A Week In: Saint Petersburg

Posted - 25th July 2017

After our weekend in Moscow, we decided to spend an entire week in St. Petersburg as we felt there were many more things to see in this beautiful city. You have to be prepared that the weather is much worse up there, with lots of wind and rain, but it’s a must see! Many of you may have heard that St. Petersburg also has the white nights in the summer, lasting from June 11th to July 2nd, where the sun barely ever sets, and you can see the bridges opening and closing in the daylight. Unfortunately, finding a hotel in this time of the year is quite hard, but we were up for the challenge and didn’t want to miss a thing like this.

Tip: Whatever you do, when you go to St. Petersburg, you MUST pack an umbrella, the weather changes every single hour!

This is a quick itinerary for a week in St. Petersburg.

Day 1 – Hermitage + Winter Palace / Palace square / General Staff building Rossy wing / Alexander Park / Admiralty building / Bronze horseman / St. Isaacs Cathedral (Collonade) / Kazan Cathedral / Anichkov Bridge / Vladimirskaya Church

As the first day during our stay in this mazing city was very grey and rainy, we decided to spend most of it in the Hermitage museum and the Winter Palace. I would say that this is probably the most beautiful and biggest museum I have ever seen, it is like the Louvre in France, but a thousand times more beautiful and has much more interesting expositions, and it has a very recognisable façade and is placed on the beautiful Palace Square. 

We would recommend going there in the mornings, and purchasing the tickets online to avoid big queues. If you are a lover of museums and going around each room, this can literally take up all of your day! We spent about 3-4 hours there and we still haven’t seen every single room and exposition in there, although we did try. You get a map at the entrance, but I must say… it was quite difficult to walk around, make sure you follow the numbers of the rooms.

Tip: We recommend getting your E-tickets from the following online website: https://www.hermitageshop.ru/tickets/

We were so impressed with this grand museum, but I found myself being more impressed with the architecture of every single room in this winter palace than the actual expositions. Every single room had something special in its architecture, and had its own charm. However, if you do love art, we would say that this is one of the best art collections of all the famous artist we have ever seen in one place. No need to go to any separate art galleries – its all there! If you would like to see some more photos of the Hermitage Museum, please read our blog A day at: The Hermitage Museum.

The fun thing that we didn’t realise was that when you buy tickets for the Hermitage museum, you automatically also get access to the General Staff building Rossy Wing, which is right across the Palace Square. We didn’t think too much of it, and decided to go in anyways, but were so pleasantly surprised. There were so many nice expositions, of Faberge Eggs, Manolo Blink shoes, Impressionist art etc.. It was as stunning as the Hermitage Museum, and we ended up spending an hour there too!

After taking in all the beautiful sights, we decided to walk towards the Admiralty building through the Alexander Park. We didn’t go inside, but the building looks beautiful and the Alexander Park is very peaceful and has nice fountains. You can take a nice little break here and have a little picnic.

We walked all the way to the Bronze Horseman. This is one of the most famous statues in St. Petersburg – it was given to Peter the Great as a gift from Catherine the second. The statue is huge, and the entire bronze statue is balanced on 3 little points on a huge stone.

From here, the St. Isaacs Cathedral was very close, and you can get a very nice view from the park. You can purchase a ticket to go inside the stunning Cathedral, however bear in mind that it is closed on a Wednesday! You can also buy a ticket to go up 260 steps up the Collonade to get a stunning 360 view of the city. I would suggest going when the weather is a bit better to get a good view. The museum of the Cathedral itself is stunning. I would say it is probably the most impressive and large Cathedral I have ever seen. All the gold colours, all the paintings on the walls, all the big and colourful columns and finally the mosaics, make it so grand and impressive.

Tip: The ticket to visit the museum is separate from the colonnade, but bear in mind that you get a free tour around the church included in your ticket, but the tour is only in Russian, for all those Russian speakers there. And we thoroughly enjoyed the tour!

After such a fully loaded day, we decided to make our way back to the hotel but going through the Nevsky Avenue to pass many beautiful buildings on our way, the first of which was the Kazan Cathedral. This Cathedral is a functioning church, therefore the access is free, but bear in mind that you cannot take photos inside. The cathedral is more stunning on the inside than on the outside, so it’s definitely worth to visit.

