Planning a solo trip to St. Petersburg, Russia? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Located in Russia’s north east (on the Gulf of Finland), with a population of over 5.3 million.
- Considered to be the cultural capital of Russia (something locals are proud of – and they like to remind Muscovites of it frequently!)
- Located in the delta of the river Neva, the city is almost entirely built on islands connected by 342 bridges and canals.
- Was renamed Leningrad from 1924 to 1991. Commonly referred to as Piter.
- Nicknames: Venice of the North, Palmyra of the North, Northern Capital of Russia.
- Currency: Russian Ruble (RUB).
- Spoken languages: primarily Russian (English is popular among the younger generations).
- Best time to visit: from May to September for the longest daylight hours, pleasant temperatures and mild evenings. June is famous for the White Nights, when the sun sets only for a short period of twilight. Winter is brutal, with very low temperatures and blizzards.
- Arriving via airport: Pulkovo International Airport (LED) operates two terminals. Terminal 1 is serviced by the city bus line #39, which runs to Moskovskaya metro station every 15-20 minutes and with single tickets priced at 23RUB. Terminal 2 is serviced by shuttle bus line K3, which connects to major metro stations for ticket price of 35 RUB. Taxis can be pre-booked on 812 900 00 00, with fares at 500-800 RUB.
- Update: now that foreign-issued Visa/Mastercard no longer work in Russia, make sure you bring enough cash with you for the trip.
WHERE TO STAY
- Nevsky Prospekt is the most recognizable address in the city, an avenue just as popular for its attractions as it is for its smattering of hotels, restaurants and bars.
- A cheaper, more scenic alternative is Vasilyevsky, the city’s largest island and its historic and cultural centre.
- Second only to Moscow’s underground railway system, the city’s Metro is a cheap, easy and reliable means of transport. One-way rides cost a uniform 65 RUB.
- The city also operates trams, trolleybuses and regular buses (tickets are typically collected and paid to a conductor on-board).
- Marshrutka (marshrutnoe taksi) is the term for a privately owned minivan that operates a fixed route, collecting passengers along the way. These are a cheaper alternative to taxis.
- Taxis should be pre-booked for ease of language by calling 068 or 274-4226 with a call-back from the operator specifying fare rate, model of car and license number.
ST. PETERSBURG NIGHTLIFE
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is around 5 AM.
- Tip: the party doesn’t get started until late, so you’ll want to hit bars first – then go clubbing later (if that’s your thing).
- Great bars for solo travelers: Fiddler’s Green (Irish pub), Apotheke Bar, Dead Poets, and brimborium.
- Looking for music/DJ and a dance floor? Check out Mishka Bar.
- Kamenoostrovsky Prospekt is popular among the trendy and wealthy of the city, with clubs open for all-night dancing.
- Konnushenaya Ploshad has some of the city’s cheapest drinks and most casual bars.
- Liteyny Prospekt is lined both sides with an assortment of clubs and bars that cater to all crowds and pockets.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Hermitage is St. Petersburg’s star attraction, a museum of art and culture counted among the largest and oldest in the world.
- Anichkov Palace is one of the oldest buildings in the treasure trove of Nevsky Prospekt. The former imperial palace was briefly used as the state museum and today houses, among many organizations, the city’s most prestigious secondary schools.
- Peter and Paul Fortress was the first structure built in the city and now an iconic landmark. The infamous prison held many freethinkers and revolutionaries, while the cathedral is the final resting place of the Russian imperial family.
- Saint Petersburg Zoological Museum boasts a collection of 17 million species, although ‘only’ 500 thousand are on display, developed from the original Kunstkammer museum.
- Stop by to check out the moored Russian cruiser Aurora, famous for its role in the 1917 October Revolution (and earlier, in the Russo-Japanese War).
- Take an afternoon to check out the nearby town of Petergof, famous for being the location of numerous palaces and gardens commissioned by Peter the Great (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Tour packages are available from numerous operators downtown, or from just about any major hotel.
- Discover Krestovsky Island and its wide avenues, elegant architecture and gardens. Its amusement park Dito Ostrov draws crowds of young and old alike.
- Follow the path of the Neva River along the granite embankments, which lend the best observation spot for the city’s drawbridges, magnificent architecture and river traffic.
- Remember the Siege of Leningrad at Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery through the historical pavilion and its artifacts.
- Going to the opera at Mariinsky Theater is the perfect way to combine the social and cultural patrimony of the city.
- Touring the city via its waterways is both scenic and relaxing: choose among canal boat tours or evening river cruises.
- Our top cafe pick: Coffee 3.
- Great restaurants to try: Khachapuri I Vino (Georgian – multiple locations), Obshchestvo Chistykh Tarelok (Clean Plates Society Cafe), Chekhov, Sixty Four (modern Russian), Suliko (Georgian), Русская Рюмочная №1 ($$$ – Russian fine dining), Ultramen! (Ramen), Yarumen (Japanese), Tandoori Nights, Phobo (Vietnamese), and Lale (authentic Turkish).
- Where to find good cheap eats: Udelnaya market has an assortment of food stalls catering to different cuisines, while the side streets off Nevsky Prospekt yield cheap and casual cafés.
- Dangerous areas: Vyborg is known for street crimes, and pickpockets can be found operating around the main thoroughfares. Exercise extreme caution while walking alone at night – stick to well-lit areas and wider streets/avenues.
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days