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If you’re planning a Baltic Sea cruise, you’re likely going to stop in several countries. And, if Russia is one of those countries, your ship might stay overnight in St Petersburg like mine did on my cruise with Princess. Since we chose to spend one of our two days in Moscow, we had to hit the highlights on the second day because there are so many things to do in Saint Petersburg Russia!
Out of the seven countries we visited on this trip, I was most excited about Russia! Why? Because I had visions of their gorgeous architecture dancing in my head! The food is pretty tasty too. Now, on to the highlights!
St Petersburg Resources & Recommendations
- Hotels– Read reviews | Book rooms
- TripAdvisor– Find the best tours, restaurants, accommodations and more
- Skyscanner – Compare prices and find the best deals on flights
- CLEAR– Get through airport security faster. Try 2 months free!
- Allianz Travel Insurance– protect your trip and yourself. For Cruises: See why cruise insurance is important and get a free quote!
- Lonely Planet Guidebooks– the best (and my personal favorite) destination guidebooks out there. Get the St Petersburg Travel Guide or the Moscow & St Petersburg Pocket Guide if you’re planning on visiting both!
1. Peterhof Palace
The Grand Palace
Peterhof Palace is often referred to as the “Russian Versailles” and was built on the orders of Peter the Great. Peterhof means “Peter’s Court” in German. The Grand Palace is the main building and has over 30 rooms.
The Upper Gardens
First, walk around the Upper Gardens which are free to enter. Constructed in three stages from 1714-1760, the gardens cover 37 acres and you can locate them out in front of what is known as the “front entrance” to the Palace.
The Lower Park
My favorite area was The Lower Park. The colorful, meticulously manicured gardens are so beautiful!
Once you get down there, be sure to turn around as you have a great view looking back at the Palace!
From there, just start wandering around and let the marveling begin…
This way to all the beauty please!
There are a gazillion fountains on the Palace property, but these were some of my favorites!
The Triton Fountain is a sculpture of “A Triton Tearing Apart the Jaws of a Sea-Monster” and represents the triumph of Russia over the battle for the Baltic Sea.
Triton depicts the Russian Navy who defeated the Swedish in 1714. The sea monster represents the fleet of Charles XII and the 3 turtles the King of Sweden’s abandoning allies.
The Chessboard Hill Cascade is in the eastern part of the park. Located on a natural slope, you can see how it got its name since it’s painted like a chess board!
Located in front of the Chessboard Hill, the Roman Fountains get their name from their similarities to the stone spouts on the square in front of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
In front of St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy
I’m assuming this is what they are referring to as there are two of these in the square at St Peter’s Basilica.
The Oak Trick Fountain is the quirkiest. Peter the Great was known for his practical jokes and this is one of a few trick fountains set up in the gardens. Be careful where you step, you just might get squirted with water!
The Grand Cascade is as it states, the grandest feature of Peterhof Palace. Everyone gathers early to get a good view.
The fountains begin turning on one-by-one every day at 11am and it is a pretty awesome thing to witness.
Beautiful isn’t it????
TIPS: Go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. Hence, how I got my photos without many people in them! Be sure to get back in plenty of time before the fountains launch so you can have a front row view! Also, no photos are allowed inside the Palace. Plan your visit here.
Peterhof Palace and its onsite features have varying hours of operation and are located at Razvodnaya Ulitsa, 2, St Petersburg, Russia
2. Narva Triumphal Arch
Erected in 1814, the Narva Triumphal Arch commemorates Russia’s victory over Napoleon. It was placed in the Narva Square (on the Narva Highway) to greet soldiers as they returned home from their victory.
Narva Triumphal Arch is located at Ploshchad’ Stacheck, 1, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 190020
3. St Nicholas Naval Cathedral
St Nicholas Naval Cathedral is a Baroque Orthodox cathedral and is associated with the Russian Navy.
It is in the shape of a cross with Corinthian columns and is an example of Elizabethan Baroque.
St Nicholas Naval Cathedral is located at Nikol’skaya Ploshchad’, 1/3, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 190068
You might also like: 17 PLACES TO VISIT IN MOSCOW RUSSIA IN ONE DAY
4. St Nicholas Naval Cathedral Bell Tower
The Bell Tower, a few steps across from the Cathedral, is freestanding and four stories tall.
The Tower has a gilded spire on top that took three years to complete from 1755-1758.
St Nicholas Naval Cathedral Bell Tower is located at the same address as the Cathedral.
5. Winter Palace
The Winter Palace was the official residence of the Russian monarchs from 1732-1917.
Alexander II was the last tsar to have his main residence here. After his assassination, they deemed the Palace too hard to secure due to its large size. While this wasn’t the location of Alexander II’s assassination, there had been an attempt on his life a year prior that caused a lot of damage to the Palace.
This is the view from Palace Square and shows just how massive it is! Today, Winter Palace is part of the Hermitage Museum and you can read about its history here.
