Thank you everyone for all your input. We had a great 5 days/6 nights in your wonderful city St Petersburg. This is just a brief Trip Report and I hope it helps future travellers.
We arrived at 9.50pm at the airport after an exhausting 26 hours of travel and this didn’t include the travel from our home city Canberra to Sydney for our 6am departure to St Petersburg via Dubai. So arriving at our hotel, Alexander House Boutique Hotel was a sigh of relief. I had researched various options and eventually decided to stay just a bit out of the city centre and I must say it was the best decision we made. See separate review.
We were met by the hotel’s arranged transfer and whisked away. After a great night’s sleep, I had planned a day of walking through the city using Google maps. We started with a taxi to the Faberge Museum (this was my favourite) and then walked to the Russian Museum which is huge and quite busy. But we were on a mission to see the paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky. With lots of hand pointing by the helpful staff we found the paintings and also had a look at some of the icon artwork which was amazing. So not much time spent here and we would love to return to see the whole museum one day.
We then walked to the Church of the Spilled Blood – amazing mosaics, followed by lunch at the Singer Café. We then walked across the road for a quick look at the Kazan Cathedral. After that we followed a canal and found the Yusupov Palace which was a lovely example of a small palace in the city but nothing compared to the big icons of Catherine’s Palace and Peterhof. Isn’t the theatre amazing though.
Then we walked back to Alexander house. What a day!
For the next three days we engaged the services of a private guide Alisa (PM me if you want her details) and this was also a great decision. Alisa took us all around St Petersburg by local bus and metro to Peterhof, the Hermitage, Catherine’s Palace, St Isaac’s Cathedral, Peter & Pauls Fortress, a metro tour and to some amazing lunch places. See separate review.
Before we left I bought tickets for the Mariinsky Theatre and we saw Swan Lake. This was a major bucket list item for me. It was an easy walk from our hotel and we indulged in a glass of champagne before the show. What a night out.
For the last day I had planned another walking tour for us, we started with a taxi ride to St Isaac’s Cathedral early, using the ticket machines, got tickets for the walk up the Colonnade, we were the first up, great views, but it was windy and rather chilly. Then we popped into The Astoria for morning tea – a little bit of indulgence and again glad we did it.
Then we walked to the General Staff Museum (tickets were free, not sure why) and visited just one floor that contained the most impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. We spent 2.5 hours here! After a quick lunch in their café we caught a bus all the way down Nevsky Pospect (lots of great help from the conductor) to find the Artic & Antarctic Museum – my husband’s choice. Not sure if I would recommend this museum, but he did walk around for a bit while I rested my exhausted feet.
We then walked – again! – to the Faberge Museum (said it was my favourite) and had afternoon tea in their lovely café and then boarded an sunset canal cruise – wonderful but very cold outside. Then we walked to Gostiny Dvor to catch the #181 bus back to our hotel – it stops at St Nicholas Cathedral.
We found St Petersburg to be extremely clean, organised and easy to get around by public transport and walking. Yes, we did two days on our own and found it easy, but really appreciated the input from our guide Alisa who told us lots about the city’s history, Russian customs and introduced us to some lovely Russian and Georgian food. Alisa was also a great help moving us through the Hermitage (Putin was visiting while we were there) and showing us how to use public transport.
We absolutely loved St Petersburg it was the best destination we visited on our trip and we are still raving about it to our family and friends today.
Thanks again St Petersburg Trip Advisor forum members for all your input.