Should I visit St Petersburg?
Adding in St Petersburg to your Trans-Siberian tour
One of our senior sales consultants Gregg Hannam, recently took a trip from St Petersburg to Vladivostok. In this blog entry he discusses why St Petersburg is a highly worthwhile add-on to any trip !
Moscow marks the classic starting (or ending) point of both the Trans Siberian and Trans Mongolian railway lines and it is naturally the place that people will tend to start or finish their epic adventure. But is it worth adding on a visit to the second city of Russia; St Petersburg? After all, it isn’t strictly speaking a part of the Trans Siberian or Mongolian train lines.
I was lucky enough to spend 3 nights in the architecturally stunning city of St Petersburg at the start of my epic Trans Siberian journey to Vladivostok. Here are some of my top picks.
Take a city tour of St Petersburg
A city tour on your first morning is a great way to get an introduction to this amazing city. A 3 hour walking tour (or by car in the winter) is the perfect way to get a feel for the city. My guide was very experienced and told me lots of wonderful stories about the history whilst soaking in the beauty of the city. Very early on you will come to understand exactly why St Petersburg is known as the Venice of the north.
Top tip – tell your guide what your interests are. They will tailor the tour to fit your interests.
St Petersburg’s famous Hermitage Museum
Known for being one of the best museums in the world, no stay in St Petersburg would be complete without a visit to the Magnificent Hermitage museum. Sat right on the huge Palace square with the mesmerising Neva river as a backdrop, the Hermitage is equally striking from the outside as it is from the inside. Founded by Catherine the great in the 1700’s, the Baroque style palace is just one of many buildings housing its epic collection. It is said that if you were to spend 1 minute looking at each piece housed within the hermitage, it would take you 11 years to see the complete collection. An afternoon at this remarkable attraction is a great amount of time to not only take in just a fraction of the exhibits it houses, but also to admire the grandiose of the state rooms within the palace.
Top tip – plan your visit! The museum can get very busy during peak times and is also closed on a Monday.
The Cathedrals of St Petersburg
There is a reason why St Petersburg is known for being one the most beautiful cities in Europe and this is due in part, to its architecture. A great example of this are the churches and Cathedrals that make up this great city. Starting with the Church of the blood this is a classic example of a colourful and dramatic Greek Orthodox Church with all the onion shaped domes that are synonymous with Russian churches. Moving on to the Kazan cathedral, this 200 year old imposing and striking cathedral is like something out of Ancient Rome and is bound to impress. The final stop should be the extraordinary St Isaacs cathedral. Similar to St Pauls Cathedral in London this cathedral boasts the 4th largest dome in the world and has an observation deck at the base of the dome that boasts some of the best views of the city. Tickets cost a measly £4 and is well worth the investment to enjoy the panoramic views
Top tip – When you’ve finished in at St Isaacs, the park next door is a great place to enjoy a stroll whatever the season
Peterhof Palace outside of St Petersburg
A great afternoon excursion out of the city is a visit to the palace of Peterhof. Famous for its extensive series of 144 fountains and 500 acres of gardens this is easily accessed by boat (during the summer) or road (year round) from the city. Some of the magnificent state rooms are open to the public and are well worth the visit but it is really the gardens and fountains which are the main attraction. Impossibly picturesque, the huge grounds are great for a stroll no matter what the season
Top tip – get there early! The queues for the palace get notoriously long!
So is it worth adding in a visit to the beautiful Venice of the north…? Absolutely!!
All photos and text copyright of Gregg Hannam & The Trans-Siberian Travel Company