10 Weird and Wonderful Things to Do in St Petersburg, Russia
St Petersburg is, to me, like Paris (with better driving obviously) in the respect that there is just so much to do and see. Every building is a palace of some sort, great Cathedrals lie around every corner with huge parks and boulevards giving the city a sense of grandeur and oppulance. The question is what do you choose if you have just a couple of days to explore?
1. Play Soviet era arcade games
Ever wanted to know how good a turnip puller you are? Let’s face it who hasn’t. At the Soviet Arcade Machines Museum you can find out as well as battle it out for other bragging rights such as who can sink more submarines, kick ass at table ice hockey or rule at pinball. Hours of fun for just 450 Rubles. The games have been collected from former USSR states and are in various degrees of disrepair which makes it all the more fun! Just make sure to read the rules before you play as the games are all in Russian, obviously.
2. Have dinner in an old prison
If you’re ‘hangry’ after all that extreme sport head down to New Holland island. An up and coming district complete with moat, vinyl store and even an ice rink in winter. But the star attraction is the old naval prison, a huge cylindrical building filled with shops and restaurants. The ground level is full of food from around the world from Russian dumplings to Vietnamese Bánh mì. A favourite is Georgian restaurant Dzamiko famous for its freshly made Khinkali and delicious Khachapuri. Tipped to be the undiscovered cuisine of 2020 it’s definitely one to try if in the area.
3. Be blown away by a mosaic
One of the most stunning churches in the world commemorates the site of Tsar Alexander II’s murder. Built by his son to honour his father’s life the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood is an epic memorial to say the least. With over 7500 square meters of mosaics covering the interior it rivals any wonder of the world. It’s sad past makes it all the more wondrous after being left in ruins from bombing in WWII and disrepair under the Soviet Union. The exterior is no less outstanding with medieval Russian architecture invoking the spirit of romantic nationalism. 250 Rubles well spent.
4. Eat a masterpiece
There is an abundance of delicious food from all over the world in St Petersburg. It’s an eclectic city full of influences from both European and Asian continents. But the district of Tsentralny is where brunch goes Baroque. A top spot is I’m Thankful for Today a cafe come cocktail bar that serves up brunch that will appeal to your eyes as much as your stomach.
5. Pretend to be an astronaut
Because who doesn’t want to be an astronaut? For 200 Rubles and a chance to get out of the cold for an hour visit the Museum of space exploration and rocket technology. There’s not a lot of English explanations, but it is interesting to see the soviet side of the space race, bits of rockets, a space toilet and what I can only assume is a stuffed space dog…
6. See the last line of royalty in Russia
Visit the tombs of the royal family in the Peter and Paul fortress and Cathedral. St Petersburg was actually named after St Peter not Peter the Great that founded the city who, coincidentally is also buried here.
The Romanov dynasty is a epic and sordid one, from murder to affairs there’s no shortage of dramas in this family tree. In a small cathedral in a fortress on an island in the middle of the city you can actually get up close with the tombs of these intriguing characters from Russian history for 550 Rubles. The last Tsar, Nicolas II, is also buried here with his family. Particularly interesting as they were brutally murdered in 1918 but not laid to rest in the family tomb until after the end of the Soviet Union in 1998.
7. Visit a shopaholics collection of over 3 million items
Yes you read that right. The Hermitage museum holds a staggering 3,000,000 artworks making it the second largest museum in the world. To say that Catherine the Great loved to shop is putting it mildly.
There is a hallway purposely designed to look exactly like the one in the Vatican museum as she wanted to see it but didn’t like to travel. She did not do things by halves!
Get a tour of this huge place to cut down time aimlessly wandering around and to hear the stories that make this place so special. Get your guide run great tours in English where you can also skip the huge lines.
8. Taste some vodka
Well it is Russia… Shout Na Zdorovie as you put a couple back, safe in the knowledge it’s a cultural experience and you’re not just getting toasted at two in the afternoon because you are a borderline alcoholic. Take a tour at the Russian Vodka museum for 450 Rubles including tasting. You may not understand any of the exhibits but you do get some pickles and herring on toast with your vodka that’s sure to put you off of both for life!
9. Spy the city from above
St Isaac’s Cathedral is a sight in its own right but also a great place to see the entire city from above. Climb the narrow stairs to the colonnade and look over the St Petersburg skyline with a full 360 view. At just 200 Rubles it won’t break the bank and is a great way to see just how vast the city is.
10. Peek at some old, expensive presents
Fabergé. A household name in Russian history and all over the world. You can get up close to nine of the original eggs gifted to Russian Tsars as Easter presents from Peter Carl Fabergé. Of the 52 Imperial eggs created just 46 survive, many were sold off by Stalin during Soviet rule whilst others were just lost to history. These nine eggs were brought back to Russia in 2013 by a Russian Oligarch costing him over $100 million. Now we get to see them for just 450 Rubles, although it’s best to pay extra for the audio guide for information in English.
Just 10 of the weird and wonderful things to do in St Petersburg. Have any more suggestions? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
About Lost Wanders
because we can't all travel all the time. Or can we?