Indagare member C.D. sends a dispatch about her first trip to St. Petersburg.
The Rossi Hotel (Fontanka River Embankment, 55 Lomonosov Square; 7 812 635 6333) was lovely; it was very Russian in décor and it had some quirks, such as having no cold water one day. Our suite was large with a great view of the canal and skyline, and had been newly remodeled. The staff all spoke English and were friendly and helpful.
The hotel restaurant was excellent. The breakfast buffet was very Russian, so included porridge, luncheon meats and cheeses, yogurt, kefir, and breads, but not much fruit. We had a delicious lunch at the hotel one day and sat outside.
The hotel was a ten-minute walk to the Nevsky Prospect, the main drag, but we love to walk so not an issue. The guides Indagare set us up with were both young women who were very competent and had good English. I definitely recommend having them help with airport pic-up and delivery. Our guide stayed with us through check-in, which turned out to be very helpful as we had some issues with the airline.
We took some lovely trips to the countryside and enjoyed seeing other areas and getting out of the city. My favorites were the Pavlovsk Palace park where we walked for hours and Fredrick and Alexandra’s family home in Alexandria Park, where we waded in the Gulf of Finland (we were advised to not go swimming).
None of our tour books mentioned the Museum of the Defense and Siege of Leningrad (9, Solyanoy Pereulok; 7 812 275 7208), but we really enjoyed it. It became clear after a few days in St. Petersburg that World War II and the Siege of Leningrad were still very much in the Russian’s psyche. The museum and very old and low-tech, but exhibit descriptions are in English and they have plans to renovate. The museum recommended a fabulous book on the siege, called City of Thieves. Melissa advised that I read Catherine the Great during the trip and I am so glad I did. It is a great book, and really brought to life what we saw and experienced there.
Some favorite restaurants included the lovely Russian Ampir in the Stroganov Palace (Nevsky pr 17), where Beef Stroganoff is, unsurprisingly, their specialty. And it was delicious. Teplo Restaurant (45 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa), which is tucked away down a side street near St. Isaacs and is in a home-like setting. A Russian patron asked us how we had heard about the restaurant (our guide took us there), because few tourists have ever found it, apparently. The food and setting were excellent and I particularly loved the latkes with caviar.
The Kirov Ballet (www.kirov.com) was magnificent and the Church of Spilled Blood”:/destinations/188/departments/82#article_10564 has some gorgeous mosaics. We saw it without a guide or headsets and didn’t feel like we missed anything.
At the end of our stay, we saw the Petro Palace (Malaya Morskaya Ulitsa 14; 7 812 600 7075; www.petropalacehotel.com), and I would not recommend it.