followed by the individual Russian phone number including area code.

You will require a SIM-unlocked GSM 900 / 1800 compatible international cell phone when buying a Russian SIM card. If you do not have your own international cell phone, it's best to buy a cheap cell phone with some value on the card. Foreigners can purchase a local SIM card by showing your passport. BeeLine is considered to be the best in terms of reliability and connections quality. However Megafon's services can be a bit cheaper.

Post

Russian Post is the national postal service of Russia. It's English version is currently under construction, but mainly involves the track&trace system. The domestic post is reasonably reliable, and sending international mail is fairly reliable but slow, taking at least a few weeks to European countries, longer to the USA or Australia for example. The delivery of mail sent from abroad to Russia is highly unreliable, and people or companies tend to use foreign adresses, from where a private carrier sends it to Russia. Alternatives like poste restante are non-existent with Russian Post. Most cities and large towns in Russia have a Central Post Office (Glavpochtamt), which also sells stamps and envelopes, and usually has fax services and Internet availability, though the latter mostly not in smaller places. Also, many hotels have postal services, including mail boxes. Post offices tend to keep long hours, usually from 8:00am or 9:00am until 8:00pm or 9:00pm Monday to Friday, and closing earlier during weekends. The main central post offices in the biggest cities keep even longer hours. For sending parcels, you can also try services by DHL Russia and FedEx Russia. For all mail you can use the regular alphabet, though maybe include the country's name in Cyrillic. For sending post to Russia (or trying to receive it) note that addresses should be in reverse order: Russia, postal code, city, street address, name.

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Quick Facts

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Population
4,661,219
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 59.939039
  • Longitude: 30.315785

Accommodation in St Petersburg

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This is version 46. Last edited at 22:55 on Jun 13, 18 by Arseny. 14 articles link to this page.

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