Matt Cassidy is back again on his final leg of his Russian journey says you should check out its second city; Saint Petersburg.
Ah Saint Petersburg. Stunning cathedrals, The Winter Palace, and generally all round cool place (no pun intended ), the former capital of Russia is the country’s most westernised and tourist friendly.
So we arrived in Saint Petersburg and it was freezing; minus 15 degrees Celsius. We were there during February so I would recommend visiting in summer. Although I enjoyed the two days, the cold weather nearly overrode any enjoyment. It was so cold the Fontanka River was completely frozen and local children played on the huge sheet of ice.
Our place of stay was opposite the train station; the four star Hotel Oktyabrskaya. When checking in the hotel will take your passport and immigration card to register your stay. This happens everywhere in Russia and depending on the person working at check in, this process can take a few minutes or few hours.
Things to do
The Winter Palace
This is a number one shot of for your Instagram. The green palace is simply amazing, putting the dour look of Buckingham Palace to shame. You can do tours of the palace inside. It is nice inside, but you will find yourself getting bored rather quickly as it is just vast numbers of rooms with vases and gold, etc.
The palace is situated on Palace Square which has to experienced.
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
Unfortunately, the cathedral itself was closed for the bank holiday but we were allowed to climb to the roof up narrow stairwells. The view at the top is well worth the epic climb but If you are unfit, of a rather rotund nature, or scared of heights, it is probably best to give a miss.
Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood
The church is based on the Griboyedov Canal. The church is magnificent on the outside and even better on the inside. It is one of the few places where you have to pay to gain access but the four euro charge seems even more minute when you can marvel at the majesty.
This one is for the football fans. Zenit is one of the most successful football teams in Russia and you can buy some memorabilia to take home. You can also get your picture taken beside the UEFA Cup which the team won back in 2008.
After seeing all of Saint Petersburg’s sites take a stroll down Nevsky Prospect. The main street of Saint Petersburg is full of wonderful buildings and shops so there plenty to do, see, and buy. You will probably end up here without even realising.
Pints pints pints
There are plenty licensed establishments in Saint Petersburg and being a young city the nightlife is alive and kicking. You should out check the Irish pub, Radio Ireland, opposite the naval academy which has tricolours from roof to floor. There are also plenty of live music bars so there is a place for everyone.
With plenty of cafes and restaurants you will not go hungry in Saint Petersburg. I stuck with good old fashioned burger and chips as I am a boring eater but there are various restaurants throughout the whole of Nevsky. The Craft Brew Café is a funky spot which will bring out your inner hipster and I would thoroughly recommend.
Where to stay
So we stayed in the aforementioned Hotel Oktyabrskaya. The building was magnificent but it was basic with the famous Russian customer service. There is a vast number of hotels and properties in which to stay so have a look around before settling down.
How to get there
We decided to take The Sapsan Train which took four hours from Moscow. You can take the plane from Moscow which lasts one hour. However, Russian airlines do not adhere to EU aviation guidelines so we thought the train would be more entertaining and safer, however, the landscape is rather bare.
It is cheaper as well but remember to bring your passport to get on the train – it is Russia.
If you coming from outside Russia, unfortunately, there are no direct flights to the city so you will need to get a directing flight from the likes of the UK or Amsterdam.
One bonus that Saint Petersburg has is that tourists can travel to the city for 72 hours without a visa because it is a harbour city. Only issue is that the former Russian capital has so much to do that three days really is not enough.
So if you take the plunge and head to Russia, make sure you hit Saint Petersburg. But just make sure you go during the summer. Unless you enjoy your eyebrows freezing over.