There is no other prominent symbol of Eastern Europe than Russia. It’s not your usual trip to say the least but it will be an experience. Although Moscow is the capital city I say pick St Petersburg over it any day with its elegance and colourful streets that will amaze you. The biggest shock, especially to me when I went to this city of surprises, was how truly stunning it was, as above all St Petersburg is a pleasure for your eyes that will take your breath away. St Petersburg is unique as it combines traditional Russia with upcoming and modern Europe not only through its 18th and 19th century architecture but also through its culture, where in the morning you’ll explore a traditional Orthodox Church and come sunset you’ll be throwing all sorts of crazy shapes at a popular underground bar.
A visit to the State Hermitage Museum is vital to any adventure in St Petersburg. The old home of the Russian Tsars, the Winter Palace, is an outstanding sight to behold clearly showing the extravagant life that Russian royalty had prior to the Revolution. The State Hermitage is packed with not only Russian treasures and history but also European art by that of Matisse, Egyptian riches and even mummies. If your budget is tight you can enter for FREE on a Thursday but beware of the queues which can often be horrendous. Here’s a tip: get your tickets online and you get to skip this queue which can often be painful during the high season from June to September. The Hermitages main square (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad), right outside the palace entrance is a sight in itself. It holds the Alexander Column and General Staff building which both require you to stand back and be in awe of them.
Strolling down the Nevsky Prospekt is crucial to any St Petersburg visit. This main street in the city was designed by Peter the Great but has come a long way since then, with constant buzzing lights, busy roads with people and cars, small independent shops next to global giants. It’s not something you would expect from Eastern Europe, let alone Russia, and that’s exactly what I mean – it’s a city that will constantly astonish you. If your trip to Russia is short and you don’t have time to quickly hop on an overnight train to Moscow to see the St Basils Cathedral, get a taste of it w
hen visiting Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, yes the name sounds bizarre but with colourful onion domes on the outside, which look more like Willy Wonka’s gumdrops than onions to me, and an interior of over 7500 mosaics you will easily look past the strange name.
The surprises continue when looking at the city’s growing art and music scene, it’s clear from the thrilling atmosphere that once again great things are happening in this city showing an upcoming modern Russia. It’s true that St Petersburg is a cornucopia of culture and art, with the Russian Museum, taking up four palaces, demonstrating the best Russian Art the world has ever seen, to the phenomenal opera, concerts and world class ballet you will never be bored in this city.
If you truly want to be impressed and have all your expectations of a place you thought you knew completely blown away then St Petersburg is the place for you. Don’t hold back, book that flight or train or ferry, or however you plan on getting there, I promise it’s not a destination to miss out on.