Cost: ££ – accommodation, food and attractions are very fairly priced
Rating: 8/10 – beautiful city with lots to see and fantastic restaurants
Click here to see a video I made of the trip.
From London the flight is about 3 and a half hours long. We flew with BA (no hold luggage) for £158 return. Always check SkyScanner for the best fares.
We stayed in a very sweet Airbnb in the heart of Saint Petersburg – just off Nevsky Prospekt. Cosy and warm to chill out in after a long day of sight seeing.
We split the cost between 4 of us – for 3 nights it cost £73 each which is incredibly reasonable.
Currency is the Russian Ruble – £1 = about 85 RUB which is quite a tough one to work out on the spot. Have the calculator app on your phone ready if you need to work big figures out.
We jumped in a taxi from the desk inside the airport to our accommodation for 2000 RUB (£23.60). Probably would be cheaper ordering an Uber (which they do have in Saint Petersburg). The city itself is fairly small so we got to most places on foot (racking up 25,000 steps a day!) If you get tired, you can always flag down a taxi.
*TOP TIP* – go to the app store and download MapsMe!
You can download a map of the area, plug in all the places and restaurants you want to visit, and then you can use it to map your journeys without using any data! Save battery and £££!
Getting your Russian Tourist Visa
This seemed like a massive effort! However, if you know where to go and what to do it isn’t too bad. Pay a little more and you can get a tourist company to do a lot of the leg work for you… OR click here to follow these simple steps when applying for your Russian visa. I paid £108.50 for standard service (20 working days).
What we did…
1 – Nevsky Prospect
This is the main street in St. Petersburg and was just a 2 min walk from our AirBnb. On it are many shops, restaurants, palaces, and churches, as well as the Kazan Cathedral.
The street has a lovely atmosphere with many street performers and small markets. On the side streets you’ll find bustling nightlife (especially on Rubinshteyna Street) and more restaurants.
2 – Kazan Cathedral
This is a Russian Orthodox cathedral on the Nevsky Prospekt dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan (a Russian icon). It was built in the 1800s and was inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Rome. Whilst we didn’t go in, I’ve read online that you can enter free of charge but photography is not allowed as it is still a functioning church.
3 – St. Issac’s Cathedral
This cathedral (dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia) currently functions as a museum and is the 3rd largest domed cathedral in the world.
Whilst the inside looks stunning, we only had time to walk the 300 steps to the top of the cathedral for a spectacular 360 degree view of St. Petersburg. I think it was only about 200 RUB (£2.37) to do this – bargain!
4 – Senate Square
Square in front of the cathedral, surrounded by gorgeous Russian architecture.
5 – Palace Square & Alexander Column
Gorgeous square fronting the Winter Palace and Hermitage museum.
There will be people dressed up trying to take photos with you and they will ask for money… if you don’t want to pay them, don’t pose!
6 – Winter Palace & the State Hermitage Museum
We thought this was the Winter Palace, but turns out it is also the front of the Hermitage museum. I’d read there were long queues to get in so was surprised to only wait for about 10 minutes (although we did visit off season). You’ll see horses and carriages ready to take tourists for rides which I don’t agree with 😦
Entry for the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum is 700 RUB (£8.29) per person. There are options for guided tours which run regularly throughout the day too and this may be well worth doing as some of the time we weren’t entirely sure what we were looking at.
In all honesty, I wasn’t originally fussed about going inside the Hermitage, but I’m SO glad we did. The museum is truly like no other. It’s simply magnificent. There is such a lot to see and the interior architecture is unlike anything I’ve seen (even Versailles). If you’re really into art / history, you could spend days exploring. After all, it is the second largest museum in the world.
I’d suggest doing a little research before you go and decide on the rooms / exhibits you want to see in particular. It’s so big that it can be a little hard to navigate. It’s closed on Mondays so make sure you factor that in too. You can buy tickets online and this might save you a little time queuing in the busier spring / summer months.
7 – Old St Petersburg Stock Exchange and Rostral Columns
The old stock exchange was a little underwhelming considering we’d just seen the spectacular Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum. If you have the time, they’re worth walking past but I certainly wouldn’t rush back.
8 – Savior on the Spilled Blood
Absolutely stunning church just off Nevsky Prospect. It really does take your breath away (even with the scaffolding). If you think it’s impressive from the outside, wait until you see inside…
With marble floors and magnificent mosaics on the walls and ceilings, there is so much to see. Entry is 250 RUB (£3). Whilst we didn’t have to wait to buy tickets, I’ve read many accounts of tourists having to wait a long time to get in. To avoid this, it might be worth booking as part of a guided tour of the city.
