St Petersburg Travel Guide
Once you have visited St Petersburg it will charm you. The cultural capital of Russia, how Russians call it, has not only an incredible mount of cultural artefacts to offer to its guests: world-famous museums, historical buildings and architectural monuments, beautiful churches. Saint Petersburg has its own atmosphere that you can feel just walking on its streets, siting in some park or strolling the city through the canals by boat. Check out this St Petersburg Travel Guide not to miss anything!
How to get to St Petersburg
The cheapest way to get to St Petersburg city centre from Pulkovo Airport is by public transport. For that you’ll need to take a bus #39Ex (express) or #39. I’d suggest you to take #39Ex as it goes 20 minutes less. The bus stops at Moskovskaya metro station from where you can pick metro line 2 and get right to the city centre.
Also you can get to the St Petersburg city centre by taxi. The average price is around 20$. But I’d highly advise you to pick an official airport taxi service that you can find in the Arrival Lounge of both terminal by the sign “Taxi Pulkovo”.
Best time to visit St Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is famous for its cold and rainy weather. So if you want to enjoy the city having a nice weather, I’d advise you to come from the middle of June to September.
Visiting St Petersburg in June and July you can also catch and see famous White Nights. It’s the time when the sun doesn’t go down even at night.
Currency and Exchange
The currency that you’ll use in Russia is Russian Ruble. 1 U.S dollar is around 61 RUB, and 1 Euro is about 75,50 RUB. Nowadays traveling to Russia got cheaper for the foreigners, because RUB fell and made profitable to exchange $ or € to Russian Rubles.
Things to see and do in St Petersburg
Stroll Nevsky Prospect
Nevsky prospect is an alive, noisy, and magnificent avenue that crosses the city center from the west to the east. It’s the main street in Saint Petersburg and your must-visit point.
Nevsky Avenue contains the incredibly huge number of architectural monuments and most iconic and interesting buildings. So if you seek to visit most of them, I’d advise you to stroll it in the early morning, when there are not so many people and tourists yet. But, apart from that, you should also visit it at night, when the street is full of lights it has a special atmosphere.
Which places you can visit while walking on Nevsky Prospect:
- Gostiny Dvor
- palace and the house of the Stroganoffs
- building of the public library
- Anichkov Palace
- Catholic Church of St. Catherine
- House of Singer
- Armenian Church and other unique buildings
Near the Griboedov Canal, if you turn to the left you’ll have a magnificent view on the monument of Admiral Kutuzov near Kazan Cathedral. And if you turn to the right you’ll see the Church of Our Savior on Blood, built as a memorial to Tsar Alexander II.
Don’t miss an opportunity to take a picture of it and visit it. For me personally, it’s one of the most beautiful churches in St Petersburg and my favorite. Church of Our Savior on Blood looks very interesting and unusual outside. And inside has a unique collection of mosaics. It’s definitely a must visit place.
Enjoy Palace Square
Palace Square is one of the most interesting places to visit. This main square of the city which exceeds the Red Square in Moscow more than two times by its size.
Being on Palace Square you can visit:
- Winter Palace
- Guards Corps headquarters building
- General Staff Building
- Triumphal arch entrance to Palace Square
- Alexander Column
From the Winter house, you can get to Palace Embankment (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad) on the Neva River. Palace Square, the same as Nevsky Prospect, contains a lot of attractions that you can visit.
The Winter Palace is the former residence of the Romanovs that has almost a thousand luxurious rooms. Famous State Hermitage Museum is based here. It’s the second-largest museum in the world and suggest to its guests more than three million works of art and artefacts of the world culture. You can easily spend here an entire day, but it’s really worth it.
Entrance ticket to the Hermitage will cost 11$ (700 rubles) for the foreigners.
The first Thursday of each month – free entrance for everyone.
There is usually a big queue to enter to the State Hermitage Museum, especially in summer. If you want to avoid a long line at the museum ticket offices, I’d advise you to buy a ticket on the official page of Hermitage. It’s a bit more expensive: one-day entrance ticket cost 18$ (1.145 rubles)
Visit Vasilievsky Island
Vasilievsky Island, also famous as Vaska, as the locals call it, is definitely one of the most unusual and interesting places in Saint-Petersburg. Thanks to its small size and compact location of sightseeing, it has a special atmosphere.
