Situated on the Gulf of Finland, Saint Petersburg proper includes more than 40 islands that are connected to the mainland by more than 500 bridges. This is what gave the city its nickname “Venice of the North.” Saint Petersburg is not only Russia’s most important seaport, but also its gateway to the West – and is probably the Russian city whose praises are sung most often. In addition to many historic landmarks, the city also boasts a vibrant nightlife, over 300 cafés, bars, and restaurants as well as the “White Nights” – a natural phenomenon unlike anything seen elsewhere in the world.
It All Began with a Simple Statement: “This is Where a City Should Be!”
According to local legend, everything started with this sentence by Czar Peter the Great. The construction project at the mouth of the Neva River began around 1703. The czar wanted a “window to the West” – and the little settlement was situated perfectly for this purpose. One of the first buildings that was constructed was the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Within only ten years, the young metropolis had advanced to become the capital of the Russian empire. Saint Petersburg was home to hundreds of European traders and craftsmen, including many Germans, who enhanced the city’s beauty through their artisanship. As a result of the government moving to Saint Petersburg, the city became the subject of the entire country’s attention. Academies of science and fine arts were founded and ballet became established as a Russian art form. After the communists seized power and the death of Lenin in 1924, Saint Petersburg was renamed Leningrad and lost its influence and importance within the Soviet empire to the new center of power, Moscow. During World War II, the famous Amber Room was stolen by the Nazis, and its current whereabouts still remain a mystery. After the war, Leningrad developed into an industrial and scientific center of the USSR. In 1991, after a referendum, the city was given its old name back.
The city with over five million residents today offers a wide range of cultural activities for every possible taste – 70 theaters, more than 300 museums, more than 20 cultural and 80 music and theater festivals each year, and on top of that, 200 parks. The most impressive museum is the Hermitage, the oldest and second-largest museum in the world. The exhibition encompasses more than three million paintings and artifacts, which are on display in a space measuring 233,345 square meters. If a visitor only spent one minute viewing each artifact, they could spend a total of eight years in the building complex founded by Empress Catherine the Great. Visits to Saint Petersburg are especially popular in the months of May and June, partly because anyone in the city for the summer solstice on June 21 can enjoy an impressive natural spectacle.
Since “Piter,” as the natives lovingly refer to their city, lies north of the 60th parallel, it never becomes completely dark in the summertime. Bathed in a silvery light, the palaces and their gold domes sparkle a bit brighter than usual. The shortest “White Night” takes place between June 21 and June 22. On this night, you can forget about going to sleep, as there’s simply too much to marvel at – whether you wait until 1 a.m. and watch as several of the countless bridges rise to allow ships to pass through, gaze in wonder at the red sailboat that crosses the Neva at this time, or take a boat ride yourself to admire the city and the fireworks display on this special night. Below you’ll find a couple of tips that we compiled for you for your trip to Saint Petersburg. Off we go!
The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines
Anyone that grew up behind the iron curtain will probably think back to some of the most exciting moments of their childhood here: at the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines, the walls are lined with classic arcade games from the Soviet era. Whether “Morskoi Boi” (Sea Battle), “Tankodrom”, pinball machines, or the first video games “Gorodki” and “Skatchki” (Horse Racing) – they have all been restored and are available for your gaming enjoyment. The admission fee of 450 rubles (approx. €6.60 or $8) also includes a good handful of 15 kopeck coins (the Russian version of quarters). Have a blast!
Restaurant: Ginza Restaurants
The themed Ginza restaurants offer significant variety, from oriental flair to a meal on the deck of a motorboat to various Russian themes, and this variety is also reflected in the menu. From typical Russian to Italian to Japanese dishes – these restaurants offer something for every taste.
Opened in 2011 in the old city center, Severyanin exudes the atmosphere of 19th-century Saint Petersburg. The menu includes dishes from northern Russia that are worth temporarily forgetting about your diet plan for.
An upscale, dignified atmosphere and similarly exquisite, typical Russian dishes. Different types of caviar, seafood, and fish are the trademark of one of Saint Petersburg’s oldest restaurants.
Bar: Paulaner Park Inn Pulkovskaya Hotel
A little piece of Germany in Saint Petersburg: the Paulaner is decorated in the style of a Bavarian inn and brews typical German wheat beer in its own small brewery. And it goes without saying that traditional meals like veal sausage are also offered here.
As if it never collapsed – the style of the Soviet Union adorns the interior of Dachnikinevski20, and not just with historic furnishings, but also on the menu and drinks list. Back in the U.S.S.R!
Hotel: Park Inn Pulkovskaya Hotel
This hotel is home to the aforementioned Bavarian tavern – the Park Inn stands out thanks to its quiet location, but is still near the city center and the airport (20 minutes). The four-star hotel offers outstanding access to public transportation and is equipped with all the standard amenities like a sauna and pool area.