10 Reasons to Visit St. Petersburg, Russia
10. Cheap food
While costs have risen over the years most major world currencies still will afford you the ability to eat at delicious restaurants without worry of spending your last pennies. Unlike many western cities the prices are still very competitive in tourist heavy locations which means you get to spend more time enjoying the city and less time menu hunting.
9. Canal ferry trips
St. Petersburg is known as the Venice of the North for a reason. Numerous canals wind their way through the city and offer unique views from the endless stream of tour boats. The boats have to be designed in such a way that they are able to pass under the narrow and very short bridges that cross over the waterways. Watch in awe as the captains of these tour boats make seemingly impossible 90 degree turns to transfer to different canals. Taking a ride on these boats is safe, easy and relatively cheap. Feel free to shop around for the best price and tour length. Be prepared to have your photo taken and made into photo buttons, pins, etc while you are away on your tour. You of course are under no obligation to buy these items!!
Pro Tip: Don't be the first people to leave the boat, let the first few people stop to look at the items while you easily pass the salespeople.
8. 24 hour bakeries
If you love baked goods as much as I do you will be in heaven because there are many bakeries open all hours of the day for your enjoyment. Enjoy a cake and coffee while sitting in a window along the main road through town, Nfevsky Prospect.
7. Roller Blading is still cool
I was shocked to find out that Roller Blading is still fashionable in places at least as the of summer 2016.
It is not uncommon to see people roller blading in the parks solo, couples going for a ride, or even groups of Russian's racing around in competitive fashion. I must admit I laughed a little bit but it is so good to see people out doing anything active so I can't laugh as much as I want.
6. There are countless museums
St. Petersburg is home to some of the largest museums on earth including the famous Hermitage museum. Most of the museums are located a very walk-able distance from the city center area (ie. St. Isacc's Cathedral).
Pro Tip: Don't try to visit many museums in one day as they are very large and can take many hours each. Space them out and enjoy slowly.
5. Main street through town
As mentioned earlier, if there is one place that can be called the beating heart of St. Petersburg it is Nfevsky Prospect. This street is where it all happens and you can spend hours walking this street again and again. The street begins at the Winter Palace Square by the Neva River and terminates at the Monument to Alexander Nfevsky after about 4.4km (2.7 miles). Along this street you will find shopping centers, cathedrals, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, museums, and much more.
4. Parks straight out of the movies
The parks in and around St. Petersburg offer every type of entertainment that you could imagine and most of it completely free of charge. One specific recommendation is to visit the Central Park of Culture and Rest (closest metro stop is Krestovskiy ostov). This park is located on an island and can be reached via a large footbridges on all except its western side. The park is host to an annual tulip festival, countless free outdoor performance shows as well as walking paths, paddle boating, and of course roller blading! There are speakers located along some of the paths playing relaxing music which only intensifies the magical and sometimes hilarious experience. The best part of these parks is that they are mostly full of natives which means you can get a real Russian experience by visiting.
Pro Tip: While in the area also make sure to visit the amusement park right outside the Krestovskiy ostrov metro stop. It is free to enter and walk around.
3. Bridge raisings every night
While most of the world sleeps at night St. Petersburg comes alive! The bridges that is. Each night the bridges of St. Petersburg rise up for many hours to let waiting ships pass through toward the Gulf of Finland and then out to the Baltic sea. There is a very specific schedule to the rising bridges so your best bet is to visit this link which gives you the exact times for each bridge.
1. Be early to ones such as the Trinity and Palace Bridges as these are some of the earliest to open and thus the most popular to visit.
2. Ensure that you are on the correct side of the bridge in order to get back to your hotel as the bridges typically remain open for 1-4 hours.
2. Beautiful Metro stations
Who would have thought that metro stations could be beautiful? I know I didn't believe it at first but it is true that many metro stations in St. Petersburg are highly and uniquely decorated with lighting, murals, and other beautiful art. One of the most beautiful is located along the red line a short distance out of town at Avtovo. There are many others that are worthy of a visit and once you are on the metro you are free to visit any stop since your token does not expire until you are back above ground.
Pro Tip: You will see some people taking photographs in the metro tunnels and while it is possible it is not in good taste. Enjoy these places with your eyes only.
1. Interesting taxi rides
This is the one we've all been waiting for! THE RUSSIAN FAKE TAXI RIDE!!!
Yes it is true that there are many legitimate taxis in St. Petersburg but there are even more fake ones that are more than anxoius to get you in their seats. Let me walk you through how it works. You leave a popular area wanting to go back to your hotel and you see a normal looking taxi waiting. You go up to the taxi, you negotiate the rate depending on where you want to go and one of two things happens. Either A. you get in the taxi or B. you get told to go to this other taxi waiting nearby which is usually of very poor quality. This is what is known as the old switcharoo and it happens all the time so be ready.
Of course it is up to you whether or not to accept the ride in the end.
My Fake taxi experience occurred in the summer of 2015 as my wife, myself, and my visiting parents were leaving a bridge raising at around 1:30am. We walked a short distance to the nearest large road where there was a very nice new taxi waiting with his light on. We spoke with the man, negotiated the rate and then before we could get in the car he pointed us to his colleagues car sitting a few meters behind him which was clearly NOT A TAXI. It was a Fiat Punto or smaller, half rusted, the Taxi light was taped on to the roof, the car had no seat belts and the driver....well we called him Boris. Boris immediately left with us as his passengers as fast as his little car could go weighed down with 5 souls. Worn out tires howled as Russian Nationalist music blared out of the speakers as we raced by St. Isaac's Square. Numerous near misses with pedestrians and other cars seemed to occur each second as we raced across the sleeping city. As we rounded a corner closer to our hotel Boris turned the music up louder so we could barely hear any of our own screams as we narrowly missed a couple crossing a narrow street. Thankfully and suddenly our hotel came into view as we approached with immense speed. As we neared the driveway to the reception Boris jerked the wheel to the right, slammed on the brakes with tires screeching to a halt right in front of the doors. There was laughing, crying and a general state of shock that we lived through this experience and had so much fun doing so. My family still talks about this "Taxi" ride almost 3 years later.
Pro Tip: Don't take a fake taxi if you value your life but if you do I hope it is as memorable as our ride.