This blog post was updated on November 2, 2018.
It was within an hour of arriving in the city of St. Petersburg, Russia, when I found myself walking down the wide city street next to my hostel and across from a river. Ornate buildings with white moulding on yellow walls filled my view, and that’s when my boyfriend asked if this city reminded me of another place.
I immediately responded with “Europe”, and further contemplated my exact location. While the buildings gave me more of a Victorian feel, the canals flowing through the city and the arched bridges running across the top of them screamed “Venice”.
In its former glory days before the Soviet-era, St. Petersburg was commonly known as “The Venice of the North”, owed to its water-lined streets and overall European vibe. It’s a beautiful city to walk, yet boats and boat tours prove to be another method of getting from A to B – something I would recommend if at all possible to avoid the insane city traffic.
I was lucky to have arrived by fast train from Moscow at the end of the Trans-Siberian train trip mind you, during the season of White Nights, which is a period of time from mid-June to early July where the sun barely sets. Nothing lends itself to becoming a night owl better than when there is pretty much no night at all! Can you imagine the sky still bright at midnight and a sunrise that starts at around 4 am? Travelers love this part of the year, so if you do visit then, be sure to book in advance!
Like Moscow, beauty and grand architecture present themselves in almost over-the-top manners, and it makes me wonder why big cities like New York and Chicago can’t be quite as spectacular. Russia was but a far cry from the gray and dull former Soviet countries I had traveled to prior, and St. Pete’s actually made the list of cities I could see myself living in somewhere in the future because of it.
Top attractions worth visiting in St. Petersburg:
- Hermitage State Museum and Winter Palace: Stunning art collection and even more stunning buildings.
- Nevsky Prospect: Main city street lined with shops, restaurants, cafes and monuments.
- Peterhof Palace and Garden: A UNESCO World Heritage Site and overall stunning setup as ordered by Peter the Great.
- Church of Our Savior on the Spilt Blood: A church covered in mosaics and a worthwhile sight both inside and out.
- River and Canal Boat Tours: A great way to see the city’s sights in a relaxing manner.
One of the best decisions my travel group made was to run the course of the Trans-Siberian from east to west because we saved the best for last. The contrast from one end of the country to the other was intense, and it also put the true beauty of the city of St. Petersburg, in all its European glory, into perspective.
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