Built along the banks of the Neva River, St. Petersburg is not only the cultural heart of Russia, but also one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With stunning architecture, neoclassical palaces, and an art collection to die for, the Venice of the North blends the historical and modern in way that mesmerizes anyone lucky enough to visit.
Even better, its close proximity to the rest of Western Europe lends delightful influences to its music, cuisine and general way of life that make it an easy addition to most European itineraries. But if you still aren’t convinced, take a look at our ideal day in this majestic metropolis below.
3pm: New Home
Like any grand city, there are a number of stunning options when it comes to where to stay, but we highly suggest checking out the historic Rocco Forte Astoria Hotel. A staple in the city for over a century, the palatial accommodations are not only centrally located (perfecting for walking to many of the main sights) but manages to keep a light and airy ambience with a modern touch, unlike some of the more classic and stuffy feeling properties. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the resident Lichfield Bar stays open 24/7, making it perfect for some late night (or early morning) drinks.
4.30pm: Snack Time
For a quick but delicious bite to eat, Pelmenya is the go-to spot for traditional pelmini, a small meat dumpling wrapped in thin soft dough. A perfect first meal to welcome you to the city, Pelmenya serves up the best dumplings in town and offers an English menu as well as reasonable prices.
5.30pm: Iconic Landmarks
After you are fueled up and ready to go, head to the iconic Church of the Spilled Blood. Yes, it sounds a bit ominous – but we promise it is well worth the visit. The grand church and its intricate colorful domes were commissioned in the late 19th century by the imperial family on the exact spot were Emperor Alexander II was assassinated. The interior is no less stunning, with embellished murals and mosaics throughout the entire building.
6.30pm: Historic Views
Next up, make your way to Peter and Paul Fortress. While it may lack the fame and notoriety of some of the other sights, the fortress was the first structure built in St. Petersburg, essentially making it the city’s birthplace. Over the years it has served as everything from a cathedral, to a mausoleum, to a prison – a perfect spot for any history buff to visit. And at the very top of the fortress walls, some of the best views of the city can be found.
8pm: Dinner Deliciousness
Once you’ve had your fill of exploring, Café Idiot really is a must for dinner. Yes, the name sounds...idiotic, but every drink served in this house-turned-restaurant comes with the obligatory half shot glass of vodka. The real draw though, is the funky Soviet-era décor, the intimate ambiance, and the delicious seafood entrées – which by Russian standards are considered “vegetarian”.
9.30pm: Sophisticated Brews
If beer is your beverage of choice, then you need to make some serious drinking time for Redrum Bar. Not only is it conveniently-located in the heart of the city, but the bar is also home and headquarters to AF Brew, a brewery which is said to have started the craft brewing revolution in Russia. With 24 craft beers on tap plus dozens of other brews from around the world, there is bound to be something for everyone.
11pm: Dance Off
For those not yet ready to call it a night, the best follow-up option to Redrum Bar is to head over to Dumskaya Street, aka "the Bourbon Street of St. Petersburg". Here you can find everything from local dives (the Red Morrison Bar) to karaoke bars (Poison) and all-out dance clubs (Central Station). No matter what option you choose, there is always fun to be had, as most drinks cost less than $5 and closing time typically isn't until 6:00 am.
8am: Morning Refuel
Following a crazy night out, you are going to need to refuel – and there’s no better spot for this than at Cake & Breakfast. You don’t have to worry about rushing over here, as they serve breakfast all day long. Grab a savory bite to eat while relaxing on the outdoor terrace, or if you prefer something a bit sweeter, you can have cake FOR breakfast.
10am: Royal Sights
After breakfast, we suggest starting at Catherine’s Palace. The crowds can get a bit crazy, so the earlier you arrive the better your odds of avoiding the masses. Located about thirty minutes outside the city center, the ornate palace was originally constructed to honor the wife of tsar Peter the Great. However, when their daughter opted to make it the official royal summer residence, the property was completely reconstructed on a much larger and baroque scale. In fact, there is even a room which has been entirely decorated with amber and golf leaf – talk about expensive taste!
12pm: Lunchtime Feast
Head back into the city center for some lunch at Ferma. They definitely take the farmhouse theme seriously here and there may be a few too many farm animal statuettes, but the food is quick, hearty, and at great value. Fill up on one of their leafy salads or warming borscht soups – and if you have a sweet tooth, indulge in one of their homemade dessert pizzas topped with chocolate, fruit, and ice cream.
2pm: Arts and Culture
Last but certainly not least, it’s time to explore the famous Hermitage Museum. Arguably the most stunning sight in all of St. Petersburg, we suggest leaving this for last – mostly because once you step foot inside. you may never want to leave. This gorgeous museum, which was once residence to the tsars, is now made up of five separate buildings and home to over three million works of art, of which only a small portion are on display. As such, it is considered one of the largest and most renowned museums in the world. Don’t get too lost and mesmerized within its walls though, as it’s easy to lose track of time here and (maybe not so sadly) miss your flight. While we definitely suggest giving St. Petersburg more than just 24 hours, some time spent in this amazing city is much, much better than none.