There’s no destination on a Scandinavian cruise that’s more mysterious and enduring than St. Petersburg, Russia. An enigma of historic and religious sites and the birthplace of of some of literature’s greatest works, here you’ll explore museums housing some of the biggest and best art collections in the entire world. St. Petersburg is an intellectual city, a cultural capital where arts, music, and creativity thrive despite the bitter winters. May to July brings about the White Nights, a short time in St. Petersburg where the sky is completely lit up throughout the entire day, making late spring and early summer a prime time to visit St. Petersburg.
Make a day of museum hopping from the Hermitage Museum onto the Dostoevsky Museum, finishing the afternoon off at the Russian Museum. If church tours are more your thing, check out the ornate domes of the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, or take photos of the beautiful Nikolsky Cathedral. Vodka tastings? You bet Russia’s most famous export is alive and well in St. Petersburg, too. Whatever you fancy, Russia’s cultural capital will captivate you on your St. Petersburg cruise.
There are over 350 rooms in the world-renowned Hermitage Museum, so you’ll find it impossible to see everything in the short time you have there. When you cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia, come here with a plan on how to see your favorite artists and time periods on display here.
Elaborate and breathtaking, this Russian Orthodox cathedral is one of the most recognizable sights in all of St. Petersburg. The mosaics and colorful domes are what the cathedral is famous for, along with it being the site of an assassination attempt of Tsar Alexander II. Beauty and Russian history collide as you explore the church.
Even if you were previously uninformed about Russian art, the Russian Museum is the perfect primer for the local art scene. Spend the day perusing the museum at your leisure, then bring all sorts of art history tidbits back to the ship with you.
This set of palaces and gardens is yet another example of St. Petersburg’s opulence. Meant to invoke a similar reaction as the Palace of Versaille, Peterhof stands up to the hype. It’s open from 9am to 7pm Sunday through Friday, and closed Mondays.
The elaborate Yusupov Palace along the Moyka River was built for Russian aristocracy in the late 1700s, and it encapsulates the art and culture of Russia at the time. Don’t miss a tour through the very castle where Rasputin was assassinated. It’s a harrowing place where you’ll quickly get a taste of the wealth and status of the day.
The Winter Palace also comprises part of the Hermitage Museum, but you could easily spend your entire time there simply walking the colorful grounds, where the palace glitters in gold and teal blue. Russian emperors lived in the Winter Palace from the 1700s until the 1900s.
Famous Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky lived in St. Petersburg for much of his life, and the Dostoevsky Museum was erected in the apartment where he lived from 1878 to 1881. Today, you can walk in his footsteps and experience his apartment for yourself. It’s a must-see for literary types and fans of Russian literature.
Address: Nevsky Prospekt 47, St Petersburg
Classic Russian cuisine comes with a side of history at Palkin, which was also the site where famous Russians like Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, and others once sat and broke bread together. Try the fried foie gras, the salmon caviar, or the boar and venison dumplings. Adventurous, filling dishes are the name of the game here.
Address: Petropavlovskaya St., 4, St Petersburg
You might not have tried truly authentic Russian food before, but Chekov is the place to change that. Inside, you’ll feel transported back to the 19th century, though the menu is decidedly modern. Try the marinated brandy trout fillet or the chicken liver pate. Delicious dumplings, called pelmeni, are stuffed with meat and made in-house daily.
Address: Mikhaylovskaya Ulitsa, д. 1/7, Saint Petersburg
Located within the Grand Hotel Europe is a fine dining experience like no other in St. Petersburg. It’s one of Russia’s oldest restaurants, which only adds to the charm of getting to spend an evening here. Sunday brunch is a favorite. Every Wednesday, dancers and performers move to the classical sounds of Tchaikovsky during the dinner service. There is a wine-pairing menu as well as an elaborate seven-course menu including dishes like duck confit, salmon tartar, red caviar, and a four-cheese tortellini.
Tsar Peter the Great founded the capital city of St. Petersburg in 1703. Ever since, St. Petersburg has become a cosmopolitan hub for arts, culture, and style. Famous authors like Nikolai Gogol and Dostoevsky were inspired and influenced by their times living in the city, which is immortalized in their literature. Though the climate was harsh and the winters almost unbearable, St. Petersburg remained a place where immigrants and visitors flocked to for hundreds of years. Today, it’s the second-largest city in Russia behind Moscow, home to a population of over 5 million people.
When your cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia docks in port, you’ll have to quickly go through immigration before continuing on to explore everything the city has to offer. The port, called the Marine Facade, is a passenger port equipped to handle wide berths and plenty of cruise traffic.
The metro system in St. Petersburg is comprehensive and runs daily until midnight. Otherwise, biking and taking a taxi or shuttle bus from the port into the center of town are great bets for getting around during your St. Petersburg cruise stop. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the cruise port to the city center, or around 45 minutes to get to the Hermitage Museum.
You won’t be hard-pressed to find some of Russia’s enduring souvenirs, from famous nesting dolls to Russian vodka, chocolate, and other goods that tourists love to take back home with them. These souvenir shacks and stands are scattered throughout the city, making it easy to shop when you feel like it. But St. Petersburg isn’t all kitschy wares. There’s also a growing boutique shopping scene here, like the impressively large Galeria or a smattering of vintage shops selling clothes dating back to the days of the Soviet Union.
The local currency in Russia is the rouble (stylized as R), and you’ll find credit and debit cards are used all over the place here. Still, it’s handy to have a little bit of cash in case you need it. ATMs are widely available, too. Tipping your taxi driver isn’t expected, but you can round up or leave behind a few R if you’re particularly happy with the service you received. At restaurants, leaving 10% is customary.