JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH SVETLANA POROSHINA FROM SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA !
Svetlana, a local of St. Petersburg, works there as an English teacher in winters and as a professional licensed guide in summers. She feels that St.Petersburg is one of the best city in the whole world and likes sharing with tourists its beauty and mysteries. Svetlana likes narrating old Russian stories and showing tourists the actual Russian places because she wants people to see her city like natives, to feel like natives and to understand the natives. Svetlana has so far visited 32 countries by not only seeing the touristic part of it, but by also feeling the spirit of the country and its natives. She hopes to continue her world exploration.
Saint Petersburg is a Russian port city as well as trade centre. It is the world’s northernmost metropolis with a population over 5 million. It’s foundation was laid down in 1703 by Peter the Great. There are 15 cities in the world that has the same name.
The city of Saint Petersburg was named so in honour of Saint Peter, as it was founded on the day of this saint patron. The city’s name however changed several times after that from Saint Petersburg to Leningrad to Petrograd and then back to Saint Petersburg.
Peter and Paul Fortress is the first building to be built in the City planned to be the fortress to defend the city. St. Petersburg is home to around 342 bridges out of which 21 are drawbridges, 24 pedestrian, and 297 transport bridges. The drawbridges are raised in the night and lowered early morning making it difficult to cross them during late nights.
The city of Saint Petersburg lies on the shore of Gulf of Finland. It is 400 km away from Helsinki while around 700 km from Moscow. From St. Petersburg you can travel to Moscow in just 3.5 hours using Sapsan, the fastest train connecting these two cities.
When is the best time to visit Saint Petersburg?
St.Petersburg is worth visiting at any season.
Traditionally, it’s considered that the high season is in summer, or exactly from mid-April till mid-October. It’s time when it’s still warm and sunny and you can see all the beauty of the city with working fountaines and green gardens, or experience the much sought after boat trip which is just magnificent. St. Petersburg is situated at such a high latitude that the sun does not descend below the horizon enough keeping the sky lit till midnight. The sun appears again between 3 to 4 am in the morning. It’s dazzling white nights makes it easy to explore more in a day’s time.
Coming here in winter is quite a challenge, as you know Russia is one of the coldest countries but it has its advantages. Just take the warmest clothes you have and enjoy the snow, deer riding, skiing and other sorts of winter fun. There’s a long fourteen days of vacation from 29 December till 10 January, when the whole country rests and celebrate the New Year and Christmas. It’s an altogether different experience to be a part of it. Also, as the high season here is summer, you can visit all the famous places without staying in long queues.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Saint Petersburg?
Transport system in St.Petersburg is convenient, cheap and easy.
There’re two best ways to travel around the city: metro (cost 40 rubles to get in and you can go whenever you want, the price is always the same) or bus (the same as metro). The St Petersburg subway is considered as one of the deepest in the world and Admiralteyskaya is the deepest station at 86kms under the ground. Check out this Saint Petersburg metroguide to know how it works.
Saint- Petersburg is also called the world capital of trams, although most of them run outside the city centre, and services can easily be disrupted by roadworks. You can even use the city’s waterways to get around, like the fairly new aqua buses which are inexpensive water taxis running on one route through the city.
If you come to the city for the first time it’s definitely better to take a taxi (Uber or Yandex.taxi). But if you want to test yourself, then take a bus, but don’t forget to exchange your money at the airport first. All the buses from airport come to the metro station “Moskovskaya” and then you can get wherever you need.
I don’t recommend you to rent a car in Russia, it might be very dangerous, because Russian style of driving a car is unpredictable.
What are the top three must visit places in Saint Petersburg?
First is definitely the Hermitage museum, which could be compared with Louvre in Paris. This museum of art and culture was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and opened to public in 1852.
Hermitage has more than 3000000 exhibits and it is estimated that if a visitor spent around one minute at each exhibit, it would take more than than 5 years to see them all. It consists of 6 different buildings and there you’ll see the best collection of west European arts as well as rooms where emperors of Russian empire lived more than 300 years. The 600-ton Alexander Column on Palace square is free standing and not fixed. It has stood vertical for more than 185 years under its own weight.
It works every day except Monday. It’s in the very center of the city so you’ll easily find it. If you go there, I recommend you to hire a guide, who will show you the most beautiful impressive and interesting exhibits as well as tell you the history, otherwise you’ll be wandering there without knowing where to go or what to see. It’s also very easy to get lost there.
Nearest Metro station: Admiralteiskaya, 8 minutes.
Second is St.Isaacs Cathedral. It’s the fourth biggest Cathedral in the world and is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city. It is clearly visible from the sky. You’ll be impressed by its dimensions inside and outside. It is believed that during the World War II, the German troops used this lofty structure as a reference point for sighting from air hence that saved it from being bombed by them. It’s also in the city center.
Nearest Metro station: Admiralteiskaya, 5 minutes.
And the third is – Church on Spillt Blood, which has the monument of mosaic. This Church is called so because it was built on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in the year 1881.
Nearest Metro station: Nevsky prospect, exit to Griboedova Canal, 2 minutes. When you go out, you immediately see it on the left side along Griboedova Canal.
Recommendation: You can buy a VISIT SAINT PETERSBURG card which is available in 2, 3, 5, 7 day options. If you are here for three to four days, buy a card that works 72 hours, to get discounts to 10 main museum and exhibitions of the city (except the Hermitage), price 6500 rubles. Saint Petersburg Card is activated upon your first entry to a museum or a tour, and is valid for a consecutive period measured in hours. To know the purchase options, click here.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Saint Petersburg?
