St. Petersburg Travel Guide

Russia  #11 in Best Affordable Vacations in Europe

St. Petersburg Area Map

Neighborhoods

Flush with canals and fenced in by water -- the Gulf of Finland empties into the Baltic Sea, and the Neva River runs through the city center -- St. Petersburg is a planned city.

Palace Square, in the heart of St. Petersburg, is the city's main square and home to the Baroque-style Winter Palace that stands at the square's northern end. Built in the 1750s, the Winter Palace currently houses part of the Hermitage Museum, one of the oldest and largest museums in the world and a must-see for art lovers. 

Just south of the Hermitage Museum and Palace Square is the Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's main thoroughfare. The street runs from the iconic Admiralty Tower in Palace Square and continues to the Moscow Railway Station, and then further south. Just off the Nevsky Prospekt, near the Vladimirskaya Metro station, is the popular Kuznechii pereulok outdoor market. Nevsky Prospekt finally ends at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, constructed under Peter the Great in 1710 to shelter the relics of the patron saint of St. Petersburg. Main attractions along Nevsky Prospekt include several 18th-century churches, such as the famous semi-circular, domed Kazan Cathedral.

Orientation in the city is further divided by sites north and south of Nevsky. To the north you'll find many bars, cafés and restaurants, as well as a host of less frequented sites and museums. Stop by the area's Russian Museum, which has the world's largest collection of Russian art, or the Tauride Palace and Gardens, the original site of the first Russian parliament, the Imperial State Duma. In the area around Taurida, you'll find many reasonably priced hotels.

South of Nevsky (an area that is actually south west of the Nevsky Prospekt) is divided by a series of canals that writers say offer glimpses of St. Petersburg's quiet grandeur and allow great opportunities for romantic strolls on the waterfront. Here also you'll find more upscale dining and drinking establishments and a series of cultural attractions, including the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Dostoevsky House Museum and St. Isaac's Cathedral, the city's largest cathedral.

Southwest of the Nevsky Prospekt is the often overlooked New Holland Island, a series of old warehouses and military buildings, many of which are preserved by the city as historical landmarks.

Across the river, north of the city center is Vasilievsky Island, a formerly quiet and remote part of the city that's now an up-and-coming restaurant and hotel district. The east side of the island is also home to St. Petersburg State University. 

If you walk to Vasilievsky -- or any island throughout the city -- be advised that the bridges interconnecting the city are raised at early morning hours (typically between 1 to 3 a.m.) to accommodate transport and cargo ships. 

  • The city's water-system is not ideal because of a number of old pipes and as a result does not provide 100% clean water. Some locals boil or also filter tap water before use; you might want to buy it bottled if water quality affects you." -- Wikitravel

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