A magical time in St. Petersburg

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St. Petersburg

Hi, there! I’m Anastassiya, and I’m not a blogger, or a good photographer (or whoever else is supposed to write a blog! 😊), but what I am for sure is a travel nerd, and of course a travel lover.

I was born in Kazakhstan and spent 22 amazing years there, one day I will write a blog about my home country for sure. Kazakhstan is a huge country, but it’s very far away from the rest of the world so it was always a big challenge for travelling and seeing more.

But I made up for it when I moved to Prague in 2010 and started to travel like crazy. Thankfully, Prague is almost in the middle of Europe and gives a lot of opportunities for those who can’t survive being in the same place for a long time, like me! A variety of low-cost and regular flights, buses to almost all European cities, and my favourite – places within driving distance. A 3-hour drive and you are already enjoying the Sistine Madonna in the Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden, 5 hours and you are chilling in thermal baths in Budapest, Hungary. So, now you see why Prague was the right choice for me.

During the last 9 years of frequent travels, I created my personal structure of travel preparation. A structure for the travel nerd 😊. There are several points and rules I always refer to when I plan my next trip.

1. Getting to the destination
– if I take a flight, I try to avoid overnight layovers and flights that start in the middle of the day – with those, you usually lose a full day.

2. Accommodation – city centre location always! Walking distance from the main destinations on my list. The only exception is when I’m travelling to the sea, but that’s a different story for another blog post.

3. “Must-see” list – the city sightseeing spots, museums, unique places, etc.

4. “Gastronomic musts” – this is one of the most important parts of my usual trip, and it requires careful homework.

5. Entertainment – I like music and theatre, and sometimes the whole trip is built around a special entertainment event, like the concert of Elton John in Bordeaux.

6. Shopping – only something unique, usually I don’t like to spend my holiday time visiting stores, especially in the era of online shopping.

    Now you have an overview of my travel preparation routine, I want to share with you my unforgettable 3 day trip to St. Petersburg – the culture capital of Russia.

    There are not many options to get to St. Petersburg from Prague, apart from taking a flight. I took a direct 2 hour and 30 minute flight with SmartWings and it cost me around 200 EUR for a round trip. There are two more direct options with the Russian airline Aeroflot or Czech Airlines (CSA).

    I booked a small boutique hotel with a funny name, Akhilles I Cherepakha, translated from Russian it means “Turtle and Achilles”. The hotel was very clean, with cosy interiors and a nice breakfast and all these complemented the perfect location in walking distance of almost all the popular destinations in the city.

    Room in Akhilles I Cherepakha Hotel; Day 1 in My Maps

    Now comes the most interesting part – my list of “must-sees & visits”. In St. Petersburg this can be an endless story, but I had only 3 days that I planned to spend in relaxation mode. What I forgot to mention is that you should be smart and plan your trip to St. Petersburg in the warm season, so you are lucky enough to catch the sun. I was both, so I decided to focus more on the places I can enjoy from the outside, putting on my list only one museum – The State Russian Museum. For the rest, I made a full list of all the places I wanted to see, then I allocated them all on Google Maps (I created a separate map for every day in St. Petersburg in My Maps, one of my favourite tools in Google) and then I grouped those locations to build the most convenient walks and divided it into 3 days to have a smooth, logical plan for each day. After I was done with my “must-sees”, I also added places on the maps from my “gastronomic musts”. I had some suggestions from my friends and surfed the internet for interesting places with good ratings and focused on breakfast and dinner (I usually skip lunch), and little cosy bars. From the list of gastronomical places I created, I chose those that fit into my daily plans by the locations and pinned them on the map (in My Maps you can customise pins). As a last step, I checked the events which took place during the days I would be in St. Petersburg and chose those that were the most interesting to me. My Maps for two days in St. Petersburg is open for the public for Day 1 and Day 2.

    So, let’s see what I did in the end 😊, below you will find my agenda for 3 days in St. Petersburg with my feedback after visiting.

    DAY 1

    I arrived on Friday with a 2-hour delay, so we decided to have a light dinner in a nice place and have a rest.

