St. Petersburg hotel tips
July 10, 2012 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Heading to St. Petersburg, Russia in September. Let me in on your top tips for places to stay and things to do.

Surprisingly, I couldn't find any previous threads specifically for places to stay. I'm thinking about a hotel or B&B in the Hermitage/Nevsky Prospekt/Embankment area and would like to try to find something that's not totally over-the-top in terms of price. Hidden gems in other areas are also welcome.
I'm aware of the big attractions, but I'd be interested to hear of any lesser-known attractions that are worth the visit.
posted by Jakey to Travel & Transportation around St. Petersburg, Russian Federation (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here. Beware (be fascinated?) -- there is an entire room of deformed babies in jars.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:23 PM on July 10, 2012

The Dostoevsky house museum is kind of cool, esp if you like him. If you're a big D fan you can also look up some kind of cool self-guided walking tours online - eg, retracing raskolnikov's walk from his room to the crone's apt on Griboevdov canal.

The little house Peter the Great lived in for a while is just off the Trinity (Troitsky) bridge on Petrogradsky island. There's also an old mosque near there, not far from the intersection of Bol'shoi and Kamenoostrovsky

Second the Kunstkamera.
posted by pdq at 4:33 PM on July 10, 2012

What a sad thread. I expect more from mefi than this. I was lazy with the last answer thinking others would chime in. Here's more:

You know the main sites, but others reading this thread might not: St. Isaac's Cathedral (including the colonnade view), Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, Kazansky Cathedral, the Hermitage and Russian museums, the Catherine Palace and grounds (Tsarskoe Selo) in Pushkin, and the Peterhof palace + grounds.

Are you open to food suggestions? If you want to eat where the locals eat, go to Stolle (there are 5-ish in the city) and Teremok. The former is a pirogi place - dough filled with everything from salmon to cherries. Very good, and one of the cheaper meals you can buy. The latter is a blini place - Russian crepes filled with everything from chicken breast and cabbage to caramel sauce and apples. Make sure at Teremok also to try Med - a really nice cheap mead.

At the east end of Nevsky is the Alexander Nevsky monastery. Just before you go in the entrance is a walled graveyard with the graves of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dostoevsky, and others. Cheap entrance and pleasant to walk around. Cool to see the graves of some of the great Russian artists.

I haven't been, but have heard that the blockade memorial is very good.

I'm sure you know about the Mariinsky, but there are other fine arts venues in town that are still of very high quality. If you or someone you're with speaks Russian you might try going in one of the Teatral'naia kassa places that are all over the place and getting tickets to a concert. There are a lot of venues around town, many of which are quite beautiful and you might not otherwise hear of (eg the Smolny Cathedral).

If you have time to kill, spend a morning riding the metro system. There are beautiful stations, hideous stations, gaudy stations, creative stations - lots of stations, and most are interesting to look at.

Another literature tie-in - if you haven't, read Pushkin's poem The Bronze Horseman. It's one of the great works of Russian literature. Then go see the statue itself, between St. Isaac's and the banks of the Neva.

There are some places that aren't really tourist sites but are of some historic value that can be interesting to see if you have free time. The Finland Station, of course, with the huge Lenin statue. The Moscow station, in the city center, has been there for 160 years. Any scene in any work of Russian literature that takes place in 1850 or later and that has someone arriving from Moscow to Petersburg by train takes place at that station. But hey, it's a station! It's not that fascinating, but it's kind of cool.

Leave lots of time for walking and wandering. It's called the Venice of the North for a reason.
posted by pdq at 5:20 AM on July 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I went to St. Petersburg last summer, we stayed in one of Acme's hotels - specifically the Apart-hotel that is on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and Liteyny. While the entrance to it was a bit weird and difficult to find, it was comfortable and safe - and they upgraded us for free when we got there.

Do be aware if you are booking with them that they offer an invitation letter to let you get your visa, but after several tries with expired or invalid registration numbers, we ended up having to pay for an invitation from someone else. Maybe you've visited Russia in the past, but try to give as much time as possible for visa processing; it's a seriously bureaucratic process - they even made us refill our application forms because we had used blue instead of black ink for them!

The metro system is super cool, as pdq notes. Really interesting stations. Other than that, most of what I enjoyed most when I was there was wandering around looking at the beauty of the city; the tourist attractions proper were fine, but the greater cityscape really made an impression on me.

If you're visiting the Hermitage, keep your camera (which is hopefully small!) in your pocket or else they'll try to make you check it because you haven't paid a photography fee with your ticket (or something). The website says this is included in your ticket price, but that's not what the security guards tried to tell us. After you get it through security, snap away, just like everyone else. Definitely buy your tickets in advance, too - the line-up is ridiculous.
posted by urbanlenny at 9:17 AM on July 11, 2012

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