Next on our way we passed a big shopping mall, some beautiful Theatres, to which you can easily buy tickets at ticket booths and parks. Then we passed the river crossing the famous Anichkov Bridge that has some great horse statues, if you like horses like I do!

And our final stop was the Vladimirskaya Church. Unfortunately it was closed as they were restoring it, but even from what we saw on the outside, it looked stunning!

Day 2 – Church of the Saviour on Blood / Field of Mars / Peter and Paul Fortress / Peter and Paul Cathedral / Rostral Columns and Spit of Vasilievsky Island / Kunstakamera 

Our second day started much later, as we knew it was going to be less busy and we had enough time to walk around more freely. Our first stop was the Church of the Saviour on Blood. It sort of reminded me of the St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow on the Red Square, but it had it’s own beauty and style. We were already impressed with the outside of the church, but as soon as we walked inside, we were even more stunned. Every single wall was covered with colourful mosaics, which made a very lasting impression on us. The colours shined so nice in sun, and made the entire church so light.

Tip: As with the Cathedral, the ticket to the Church includes a free walking tour for Russian speakers. We felt it was very interesting and informative.

As the day was very nice, we decided to talk through the Field of Mars towards the Peter and Paul Fortress. You get to walk over the Troitskiy Bridge, and get a stunning view of the city. This is one of the bridges that opens up during the night.

We finally arrived to the Peter and Paul Fortress, and in the nice weather, we walked around in the fortress. The entrance to the fortress itself is free, and you are free to walk around. If you wish to enter the beautiful Peter and Paul Cathedral, you can purchase a separate ticket. We decided to skip going into the Cathedral, but we enjoyed its beauty from the outside.

You can also get really close to the river Neva, and can walk around the fortress, so that you get a panoramic photo of the city and most importantly the Winter Palace. You can also purchase a separate ticket to walk around on the walls of the fortress, but bear in mind it gets very windy there!

We then exited on the other side of the fortress and walked all the way to the Kunstkamera museum, by passing the Rostral Columns and Spit of Vasilievsky Island. This is a small little park where you can take a little break again from the walking, and again, get a very nice panoramic view of the Winter Palace, as it is a great viewpoint.

Once we arrived to the Kunstkamera, we had to wait in a short queue to get tickets to enter. You cannot purchase any tickets online, so you will have to wait in line for a bit. Some may say that it is not worth it, some say they love it, but in our opinions, it is something special and would be a shame to miss it. This is a collection of all things around the world that Peter the Great started collecting. You see things from around the world, of different populations. It is a great place for kids to learn about people around the world.

The most memorable room in the museum is the Anatomy room, which is full of pickled babies, that had different deformities, and they studied back in the day. If you have a bit of a weak stomach, you might not be able to make it through this room. It is quite horrific to see, but also saddening to know that cases such as this exist around the world.

Once we were done, we walked back to town passing the Dvortsoviy Bridge, which again, gives a great view of the Palace and the main part of St. Petersburg. We then walked all the way home in the nice sunshine.

Day 3 – Tsarskoye Selo / The Catherine Palace / Catherine Park / Alexander Park

On day 3 we decided to spend an entire day in Tsarskoye Selo. We knew that the parks around The Catherine Palace were huge, and the weather seemed to be good, so we packed a picnic and made our way there. If you like to read further about our daytrip, please read our blog A day in: Tsarskoye Selo.

Day 4 – Peterhof / Mariinskitheater

Day 4 was another trip outside of town to the famous Peterhof and Peterpalace. This is the summer palace of Peter the Great and can be very well compared to the Versailles in Paris. Peterhof is known for it’s beautiful fountains and gardens, and indeed, what we saw was magical. If you would like to read more about our day in Peterhof, please read our A day in: Peterhof blog.

Once we came back from our day trip, we went to the Mariinskitheater to watch the ballet. A few days before, we bought the tickets at a theater stand, and decided that we cannot leave Russia without seeing a ballet.

Tip: there are many theater stands around town, were you can easily buy tickets for any show you like, pending availability. We strongly recommend going to see one, even to just see how the theater looks like inside.

We didn’t even know the name of the ballet we went to, but we were so pleasantly surprise about how beautifully these dancers performed, how busy the theater was and how applauding and impressed the audience was with the show. The dancer’s costumes were stunning and the orchestra played so well, and the great thing was that even though we got some of the worst seats, we could see everything on stage.

