Russia has changed a lot since my last visit! It’s been 13 years, and now I finally got myself together to travel there again. Just like last time, we went to Saint Petersburg – the most “European” Russian city. The weather was great for beginning of May – warm and sunny, with highest at about +20C. It was lovely!
The city has changed quite a bit! It’s safe to say it’s a modern city with modern people. It’s very busy too – the main street (Nevsky Prospekt) was crowded at almost any time of the day. it was Russian Eastern weekend, so a lot of people visited the city for the long weekend.
Where to stay in Saint Petersburg?
In general, there are two types of accommodation in Saint Petersburg: cheap motels and high class hotels. As we had limited budget, our choice was obvious. We picked a good looking hostel called “Inn 15 Komnat“. The price was great (4-bed room for 3 nights for just 80EUR) and the location was not too bad either – near the Moscow Train Station (Moskowsky Vokzal). This newly renovated property has interesting layout of the rooms – most of them are duplex, which makes it perfect for groups of friends traveling together.
The rooms are spacious and the area is quiet – perfect for a quick night rest before going off exploring the city!
Our second hostel was called “Wings” (“Krylja”). This property is located right on the main street (Address: Nevskiy Prospekt 45), in the middle of all the action! The best thing about this hostel is that you can walk everywhere – the location is just perfect! The hostel doesn’t offer breakfast, but there is a fully equipped kitchen with fridge, coffee machine, dishes etc. 24-hour grocery shops can be found everywhere, as well as cafes, bars and restaurants.
There are not too many rooms, so it feels like coming home. Once you enter the massive wooden doors, there is a friendly receptionist at the desk to greet you. You take off your shoes and walk to your room. The interior is newly renovated, everything is clean and cozy. Guests can watch TV at the hall, relax at the kitchen area, make new friends. There are no drinking, partying youngsters, just curious travelers like yourself.
The rooms are a bit small, but still very comfortable. There is no bathroom in the room, 3 renovated bathrooms with showers can be found on the floor. During peak times they may be crowded. Typical for old buildings – wide, marble window sills are perfect to sit on and enjoy the view of the evening Nevskiy or read a book, taking advantage of daylight. Or just daydream. Whatever you feel like!
Things to do: Canal boat tour in Saint Petersburg
Everything is nearby, if you are staying at Nevskiy. There are several canals with boat tours (highly recommended!). It costs just 700 Rubles (~10EUR) to take a 1 hour guided tour. The city is stunning when seen from the water! No wonder they call it The Venice of the North! Numerous castles, mansions, political buildings – the 300-year history of the city will open right before your eyes! For some great pictures make sure to start during sunset.
There is just so much to see in Saint Petersburg, few days are just not enough! If you are limited in time, enjoy the streets and atmosphere. Take long walks and don’t be afraid to turn into smaller streets – they usually hide some true gems! There are little boutiques, wine stores, souvenir shops. You might come across some really beautiful gardens and parks. Visit palace square – Winter Palace is majestic at both day and night time! If you are into arts – go for Hermitage museum, but just make sure to arrive there early, as it gets quite crowded.
For the best view of the city climb the stairs of Isaac’s Cathedral – for just 150 Rubles you will get a stunning view and great photos! Don’t forget a Selfie Stick ! 🙂
Of course, just like any big city with a lot of travelers, Saint Petersburg is no different – there are scammers that should be avoided! The one we came across was dressed like Peter the Great (Peter I) – famous founder of the city. He offers you to take a picture with him and he will pose for you. The price he asks first is 250 Rubles, but be careful not to take more than one picture. Every next position will cost you another 250, and he will go on posing on and on – with you, then with your friends. In the end you will end up with a hefty amount. Make sure to only take one photo (if you really want one), and otherwise just ignore him.
How to prepare for the trip?
- Bring warm, waterproof clothes – the weather in St.Petersburg is unpredictable! Comfortable shoes are recommended, as distances are quite long. You can use the metro too, but getting down and then up again takes too much time, mostly it is easier and faster to walk. There are also buses/trams.
- Currency exchange rates are better in the city, rather than in your country. When we traveled, the rate was 72 Rubles / 1 Euro. On Nevsky exchange offices, it was 74. So bring some cash and change the rest once in Russia. Also, it is possible to pay with credit cards almost everywhere (except some museums, street food/souvenirs etc.).
- Learn a few phrases in Russian and have a dictionary ready (e.g. Google translate).
- There is free Wifi in most cafes and hotels. Get yourself a city map, just in case.
- People are very friendly and open minded! Don’t be afraid to ask for directions.
- Taxi fares are reasonable, if you need cheap taxi, ask for one at your hotel. They will probably have some good options.
After hearing a lot of horror stories regarding Russian food I was tempted to find out – is there anything good about the cosine after all? Are the rumors true? Well, of course they are NOT!
Don’t be afraid to try local food, don’t stick to international fast food chains (there are plenty of those!). I recommend trying local Russian fast food chain called “Teremok“. They offer many different flavors of traditional Russian pancakes, soups, dumplings. The prices are great! Food quality is awesome!
Another one we really liked is called Brynza – they offer wide range of Chebureks (pies with fillings).
Also, why not try something completely different? On our first night we found a small Georgian place (Hinkali). The food was amazing! The wine was great too! The hosts were very warm and welcoming!
The place is located at Borovaya st. 8.
I recommend visiting Saint Petersburg to anyone, really. It has something to offer for everyone – young couple will find it romantic, senior folks will have a ton of museums to go to, even for kids it would be an adventure! The city is changing and developing, it’s not a typical poor Russian town that we are used to seeing on the TV! The people who live here make it better, help to develop it into a great tourist destination. And if you get bored (hardly), there are still suburbs with even more castles to admire!
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