The Ultimate List of Things to do in St. Petersburg
Enjoy a drink with a view
St. Petersburg has several rooftops with a view. One of our favorites is at the wine terrace at the W hotel. Open in the summer months the terrace has spectacular views of St Issac’s cathedral.
Have the one of Europe’s top museums to yourself
Our favorite times to visit the Hermitage museum is on a Wednesday or Friday when the museum is open until 9.00pm. You can avoid the crowds of the day (particularly May- September) and almost have the galleries to yourself. Read our blog on the best way of visiting the Hermitage here.
Learn about the Russian Revolution
2017 sees the centenary of the Russian Revolution. The events of 1917 shaped the world we live in today, and one museum we think is worth immersing yourself in is the Museum of Political History. Charting the history of the revolution and beyond.
See how Russian artisans recreated the Amber Room
Everyone visits Catherine Palace and admires the famed Amber Room. Take a private tour with Exeter International behind the scenes and visit the workshops of the craftsmen that worked on the restoration and learn about the history of Baltic amber.
Discover the secrets of St. Petersburg’s oldest building
The Peter & Paul Fortress is one of the most iconic buildings in St. Petersburg. It was the very first building built in the city in 1703. Today it is the resting place of every Romanov Tsar and Tsarina. Go beyond the normal tour and ask us about the unique tour to the top of the bell tower with unparalleled views over the whole of St. Petersburg.
View Fabulous Faberge
The Faberge Museum is undoubtedly one of the highlights of visiting St. Petersburg. The nine incredible eggs collected by Viktor Vekselberg are now given pride of place in the restored Shuvalov Mansion on the Fontanka river. Encased in transparent perspex boxes so that visitors can get a perfect 360 degree view, the eggs taunt with their glamour. Other parts of the collection are equally as impressive, particularly the enamelled frames and trinkets. Truly objects of desire.
See the ultimate ballet performance
Soon to start it’s 234th season, the Mariinsky theatre is the birthplace of ballet. Of course, we cannot forget opera and symphony, and now with three stages the White Nights Festival staged by Valery Gergiev has more choice than ever.
Taste frozen vodka
It may sound like a cliché, but being introduced to drinking vodka the ‘proper’ Russian way is something that surprises many. Velvet and smooth, thick from the freezer, served with Russian snacks is the ultimate induction to Russian life. No mixing allowed, but you can have a glass of cranberry, orange or tomato juice on the side…
See the bridges open
Between May and November 10 of the main bridges in St. Petersburg raise every night to allow ships to pass. It is a sight to behold and you can watch them come up one by one from 1.30am.
The Hermitage Museum recently discovered an original Rubens that was put in storage many years ago. It was originally the altarpiece of the Alexandra Nevsky Lavra and removed by the Bolsheviks after the revolution. It remained rolled up and uncatalogued until 3 years ago. It has been fully restored and is now on display in the General Staff Building of the Hermitage. Read more about the discovery here.
The Mariinsky II state of the art opera house is another incredible roof with a view. Accessible only to people with a ticket for a performance, the roof is open each night (subject to weather) 60 minutes prior to the performance. Top Tip: Have 100 roubles each ready as they charge this nominal sum for access…
Eat: a feast for your eyes as well as your taste buds
Organic all Russian produce that is all seasonal Cococo is a testament to Russian creativity and also delivers in flavour and looks. Our suggestion is to try a selection of the appetizers to really see the talent of Chef Grischechkin shine. A must visit, bookin essential, well in advance.
Stroll in the footsteps of the Romanov family
Created for Peter the Great in 1704, the Summer Gardens are one of the original authentic sights of the city. There are 250 statues and the garden provides an oasis of tranquillity and calm in the hot summer months.
Try local bubbles
Russian Champagne is not quite the oxymoron you may think. The top quality brand, Abrau Durso has done extremely well in blind tastings, and beats Italian prosecco every time! The winery is located on the shores of lake Abrau, a short distance west of Novorossiysk on Russia’s black sea coast, in the Krasnodar Krai region. It dates back to 1870 when it was founded with a view to providing wine for the Tsar. The owner also owns the Chateau D’Avize in champagne.
Explore St. Petersburg’s Jewish history
Take a tour of one of St. Petersburg’s Grand Choral Synagogue. The second largest in Europe, and fully restored.
Eat ethic food
Cuisine from the former Russian Empire such as Georgian, Armenian, Azeri and Uzbek food are all readily available. Our favorite has to be Georgian and we feature several Georgian restaurants on our restaurant recommendations.
Learn about the siege of St Petersburg
One of the most moving visits you can make is to the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery where there are 186 mass graves for the victims (mostly civilians) of the Siege of Leningrad during WWII.
Tour the only summer palace with original interiors
The Chinese Palace was built at the start of Catherine the Great’s reign and it was built for personal use, not official court use. It has an intimate feel and showcases Catherine’s personality far more than the other more opulent summer palaces. It is the only summer palace that remained intact after WWII, saved by its hidden location. It has been painstakingly restored and may only be visited in fine weather during the summer months.
Cruise the waterways
Take a private boat tour of the waterways of St. Petersburg. Often compared to Venice, but in reality modelled on Amsterdam. You will see the city from a completely different perspective – free of traffic!
Climb the colonnade of St. Issac’s cathedral
In the summer months, the colonnade of St. Issac’s cathedral is open until 4am! Needless to say it is a long climb to the viewing platform, and is not for those who do not enjoy heights. Maybe the ultimate Instagram moment for those that do!
Ride a troika
Russian cliché number two (right after vodka) is a troika. Snow, Pavlovsk Park and a sleigh? What could be better? The ultimate Dr Zhivago experience.
See carved crystal subway interiors
It isn’t just Moscow that has a famous metro station. If you only visit one station, make it Avtovo. Carved crystal pillars and chandeliers make it one of St. Petersburg’s finest.
Discover Rasputin’s secrets
Tour the Yusupov Palace, home of the richest noble family in Russia prior to the revolution. There is a fascinating mini museum in the bowels of the palace charting the story of Rasputin, who was poisoned there.
See spectacular sunsets
St Petersburg’s sky is famous for it’s changing skyscapes, and if you are lucky, you will see the most spectacular sunsets in the summer.
Drop in to a Russian church service
Russian orthodox church services feature incense, baritone choirs and large congregations. A visit to a service is a must to complete the picture of this complex country. Religious or not, it is hard not to be moved by the atmosphere of a service. The Kazan cathedral in St. Petersburg is one of the more authentic places to visit.
Discover Russian Art
From icons to Malevich and the Avant Garde, the Russian Museum is unmissable.
The fountains and gardens at Peterhof
The Grand Palace at Peterhof may be the palace you choose to miss the interior of. Instead, focus on the magnificent gardens, statues and playful fountains of this summer palace modelled on Versailles. For maximum impact, arrive or depart by hydrofoil from the city center.
Eat caviar (Russian cliché number 3!)
Sturgeon was over fished for many years. A ban on fishing in the Caspian Sea was introduced to repopulate stocks. Beluga is now back on the menu, and the best place to try it, at a reasonable price, is restaurant The Repa, close to the Mariinksy Theatre and perfect for a post-performance meal.
For more details about any of our destinations, contact us: 800.633.1008 or 813.251.5355 or email.