    The place we chose was New Holland. Originally it was built in the time of Peter the Great as a centre for shipbuilding. It was partially opened to the public in 2016 after a long reconstruction, as a place for fun, art, and outdoor activities. It is for sure a place to visit, carefully reconstructed with a slight touch of hipster style, offering a variety of cafes, shops, and chill-out areas.

    DAY 2

    The next day I started with my favourite Russian style breakfast – Syrniky (curd cheese pancakes) in Banshiky - a bistro located in the building of a public bath. Well, it was good in general, but nothing special. After breakfast, we took a long walk down the Nevsky Prospect – the main street of the city. On the way, there were a couple of places worth our attention – Elisseeff’s store, located in an outstanding Art Nouveau building. I will use the term “outstanding” frequently when talking about St. Petersburg and its architecture.

    Tea in Banshiky; interior of Elisseeff’s store

    The next interesting building on Nevsky is Singer House, also known as the House of the Book, another Art Nouveau masterpiece. It is located at the intersection of Nevsky Prospekt and Griboyedov Canal – a point from where on one side you will see the Kazan Cathedral and on the other, the Church of the Savior on Blood. I suggest spending some time to visit both - the Savior on Blood is beautiful inside and very peaceful, and the Kazan Cathedral is one of the most important religious icons in Russia.

    Griboyedov Canal; The Savior on Blood; Singer House

    The next destination was Saint Michael's Castle, a former royal residence which now hosts the State Russian Museum. It was the only museum I wanted to visit this time. It houses many masterpieces of Russian painting, created by famous Russian painters like Aivazovsky, Repin, Vrubel, and my favourite impressionists Konstantin Korovin and Igor Grabar.

    Well, now let’s make a pause for lunch in DUO Asia. I’m a big fan of Asian food, but this place totally conquered my heart and stomach! Very stylish bistro, with a small menu of really delicious modern Asian cuisine, truly a must-visit!

    DUO Asia was not in my plan, but after tons of recommendations I decided to adjust the plan a bit, and we got there by taxi from the city centre and went back to the hotel to relax a while before the theatre. It can be a puzzle choosing which theatre to visit in St. Petersburg as there are performances every day. This time we chose the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre because that day there was a performance created by the main theatre director and was suggested by a friend of mine. It was “Governor” by Andrei Mighty, which was impressive, but also very dramatic – luckily, the glass of champagne helped to save my mood that evening!

    It was a long day, full of emotions, and we concluded it with the best dinner in a place called Harvest, with minimalist interior design, a zero waste approach and delicious food prepared only with local ingredients. Everything was perfect there, and I would love to return when I’m in St. Petersburg again.

    DAY 3

    We started the day with breakfast in Jungle café (website available only in Russian), again nothing very special, with very slow service – this time I was not lucky with breakfast!

    We took a coffee to go, so we wouldn’t miss the sun, and continued the city tour by walking to St. Isaac's Cathedral. We got upstairs to the dome for a 180-degree city view, and it was incredible. After a 15 minute walk from the Cathedral, we found ourselves at Palace Square - the central city square that has held a lot of significant historical events for Russia. It is surrounded on one side by the Winter Palace, a beautiful baroque building and the former residence of the Russian Emperors, which is now home to The State Hermitage Museum.

    The State Hermitage Museum; Kunstkamera

    Later, we passed the Palace Bridge, leading to the Spit of Vasilievsky Island, to see the Kunstkamera (the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography), the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange, the two Rostral Columns – a very popular symbol of St. Petersburg - and Saint Petersburg Mint, which is one of the world’s biggest mints. The last destination for that day was the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the house of the remains of the Russian Emperors and Empresses from Peter the Great to the Romanov family.

    And that was it, I had my flight back to reality later that evening.

    It was a great weekend escape to one of the most beautiful, cultural cities with its own unique character. I would love to come back again, there are so many places left to see.

    Stay tuned!

    One of the two Rostral columns

    Top image: Adobe Stock

    All images courtesy of Anastassiya Yershova unless otherwise specified

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