Follow German TV personality Tanja Bülter on her short trip to St. Petersburg and discover why she dubs it “The City of Longing”.
I’m happy to be accompanied by my local Blacklane chauffeur Marad during my first visit in St. Petersburg, since the Russian port metropolis with its 5 million inhabitants is gigantic, and making it easy to get lost or lose time in this heavy traffic.
“Peter”, as the inhabitants lovingly call their city, is very lively with the echoes of history on display throughout. Thanks to Marad, I was able to see all the highlights of this beautiful city.
Here are my tips for a wonderful day in St. Petersburg.
Sightseeing with a panoramic view
The Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, which rises more than 100 meters into the sky, makes an ideal starting point for your sightseeing tour. Not only can you climb directly to the top under the dome, from there you will also have a beautiful panoramic view of St. Petersburg, and be able to see your next destinations from afar. The interior of the church is also so magnificent that every visitor should take some time to experience it.
And in front of the cathedral: the landmark of the city, a statue of Peter the Great on horseback.
St. Petersburg has over 120 museums, 40 theatres, and countless architectural landmarks — hence the nickname “open-air museum”. It is impossible to see everything in one day, even with an experienced Blacklane chauffeur as Marad on your side. But for a first impression, a visit to the Hermitage (Russia’s largest art collection) is a must.
With around 60,000 works of art in over 350 halls, this is a mammoth undertaking because the buildings of the Hermitage are also very spacious. Unfortunately, I was there on the fullest day of the week, Tuesday (because Monday is closed), and the line was so long that I would have had to wait for hours.
The complex of buildings is just as impressive from the outside with the 500 ton Alexander column in the palace square, towering in front.
Next, Marad brought me to the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, which was modeled after the Basilius Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow — you can see the resemblance immediately. It is also called the Church on Spilled Blood, because it was built on the site of the 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II.
Newski Prospekt – The promenade of St. Petersburg
The Newski Prospekt is experienced best by foot, so I left the car to walk along one of the most magnificent streets of St. Petersburg.
The promenade of the city, where the nobility lived in former times, is over 4 kilometres long. The Singer House, named after the German sewing machine manufacturer, is now the largest bookshop in the city and a very nice cafe.
From there you have a breathtaking view of the Kazan Cathedral on the opposite side.
The Russian Orthodox Church is also one of the most striking buildings in the city due to its semicircular shape.
Marad recommended that I visit the Peter and Paul Fortress on Hare Island to understand the origins of the city, since it is the first fortress, and the center from which the rest of the city spread.
Going out to eat
Since my stomach started growling, I head for the Cafe Idiot. It’s named after Dostoevsky’s book “The Idiot” and is furnished in the style of the pre-revolutionary era in which he lived.
You should definitely eat borscht, the traditional beetroot soup, at least once in Russia. If you are not a fan of beetroot, Pelmeni dumplings are a good choice for you. They’re really delicious and typical Russian fare. Oh, and vodka is served with it, no matter what time of day.
The new Floor 41 restaurant is all the rage — it’s super modern with a sensational view of the city from 145 metres above. Also great: the Ginza with traditional Russian food and waitresses in national costumes. You should also visit the Literary Cafe, which offers Russian and European cuisine in a great ambience, and is the place where the famous poet Pushkin took his last meal before his fatal duel in 1837.
The tough-as-nails should do a vodka tasting, which is also offered by many of the canal boats or bars. My suggestion: Klub Purga, where you celebrate like it’s New Year’s Eve almost every evening with toasts at midnight. Stage designers have founded the legendary club (meanwhile Purga 2 also exists), where the employees dance in weird costumes.
Of course, St. Petersburg also stands for an eventful culture that goes back to names like Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Tolstoy or Tchaikovsky. The Mariinsky Ballet, along with the Moscow Bolshoi Ballet, is Russia’s most important ensemble. But you don’t have to go to a ballet show – they have operas there as well!
The end of a day in St. Petersburg
My day in St. Petersburg ended far too soon. Already now I can say that I would like to come back to the Russian port city at the Baltic Sea.
Exploring it via Blacklane is the best thing that could have happened to me. Marad has always given me valuable insider tips and together with its suburbs, St. Petersburg has about 600 bridges – very romantic!
The fantastic monuments, the buildings from the time of the tsars and the great food make the northernmost city of millions in the world a real place of longing. “Dosvidaniya” – goodbye St. Petersburg!