Well well, this looks familiar! Yes, I actually revisited and revamped my previous post 72 Hours in St. Petersburg [now renamed ‘How to Visit Russia Without a Visa: 72 Hours in St. Petersburg’] that went live back in 2014. It covered the topic of how to visit without getting a visa in advance, however it didn’t actually give much advice on how to spend your weekend there. I’ve come a pretty long way as a blogger since then, thank goodness.
So let me give you a full guide for your trip to St. Petersburg!
– How to Arrive –
I covered this topic previously for those interested in just visiting St. Petersburg without getting a visa in advance. If you are getting a visa, there are many ways to get to the city.
By ferry : You can arrive from Helsinki via ferry with St. Peters Line
By Train : A popular route, the Trans Siberian Railway typically begins or ends in this city. It’s easy to book tickets in advance and with integrated stops along the route.
By Flight : Of course, you can always fly into the city via many major hubs. The most common flight will be with Aeroflot and it will connect in Moscow.
By Cruise : This is also a great way to see the city if you want a taste of the rest of Scandinavia too (and if you’re an avid cruiser). Many major lines will spend 2 full days in the port which is just the right amount of time to see everything in my list! A bit of warning, if you take a cruise and do not have a visa, you will be required to purchase a shore excursion from the cruise line to tour the city and you will not be allowed to wander on your own. Contact me for more details.
– Must See –
Hermitage Museum : This massive establishment will take longer than a day to get through. If art is your thing, plan your route through the museum ahead of time so you don’t waste time being lost in a section you’re not interested in.
Church of the Spilled Blood : This is probably the first landmark that pops up when you google the city, and for good reason. It’s the most beautiful church I’ve ever visited – inside and out. It’s worth the small admission fee to go inside and stand in awe at the elaborated decorated floors, walls, ceiling… well everything. Outside, walk around the building and ogle the blues, green, yellows, and golds that demand your attention.
Ballet : The Russian ballet is world famous and this city is a fantastic place to watch a show. Again, research and book in advance to make the most out of your tight weekend schedule.
Hockey Match : Yep, there’s nothing better than a hockey match in the evening to get a taste of Russian sports. St. Petersburg has it’s own team and it’s wise to check the schedule and buy online before you go. Pick up a team scarf while you’re there!
Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines : This spot I stumbled upon had to be a highlight. Of course the machines are quite dated, but they all function and you can play them!
Nevsky Prospekt : This is the main street that runs through St. Petersburg and I doubt you’d spend the weekend here without running into it somehow. It’s great for shopping, people watching, eateries, and getting your bearings.
Kazan Cathedral : This building is very impressive from the outside, but admittedly I didn’t go in. If you’re interested in history and architecture, it’s high on the list and could be worth your while.
Get Lost : Of course you can spend a day taking a walking tour to learn about the sites, but it’s also nice to just wander and see where you end up. Every local I came across was sweeter than the last and eager to help, regardless if they spoke a bit of English. Carry a map to find your way again but don’t be afraid to wander!
– Eat & Drink –
Food, as with most items here, is very inexpensive. If you’re on a ridiculously tight budget, the street hot dog stands are your target. They’re about 50 cents and they hit the spot. If you can afford more, here are some good ones :
Cozy / Upscale : Palkin Restaurant
For the Dumplings : Pelmeniya
For the Jazz : The Hat Bar
Thrillist has a great article on Russian beers and which well-known beers they resemble
– To Bring Home –
Ushanka : One of my favorite souvenirs (back when I collected them) was my Russian fur hat, or Ushanka. Not only is it incredibly warm but it’s such a fun gift for friends back home. You’ll see tourists sporting them around the city but I wouldn’t necessarily wear it anywhere else.
Matryoshka Dolls : Of course the famous nesting doll is top on the list of souvenirs. There’s no shortage of them and the assortment is vast. The red and yellow [more simple] nesting dolls are traditional, and the elaborately painted dolls are more modern. Again, shop around for the perfect one and check all the dolls inside to make sure they’re there.
Shawls & Scarves : The selection of wool and silk scarves is very impressive here, and also a great gift for someone back home.
Replica Faberge Egg : I couldn’t leave without getting one of these beautiful little replicas for my mom. They’re sold all over the city, but I suggest shopping around before committing as they can get very expensive. My favorite is the classic red and gold egg with the little carriage on the side!
Vodka : Yes you heard that right. Vodka is not only the best here, but wickedly inexpensive. My boyfriend bought a bottle in a shop farther into the country for 7eur and when he went through Duty Free at the airport, he saw the same bottle for over 100.
And there you have it – my recommendations for a weekend to St. Petersburg! If you’d like to read about how to visit for 72 hours without getting those complicated visas, check out my How To Guide!