St. Petersburg Travel Guide

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St. Petersburg Area Map

Neighborhoods

Flush with canals and built around water – the city curves around the Gulf of Finland, and the Neva River runs through the city center – St. Petersburg is a planned city that originated with the Peter and Paul Fortress on Zayachy Island (Hare Island).

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 Building in Palace Square and continues to the Moscow Railway Station, and then further south to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Just off the Nevsky Prospekt, near the Vladimirskaya metro station, is the popular Kuznechnyy Rynok (Kuznechny 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 semicircular, 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, cafes and restaurants, as well as a host of less frequented sites and museums. Stop by the area's Russian Museum, which houses 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. Near the Russian Museum in the Admiralteysky District is a collection of luxury hotels, including the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg, the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe and the SO Sofitel St. Petersburg, among others.

South of Nevsky (an area that is actually southwest of the Nevsky Prospekt) is divided by a series of canals that past visitors 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, the Dostoyevsky 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 Vasilyevsky Island, a formerly quiet and remote part of the city that's now a hopping restaurant and hotel district. The island offers unrivaled views of the dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Winter Palace. The east side of the island is also home to St. Petersburg State University. 

If you walk to Vasilyevsky – 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. 

St. Petersburg has a mixed reputation when it comes to safety, but most agree that it has improved from the chaotic time immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. Discrimination against ethnic groups, specifically individuals of Asian or African descent, is still reportedly an issue in Russia, as is discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. Government officials warn against traveling alone at night to avoid violent confrontations.

In October 2019, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory urging increased caution in Russia because of possible terrorism and arbitrary enforcement of laws. However, these mainly applied to specific areas (such as the North Caucasus for terrorism and occupied portion of Ukraine for abuses by authorities). With respect to St. Petersburg specifically, the State Department noted possible delays in services for U.S. citizens because of reductions in diplomatic personnel. According to the State Department, you can be detained by Russian police for not having your passport with you (police in Russia do not need to show probable cause to stop, question or detain you). Plan to carry your passport with you at all times. Visit the State Department's website for more information.

When walking around, you'll also want to be very careful when crossing roads, as drivers don't always yield to pedestrians here. Use crosswalks and only cross when vehicles have come to a complete stop. Several travel sources advise tourists not to drink the tap water in St. Petersburg due to the antiquated pipes and high metal levels in the tap water. To avoid illness, only drink filtered or bottled water.

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