St. Petersburg is an amazing city that can be explored for several years. Even if you have already visited the cultural capital of Russia, we are sure that there are some places that you haven’t even heard of. In this article, we’re going to tell you about unusual things to do in St. Petersburg, that can help make your vacation more interesting.
#1 Visit Former Royal Residences
St. Petersburg had been the capital of the Russian Empire for a long time. This city became the home for the royal family, who built many wonderful palaces here. You need several months to explore all of them.
The Winter Palace, the Great Peterhof Palace, and the Catherine Palace are the most famous former royal residences. All of them are museums and available for visiting. The Winter Palace is part of the Hermitage Museum. It is located in the historic part of the city. The Peterhof Palace and Catherine Palace are in the suburbs. But it is not so difficult to get them ‒ just 40 minutes by car.
You can visit the former royal residences on your own, but it is better to join private guided tours. In this case, you will get skip the line tickets, a friendly guide as well as a private car. During the tour, you will learn how monarchs lived and what happened to these palaces during the revolution and the Second World War.
#2 Join Rooftop Tour
In the XIX century, a decree prohibiting the construction of buildings higher than the Winter Palace was issued in St. Petersburg. By the beginning of the 20th century, the entire historical center was built up, and all the constructions were at approximately the same level, that called the ‘skyline’.
Thanks to this architectural phenomenon, St. Petersburg was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can see it for yourself. Just join a rooftop tour. In the company of a guide, you will climb the roof of a residential building, where the city is visible at a glance. Only the spires and domes of Orthodox churches break the ‘skyline’.
#3 Come Aboard The Warship
St. Petersburg is the birthplace of the Russian Navy. The founder of the city, Tsar Peter the Great, personally commanded the construction of ships. Today, there are several ship-museums in the city, and the cruiser Aurora is the most famous of them.
This ship was launched in 1900. She participated in several battles, became a symbol of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and survived the siege of Leningrad. Today Aurora is a museum. You can board and explore the cabins and technical rooms of the cruiser.
#4 Revenue Houses
Most of the buildings in the historical center of St. Petersburg were built as revenue houses. These apartment buildings were very popular in the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries in Europe. The best architects were engaged in the construction of such houses. They decorated buildings with stucco, forged elements, and mosaics. The front stairs of the houses resembled palaces. Statues were erected; walls were decorated with majolica inside the buildings.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, apartment buildings turned into communal apartments. Ten families could live in one apartment ‒ one for each room. It’s hard to believe but 40% of historical buildings in St. Petersburg have communal apartments nowadays.
You can visit the courtyards and front doors of apartment buildings yourself, but we recommend you to find a local guide. Private tours of hidden gems of St. Petersburg can show you the other, not the tourist, side of the city. You will see how luxury apartments and a communal apartment with two dozen residents fit on one floor.
#5 St. Petersburg Metro
St. Petersburg subway is not only the deepest, but also the most beautiful in Europe. The first stations built in the mid-20th century look like palaces. They are decorated with glass, marble, metal, mosaic. Each station has a unique design.
Don’t explore all the stations. Some of them were built according to standard designs and don’t differ from each other. We recommend that you study the following:
● Avtovo is decorated with columns resembling crystal. In 2014, according to the English publisher “Guardian”, this station was included in the list of 12 most beautiful stations in the world.
● The design of the Kirovsky Zavod station is dedicated to the development of the Soviet industry. You can see a large number of bas-reliefs and forged parts here.
● Narvskaya is decorated with 48 high relieves depicting people of various professions.
● Pushkinskaya is dedicated to the poet Alexander Pushkin, whose poems every Russian knows. This station is more like a branch of the museum, where you can find, for example, a monument to the poet.
● Admiralteyskaya is a modern station that opened in 2011. Here you will see several huge mosaic panels that were created by hand.