Friday, August 11, 2017

3 Days In Saint Petersburg: Itinerary Sharing

       I had my Saint Petersburg CityPass in hand since I first day in Russia (collected it in GUM together with my Moscow CityPass), allowing me to pre-plan my journey with the help of the Saint Petersburg Guidebook.

      Unlike the Moscow CityPass, I did not receive a card. Instead, the tickets and discount coupons are printed into the Guide Book... All we need to do, is to tear them off.

      For my stay in St Petersburg, I checked into a beautiful, well kept Airbnb, just 2 blocks off Nevsky Prospect (the main street in the city). The house owner is a friendly young man who attended to our every request.

Day 1

10 am
St Isaac Cathedral was our first destination of the day. We arrived at 10 am (It opens late at 10.30 am) to beat the crowd but apparently great minds think alike. We saw quite a number of people already there but I still recommend coming early as I saw 3 tourist buses pulling in as we were about to leave.

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St Isaac Cathedral colonnade
St Isaac Cathedral door

12 pm
Walking down the street towards the waterfront, we soon arrived at the Bronze Horseman— the monument that I’ve read so much about! Then you'll eventually come to a port where most cruises depart and dock. We happily jumped onto one without extra cost to marvel at this mesmerizing city from the canals. If you are not gonna join a popular day trip to Helsinki, hop on the cruise to the Gulf of Finland! Then at least, you've seen the country... from afar.  
Bronze Horseman

3.30 pm
From the port, the Hermitage is a stone throw away. But hold it right there! Do not attempt to visit the Hermitage if you haven’t got a whole day! The Hermitage is huge and the exhibition very interesting… Hence, we left it for another day… but we did take our sweet time photographing the Admiralty Square and the buildings surrounding it!
St Petersburg winter palace
Admiralty square

With the St Petersburg CityPass in hand, we were granted free seats on the Double Decker Sight Seeing bus. This bus not only brings you from point A to point B, it provides an unobstructed vista of the city rooftop (Note there are no high buildings in St Petersburg. )

5 pm
The view of the Savior of the Spilled Blood Cathedral overlooking the canal is a marvelous one. Despite its eerie name, it looks absolutely gorgeous with colorful domes topped with shiny gold Orthodox crosses! I highly recommend checking out the interior… because why not? It’s free with your CityPass… and by the way, have you been inside an Orthodox Church before? If not, there you go! 2 solid reasons!
Savior of the Spilled Blood Cathedral
Savior of the Spilled Blood Cathedral
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6 pm
As we exited from the Cathedral, we noticed some sort of gala part going on neighboring it. We soon realized that it was a carnival set up for World Cup, however there were not much people. We quickly passed the security to join the party. Little bro had a great time playing soccer with the Russians... Despite the language barrier, I guess sports connect people. Here's the thing: a lot of travelers do not wish to "waste" time joining local parties or events, but little do they know, these are the best chance to mingle with the local, to experience different culture and to have a taste of real life in the area. So next time when you are in Russia, even though Russians do look unfriendly when they don't smile, make Bold your middle name.

9 pm
If you wish, you may walk back to the Port again for a relaxing evening cruise trip with live music. Although I was tempted to wait for the Sightseeing bus, my legs were screaming for a walk, and so I thought maybe by walking, I’ll be able to experience more! True enough… The way from the Savior of the Spilled Blood Cathedral to the port isn’t exactly a short walk, but Holy Cow! it's certainly a rewarding one. We passed by the Kazan Cathedral on our way, and checked out the Bank Bridge behind it (unfortunately, it was closed for restoration during our visit, sigh! ) don’t miss the sight of street arts, busking musicians, picturesque alleys, elegant lampposts, magnificent bridges and so much more!
ps: About the evening cruise, please do not look forward to sunset in mid June (see proof below.)
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St Petersburg Architecture

Day 2

Peterhof is the only plan we had for the day. Go on, reach for your trusty Guide book and tear out your hydrofoil tickets to Petergof! It’s very easy to get from the port of St Petersburg to the palace with a hydrofoil because firstly, it's going high speed and secondly it’s really comfortable inside.
Well, frankly speaking, Petergof deserves a separate post so for now, I’ll just gonna let the photos speak for themselves.  
Peterhof Hydrofoil
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We called it a day earlier and go straight to bed as early as 8 pm… You might think it’s such a waste, because well, the night is still young, and the sun wouldn’t set until 12 am… YES, you are probably right, that is why we woke up at the middle of the night and sheepishly walk to the drawing bridges….

What exactly are the Drawing Bridges? This is a unique sight in St Petersburg where the bridges get drawn up at midnight to give way to the cargo ships. We turned to page 48 on our St Petersburg Guidebook to learn about the exact drawing time… and with that, we timed our visit. All our morning grumpiness vanishes as we first caught sight of the lovely sunrise (at 2AM! )
St Petersburg Drawing Bridges
St Petersburg Drawing Bridge

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Day 3 

       We managed to catch another 4 hours of sleep before waking up again for the Hermitage (remember that? ) Do not go to the entrance facing the river if you are not a part of a guided tour group… we did that mistake and so does another family. Although we reached Hermitage way before opening times, by the time we arrived at the correct entrance, the queue is starting to grow longer than we thought it would. We waited for an hour and a half to get to our turn… Remember, students visit for FREE, so don’t forget to flash your student cards!
St Petersburg Hermitage interior
St Petersburg Hermitage
St Petersburg Hermitage
St Petersburg Hermitage
St Petersburg Hermitage
St Petersburg Hermitage

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       We had a night bus to catch, heading to Tallinn, Estonia!!! Although our St Petersburg Citypass had expired since day 2, the discount vouchers remained valid and we get a free Taxi ride to the bus station!


      Get the CityPass! As you can see, we manage to save 2801.38 Rub per person with one! I love how the most interesting sights have been hand-picked for us. I initially frowned at the tear-off vouchers, but later discovered that it could be fun… and most importantly.... Yeah, a guide book is SOOOO much easier to find in my black-hole bag in comparison to a tiny card.

Is 3 Days Really Enough? 

Hell no! There are still a lot that I missed out in Saint Petersburg. I personally suggest 4-5 days, one should make a day trip to Katerine Palace too! 

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