Once the ballet was finished, we decided to have a nice stroll around the city in the evening to see how the buildings look with the lights on, and since it was such a nice warm evening, it was a great idea. The only problem was that it was still the white nights, so it was light until after 11pm, which meant that the lights didn’t even go on until after 11pm. We were a bit too tired to wait, so made our way back home.

Day 5 – Alexander Nevsky Lavra / Tikhvin Cemetery / Tauride Gardens / Couvent Smolny / Nevsky Avenue

Day 5 was a Sunday for us, so we decided to have a bit of a lay in and have a relaxing day. We started our day a bit later, and we were lucky as the weather was really nice and sunny. Our first stop was the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

This monastery has a stunning cathedral, that is still working, so you can go inside and pray or put a candle, but you have to make sure you don’t take any photos inside. Alexander Nevsky is buried in this cathedral, and when you go inside, you can see his tomb, and locals come and pray at the tomb itself.

The Tikhvin Cemetery is next to and around the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. The cathedral and the cathedral grounds are free to access, however, if you wish to walk around the cemetery and see the toms of all the famous people, you have to pay an entrance fee. All the tombstones and burial places are stunning, with lots of statues and decorations.

We then went north to the Tauride Gardens, which is right next to the Couvent Smolny. The gardens are very nice, it has a nice big lake in the middle with lots of ducks, where you can feed them, as well as many ice cream stands, perfect for a little sunny break.

The Couvent Smolny is again, a working cathedral, so photos inside are not allowed, but unfortunately when we went inside, they were still restoring the cathedral, therefore there was not much to see.

The outside gardens and buildings are stunning though, and when the sun shines, the blue walls and golden roofs shine beautifully. This was a teaching Couvent, where ladies from rich families would come and live and learn, and then they could be ready to serve and live with the royal family.

We then strolled all the way to the Nevsky Avenue, and enjoyed the sun by walking on this famous avenue, looking at the beautiful buildings on either side of the street. Once we walked the entire avenue, and popped in the shops along the way, we made our way back home.

Day 5 – Russian Museum / Mikhailovsky Palace / Faberge Museum / Magazin Kuptsov Eliseevykh / Passage Shopping Mall / Palace Square / Aleksandrovskaja kolonna

Our last day was a bit more relaxed and we took things much easier. We decided that we wanted to see some Russian art and National Folk art. The Russian Museum is scattered over many buildings in town, and you can buy tickets to see each one of them, but we decided to just visit the main building, which is in the Mikhailovsky Palace. It’s official name is “The Russian Museum of Emperor Alexander III” and it opened it’s doors in 1898.

This museum contains one of the biggest collections of Russian national art. It contains everything from beautiful paintings by Russian artists:

To jewellery and folk clothes:

As well as other things:

And on top of the beautiful collection, again, the walls and architecture of the rooms was stunning.

We really enjoyed the museum and were pleasantly surprised about how pretty and great it was. As we had some more time left, we decided to, after all, visit the famous Faberge Museum. Of course everyone knows and has heard about Faberge eggs, but this museum is the biggest private collection of Faberge eggs, and it’s STUNNING!

If you like pretty, little, shiny things, you’ll love this place. The stands are beautifully made, and you can see things such as the Faberge eggs:

To little binoculars and clocks:

To other beautiful little things:

The museum is very small, and your visit can be as short at 1 hour, but the great thing is that the queues are not very long at all, so definitely worth the wait.

As it was our last day, we decided to have a last stroll in the city along the Nevsky Avenue. This time, we decided to stop off in some shops, such as the Magazin Kuptsov Eliseevykh. This shop looks as beautiful from the outside as it does inside.

You can find all sorts of tasty delicatessens such as meats, cheeses, sweets, baked good and so on, and the shop itself is just beautifully made. There is also a nice place to sit in the middle like a café, so you can always buy some things to eat and have them there.

Further along the avenue, we stopped off at the Passage Shopping Mall. It is quite a small shopping mall, but nicely made on the inside, and has some expensive shops on the inside, so it’s nice to just have a quick look.

We strolled all the way to Palace Square to have a last look at the beautiful Hermitage Palace in the sun, and saw the great Aleksandrovskaja kolonna in the blue sky.

We hope you enjoyed our photos, stories and tips during our stay in St. Petersburg.

Xoxo Ani and Sam

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