Trending Destinations: St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia -   yulenochekk/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
St. Petersburg, Russia // Photo by yulenochekk/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

If clients are looking for a city full of museums, cathedrals, art, and palaces, St. Petersburg is the city for them. It’s brimming with history but also provides all the modern convenience of any European city. And with almost five million people, it’s the continent’s fourth largest city. While Moscow has a booming 21st century business center with newer buildings, St. Petersburg has opted to maintain its historical roots. The baroque bridges and architecture make travelers feel like they’re stepping back in time. 

When to Go

State Hermitage Museum // Photo by Elen11/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
If Russia is known for one thing, it’s their cold, brutal winters. Fortunately, the country also sees beautiful, mild summers from June through August. While it’s definitely not a tropical paradise, it’s certainly comfortable.

Average temperatures range from the high- 60s to mid-70s during the peak months, perfect walking through the city's many parks. Or, if clients are looking for a winter wonderland that isn’t crowded with tourists, the off season is perfect. Just make sure they’re ready for the cold. The winter holidays are probably the most fun time to visit, since the city bustles with festive activities. 

The two major winter holidays are New Year's and Orthodox Christmas Day. New Year's is celebrated how most western countries celebrate Christmas. Families gather for a huge feats and share gifts around the tree. There are also firework displays and public concerts to celebrate the holiday. Orthodox Christmas Day is celebrated on January 7th every year, and holiday events often continue from December 31 to Christmas day. It’s much more common for Christmas to be a religious holiday in Russia, with Mass being the most important celebration. 

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For summertime travel, the White Nights Festival is one of the best in St. Petersburg. It’s an international festival that makes the beginning of summer and the city experiences midnight sun thanks to the extended daylight. The festival is a celebration of ballet, opera, and music and many museums, including the Hermitage Museum which is considered Russia’s Louvre, stay open all night with free admission. 

Where To Stay

Kempinski Hotel Moika 22 // Photo by Ojimorena/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
The Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace lets you live like a Tsar. The property was a former 19th century palace and the main stairway, vestibule and entry hall have all restored to their original 1820s splendor.

The 183 rooms, including 26 suites, offer views of the Alexandrovsky Garden and the Admiralty building to the north, and St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Isaac’s Square and the statue of Tsar Nicholas I to the south. Fifth floor rooms have views of the cathedral.

The top rated restaurant in St. Petersburg by Trip Advisor just so happens to be at this hotel. Percorso offers modern Italian cuisine as well as a wine cellar, private dining room, and open kitchen. There are three other dining options on the property including Sintoho, serving contemporary Japanese fare; the Tea Lounge offering premium loose-leaf teas and baked goods; and Xander Bar where guests can relax by the double-sided fireplace with a drink or small bite.

There is also a four-level glass include spa with vitality pool, Russian steam room, and fitness center. 

Remember the Hermitage Museum I was talking about earlier? Well you can stay there. 

Opened in 2013, the hotel is housed in a new section of the museum. While rooms and suites pay homage to 19th century luxury, 21st century technology is not forgotten. All rooms include Wi-Fi, a 40-inch TV, and docks to connect the TV and your devices. 

Guests can enjoy Russian Imperial Cuisine at Restaurant Catherine the Great or traditional Italian at Restaurant Michelangelo. 

Right next door is the Kempinski Hotel Moika 22. Located on the Moika River, the hotel is just a five minute walk from the Nevsky Prospect and close to major sights and shopping. Rooms and suites offer river and inner courtyard views. 

Even if clients aren’t staying at this hotel, it’s worth the trip to Bellevue Brasserie just for the views alone. The glass-roofed and walled restaurant at Kempinski Hotel Moika 22 offers 360-degree views of the city. Serving up French and classic Russian meals as well as afternoon teas, this restaurant is perfect for everything from a relaxing afternoon drink or a romantic dinner for two. 

Offering smaller bites is the Tea Room with full Russian and English style settings, Wine Cellar 1953, and gentleman’s club the Von Witte Bar. 

Where to Eat

Photo by OllgaP/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
If walls could talk, you’d certainly want to hear from those at Restaurant Palkin. The restaurant is one of the oldest dining locations in St. Petersburg with the first mention of the Palkin family dating back to 1785 when the property was a popular tavern. Since then it has undergone multiple renovations as well as hosted many famous diners including poet Alexander Blok, scientist Alexander Butlerov, and composer Petr Tchaikovsky. It even was converted into the Titan movie theatre in 1925 and hosted the premiere of the legendary film by the Vasiliev brothers, "Chapayev".

Today the restaurant offers imperial Russian cuisine once enjoyed by the Russian aristocracy. There are over 120 wine vintages from France, Italy, Chile, and more. Rare wines are kept in stock including 1982 Chateau-Margaux Premier Grand Cru. There are also more than 30 brands of cognac, brandy, and calvados and more than 40 sorts of vodka, whiskey, and gin. 

Tsar also brings guests back in time with traditional Russian meals and a collection of antiques, vintage interior items, and even a Tsar’s throne. Russian portraits line the walls and the high ornate ceiling is reminiscent of a palace. 

Classics include a tasting of beluga, sturgeon, and osseter caviar with pancakes, New Year’s Eve Olivier salad with smoked starlet fish, and Russian Napoleon cake with raspberries. 

What to Do

Catherine Palace // Photo by chiakto/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
St. Petersburg is home to around hundreds of libraries, museums, theaters, concert halls, art galleries, movie theaters, and nightclubs. There is certainly no shortage of things to do. But one of the most amazing sites isn’t technically in St. Petersburg, but Pushkin – a town just outside the city. Tsarskoe Selo, or Tsar’s Village offers travelers two grand palaces and two large parks. 

The Catherine Palace was built by Empress Elizabeth and named for her mother, Catherine although it’s better known as the summer house for Catherine the Great. It is a perfect example of royal opulence. The Alexander Palace was most famously used by Nicholas II and his family fewer than 100 years ago. It focuses heavily on the Romanov family and the last Tsar of Russia. 

The village is around 15 miles, from St. Petersburg. 

For those who want to stay in the city, the Hermitage Museum is a must. It houses three million pieces from both West and East. There are dozens of permanent exhibition include Ancient Relics of the Culture and Art of Eurasia, Dutch Paintings, The Art of Japan, and Russian Culture and Art. 

Good to know: If clients are going during peak season make sure they book tickets online to skip the line and maximize their time in the museum. 

Although the name might be a little intimidating, Church of Our Savior on the Spilt Blood is gorgeous inside and out. 

The outside of the cathedral is built in classic baroque style with ornate multi-domed roof. Inside travelers will the walls, floor, and ceiling completed covered in detailed mosaics. 

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