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St. Petersburg Guide

St. Petersburg is the cultural center of Russia. It is enough to mention the Hermitage, Russian Museum, Mariinsky Theater plus dozens of original and impressive cathedrals, monuments, as well as many other sights.

By Dmitry Paranyushkin, Way to Russia
Aug 09, 2005
St. Petersburg is the cultural center of Russia. It is enough to mention the Hermitage, Russian Museum, Mariinsky Theater… plus dozens of original and impressive cathedrals, monuments, as well as many other sights. The city is also home to the striving community of contemporary artists, poets, performers, and musicians. While Moscow suffocates in its "high culture" frenzy, St. Petersburg offers original performances and authentic events impossible to find anywhere else in Russia.

Finally, St. Petersburg is famous for the White Nights (June 20 to June 30) — the period when there is almost no darkness in the city, and its daytime 24 hours a day. The city is very alive during this period, and there are lots of events.

St. Petersburg has only one major airport: Pulkovo. Terminal 1 serves domestic flights, while Terminal 2 serves most international flights. To get to the city from the airport, you can take a bus (minibus – shuttle) #13 or #39 to metro Moskovskaya (40 mins). A taxi from the airport costs about $35-$40, and will probably be more expensive from Pulkovo 2, because it is further from the city.

If you travel by train, you will most likely use Moskovsky or Vitebsky train station. Moskovsky station is located right on the central street Nevsky Prospekt street (metro Ploschad Vosstania or Mayakovskaya), and serves trains to/from Moscow, Novgorod, south Russia, while Vitebsky station (metro Pushkinskaya) serves suburban trains (Pushkin, Pavlovsk), trains to Ukraine, and also Byelarus. The modern, recently renovated Ladozhsky station serves trains to/from Finland and Karelia – northern Russia (metro Ladozhskaya, tel: +7 812 436-53-10). Taxis are very expensive right at the stations, but you can save yourself half the price if you just walk a couple of minutes to the nearest avenue.

There are many bus companies that operate regular routes to the nearby countries, such as Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The most popular is Eurolines. Another useful contact is Sovavto Bus company, which offers cheap fares to Finland. Their office is located in the Pulkovskaya hotel.

The public transport in St. Petersburg is cheap provided you don’t take taxis. It’s quite easy to get around the city center by metro or trolleybus, and there are also many minibus-shuttle ("marshrutka") routes. At night however, it’s better to take taxis to get from one place to another; they will cost around $3 (100 R).

St. Petersburg has a very diverse range of accommodations for any budget. However, during the high season (which is usually 15 May to 31 August), the prices can go up as much as 30-50%. During the white nights period (end of June), prices rise about 70-100%.

If you need to make an international phone call in St. Petersburg, the best way to do it is to go to a Telegraph office. There are plenty along Nevsky Prospekt and next to Hermitage. If you need to make a local call, you can use one of the many payphones in the city (a card can be bought at any metro station).

The cheapest way to send post is to use the state postal system, "pochta". The central office is the Pochtamp office. Open: mon-sat 9 am — 7.45 pm, sun 10 am — 5.45 pm. Address: Pochtamptskaya St., #9 (metro Nevsky Prospekt, near St. Isaac cathedral and Astoria hotel). Phone: +7 812 312-8302

Another option is to use WestPost service. They offer courier delivery to most countries and it is also possible to receive correspondence in St. Petersburg through them. The office is located on Nevsky #86, tel +7-812-327-3211, fax +7-812-275-0806.

Internet access is readily available. There are many internet cafes on Nevsky Prospekt; the most popular ones are Quo Vadis (Nevsky Prospekt, #24) and CafeMax (open 24 hours, Nevsky Prospekt, #90). There are also quite a few wi-fi internet hotspots in the center of the city.

There are lots of good restaurants and cafes in St. Petersburg. The popular local pancake cafes (blinnye) should not be missed; you can get a great breakfast for about $3-$5 including traditional Russian kasha and bliny. One good place next to Moskovsky railway station is called Teremok cafe (Nevsky Prospekt, #91 – opened daily 9 am – 11 pm).

St. Petersburg offers a lot in terms of sightseeing. The famous Hermitage Museum with its immense collection of art, the Mariinsky Theatre, and the Russian Museum are the main landmarks of the city. The center of the city is quite simple to navigate: Nevsky Prospekt is the main street of the city and if you walk from Moskovsky railway station towards Hermitage, you can see a majority of the most famous sights and monuments.

Clubbing is something St. Peterburg can be proud of. It is the cradle of alternative culture in Russia, but also there’s lots of dance clubs, pubs, and chill-out cafes. Unlike Moscow, with its mostly arrogant club policies, St. Petersburg is very casual and most of the places to go out are relatively small and friendly.