Saint Petersburg City Guide
Often referred to as the Venice of the North, Saint Petersburg is a city with a noble vibe where lovers of high art and culture feel right at home. Grand palaces, ornate churches, rich museums and picturesque ...
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Saint Petersburg City Guide
Often referred to as the Venice of the North, Saint Petersburg is a city with a noble vibe where lovers of high art and culture feel right at home. Grand palaces, ornate churches, rich museums and picturesque canals spanned by charming bridges make sightseeing an unforgettable affair. Beyond all the history and culture the city also offers lots of memorable experiences you can only have in this part of the world, so be prepared for delightful traditional cuisine, fishing on ice and white polar nights, among other things.
The Venice of the North
Built by Peter the Great in what was once a wild, muddy area, Saint Petersburg remains a grand imperial city to this date despite the fact that the tsars and emperors have been long gone. Over the centuries, Peter's successors kept commissioning lavish palaces and churches until the city acquired its present look. Many renowned architects and designers from all over Europe have shaped the architectural style of St Petersburg, and because quite a few of them were Italian, the city came to be known as the Venice of the North.
Today the numerous islands over which the St Petersburg is spread are connected by more than 300 bridges. Scenic canals and wide avenues lined with regal mansions make it a picture-postcard city. There are more palaces and mansions than one can see in a single visit, yet two of the most popular landmarks are religious sites.
The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood stands out as one of a few buildings constructed in a distinctively traditional Russian style, with a colourful façade and interiors covered with icons. St Isaac's Cathedral, on the other hand, is as lavish as a palace. Today this cathedral serves as a museum and most visitors come to climb to the colonnade surrounding its gilded dome for a chance to see the city from the top.
A city of art and culture
The most iconic attraction in St Petersburg, the Hermitage, is one of the largest and most renowned museums in the world. Its collection consists of 3 million objects ranging from ancient treasures to modernist artworks. It is housed throughout several palaces and storage facilities. The bulk of it, though, is on display in the splendid Winter Palace. The wisest way to explore all of it is to either take a guided tour of the highlights or to inquire about specific collections of interest.
Another must for any art connoisseur visiting St Petersburg is the Russian Museum, which boasts the largest collection of native art gathered under one roof. The museum traces the entire development of Russian art starting with early Christian icons and going all the way to some of the founders of modern art styles like Vasiliy Kandinsky. Finally, to see the best in contemporary Russian art, head to the Erarta Museum, which is solely dedicated to displaying modern works.
If you enjoy classical ballet and opera, make sure to book a performance at the Mariinsky Theatre. One of the most renowned companies in the world performs on the stage of this grand theatre located inside a splendid 19th-century building.
Sumptuous Russian Cuisine
From street food to fine dining, Saint Petersburg offers a range of foodie temptations to the hungry visitor. Some of the culinary delights worth trying include numerous varieties of fish dishes, hearty meats, caviar and of course, borsht, a traditional Russian soup that has sweet, sour and spicy varieties.
To see where the ingredients for local dishes are sourced, head to one of the covered markets, many of which are located within historic buildings. The Kuznechny farmer's market is one of the most popular. Stroll among its stalls and you find an irresistible choice of foods – cold cuts, traditional Russian cheese, cured fish, wild honey and wild mushrooms, and a stunning variety of pickles – all perfect for a picnic.
If you need a quick, hot bite on the go, grab a blini. These Russian crepes are a popular snack sold by street vendors who offer them with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings. A more refined way to sample blinis is by having a proper meal at one of the city's upmarket restaurants where blinis are served with sour cream and caviar.
Make the most of the white nights
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Visit St Petersburg between May and July and you won't be able to get a wink of sleep. This polar phenomenon might not be unique to the city of the tsars, yet it's just as striking here as anywhere else in the far north. With daylight that lasts 24 hours you have more time to explore the city and an excuse not to go to bed.