Saint Petersburg is often referred to as the second capital of Russia and is highly competitive with Moscow in regards to tourism service and cultural leisure. Below are some tips for those who care less of the amounts spent on their trip but focus on the unforgettable experience.
To visit the most popular museums of Saint Petersburg and its suburbs and at avoid waiting in huge exhausting lines it is, of course, sensible to take a guided tour which allows you to enter Pushkin, Peterhof, Hermitage, Savior On Blood Cathedral in a matter of several minutes. In Great Palace of Peterhof, the summer residence of Romanovs family, there can be queues of the other tour groups, though, if you can’t stand waiting in a line at all, you can book a guided tour with a special VIP entrance located on the other side of the palace.
Being a top attraction of Saint Petersburg, The Hermitage becomes a very crowded place during the summer season and loses a bit of its initial purpose (Hermitage means a place of solitude in French). If you want to enjoy its enormous collection without making your way through fussy tourist groups, you can book a special early or late entrance which is reserved for a strictly limited number of people. You can go even further if you want to bring the most unusual memories with you can make a reservation of Peacock clock winding. The Peacock is a mechanical clock which has a beautiful design of a garden; the main figures are a peacock, an owl and a rooster. When the clock is brought to action, the birds start to move to the accompaniment of bells jingle symbolizing night and day time. To watch this performance you can book a special opening of the Hermitage when there are no other tourists; the price of this attraction starts from 150 000 RUB.
Pushkin, one of the most popular sights of Saint Petersburg is usually visited for Catherine Palace and its famous Amber room — famous chamber fully decorated with the amber plates and golden ornaments. It is very hard to get there even with a tour guide to say nothing of buying tickets on the spot. However, if you are lucky enough to experience a visit of this unique place, you can be offered more treats besides of a standard palace tour: Amber workshop in Catherine park operates all year round and let you try working with this valuable material as a real master. This small event also includes one glass of champagne and a small tour of the workshop.
· Rivers and Canals
Saint Petersburg is often called the Venice of the North due to its network of rivers and canals floating through the whole city. No doubt that because of this, boat tours have become one of the favourite attractions for the city residents and guests. You can find a boat tour to satisfy any taste and there are options for those who want a bit more than a simple guided group tour. Firstly, you can rent a private yacht or boat for you and your travel mates; the options can vary from a simple rivers and canals cruise with the stand out to the Gulf of Finland to a party on board with hot meals and champagne. Another way to spend a great time is to visit one of the multiple floating restaurants which are organized in boats; the most popular of them are Volga-Volga, Flying Dutchman, Regatta.
Having been a former place of residence of Russian emperor family and their multitudinary relatives, Saint Petersburg still keeps a memory of the Czarist Russia which is mostly hidden in splendid palaces widely scattered throughout the city. They are not only landmarks for the photo stops but also play a role of different event venues from music concerts to Gala Dinners and weddings. You can book a private party in Emperor style or visit a folklore show with a welcome drink and Russian style dinner — options depend only on your budget. There are also interactive events like conducting an orchestra: you can feel a real orchestra director making violinists, pianists and trumpeters play according to your orders. In addition, being a centre of art and culture, Saint Petersburg has many professional and talented photographers who are always willing to organize a photoshoot in a palace interior for you.
Theatres of Saint Petersburg are the real gem for classical music lovers so if you are keen on high-end performances, you shouldn’t miss one at Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky theatres. Most famous ballets like Swan Lake and Nutcracker take place regularly so make sure you book best seats in stalls or royal boxes in advance!
· Unusual transportation services
If you are tired of familiar Mercedes top-vehicles, there are special treats for you. For those who don’t have fear of heights, there are regular helicopter city tours; prices start from 8 000 RUB per 15 minutes and include the best views of Saint Petersburg; it can be an adventurous trip with friends or a romantic date in the sky. If you are more of a land traveller, than it’s time to leave a car and take your seat in a horse-drawn vehicle — just like in the 18th century! The most recommended routes for a horse-drawn vehicle are located in suburbs of Saint Petersburg: parks of Pavlovsk, Pushkin, Peterhof where this experience will give you a feeling of a duke who arrived at the Tsar residence with a visit.
The most visited stadium of Eastern Europe is located in the western part of Saint Petersburg and holds regular domestic and international football matches as well as such concerts, forums and private events. If you are fascinated with football and do not want to miss this part of the city life, then book tickets to the VIP boxes of Gazprom Arena; prices depend on the seat and service level and vary from 16 000 RUB to 50 000 RUB for one match.
Wide range of luxury hotels in Saint Petersburg lets anyone choose the one which fully satisfies their demands. The most popular five-star hotels are located in the heart of Saint Petersburg, near Saint Isaac Cathedral and the Hermitage. Among them are Sofitel (Ex-W Saint Petersburg), recently opened Lotte Hotel Saint Petersburg and of course splendid Four Seasons. For those who love royal interiors and exquisite decorations, the State Hermitage Museum Official Hotel will be the best place to stay. It is located quite further from Nevskiy prospect, and, surprisingly, the Hermitage museum, but its services and designs might be worth walking or driving to the main landmarks of the city.
Travelling from or to Saint Petersburg by train can be a luxury experience, too. Compartments in the brand overnight daily trains which can take you to Moscow, the capital of Russia, are sometimes considered as five-star hotel rooms with a bathroom, shower, hot meals and travelling kits. Such compartments can be booked for only two people or a single traveller for maximal comfort. For faster travel between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, you certainly should choose Sapsan trains which travel time is only 4 hours. Its first-class carriages serve hot meals, newest correspondence and include wi-fi and sockets as well as drinks.
Saint Petersburg has a direct train connection with Finland so you can reach Helsinki, the Finnish Capital in a matter of 4 hours by Allegro train; 1st class in Allegro train has all features for comfortable travel like wireless internet, leather seats, tea, coffee and spacious legroom.
The railway stations have business lounge rooms for those who want to wait for their train departure with a maximum of comfort; prices start from 190 RUB per the first hour and 95 RUB for each hour after.
While walking down the streets of Saint Petersburg, you always have a pretty good chance to run against a cosy place to stay for dinner or drink a cup of coffee. The most rated restaurants among them are COCOCO restaurant of New Russian Cuisine, located in Sofitel Hotel; Russian Ampire restaurant settled in The Stroganoff Palace designed in emperor style, Palkin famous restaurant of Russian cuisine. For panoramic view devotees, there is Mansarda restaurant with a terraсe looking out on Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and 41 Floor restaurant which is the highest point of Saint Petersburg. To combine dinner with some activities, try Russian Vodka Room 1 — a restaurant made in the picturesque emperor-era style of the 19th century. Its special point of interest is the vodka museum where you can book a tour with degustation of different vodka sorts and traditional starters. For the visitors of famous suburbs of Saint Petersburg — Pushkin, Pavlovsk and Gatchina there is an unusual wooden house called Podvorye Restaurant: it also specializes in Russian cuisine and is built in the style of Russian wooden house (Izba). If you have a really high budget and want to experience a supreme luxurious service in a countryside, then your choice is BIP restaurant in Pavlovsk — an ancient castle renovated for serving as a hotel and a luxury restaurant with ancient style interiors and antiquarian ware. If you arrive at BIP in summer, you can harvest herbs, berries and vegetables from their private garden and then get the chef to cook your lunch from them. Besides eight closed halls and one open terrace, BIP also offers a space for a small picnic and barbeque.