This is my second visit to Russia and St. Petersburg is even more beautiful than I remember it. Can’t say I can recommend the other city we visited: Irkutsk, the capital of Siberia. While intriguing to visit Siberia, it’s not a destination I will be returning to in the near future.
Highlights (and caveats) when visiting these two cities in Russia:
St. Petersburg: More gorgeous than ever!
- Filled with ornate golden palaces, churches, exquisite fountains, gardens and parks.
- Very European vibe – in design and architecture as well as lifestyle.
- Catherine Palace in nearby Pushkin
- Peterhof (recommend you take the hydrofoil on the Neva River to get there)
- Peter and Paul Fortress and cathedral
- Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
- The Hermitage (and please spring for a high-level expert tour that gets you inside before opening time – otherwise it is madness)
- Russia is a massive (11 time zones), complex country with a lot of tragedy and turmoil in its past that lives on in people’s memories into the present (from horrific wars to palace intrigue).
- Even when staying in ultra-exclusive luxury (Four Seasons, St. Petersburg), there is an undercurrent of uncertainty and risk that can put you on edge
- That said, it is a remarkable country that piques the interest of savvy travelers.
See below for additional highlights as well as pics and videos of the 5 palaces, churches and museums listed above.
Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg
Peterhof – Built by Peter The Great to rival Versailles
Peter and Paul Fortress and Cathedral
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
The Hermitage – fantastic museum!!
- Only downside: their exceptional Matisse collection has been moved to another building across the river that provides more space and is temperature controlled.
- On the plus side, amazing Anselm Kiefer show just opened at the museum (runs thru September 3rd).
- Also, loved hearing about the 130 cats that live in the basement and work hard to contain the mouse population!!
Lake Baikal district in Irkutsk – summer vacation spot for Siberians
Checking out the Baikal Seals in the Baikal Aquarium. Weirdest thing ever!
130th District in downtown Irkutsk
- Super fun area to stroll around and check out stores, restaurants and bars.
- Cool, young vibe.
- Not sure I can recommend any of the restaurants (there’s even one called The Bronx) but definitely the most happening area in the city.
Four Seasons Hotel, St. Petersburg – LOVE this hotel!!
Russian industrial/advisory signage – super cool aesthetic!!
AND FINALLY, BIG SHOUT OUT TO MY AWESOME FELLOW TRAVELERS!!
And finally, serving those Lake Baikal cherries to the my posse: