Squeeze as much as you can into 72 hours in St. Petersburg with our insider’s guide to three days in this opulent, elegant and grand Russian city.
St. Petersburg is the Russian capital of opulence, elegance, and beauty. This 18th-century city has a wealth of fascinating historic and cultural things to see and do, all in the shadow of some of the grandest and most impressive architecture you’ll find anywhere in the world.
With 72 hours on the clock, there are so many things you’ll want to fit into your trip. Discover the best things to eat, see, and do with our guide to spending three perfect days in St. Petersburg.
Start off your first morning in St. Petersburg with breakfast at Bakery F Volcheka. Here, you can try a range of pastries that’ll help get your day off to a satisfying start. Tuck into croissants, eclairs, and berry tarts, and wash it all down with a fresh coffee to fuel yourself for a day of exploration.
It’s time to set off and experience the best of what St. Petersburg has to offer. Make a beeline for the Hermitage Museum, one of Russia’s most impressive art galleries, and get ready for a myriad of masterpieces that’ll take your breath away.
The museum is sure to be busy, but it’s well worth waiting in line to experience works from some of the most famous artists to ever have graced the canvas. Wander the galleries and lose yourself in the pieces created by Rembrandt, Picasso, Da Vinci, and Renoir, among others. And when you’re done – you can spend as long as three hours here – don’t forget to stop at the extensive gift shop to treat yourself to a print or two.
Full of art, but probably not food, you’ll be ready to have a bite to eat, so why not eat like the locals and try something traditionally Russian? Just around the corner from the museum, you’ll find Cococo, boasting a menu packed to the rafters with delicious native dishes. Treat yourself to beets with goat’s cheese foam or baked potatoes and pickles – and don’t forget to try the homemade ice cream.
After lunch, you won’t have far to walk to one of St. Petersburg’s big-hitters: St. Isaac’s Cathedral. The gold-plated dome of this early-19th-century orthodox spears into the sky and glimmers in the sunlight. Inside, its multi-color decor typifies the beauty and grandeur of St. Petersburg culture.
Take some time to explore the rich history of the church by wandering the exhibits of the museum, then climb the 262 steps to the top of the dome. From here you can enjoy a spectacular bird’s eye view of the city.
Head south from the cathedral and you’ll soon find yourself outside the glorious aqua-green walls of the 19th-century Mariinsky Theater. Even if you’re not lucky enough to catch an authentic Russian ballet, it’s still well worth a visit. Inside, the grandeur is ramped up to almost unbelievable levels. Gilded balconies, an ornate ceiling, and a regal box are just a few of the opulent sights to see. It’s simply an awesome experience.
Pay Severyanin a visit for a wonderful evening meal experience. The dining room here is a pretty picture and will transport you back in time to a 19th-century Russian living room. The logs on the fire, old maps on the wall, and floral printed chairs scream of eras gone by. On the menu, there’s a wealth of authentic dishes – you’ll be spoiled for choice. Make sure to try the venison carpaccio or the sea buckthorn.
It’s not all about 18th-century art in St. Petersburg, so start your day at the Cruiser Aurora in the Petrogradskaya district. This imposing battleship played a key role in the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, when – on the night of October 25-26 – it fired a blank shot at the provincial government’s base, the Winter Palace, signaling for rebels to storm the building.
The attack was part of a wider uprising, which ultimately led to communism sweeping the nation for more than 70 years. You can find out about the vessel’s place in history on board as well as gaining insight into what it would have been like to be in the Russian navy in the early 20th century.
After you’ve spent a good chunk of the morning aboard the ship, it’ll be time to refuel with a spot of lunch. Whisk yourself away from Russian culture for an hour or so and have lunch in true Viennese style.
Café Mozart will take you to another world and leave you feeling like you’ve been rubbing shoulders with Austria’s renaissance elite. Grab a hearty slab of cake and a steaming-hot coffee and relax as you listen to classical music.
After lunch, it’s time to tick off another one of St. Petersburg’s top attractions: cross the bridge over the Neva River to Zayachy Island and head towards the iconic Peter and Paul Fortress.
If you’re a bit of a history lover, this is a must-see sight in St. Petersburg. The former fortification is where the city has its roots. Climb to the top of the fort and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views across the city.
On your way around the fortress, pay a visit to the picturesque cathedral and discover the burial place of the Romanovs. It’s also worth stopping at the former prison to experience the storied past of this impressive stronghold. If you want a little break from exploring, head down to the small, peaceful beach that sits at the base of the attraction.
After a long day of exploration, settle down and enjoy an evening meal at the serene Chekhov, where you can enjoy resplendent Russian dishes in a charming, cozy dining room.
From the outside, Chekhov is modest in appearance, but venture inside and you’ll discover a restaurant revolving around the 19th century’s finest decor. Everything here is designed to let you see what life would have been like for St. Petersburg’s upper classes more than 100 years ago. If you’re a literary fan, you’ll love that the menus are found inside the covers of classic novels.
It’s your final day in St. Petersburg, and the last opportunity to do some shopping for treats and souvenirs. Start with a visit to the characteristically picturesque Gostiny Dvor. This department store is not only a treasure trove of local delights – keep your eyes peeled for red caviar – but is also housed in a stunning 18th-century building, which adds that little something extra to your shopping experience.
After a morning of indulgence, drop into Erivan for a dose of Armenian cooking. Try classic dishes such as meat-stuffed vine leaves, tender veal ribs, and eggplant rolls. It’s not just the food that’s influenced by Armenia – the decor here is handmade in the country including the delicate candlesticks and heavy oak tables.
Head to one of the most attractive areas in all of St. Petersburg – Mikhailovsky Square. From here you’ll be able to visit a number of top attractions in a short space of time.
Start your adventure at the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Few attractions in St. Petersburg tell the tale of tsarist opulence quite as eloquently. The blue, yellow, and gold hues of its domes look like something from a Disney movie, and its splendor is mesmerizing. You can almost feel the effort that went into every minute of its 40-year construction.
Afterward, make your way to the State Russian Museum to enjoy a walk through the history of the country’s art. See works from Karl Bryullov, Alexander Ivanov, Nicholas Ghe, Ilya Repin, and Natalya Goncharov among others in a setting that’s all about celebrating Russia.
From there, make your next stop the interactive Museum of Emotions, where you’ll experience something a little more modern. This innovative museum uses artistic expression to bring each human emotion to life in vibrant colors.
Finally, after all that running around, you’ll be glad to know that the square hosts Mikhailovsky Garden, a serene pocket of the city where you can relax. A beautiful green space dotted with stunning buildings, it’s the ideal place for a peaceful wander in the early evening.
If you’re looking for an opulent meal to round out your time in St. Petersburg, book a table at Literary Café to get a taste of the tsarist way of life. Decked out in 19th-century style, this restaurant is all about class and elegance. The menu is just as fantastic as the decor. Try the veal with beet puree, beef stroganoff, or salmon with red cabbage, and enjoy a glorious final night in St. Petersburg as you gaze out across the Moika River from your table.
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