St. Petersburg might have changed names over the years. But whether it's called Petrograd, Leningrad or St. Petersburg, this planned city founded by Peter the Great is both historic and romantic. Its boulevards, canals and churches give it the dreamy feel of Venice but its landmarks and monuments steeped in history make it distinctively Russian. So whether you're admiring the Russian Classic Style architecture of St. Isaac's Cathedral with its golden dome or taking a boat trip along the Neva River or watching the Kirov Opera and Ballet at the Mariinsky Theater, you'll experience the best of all worlds.
Every visit to St. Petersburg should start with a tour of The Hermitage Museum, home to a whopping three million exhibits that are sure to make every art lover swoon. The museum is located in The Winter Palace grounds, which borders the Palace Square, home to the Alexander Column and the Palace Bridge. Navigating Nevsky Prospect, the three-mile-long city street is like taking a walk through history. Highlights of the street include Kazan Cathedral, the mosaic panels of the Resurrection of Christ Church, and the many buildings and shops that boast a stunning variety of architectural styles. And if you're in the neighborhood, don't forget to check out the Peter and Paul Fortress, an ancient prison that used to house some of the city's most famous residents.
For fine dining, your options are endless. Top spots include Noble Nest, Russian Vodka Museum, L'Europe and The Old Customs House. If you want a taste of Russian pie called stolle, head to the Stolle Café near the Resurrection of Christ Church for your fill. If you fancy pancakes or blini, check out tasty and cheap Blini Domik. For that rare vegetarian meal in Russia, The Idiot is definitely worth a try.
Looking for a Russian nesting doll – or matryoshka – to remind you of your trip? Nevsky Prospect is not only the city's best-known street, it is also the main shopping haunt. Don't be fooled by the look of Gostiny dvor – go straight inside and be prepared to shop to your heart's content at the hundreds of stalls there. If you're looking for more than just trinkets and kitsch, you won't be disappointed. St. Petersburg's luxury shopping is almost on par with Moscow, boasting plenty of French and Italian haute couture aimed squarely at the nouveau riche.
Mayakovskogo 3a Nevsky Prospec
Pushkinskaia Ul., 10
enter from Ligovskii Pr., 53
Karavannaya Ulitsa, 3/35
Shpalernaia Ulitsa, 33