If you’re on your way to Sochi for the games then consider making a quick visit St. Petersburg. There’s a lot you can do in just 24 hours, although, of course, we’d encourage you to stay for longer and really get acquainted with a full city tour from Ulko Tours. Luckily, St. Petersburg is a 24-hr city so even if you arrive late at night you can still make the most of your arrival before heading to your hotel.
A great late-night option for some comfort food, drinks and revelry is Piterogi, halfway between the Central Station and the River Neva (Nab. reky Fontanka 40), nestled against the Fontanka. Here you can gorge yourself on pies, stroganoff, mashed potato and pickkes and glug cheap beer and vodka. Watch out for the tipsy local 20- and 30-somethings singing 80′s pop music.
St. Petersburg Bridges
If you arrive late enough or are out drinking until the early hours then make sure to catch the opening of the city’s bridges at 1am on the Neva. The 23 bridges open overnight so as to allow ships to pass through until 5am. What this means is that if you’re on the wrong side of the bridge when it opens you won’t be able to get back to your hotel until the morning so tread carefully and watch the bridges rise from your hotel’s side of the river.
Must-See St. Petersburg
When you’re pushed for time you’ll probably want to skip taking the hydrofoil to Peterhof Palace and the Versailles-style gardens, but make sure to factor in a look around the State Hermitage (get Ulko to arrange tickets in advance so you don’t waste time in the line-up). The State Hermitage boasts the big name artists liek da Vinci, Michelangelo and Titian, and houses works in six historic buildings that are themselves works of art.
Enjoy an early hotel breakfast or head to Stolle, the chain of delicious bakeries in St. Petersburg and across Russia. There’s a Stolle between the Hermitage and the Church of Spilled Blood, which should also be on your sightseeing list for 24 hrs in St. Pite’s. Stock up on seasonal fruit pies to fuel your trip around the vast Hermitage and get there early to skip the crowds.
City Bus Tour and Canal Tour
After you’ve had your fill of the indoors, consider a city bus tour with the Big Red Bus people (it’s a hop-on, hop-off system) or a guided tour with Ulko. A canal tour will help you see why St. Petersburg is often called the Venice of the North, but bear in mind that the offical waterborne tours are only available May to October, leaving every half hour from the Nevsky Prospekt dock.
Next, head on over to St. Isaac’s Cathedral to get out of the rain (it’s very likely to be raining in St. Pete’s so bring appropriate attire). This beautiful cathedral’s gilded dome can be seen from all across the city and its interior is spectacular, boasting mosaic icons, and lapis lazuli columns. Clamber up the steps to the tower and marvel at the citywide view.
Lunch and Sightseeing
After climbing those 300 steps you’ll probably be a bit hungry so head for lunch at Teplo (45 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa, you might need to book in advance) and take a courtyard seat in the sun if the weather’s being kind to you. This place looks a little like a kleptomaniac grandma’s living room but the staff are all bright young things in jeans and t-shirts who are smiley and attentive. Try the potato pancakes and get some baked goods to go. You’ll need them for your souvenir shopping this afternoon as you take a walk down Nevsky Prospekt, the main shopping street, and check out the Bronze Horseman statue and the Summer Garden.
Dinner and a Show
Head for dinner at the Idiot Cafe (naberezhnaya Reki Moyki, 82) and sample the apricot pirozhki whilst pretending to be part of Dostoyevsky’s inner circle of intellectuals. If you have a late-night flight then consider taking in a show at the Mariinsky Theatre, the home of some of the best ballerinas in the world. You’ll need to book tickets in advance though, so check with Ulko Tours so you’re not disappointed.
Getting Around St. Petersburg
It can be helpful to hire a driver for the day so that you don’t need to rely on public transt, which can take a while to figure out. If you have kids then a personal driver and tour guide is ideal as Ulko Tours can provide activity packs, snacks and juice to keep flagging children entertained and energised and to whisk you back to your hotel if necessary.
Also, if you hire a driver for your whistlestop 24hr tour of St. Petersburg you can always ask them to stop so you can take pictures of the city’s gorgeous architecture. You can’t do that on transit, so contact Ulko Tours now to arrange your visit!