The easternmost tip of the island, called Strelka (literally Arrow) is the place where the Neva River divides into Malaya and Bolshaya. From here you can easily see the Peter and Paul Fortress, Admiralty, St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Winter Palace. On the Strelka you can find the building of the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange (Central Naval Museum), the historic Customs Building (Pushkin House), the famous Rostral columns, houses in classical style and other historical buildings.
On Vasilievsky Island you can visit:
1. Famous museum of the Kunstkamera, one of the most interesting places in St. Petersburg for children and adults alike.
2. The Menshikov Palace, which Peter I presented as a gift to his assistant.
3. The Russian Academy of Arts
4. The Twelve Colleges, the main building of St Petersburg State University.
How to get to Vasilievsky Island:
By metro: station “Vasileostrovskaya” (preferably) or “Primorskaya“.
By bridge: The island connects with the city by 4 bridges: Birzhevoy, Tuchkov, Dvortsoviy (Palace Bridge), and Blagoveshchensky. But before to go to the island better to check the timetable of the bridge openings.
See Peter-Pavel's Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress on the Zayachy (Hare) Island is another historical place that is interesting to visit. Originally conceived as a defensive structure, it was used by the Bolshevik government as a prison and execution ground for political prisoners. Here were imprisoned the son of Peter I Alexei, Decembrists and other significant figures.
All the Romanov emperors – from Peter I to Nicholas II – were buried in the Grand-Ducal Burial Vault at the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Now on the territory of the fortress, there are several museums you can visit:
- the prison of the Trubetskoy Bastion
- Commandant’s House
How to get to The Peter and Paul Fortress:
From metro station “Gorkovskaya” walk through the Aleksandrovsky Park along Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt.
Opening hours: 9:00-21:00, museums close at 18:00.
Prices: In the fortress, you can walk for free. The entrance to the museums will cost you 2-7$ (150 to 450 rubles). On the Hare Island local people like to relax and sunbathe.
Spent a day in Peterhof
The Palace and Park Ensemble of Peterhof is often called the Russian Versailles. Peter the Great started to build it in 1710. The park area is divided into Upper and Lower parks, where you can find the complexes of fountains. The fountains work only in warm season, so you’d better come here from May to September.
Peterhof is definitely should be on your list of what to visit in St Petersburg. It’s very popular as between the foreigners, so among the locals.
Prices: Enter to the Upper Park is free, but to the Lower Park, you’ll need to pay around 7$ (450 rubles).
Working hours: From 9 to 19:30. But as the territory of the park is quite big, I’d highly recommend you to come early to have enough time to check everything.
How to get to Peterhof:
By Meteor fast-speed boat: It’s the fastest way to reach Peterhof (takes just around 30 minutes). The boat departs from Dvortsovaya and Admiralteyskaya embankment opposite the Hermitage and goes every 30-60 minutes. The one-way ticket will cost 13,5$ (800 rubles) for one person.
By bus: It’s the cheapest way to get to Peterhof but a bit longer than by Meteor. longer. There are several bus options:
- Marshrutka (mini-bus) № К-300, К-424, К-424А from Avtovo metro station
- Marshrutka (mini-bus) № К-224, К420 from Leninsky prospect metro station
- Marshrutka (mini-bus) № К-343, K-639-б from Prospect Veteranov metro station
- Commercial bus № K-404 from the Baltiyskaya railway station
The first option (from Avtovo metro station) is the fastest one and will cost you about 1,1$ (70 rubles).
Unusual monuments in St Petersburg
Saint Petersburg has lots of interesting and unusual monuments and sculptures. Some of them are hidden in the city, some are not so difficult to find.
Here is the list of the best unusual monuments in St Petersburg:
It’s the name of the tiniest bronze finch that rests atop of a small perch above the Fontanka river. Chizhyk-Pyzhik got his name from the famous Russian folk song which in English would sound like: “Chizhik-Pyzhik, where’ve you been? Drank vodka on the Fontanka..”
Where to find: Fontanka River near the 1st Engineering Bridge
These sculptures of two cats you can find if you enter Malaya Sadovaya street from the Nevsky Prospect. There on the second floor of the house number 8, you will see the bronze male cat Elisha (Russian: Elisey). And right on the other hand, at the house number 3 lives his girlfriend – cat Vasilisa.
