- The Mole Diaries: St. Petersburg 1 - First impressions and packing tips
- The Mole Diaries: St. Petersburg 2 - Transport, shopping and the top ten things to do
- The Mole Diaries: St. Petersburg 3 - Accommodation, education, what to prepare yourself for and favourite finds.
In Your Pocket online guide to events and excitements in St. Petersburg.
Why should I choose St. Petersburg for my year abroad?
Whether you're working, studying or just browsing, this city will quickly entice you in, leaving you gasping for more at every turn. Christened 'the Venice of the North', its shedload of museums and galleries will baffle even the most culture-savvy amongst you. Why not start with the grand Hermitage Museum, free for students so don't forget your student card! It's got over 3,000,000 works, from all over the world, including pieces by the greats such as Rembrandt, Da Vinci and many more. Although the sheer size of the place, combined with the amount of works on display, might send you giddy at the knees, you have to step foot in this Aladdin's cave of art.
If you can't manage it all in, say, a weekend (trust us, it's more than likely you won't), pick rooms or epochs in advance and keep coming back for more. Be wary of the huge queues in the morning - get there really early, or aim for past lunchtime. It's a great place to take the rentals, too. Another must-see museum is the originally-named Russian Museum, with its impressive architecture and temporary (and somewhat less temporary) exhibitions. Art buffs will also no doubt want to head on down to the Academy of Arts Museum, with its displays of works from both students and faculty staff dating all the way back to 1857. History fanatics might want to pop into the Museum of Artillery, with its mammoth collection of weaponry used in the past and present. You'll be astounded by the WW2 section and the numerous Kalashnikovs. Speaking of mammoths, how would you like to see the world's only stuffed one? You don't have to be too keen on taxidermy to appreciate the extensive collection of species at the Zoological Museum.
Of course, one of the main attractions of this alluring city is the architecture - the churches and cathedrals on display really are something else. The Cathedral Of The Transfiguration Of Our Saviour is awe-inspiring; a newly restored interior dating back to the 18th century, with its neo-classical style, is a site well worth seeing. Looking for something a little more out there? The Buddhist Temple might just be it - built at the start of last century by Pyotr Badmaev, this site was built with money from all four corners of the globe and was supported by the Dalai Lama himself. Peaceful, grandiose and a real testament to Asian beauty in this otherwise decidedly European city.
Of course, Saint Petersburg isn't all about pretty buildings, tsarist architecture and fancy street names - parks are not exactly abundant, but who cares, when the Summer Garden is on offer. One of the city's oldest parks, its elegance emanating from the fountains, bespoke ground planning and pavilions. You can sit pretty reading some Chekhov with the rest of the gentry, or sip on a hot herbal tea enjoying this nice bit of respite in the heart of the city.
If you don't really fancy yourself as a period drama lass/lad, and you're looking for something with its finger a little more on the pulse, you cannot afford to miss out on a visit (or many) to Pushkinskaya 10, a restored apartment block exhibiting artwork, artists, musicians and all things bohemian in between. Shops, cafés and artists who are more than willing to speak of their works and inspiration are on hand here - swing by and you might not even notice that 4 hours have gone by, as you're deep in conversation with Vladimir the Vocal Virtuoso. Or something like that.
The Sigmund Freud Museum of Dreams is every psychoanalyst's dream - walk into the locale and you'll delve deep into your subconscious through the master's penned dreams. Small, but perfectly formed, this place is great if you'd always wondered how to, er, interpret the Interpretation of Dreams or your reveries.
After so much walking, talking and exploring, you're bound to have worked up an appetite. Fear not - St Petersburg's eclectic menu comes to the rescue! As with any other tourist destination, meals of all shapes and sizes, but with a hefty price tag, are on offer here. Steer clear of the centre, and try out some places slightly out of the way - Aiva is just one of them, but worth the detour as the menu boasts Asian fusion food, with some Russian and Georgian dishes to boot. Cocktails are good here, too. Bliny Domik's blinis and soups are known across town, so make sure you hit the hotspot slightly before or after the usual lunchtime rush.
If you're aching for something a little more European, take your pick from the many eateries on offer - Le Paris and La Strada come highly recommended. If you're looking to wet your beak, you should take note of the following places, as you're sure to enjoy them: Che (live jazz events in the evening of this alternative coffee house-come-bar), Mod (popular with students) and for locals, tourists and nostalgics alike, Shamrock is bound to keep you entertained. Clubbing is a bit of a big thing in Saint Pete's; try Metro Club and Trinity Club for glitchy synths, electro and trance; Griboedov for a mixture of reggae, roots, alternative; Mod Club for everything in between, pulling in an non-discriminatory crowd of expats, students, artists and so on and so forth.
Architecturally stunning, culturally thriving and with a large student population thrown in the mix, St Petersburg offers just the right amount of Russian kudos to keep your feet on the ground and your head in the tsarist clouds...
Read more about St. Petersburg on this fantastic blog: Russian Year Abroad by Laura who studied in Moscow until Christmas and is now in St. Petersburg.