You shouldn’t pass up the chance to visit St. Petersburg when creating your Russia travel itinerary. This charming city is an amazing mix of cool and traditional and it will add a new dimension to any trip to Russia. That’s why we’ve made up a St. Petersburg itinerary of places to see and places to drink! This is a great mix of a few touristy spots mixed in with drinking holes tried and tested by yours truly. Read on to check them out!
While this might seem like a cheesy, touristy thing to do, you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice if you skip the Church on Spilled Blood while in St. Petersburg. The church was built in memory of the death of Alexander II and actually stands in the very spot where the great Russian tsar was assassinated! You can probably cast an educated guess as to why it’s called on Spilled Blood.
While the outside is remarkable in and of itself, the interior will certainly take your breath away. It contains stunning floor to ceiling mosaics—many of which were created by some of Russia’s greatest artists. If anything, the church stands as a testament of resilience. Since the completion of its construction in 1907, the Church on Spilled Blood has been damaged in multiple wars, was closed down under the Soviet regime, and at one point was even used as a potato storehouse. Its varied and colorful history only makes this landmark even more awe-inspiring.
Beer House is a popular local chain so you’ll find multiple throughout St. Petersburg. Why do we suggest this joint? Well, it’s a great way to delve into local beer and the bars aim for an old-school pub vibe which is really enjoyable.
It’s common for pubs to be located at basement level in St. Petersburg, so as you walk along the street you may notice signs with promises of cold beer and tasty snacks pointing to steps that lead down another level. No, this isn’t an attempt at kidnapping you to sell your kidney, these are actually the coolest bars and pubs!
The first Beer House we went to we were quite amused to find the bartender using Guinness glasses to serve up everything but Guinness. We recommend trying the local Vasileostrovskoe brand (quite a mouthful, I know). This comes in light beer and dark stout and they’re both amazing! We’ve been trying to hunt this brand down in London ever since.
The Hermitage used to be a huge palace complex that housed some of Russia’s famous tsars, but these days it’s been transformed into a massive museum that holds everything from art to Egyptian relics. After the Louvre, the Hermitage is the biggest museum in the world and is definitely worth popping in to see.
You can buy tickets on the day at the museum itself, though if you are going during peak season (July-September) you may want to purchase your tickets online in order to avoid waiting in a lengthy queue. We recommend buying the basic 600 RUB ticket which gives you entry to the main museum complex. This museum is so huge that it’s impossible to see it all and you’ll have trouble processing what you’re seeing after too many hours inside anyway, so unless you plan on devoting multiple days to the Hermitage, the main complex should offer more than enough fascinating things to see in a single trip!
When Gaurav and I talk about the most memorable parts of our trip to St. Petersburg, Dead Poets always gets a mention! This is a cool bar with a hipster vibe that serves literary-themed cocktails. Each drink is based on a famous writer and they’ve got cocktails for everyone from Hunter S. Thompson to Gabriel García Márquez!
Dead Poets was actually recommended to us by two friends who were born and grew up in St. Petersburg, so it’s got the local seal of approval which makes it a must. When you go, take a seat at the bar and ask for Mikhael. He’s one of their wonderful bartenders and knows how to shake up a damn good cocktail using plenty of flair and panache. He’ll give you some great recommendations and might even offer you a shot of the house berry-infused gin! Though he might not remember us (I’m sure he talks to hundreds of people every week), we’ll always remember him as one of the best interactions we had in St. Petersburg.
If you’re in St. Petersburg during peak summer, you may witness what is called White Nights. These are the long summer days where the sun never truly sets. But, outside these few weeks a year, you can usually find the best sunset at the Palace Square which sits directly opposite the Hermitage Museum.
The Palace Square is truly a great place to end the day and you’ll find a very laid-back family-friendly vibe here in the evenings. Children will be running about playing, teenagers will be hanging out with friends, lovers will be catching the occasional discreet kiss as they wander dreamily through the square. Take a seat facing the Hermitage and watch the sun as it sinks beyond.
The best thing about this? Sunsets are free!
After a long day of sightseeing and walking about the Venice of the North, we recommend popping into Ivan & Maria for a nice drink. They offer beer tasting paddles—each with 5 different beers in them.
You’ll have a range of light to dark, bitter to sweet, and you should definitely try the cherry beers here! The flavor is really hard to describe as it’s not sweet the way cider is but not bitter either. Basically, it has all the trappings of a beer with just enough tart sweetness to make it worthwhile.
Also, Ivan & Maria is open late, until 1am, so it’s perfect for those late-night cravings before you head back to your hotel!
Are you ready to begin planning your trip to Russia? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you’re looking forward to!