Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

Discover local recommendations for the best things to do in St Petersburg – for the perfect break in Russia’s second city.

Russia’s northernmost city has existed under several names – it became Petrograd in 1914 (to appear less German) and Leningrad in 1924 to honour the Soviet leader and once more became St Petersburg in 1991. Most of the five million locals, however, lovingly refer to it simply as Peter.

Russia’s second city proudly wears the remnants of its turbulent history on its sleeve; the Aurora battleship that signalled the start of the 1917 October Revolution floats poignantly on the Neva River, and Soviet emblems stand proudly from the pediments of grand 19thcentury palaces that now host vibrant and hedonistic fashion shows. Recently, local activists scuppered plans to erect a 400-meter tall Okhota Center skyscraper in place of an old Swedish-Russian fortress. However, while its inhabitants are keen to preserve Saint Petersburg’s heritage, the city continues to evolve.

Throughout the 1990s, St Petersburg was a truly European city, home to raucous parties in its historical buildings and abandoned prisons. And since the 2000s, the city has rapidly become a place of affluence and prosperity. Siberian oil, rising taxes and an influx of five million tourists per year has funded fresh waves of restoration, a new port on an artificial island and a 20-mile long dam across the Finland Gulf.

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

In recent years a creative scene has blossomed around the city’s historical centre, bringing the pop-up galleries, art hubs and boutiques that are defining a new metropolitan style. The city’s nightlife has also flourished – Dumskaya Street is a bar hopper’s dream, with a small club on every doorstep, while Konushennaya square is home to clusters of trendy restaurants. Visitors to St Petersburg might expect its wealth of history, but are likely to be surprised to find a city in bloom where there many, many unforgettable things to do.

Museums and attractions

St Petersburg is home to an incredible number of museums – 182 in total. Some are enormous (like the Russian Museum), others are tiny (like the cosy Russian Vodka Museum), but regardless of scale it’s the State Hermitage that always has the longest queues.

The largest art museum in Russia, and one of the oldest museums in the world, the State Hermitage was founded in 1764 by Catherine The Great and now occupies six buildings and houses 350 exhibition halls. It is home to an astonishing three million pieces of art – ranging from the prehistoric and ancient Egyptian to Renaissance and Russian collections – and includes famous works by Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh.

Not far away stands the Russian Museum,which holds the largest collection of Russian art in the world and is home to the renowned Summer and Mikhajlovsky gardens. Tucked just behind the Russian Museum is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, the eccentric architectural monument erected on the spot where Alexander II (the tsar who emancipated the serfs in Russia) was killed.

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

For an insight into contemporary Russian art, check out the Loft Project ETAGI (once a five-storey bakery and one of the city’s original squats), which is a vast gallery space as well as a design attraction in its own right.

There is also the Erarta Museum, which opened in 2010 and now homes 2,300 works of contemporary art from more than 150 Russian artists, making it the largest private museum of its kind in Russia.

Ballet and dance

The spirit of the Soviet ballet lives on in the city of St Petersburg, and during the winter holidays you can watch a dozen different adaptations of Swan Lake. But until recently, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Alexandrinsky Theatre were the only companies to continuously breathe new life into their productions – even those (such as the Dyagilev plays or historical ballets) more hundred years old.

The Mikhajlovsky Theatre recently gained new management and has undergone an overhaul in attitude. An injection of funds has also meant that the theatre has gained Spanish contemporary ballet legend Juan Ignacio Duato Bárcia – aka Nacho Duato – as artistic director, which can only mean good things. The company has also already booked in a guest run from Chicago troupe, Hubbard Street Dance (known for their athletic mix of modern, jazz and ballet), which sets a high bar for the rest of the line-up.

Ballet and dance venue details

Alexandrinsky Theatre 6 Ostrovskogo Street. +7 812 380 8050.
Mariinsky Theatre 1 Teatralnaya Square. +7 812 326 4141.
Mikhajlovsky Theatre 1 Italjanskaya Street. +7 812 595 4305.

Moscow presents too many options for travelers

Moscow presents too many options for travelers

The country of Russia is very large, and stretches out of a large portion of both Western Europe and Northern Asia. Russia is in fact, the largest country in the world, and covers twice as much area, as the second largest country, which is Canada.

After December of 1991, Russia was no longer the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, after it finally broke free of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, becoming instead, the Russian Federation, and to most of us, known simply as Russia. The Russian culture, having been around for many, many centuries, is rich in struggles, and history. Travelers coming to Russia to experience the vivid, and culturally colorful atmosphere, will not be disappointed with what they find in this incredible country.

Russia is also not just a frozen wasteland, the winters may be cruel, or even bleak in some regions of the country, but in others, there are still beautiful summer days, and green grass growing. Travelers interested in coming to Russia for a leisurely stay have many options; the summer for the warmth, traveling north for the cold, winter activities, or traveling in the off seasons to South Russia, for smaller crowds, and colder weather. There are many popular destination cities in Russia, but the three best known and most popularly traveled are Moscow, Russia’s capital city, St. Petersburg, known as The City of Tsars, and Pskov, one of the oldest cities in Russia.

Moscow presents too many options for travelers

Moscow, being Russia’s capital city, covers a large area; there’s something for every vacation palate there. If tourists want to explore the city, go hiking, or lounge in a luxurious hotel, they can. St. Petersburg, contains several points of interest, such as the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, the Mikhail Castle, the Summer Garden, the St. Isaac and the Kazan cathedrals. And as for Pskov, as far as it being said to be old, it recently, in 2003 celebrated its eleven-hundred year anniversary. Although it’s a bustling city, full of new developments, and stylish, trendy places and people, travelers will still be able to feel how ancient the city around them is.

Soups and stews are very popular in Russia, because centuries ago, it was mainly a peasant meal, and hundreds of years later, traditions amongst the Russian people still thrive. Soups in Russia go from several different variations, in both hot and cold. Borscht, is a popular traditional Russian soup, that should definitely be sampled by visitors.

Meats in Russia are served either as large boiled cuts, in soups or porridges, or cold, as a snack. Fish was an important part of Russian cuisine, when most were still Russian Orthodox, as it was similar to the Catholic religion, where families would eat fish on Fridays, instead of other meats. Most of the traditional drinks in Russia are no longer in use, but when they were, the drinks were original to their region, and not used anywhere else; such as sbiten’, kvas, medok, mors, curdle with raisins, and boiled cabbage juice. Sbiten was later replaced by tea, a similar drink.

Hotels and accommodation in Russia are varied; namely it depends on what cities you plan to visit; for example, in St. Petersburg, one very attractive alternative to hotels is actually staying in temporary apartments. They are much, much cheaper than a luxury hotel, and provide a more homey atmosphere, and welcoming environment, for those who prefer that to hotel accommodations.