Saint-Petersburg: walking the streets like a local
January 1, 1970
by Fatima Tautieva
Saint-Petersburg is the most “European” city of Russia and also the one that was named the best tourist destination in Europe twice. I myself am particularly glad to know that, working as a tour guide. But this time I don’t want to tell you about “tourist” stuff, there is plenty of info about that around. I would like you to see where the locals hang out. As “the city of the crazy” we have pretty much anything you would like to visit. So, let’s start with the most important things.
The most logical is to start hanging out in the center – that’s not only where all the touristic spots are, but also the place where we (people living here) meet with each other in our free time. So walking around the city you are not only sightseeing but are getting a chance to find some local buddies.
Nevskiy prospect (the Avenue of Neva)
Free tips for those who like seeing history through its heritage: walking the main avenue you can watch how the architecture was changing over the course of history. If you start your tour from the Moscow railway station, you go backward in history – until the first bridge you see the 19th-century constructions. On your way on the left side you will find Rubinshteina Street – the famous bar street of the city – take a note for your night visit. The first bridge you see (Anichkov) is over the river Fontanka and is decorated with the statues of horse tamers. This is one of the favorite photo-spots in the city. Walking further – you see the buildings of the 18th century – the historic downtown full of Baroque palaces. Favorite places of the locals to hang out – all here.
Next river on your way – Griboedov Channel. On both sides, you can see gorgeous Cathedrals (The Saviour on Blood and the Kazan Cathedral). On the corner, there is a building with the globe on the roof – Zinger’s house – the most famous bookshop in the city. It’s situated in the building that belonged to the Zinger company before the revolution. On the 3rd floor, there is a coffee place where you can read the books from the shop sipping coffee. The prices may be beyond average because they include the view of the historical center of the city.
Talking about beverages…
If you are a sweet tooth though, I advise you turning left here and moving along the channel to the place called Mickey & Monkeys. Have you ever tried a milkshake? Yeah? How about a milkSHAKE? One stomach can hardly conquer this, better try with an ally.
But if you are eager to really feel like a local – eat some Borsh and Grechka – go to further along the Nevskiy prospect. There is a restaurant called “Stolovaya №1” close to the next river. Cash only, self-service, the interiors remind of Soviet times – just what the doctor ordered for a Russian soul.
The sophisticated places
Moving further you’ll see the Nevskiy end with the Palace Square – the biggest square in the city. A place that I ardently love and can’t miss here is the Hermitage museum. A little of everything you can find in here – starting with the royal gala rooms and finishing with the modern building (across the square), containing the Impressionists’ collection! A combined ticket is worth about 10 euros, on the plus side – you don’t need to stand in an endless line! Buy a ticket in the machine and go directly to the entrance or buy it online, and proceed to a special separate one! I advise the first option, though. It’s called “the main entrance” for a reason – you get to see everything in the order it was created.
“Make a wish” spots
Saint-Petersburg, named after Saint Peter, was founded by a guy also named Peter (the Emperor, I mean). So this man is all over the place. Jokes aside – he made a lot for the city and the country. He got this territory in the war against Sweden, founded the city here to protect strategically important territory and started building ships for the first Russian fleet. Transferred the capital here, taught people to shave beards, smoke cigars, drink coffee and eat potatoes. No wonder Russian people love him a lot. So there are plenty of “make a wish” places, connected to him. My favorite is the one on the Embankment, across from the Hermitage. It’s called “Tsar – the carpenter”, pointing out the stories of how Peter worked alongside his men. As he is a working man here – you can ask about career progress or new projects. or anything related.
Peter and Paul’s Fortress
Here you can find another Peter. They say Peter the Great was of a great height (2.05 m), but of a specific constitution. Present his proportions in a vanguardist light – that’s what you get. Touching his fingers brings you luck, by the way.
While you are here you can also get to the beach through the Neva Gate. A very nice view opens from here – the central bridges, the Hermitage and the Rostral columns (ancient lighthouses of the city). In the summer there is a sand sculptures festival on this beach, in the winter – ice sculptures festival.
Every day at 12 there is a cannon shot from this Fortress – a tradition of 18th century.
Depending on your tastes you can go to the street of clubs (Dumskaya St.), the street of bars (Rubinshteina St.) or to one of the lofts with all types of places. In the center, close to the river Fontanka, there is a young “Golitsyn loft”, the heart of hipsters’ partying life. Check out “Utka bar” for a nice company and “Popravka” for dancing. The bar with a deer on the label has great homemade shots!
The city of weirdos
You may not believe this, but the locals do love going to theatres. Saint-Petersburg at the “cultural capital” has classical ballets and contemporary performances to offer. You can find all the information on the official sites of the greatest theatres in the cities: Maryinskiy, Alexandrinsky, Mihaylovsky.
But the best show is the one you don’t pay for. Our city is often called the “city of weirdos”. Why? Because the philosophy here is the following: “if you feel the urge of letting something out – do it! Anytime, anywhere you want!”. So there are always musicians, artists, singers, mimes and god-knows-who walking the streets. Join any party you like!