In 2016, Saint Petersburg was named “Best Cultural Destination in the World”. Every year, more and more tourists flock to this old Russian capital and yet, the city has never run any large-scale advertising campaign to promote trips to St Petersburg. It is, in fact, Pushkin, Dostoevsky and other great Russian authors, artists and composers that are Saint Petersburg’s greatest ambassadors. Once the heart of power, this city is a work of art created by Peter the Great and conceived by Europe’s best architects, who were inspired by the country’s chaotic past. In this unique context, foreigners and locals have all asked themselves the same question: What is Russia?
Your guide will be waiting in the reception of your charming, boutique hotel that resembles a setting for a Pushkin novel or “Natalia” by Tolstoy. The person waiting for you may be a professor, art critic or historian who fluently masters the intricacies of the English language and, most importantly, knows their city, Venice of the North, by heart. You won’t be a tourist, you will get an insider’s private tour with all the details that only locals know, which will make all your excursions unique. Stop for lunch in a small cafe frequented by natives.
In summer on the Winter Palace Square, queues for the Hermitage often exceed one km. No wonder, because Hermitage is among Russia’s top points of interest. Don’t worry, our agency has taken care about the tickets and your guide already has them and is ready to start the tour. Don’t waste any time, start by climbing the Jourdain Stairs to access the exhibition halls. Your guide knows exactly where to start: the Rembrandt Room, well ahead of the noisy groups of tourists. Follow your guide! In In such a professional company, you won’t miss a thing, no detail too small, no nook too hidden. For example, in the window of the music room, you can see an inscription made by Empress Alexandra: “Nicky 1902 looking at the Hussars 17th March” - the Hussars are a light cavalry regiment. Alexandra, wife of the last Tsar, inscribed this hardly 15 years before the 1917 revolution.
Stroll along the Moika River or Fontanka, the left arm of the Neva, like a romanesque hero of a Dostoevsky novel. You can also take a nocturnal boat excursion under the drawbridges of the Neva. In June, the sun has hardly set that it is chased back into the sky by an impatient dawn. Don’t forget the magical atmosphere of the music festival in honour of maestro Valery Gergiev. For two months on the planks of the Mariinsky Theatre, you can enjoy some of the best Russian ballets, composed by Tchaikovsky, Chtchedrine and others. We’ll take care of the tickets and deliver them to the reception desk at your hotel.
Stay in a romantic, boutique hotel that you can only find in Saint Petersburg with spacious rooms overlooking a canal or a river. You will sleep undisturbed thanks to the blackout curtains that are particularly useful in a city where the sun doesn’t set in June. Start your day with a copious Russian breakfast: smoked salmon from the White Sea, blini (Russian pancakes), homemade wild berry jam and, in summer, watermelon slices from Astrakhan and fish from the Black Sea. From the window, the Moika River glistens as it glides along to its final destination. The poet, Alexander Pushkin, also admired this view. His apartment was next door.
Winter in Saint Petersburg is a temerous affair: locals in swimsuits sunbathe at the foot of the Peter-Paul Fortress walls. It’s also the best time to explore the treasures of the Hermitage and other sights in peace, without the bustling crowds of tourists. When the days are sunny and calm, it’s time to get out and enjoy nature. Why not take a Troika ride (horse-drawn sled) in the snowy Pavlovsk Gardens, followed by a shot of icy vodka to warm up and make you St Petersburg holidays unforgettable?
You should spend at least three days in Saint Petersburg, including two days for the city and one day for the suburbs, Pushkin, Pavlovsk or Peterhof. If you spend five days here, you will have the chance to visit the apartment of Dostoevsky, the Kuznechny Market, a second tour of the Hermitage to admire the Gold or Diamond Room and the Impressionists’ Collection.
During the White Nights that start at the end of May and last until mid-July, this northern capital has a solstice that lasts 18 hours and 53 minutes. Hotel rooms are also three times as expensive during this period, compared to winter. Visiting Saint Petersburg during the White Nights requires more planning. We also recommend staying away from the city during the Economic Forum at the beginning of June: usually all the hotel rooms are booked and getting around is particularly complicated.
The weather is mild at the beginning of May and September, there are less tourists and the prices are better than during the White Nights. Winter is the best season to visit hotels, cathedrals and palaces. For walks around the city, you need to dress warmly because it is not only cold, but freezing winds sweep in from the Baltic Sea.