Maybe you read my last post about my general impressions of St Petersburg. Maybe you didn’t, in which case you can head there right now from here.
In just one week, I feel that I saw so much in this city that one post isn’t enough to tell it all. So here’s a second one, with a list of the 15 best things I did during my week in St Petersburg.
First things first – Food
According to their website, Botanika is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in St Petersburg, branding themselves as “vegetarian haute cuisine”. Despite the name, I wouldn’t really consider this restaurant specifically fancy. But this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Service was good, and so was the food. They have a wide menu divided between different countries’ cuisines, such as Russian, Italian, Japanese and Indian. The whole menu is not vegan, but they have many vegan options and can adapt the dishes to different diets.
This is probably the place that will stay in my mind the best. The interior was so well thought out for a retro feel, with lace napkins and curtains, bookshelves full of old books, candles and all sorts of decorations making the restaurant its very unique atmosphere. The food served is traditional Russian cuisine, the perfect opportunity to try some local dishes. The vegetarian options are not unlimited, but you can still find for example vareniki and a few other meatless and fishless options.
The chain has a few restaurants in the city, with a completely vegetarian menu. They have many different kinds of options including a seasonal menu, but this is definitely more one of those “healthy” vegetarian places. They have an all-day breakfast menu as well as salads, soups, warm meals and quite a few raw options.
Mickey&Monkeys has a menu with quite a few different options, but their speciality is the overshake, which is like the biggest, sweetest and craziest milkshake you can imagine, but doubled. Yup. Just have a look at their Instagram, and you’ll see what I mean. Cra-zy.
I didn’t go much to bars, but this one is absolutely worth a detour. A place where locals hang out, there’s a very cool decor playing on lights both on the walls and behind the bar, and most importantly, a fabulous drink menu. I have never tried a more mindblowing beer than the “Nut Butter” beer they had, which really tasted like Nutella in the form of beer. I know, sounds gross, but it was actually delicious. And if that doesn’t sound promising to you, they have a lot of different options from beers and cider to cocktails, and everything we tried was fabulous.
The basics – Sightseeing
6. The Hermitage museum
The most iconic sight in St Petersburg, the local Louvre, British Museum or Rijksmuseum is sure worth a visit. It has an extensive collection of art and historical relics from all over the world from Siberian objects from thousands of years ago to Iranian art from the Middle Ages and European 19th century paintings. The museum is so big that it’s hardly possible to see it all in one day, so pick the parts you’re the most interested in or take a few days to see it all. Also, to avoid queuing up for hours, you can buy your ticket in the machines outside and get in through a different entrance.
7. Zayachy island
A small island in the middle of the city, with the walls of the Peter and Paul fortress surrounding the whole site, it is one of the iconic things to see in St Petersburg. With the fortress and the similar architecture, it felt a lot like Suomenlinna in Helsinki and is already a sight in itself. But the island is a lot more than that: it is home to many different museums and the Peter and Paul cathedral, where all tsars have been buried.
8. The Church of the Savior on Spilled blood
One more iconic sight in St Petersburg, and certainly one of the most colorful ones, inside and out. The domes are full of details of all colors and shapes as it stands right next to one of the canals. It’s a shame that the church was being renovated and part of the outside was hidden, but at least that didn’t affect what was inside: over 7500 square meters of mosaics covering the walls of the edifice from the floor to the ceiling. That was truly impressing and will stick to my mind.
The St Petersburg mosque might be one of the less known sights, but yes, there is a mosque, and it is right next to the Peter and Paul fortress. From the inside, it is quite simple and modest, I must say, especially from what you would expect considering the grand look of it from the outside. But still, it’s worth the detour, and if you don’t want to go in, at leas go check the beautiful arch on one of the unused gates of the mosque.
The extra – Walking around
If the Hermitage is the Louvre of St Petersburg, Peterhof is Versailles. You will need to make Peterhof a whole day trip, because it takes some time to get there as it is not in the center of St Petersburg. You can get there by boat (they leave in front of the Hermitage, you can just go there and book yourself a seat the same day), or by metro and bus, although that takes a bit longer.
There are several palaces and other buildings in Peterhof with exhibitions inside of them, but this time we only walked around the gardens, which was already a spectacular experience. There are over 150 fountains in the park that have been built symmetrically around the main palace, with details of gold, beautiful statues and flower patches of all colors. The parks are huge, so you can spend a whole day just walking around, have a picnic on the lawn and enjoy the day there. It is really crowded though, so get ready to have some random person standing in about everyone of your pictures.
11. Letniy Sad
Or “the Summer Garden”. One more iconic sight right in the middle of the city, a big park with impeccably taken care of symmetrical garden alleys leading to fountains and ponds. You can just go through it one day that you’re walking around the city, as it is located right between the Neva and the main area of the city center.
12. The Tauride Garden
Another park in the center of St Petersburg, the “lungs” of the city. This huge green area just a bit off the main city center area is a beautiful place for an evening walk or a run. Next to the park, you can find also the Tauride Palace, but from what I’ve read, it is not open for tourists as it is still used for government meetings.
13. Street art
This is no specific location, but there is a lot of less famous art to see around the city. Whether it is the paintings sold on the streets by artists themselves, representing ballerinas or cityscapes, or graffitis on walls, there are a lot of beautiful details to pay attention to as you walk around the city.
One of my favourite spots in the city so far. This office building complex has been turned into a lively oasis for events of all sorts and hanging out on weekends and evenings. In the yard and on the floors of the building, you can find small shops of all sorts, with anything between bowties, stationary and sextoys. Anything. On several floors, there are street food booths, cafes and bars to grab something to eat and drink. Whether you’re feeling like a burrito or a ramen burger, a cocktail or a juice “steaming” with dry ice, you’ll find it all here, and you can enjoy it for example on the huge rooftop covering the whole building and overlooking the whole city. In addition, several artists have their offices or shops in the building, so you can go admire or buy the work of local artists, or check the current events happening at Etagi. For example, when we visited, there was husky show and a lemonade festival. The coolest place I’d like to have anywhere I live.
15. Rooftop tour
Last but definitely not least, we took a rooftop tour on the roofs of St Petersburg. Yup, that’s possible. And it definitely felt really something different, as it wasn’t simply about standing on a flat roof of some building for a few pics, but actually climbing from one roof to another while holding on some metal wires or lightning rods to not fall. We took some pictures and admired the view from several spots then finally sat down on a flatter level to have a chat with our guide and enjoy the view on the St Isaac cathedral. If you’re interested in this different way to experience the city, I found our tour from Vladislav Karpyuk’s Instagram and I was very happy with it. Not only was it nice to experience this, but it was also a great occasion to chat about the city and the culture with a local.
This is quite a complete list of everything I did in a week in St Petersburg that I think you should also consider if you’re visiting. Have you ever been to this city? Do you have some other must-sees there?