Winter Palace is located at Palace Embankment, 32, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 190000
6. St Isaac’s Cathedral
St Isaac’s Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great. It is the largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral in St Petersburg as well as the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest cathedral in the world!
St Isaac’s Cathedral is located at St Isaac’s Square, 4, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 190000
7. Monument to Nicholas I
The Monument to Nicholas I was established in 1859 and is a Neo-Baroque style bronze, equestrian monument. What I find interesting is that it was Europe’s first equestrian statue with only two support points and the only one that preceded it was the Andrew Jackson equestrian monument in Washington DC!
Monument to Nicholas I is located at St Isaac’s Square, 11, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 190000
8. Bronze Horseman
The Bronze Horseman is an equestrian statue of Peter the Great, the founder of St Petersburg, and was commissioned in 1768 by Catherine the Great. It is rumored to be the largest stone ever moved by humans, originally weighing 1500 tons and carved down to 1250 tons to be moved to its current site!
Bronze Horseman is located at Senate Square, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 190000
9. Big Obukhovsky Bridge
The Obukhovksy Bridge is St Petersburg’s newest bridge across the Neva River and the only one that isn’t a drawbridge. Opened in December 2004, the bridge is 395 feet tall and 1.75 miles (2,824 meters) long!
Obukhovksy Bridge is located at Saint Petersburg, Russia, 192012
10. Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Finally, I saved the best for last! The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood was the place I wanted to see most while I was in St Petersburg. In my opinion, this would be St Petersburg’s equivalent of the Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, although I did like St Basil’s architecture slightly more!
However, there’s NO denying that this classic Russian architecture is beautiful and unique. I’ve said it a million times, but this kind of architecture was my primary reason for wanting to visit Russia and I was not disappointed!
And, guess what I spy? Onion domes!! Before you think I’ve lost my mind and you’re curious as to what onion domes are, you definitely need to read my Moscow post!
The interior of the Church was jaw-dropping. When I first got in, I even forgot to take pictures because I was so amazed!
But, I finally remembered I was, in fact, in possession of a camera. Then, I looked around for signs that allowed for photography because, in so many places like this, photography isn’t allowed.
Finally, once I found proof of permission, I went completely crazy! With the camera that is… (although some days the former could be debated! 😜)
Built between 1883 and 1907, the Church was constructed on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881.
Whereas most of the architecture in St Petersburg is Baroque and Neoclassical, the Church on Spilled Blood is medieval Russian architecture that captures the take on Russian nationalism. It was intentionally constructed to resemble St Basil’s Cathedral in Russia! 😍
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is open daily 10:30am to 6pm and located at 2 Naberezhnaya Kanala Griboyedov, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 191186
Where To Eat
One of the best restaurants I have eaten in all of my travels and one I highly recommend is
Russian Vodka Room No 1
Take a break and have lunch or dinner at the Russian Vodka Room.
You can’t miss out on Russian cuisine because that would just be a tragedy…the food is fantastic! This is the Russian Mushroom Soup with Pea Barley served with sour cream.
Bowls. It’s the word to describe how much of this I could have eaten! Sour cream is *almost* like cream cheese for me. So, the more, the merrier!
Also, I had the Russian Meat and Pork Dumplings and they were absolutely fantastic as well. Actually, we didn’t have anything here that wasn’t out of this world yummy!
My friend Jackie got the classic Russian dish Beef Stroganoff and we shared all three for a complete experience…oh wait, not exactly complete. Because when in Russia…
You must try Vodka, right?? In the Caribbean? Try Rum. When in Rome, try wine and limoncello. And, when in Russia, try Vodka!
I had the Cherry Russian Homemade Vodka. Although I don’t like anything straight, this had a LOT of flavor and was really good! Oh, and don’t worry, if you don’t like cherry they have a million other flavors on the menu!
TIPS: Go mid-afternoon between lunch and dinner times to avoid the crowds. Get several dishes and vodka flavors to share for the full experience!
Russian Vodka Room No1 is open daily 12pm-12am and located at Konnogvardeyskiy Bul’var, 4, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 190000
Sadly, the end of my day in Saint Petersburg also ended my time in Russia. I wanted to stay longer and explore more of it. While I do love cruises, this is the downside to them-there’s not enough time in any one destination.
But, the plus side of this is that I didn’t need a Russian visa since I was on a cruise. I was able to book a private car with a private driver AND an English-speaking guide. Additionally, I planned my own itinerary of where I wanted to go along with everything I wanted to see and gave it to the ship a couple of days ahead of my visit. The car wasn’t per person so my friend and I split the cost making it very affordable!
So, basically, I achieved what I thought could only be done with a visa without a visa and got the benefits of a car, driver, and guide! And, the kicker was the car was less expensive than the cost of one of our visas! Is anyone besides me seeing this as a total win??
Look for more on how I was able to do this coming in a future post soon.
Who’s ready to go to St Petersburg? Have you been? Is there anything in particular on my list that makes you want to go if you didn’t want to before? Is there anything you would add to my list?
‘Til next time…