9 – Saint Michael’s Castle
Mikhailovsky Castle / Engineers’ Castle was built in 1797 and is a former royal residence. Nearby is Mikhailovsky Palace which also houses a museum. We didn’t go inside either but might be worth doing so if you have the time.
10 – Summer Garden & Summer Palace of Peter the Great
The gardens and palace are in front of Saint Michael’s castle. They were pretty to walk through in the snow, but would be really special in the summer. The palace itself is tiny in comparison to others in the city. The Field of Mars runs parallel to the gardens and am sure would be beautiful in the summer.
11 – Peter and Paul Fortress & Cathedral
This fortress is the original citadel in Saint Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in 1703. The cathedral within it is the oldest landmark in St. Petersburg, built between 1712 and 1733.
It houses the remains of almost all of nearly all Romanov rulers since Peter the Great. The interior is stunning and incredibly ornate – well worth seeing. It cost 500 RUB (£5.92) OR pay 700 RUB (£8.29) for entry to all the museums and other sites within the fortress.
The bell tower is the world’s tallest Orthodox bell tower and you can go up it to take in the view during the spring / summer months.
Places to eat…
Our food experience in Saint Petersburg was phenomenal and this was down to a little research ahead of the trip. To save you the effort, below is my research! Make sure you book in with any restaurants you’re particularly keen on going to as I’m sure they’ll be super busy in peak season.
Absolutely fantastic food – this place is a gem, serving traditional Russian food at affordable prices. Very friendly staff in a relaxed yet classy atmosphere.
The food is beautifully presented and unbelievably tasty. 5 stars!! Definitely try to stop by if you’re visiting Saint Petersburg.
We had a great experience at Palkin – a beautiful restaurant on Nevsky Prospect. The staff made us feel welcome and were eager to tell us about the amazing history of the restaurant.
The food is quite expensive (in comparison to other restaurants) and there’s not the extensive choice we experienced in some other places (especially for a non meat eater), but what we did order was fantastic (especially the truffle soup).
The staff are incredibly professional and the presentation (not only of the food but between courses) certainly made the entire experience worth the money.
– Korushka / Ginza Project
Beautiful restaurant with a stunning view of Saint Petersburg from the water. The menu is extensive and all the food we ordered was delicious.
Request a table by the window on your booking for fantastic views of the city.
– Zoom Cafe
Very cute and cosy cafe serving delicious and very reasonably priced food. Great place to chill out and warm up after a morning of exploring.
Super quirky restaurant which is full of character, just a 5 min walk from St. Issac’s Cathedral. We enjoyed a delicious brunch in one of the cute rooms.
Seemed to be very popular with locals. Relaxed and casual with plenty of choice. Fairly priced too! Definitely recommend.
I think this is a Russian chain as I saw a few of them as we walked around the city. We went to the one on Nevsky Prospect as it was close to our AirBnb. Whilst there is a large selection of food on offer (buffet style) ordering it was a little confusing and took us a while to figure out. Certainly not the best service I’d experienced in St. Petersburg.
Had a lovely experience at this restaurant. It’s beautifully decorated and in a great location on Nevsky Prospect. The food was good and it was a cosy and inviting – an escape from the rain.
We had a fantastic experience in this city full of history and beautiful architecture. We spent £250 each whilst we were there which I think is incredibly reasonable considering how much we ate and the amount we saw.
Cost per person (for 3 nights / 4 days)
Flights – £158
Taxi to airport (London) – £26
Accommodation – £73
Visa – £108.50
Spend – £252
Total – £617.50
Other restaurants I researched but we didn’t get a chance to eat at:
– Duo Gastrobar – food looks delicious
– Abajour Cafe – food looks fantastic… check opening times as we went there for a snack and it was closed
– Kommunalka Art-Cafe – looks like a charming restaurant with old-period soviet kitchen
– Philibert Cafe – looks like nice food
– Ukrop Restaurant – only uses natural products… very trendy
– L’Europe Restaurant – oldest serving restaurant in St. Petersburg… expensive but great reviews
– Chekhov – food looks good
– Buter Brodsky – shabby chic
– Bellevue Brasserie – nice view
– Mansarda Restaurant – fantastic cathedral views
– Ryba – again, great views
– Sky Bar – good views but a bit away from the centre
Other places on my to do list which we didn’t get to see…
Peterhof & Petergof – beautiful palace and gardens about 30 mins away from Saint Petersburg
Yusupov Palace – palace with beautiful interior
St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral – looks absolutely stunning
Stroganov Palace – another palace
The Menishikov Palace – and another…
Marble Palace – and another!