Peterhof, (one hour away from the city) summer residence of Russian emperors and empresses with its famous palace, fontains and parks. It was captured by German Army in 1941 and ruined completely. Till date the restoration work is going on. The best way to get there is to take hydrofoil, you’ll have an amazing trip on Neva river. It comes from Palace Embankment (just behind the Hermitage) and delivers you exactly to the Peterhof Fontaines which operate without the use of pumps, all fed by natural springs.
Catherine palace (one hour away from the city). It’s unbelievably beautiful palace with eight wonder of the world- Amber room which is fully made of Amber! Gold leaves and mirrors add to the beauty of this room.
Catherine Palace is in Pushkin city, the most comfortable way to get there is to take a taxi (1000 rubles) or you can get to Moskovskay metro station and take a bus (347, 342, 299), cost 40 rubles. Also you can experience Russian trains – “electrichka” – the train to Pushkin goes from Vitebsky railway station (metro Pushkinskaya).
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Saint Petersburg?
I’ve already answered in the first question: it’s New Year! The city is very beautifully decorated with lights and as it becomes dark very early it’s possible to see it about 16 o’clock. There’re almost 14 days of vacation from 29th December to 10th January. It’s huge fun all around, not only in the city, but in the whole country. The second holiday is May Holiday, when we celebrate the Victory Day in the Second World War.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Saint Petersburg? Is it a vegetarian friendly city?
Russian food is tasty, not spicy, not hot, but extremely delicious. Here you can try whatever you like. Of course, the most traditional dishes: bortsh (soup with beetroot), pelmeny (dumplings with different fillings sweet or savory) and of course pancakes.
Russian cuisine is the best way to feel Russian soul, especially with tasting a small shot of Russian vodka or another traditional Russian drink – kvas, which believe me, tastes very unusual. People of Saint Petersburg also love coffee and you will find numerous options to try. Coffee Rooms is the largest chain in the city.
Russian people love meat. But all around the city you can easily find vegetarian cafe and usually most part of the restaurants have special menu for vegetarians.
Where to head for shopping in Saint Petersburg?
Shopping center: it’s definitely Gostiny Dvor (Merchants Yard). There you could find whatever you’d like: souvenirs, clothes, food. And unlike other shopping malls it’s in the city center.
Another place is Galereya 4-storey building, also in the center, but includes world famous mass market shops: Zara, H&M and etc., not so unusual.
There’re two flea markets: one is in the center, and known as Apraksin Dvor (Apraksin Yard) just opposite the Merchants Yard. And less popular place – flea market at Udelnaya metro station (formally huge second hand)
Which is the local craft or souvenir of your city?
Matryoshka, balalaika and shapka ushanka. Everybody knows these words. But for sure the best presents or souvenirs you can take is matryoshka – stalking doll, there’re several dolls in one, made of food and hand-painted. Also Russian caviar and chocolate are very delicious.
Which are the best streets in Saint Petersburg worthy of taking a stroll on?
Nevsky prospect, the central street and main avenue where all the fun happens. It is named after Alexander Nevsky Lavra, the monastery which stands at the eastern end of the street. Nevsky prospect is also the warmest part of the city where the temperature is higher from the rest of the city. It is five kilometre long with impressive architecture, squares and churches.
I also recommend you to visit Rubenstein street which has many local bars and Dumskaya street where you meet very interesting people from all over the world.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
The best place overlooking the city is Colonade of St.Isaacs Cathedral. Just 300 steps and you see the whole city. Although it has two viewing points, only the lower one is open for tourists. It is the best viewing point in central Saint Petersburg since it has a circular platform so it provides a 360-degree-view of popular landmarks and truly magnificent view of the city.
Tickets can be bought both in the box office near the cathedral or on St. Isaac Cathedral’s website. The ticket to the cathedral does not include the colonaded walkway and vice versa. You can even buy a combined ticket at a lesser price.
Do you suggest any shows on music, culture or art performed by the locals? Where can one spot street art in Saint Petersburg?
St.Petersburg is the cultural capital of Russia. there’re three famous theatres of opera and ballet: Mariinsky Theatre, Mikhailovsky Theatre and Alexandriivsky Theatre. Russian ballet is one of the oldest ballets and it’s better to visit one for ballet while another for opera. You shouldn’t miss it if you come to St.Petersburg.
Vaganova Ballet Academy is the oldest and the best ballet school in the world.
If you are here between June to July, you can enjoy the unique festival White Night Festival which is a combination of ballet, opera and orchestral performances called “Stars of the White Nights” at the Mariinsky theatre. The Mariinsky theatre is named after the wife of the Tsar Alexander II, Maria Alexandrovna.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Saint Petersburg?
Transport : Book taxi from Uber and Yandex apps.
Food : The best food tips and excursion you’ll find in TripAdvisor.
Hidden Gems : The thing that you must see: Peter and Paul Fortress – the place where city started, where the first stone was put. And where now all the Romanov dynasty are buried. Visiting the fortress is free, but Cathedral with tombs cost about 300 rubles.
Another famous place is Aurora cruiser – the shot from this cruiser was a start for revolution and turned Russian history upside down. It’s quite far from all the metro stations, but if the weather is great, don’t miss your chance to walk along embankments and admire the view. It’s about 30 minutes on foot from the Fortress.
If you have a chance and time try to visit St. Petersburg Aquatorria (big maritime st., next to Admiralteyskaya metro station), there you’ll see the copy of the whole city! It’s amazing! Another small copy you’ll find in the park near metro Gorkovskaya – museum under the sky with miniatures of the most famous buildings of St.Petersburg.
Do you want to give any suggestion/tip to tourists coming to Saint Petersburg?
The only recommendation I can give- don’t forget you umbrella. Come here in a good mood and without any expectations! Relax, enjoy and have fun.