Tip: As locals say, if you manage to throw a coin on a pedestal of Elisha, you’ll be happy and lucky in life.
Where to find: Malaya Sadovaya, 8 and 3
This beautiful urban sculpture is dedicated to Ostap Bender, literary hero and icon of the comedy and satirical novel of Ilf and Petrov called “The twelve chairs”.
Tip: Don’t forget to rub Ostap Bender’s nose, because, as people say, it brings good luck.
Where to find: Ital’yanskaya Ulitsa, 4
The Griffins’ tower or Bashnya grifonov is a really interesting sight. It’s a 11-meters high red-brick tower covered in numbers. It used to be a pharmacy factory in 19th-centure where worked famous pharmacist and alchemist Wilhelm Poehl.
Legend: Wilhelm Pele in his spare time was fond of alchemy and bred griffins in the tower that were invisible for many people. At night when they flew out of the tower, the neighbours could see the reflections of these griffins in the windows of the houses and hear the noise of their huge wings.
The numbers written on bricks are nothing more than the encrypted code of the universe. According to legend, anyone who manages to count all the numbers on the tower is promised at least the fulfillment of desires or, according to another version, immortality.
Where to find: you can find in one of the yards of Vasilyevsky Island, 7-th line, house number 16
Tip: Nowadays only residents of the houses can enter to the yard. But if you have time you can wait for someone of the locals go out and so you can get into the yard.
The monument to the chimney-sweep you will find in one of the St Petersburg yards almost on the roof. Before the profession of a chimney sweeper was necessary and honorable. These workers were always closer to the sky than ordinary town people. That’s why to see the chimney sweeper is a good sign.
Where to find: A staircase with the chimney-sweep is attached to the wall of the house 1 and 3 along Bolshaya Moskovskaya Street.
One of the unusual monuments in St Petersburg dedicated to the main hero of Nikolai Gogol’s novel “The Nose”. There, this amazing character, the nose, traveled the city separately from the body of his owner. The monument is a limestone plate of small size. The Nose of Major Kovalev is made of pink marble.
Where to find: Voznesensky Prospect, 36
This unusual sculpture of the angel is dedicated to those people who survived the civil war, the Great Patriotic War, got through hunger, difficult post-war years with repression, the collapse of the Soviet Union. But no matter what, these people kept the love of their life.
Ritual: The inhabitants of the city put the coin on the knees to the angel. Some people believe that it attracts good luck, other ones say that it reminds you of kindness.
Where to find: Izmaylovsky Garden, Naberezhnaya of the River Fontanka
Once walking along the shore near the Academy of Arts, you will find Sphinxes and Griffins that guard the city. There is a curious superstition about these mystical animals. It’s saying that Griffins can fulfill any desires, but only with the help of Sphinxes.
Ritual: There is a special procedure for making wishes. Thinking about a wish you should put one hand in the mouth of the Griffin, and with the other one pet him gently on the head. And while doing that simultaneously look into the eyes of the nearest Sphinx. As people say, if you do it right, the wish will come true.
Where to find: Universitetskaya nabereznaya, 17
The Hare Escaping Flooding is one of the smallest monuments in St Petersburg and considered to be a symbol of Hare Island (Zayachy Ostrov).
Legend: According to story, during the flood a small bunny jumped into the boot of Tsar Peter the Great and that’s how he got saved. Thanks to this heroic hare, the island on which stands the Peter and Paul Fortress is called Hare Island or Zayachy Island (“zayachy” in russian mean “hare“).
Ritual: Monument The Hare Escaping Flooding is considered a lucky talisman by the habitants and guests of the city. To catch a luck you need to throw a coin from the bridge directly onto a small platform located at the feet of the hare.
Where to find: near the Hare Island, close to the Ioannovsky Bridge towards the Peter and Paul Fortress through the Kronverkskiy strait.
The monument to the Water-carrier you can find near the water tower, which today houses the museum “The Universe of Water Museum Complex“. Once being here, you will see very nice monument: a water-carrier who drags a heavy cart with a barrel of water and a playful dog.
Where to find: in a beautiful garden on Shpalernaya street, 56