The first time is always very exciting and intriguing. And the first time in Saint-Petersburg should be fantastic.
I have visited 51 countries and most of the key cities in Europe. None of them could outperform Saint-Petersburg in terms of the beauty of the city and the number of attractions.
The most difficult thing is to gather all this cultural diversity into a couple of days for which a tourist arrives in Saint-Petersburg.
Tourists mistakes in St. Petersburg
- Do it all at once. Don’t even try! There are too many attractions in St. Petersburg to get around them even in a week. It’s better to try to choose several locations, and the rest of the time just walk around the city.
- Visit Peterhof and Pushkin in one day. No! Never do it! Despite the fact that organized tours to St. Petersburg often offer a program with visit 2 palaces in one day, this is a gross mistake. Better separate from the group in one of the palaces, spend more time there and then return to the hotel on your own.
- Making photos in city center with actors in Catherine and Peters costumes. Seriously?
- Visit Petersburg in winter. Of course, winter in St. Petersburg is also very beautiful, besides winter is the time of the theater season. But, nevertheless, if possible, it’s better to visit St. Petersburg in the summer.
How to spend 2 days in St. Petersburg?
1. Visit Peter and Paul fortress
The place from which the city began to be built in 1703. The worst prison and also the burial place of the imperial Romanov family. Peter and Paul Fortress is definitely a must-visit place in the city. But, all tourists do it wrong. There is no need to buy tickets and go to museums of the fortress. They are completely uninteresting. The best option is just to walk around the fortress. Get to the cathedral, look at the caricature monument to Peter the Great by Mikhail Shemyakin. And don’t forget to adore the panorama of the city.
2. Look at the Saint-Petersburg in miniature
This free attraction is located close to the Peter and Paul Fortress and just 100 meters from the Gorkovskaya metro station. Under the open sky, models of the main city buildings are built. Next to them is a sculpture to the chief architects of the city.
3. Chill in a cool cafe
Saint-Petersburg is a big and creative city with special bar culture. Literally on every corner, you can find a chill place where you can eat, drink wine, and have breakfast.
In this article I write about Top-15 places where to eat, chill and drink coffee in St. Petersburg.
4. Visit the St. Isaac’s Cathedral
It is a must-visit place. And definitely you have to both see the cathedral from outside and inside. In my opinion, St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the greatest and the most grandeur cathedral in the world.
It was being built for 40 years during the epochs of 3 emperors, Decembrist revolt
cholera epidemic and the lives of the greatest Russian people, before finally complete the ensemble of the square in 1858.
5. Bronze Horseman
The most beautiful and very first monument built in St. Petersburg. The courtiers and advisers of Catherine the Great have been thinking for a long time what kind of signature to make on the pedestal. And she herself came up with the best: to Peter the first from Catherine the second. And as if there was no temporary difference and the reigns of 6 emperors between them.
The first flood bridge (before the normal bridges) was built from Senate Square to the Menshikov Palace. And it looked like in the second picture.
6. Listen to the violin near the Church of the Savior on Blood
In 1861, Emperor Alexander (II) signed a decree of the abolition of serfdom. And in 1881 he was going to sign the draft of the first constitution in Russia. However, he did not make it. The terrorist organization “Narodnaya Volya” (eng: “people’s will”) made 6 unsuccessful attempts to assassinate the emperor. And the 7th attempt was successful. Church of the Savior on Blood was built on the exact place of the bombing that killed Alexander II. Inside the temple is a very beautiful and unusual mosaic decoration. During the tour, the guide tells about the murder of the emperor and the history of the temple, including the magical cases of the rescue of the temple during the war of 1941-1945.
Near the Church of the Savior on the Blood, street musicians often play their music.
In the Mikhailovsky Garden (in the picture on the left) you can relax and sit in a small cafe located in the pavilion overlooking the Moika river.
7. Dance salsa on the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island
There you will see the most magnificent view of the city. In the summer, on Fridays near one of the Rostral columns are held an open-air salsa and bachata parties. Follow the link to see information and schedule about dances.
8. Walk around the Hermitage
The Hermitage museum is enormous. So don’t even try to observe everything in one visit. It actually takes years to get to know the collection of the museum. Again, I am not recomending to take an observation tour, as it lasts 3 hours and you specifically run from one piece of art to another. Being totally killed in the end.
The best is to check the official website and plan your visit in advance. And take an audio guide.
Also very important to understand the difference between the Hermitage and the Winter Palace. As many people can call the museum both ways. The State Hermitage Museum occupies several buildings at once: the building of the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Hermitage, and the Hermitage Theater. So, the Winter Palace is a part of the Hermitage museum.
However in the Winter palace people actually lived. And now you can see the ceremonial and residential premises, and in other Hermitage buildings, there is a collection of works of art that was started to be gathered in the 18th century.
9. Visit the Eliseevsky shop
Eliseevsky shop is located in a beautiful building in the Art Nouveau style. The dynasty of the Eliseev merchants came from the peasant class. They owned numerous warehouse buildings and shops throughout Russia. Eliseev merchants relied on rare products. In particular, in winter in St. Petersburg they could sell oranges. In Soviet times at the Eliseevsky store people could find rare products. And now – this is a cafe and a shop of luxury products. Especially chic are marzipan figures and cakes – works of art.
10. Take a tour around the roofs of St. Petersburg
The tour around the roofs of St. Petersburg – is such a semi-legal – semi-extreme way to see the city from an unusual angle. Through a residential entrance, you are taken to the attic and then to the roof. There are many different routes on the roofs in different areas of the city, you can even book a romantic date, offer, and photo shoot. There are many agencies that organize such tours. Look here.
11. Watch the city from the water
Like Venice, St. Petersburg must be seen from the water. But if in Venice you can go by Vaporetto which is regular transport or by gondolas which is an exclusive entertainment. Then in St. Petersburg you have to take an excursion along the rivers and channels of the city. Such boat trips last about 2 hours and cost about 500 rubles. Tickets can be booked online, or you can simply come to the pier on the Moika river at the Blue Bridge or on the Fontanka river at the Anichkov Bridge.
12. Try pyshki
“Pyshki” is a Russian version of donuts or churros (more or less). It’s simply a piece of dough with sugar powder.
The most popular place to try pyshki is the small tiny cage near the DLT shopping center. There still lives the atmosphere of Soviet times with 20-century interior. Instead of napkins, there are pieces of paper. The menu consists of donuts and USSR style coffee (which is powder coffee with condensed milk). One pyshka costs 10 rubles here. Coffee – 13 rubles.
I described this place in this article.
13. Visit Peterhof
Peterhof is often compared to Versailles, in the likeness of which it was built. But in fact, Versailles simply hamsters the French croissants aside, because the beauty of Peterhof is incomparable with any imperial residence.
Read my article: One day in Peterhof. Must-visit places for tourists.
14. Go to the theatre
But choose wisely. For example, if you want to watch ballet than go only to the Mikhailovsky theatre or the Mariinsky theatre. Attention: in the summer theaters are on vacation. It is a winter entertainment.
15. Have a lunch with a view
Saint-Petersburg is the most beautiful city in the world. It is simply impossible to come here and not to have dinner with a view.
Read my article: Top-15 places to eat, drink and chill in St-Petersburg.
16. Watch the bridges drawn
The drawn of bridges in St. Petersburg is a very popular and free entertainment for tourists and pain for local residents. There are three ways to watch the bridges drawn.
- The first is just from the promenade.
- The second is while sitting in a restaurant overlooking the bridges.
- The third – on the deck of the ship as part of a night tour of the rivers and canals.
Follow the link to read my articles about Saint-Petersburg to help you organise your trip.