St. Petersburg: More Than Just a Shore Excursion

St. Petersburg has been called the Venice of the North, given its many elegant canals and 342 bridges; but in my opinion, it is much more diverse and interesting than Venice.

I have been to St. Petersburg several times and each visit exposes me more and more to the dazzling imperial city of the Romanovs’ past. In the last ten years, many of the baroque and neoclassical palaces have been renovated and opened to the public.

One of these palaces is the Four Seasons Lion Palace, where I had a delightful stay for four nights. This premier five-star luxury hotel, which from 1827 to 1917 was home to the Ministry of War,  features spectacular views of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and is located two blocks from the Hermitage Museum – the ideal location.

Given that Frontiers is a Preferred Partner of the Four Seasons, special amenities will be included with your stay. I dined in the two hotel restaurants, Sintoho (named for Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong), offering innovative contemporary Japanese fare coupled with northern Asian influences; the signature dish was wasabi fried prawns that were delicious and Percorso, which means “the journey,” providing exquisite modern Italian cuisine.

I recommend at least four full days in St. Petersburg to experience the imperial grandeur and unrivalled art treasures. Russian cities are not easily navigated independently so I highly recommend a private car and driver to whisk you to the iconic sights and the off-the-beaten-track venues that will enlighten you.

The Hermitage’s enormous collection, with over three million items and only a fraction on display, in 360 unique rooms is overwhelming. I had the extraordinary experience of a private tour with one of the museum’s top curators. We covered the magnificent art collection’s iconic and more obscure works in all of the five linked buildings in three hours. Frontiers’ Elegant Journeys department can organize this incredible private access tour for you.

In addition to the “must-see” sights such as the Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Savior on Spilled Blood Cathedral and day trips to Peterhof and Catherine’s Palace, I recommend a visit to the Faberge Museum, where you will see the most spectacular collection in the world of works by this great Russian master craftsman, best known for his million dollar Imperial Easter eggs.

If you have time to explore beyond the most popular places, I recommend the following:

  • Enjoy a boat ride along the rivers and channels if the weather is nice to see the architecture from a different perspective
  • Walk along the green alleys of the Summer Garden and sit at one of the benches and admire the fountains
  • Visit the Vasileostrovsky District and see the Naval Museum, University and diverse residential community with cafes and shops scattered among the apartment dwellings
  • Dine at one of the many recommended restaurants on Rubinsteina street
  • Enjoy Russian pancakes and pies at the Termok chain bistros
  • Peruse unique and authentic goods at the flea market, which is open on weekends, located near the Udel’naya metro station

Even if you have been to St. Petersburg before, I highly recommend considering another trip and going beyond the “first time” sightseeing delving deeper into what this incredible city offers culturally via exploring the diverse neighborhoods.