St Petersburg can be described as the Venice of Russia due to its many canals and the huge Neva River running through the middle of it. You’d be silly to visit this city and not make the most of the many boat tours on offer as this is a great way to be introduced to the city whilst at the same time sitting back and relaxing, listening to the soothing voice of your tour guide. Boat tours are all very well for Russians but for us Brits it is a slightly trickier affair as there are a lot less tours offered in English. In fact, at the time when I went on a boat trip there was only one company in the city that offered it in English (www.anglotourismo.com). The company offers a 1 hour trip for 500 roubles (£10) which is the same price as the Russian tours being offered. The only downfall to this trip is that it covers a very obvious route showing you Mikhailovsky Castle, Summer Gardens, St Isaac’s Cathedral, the Winter Palace etc etc but if you go on a sunny day and it is one of the first things you do here in St P then it is definitely worth it.
Night time tours are offered (I’m not sure if they are offered in English) and this is a great opportunity to see the Razvod Mostov – the opening of the bridges – and watch the huge ships transporting logs, machinery etc making their way through the city. If you are watching the bridges from the shore then make sure you are on the correct side of the river to where your hotel is as otherwise you’ll be stranded on the other side for quite some time (usually until around 05:30 when the bridges go back down)!
Recommended cafe: Jazz Cafe (Canal Griboyedova) – This place has nightly live music and is a good place to come if you are more in the mood for chilled out drinks with some smooth jazz in the background.
To continue this watery theme, I also visited the Aurora ship. This ship played a very important role in Russia’s history and one of the main things it is famous for is for firing the canon marking the signal for the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917. I decided to go along as I had read that it was free. Strangely enough however, when I got there we were being charged 100 roubles to get on board. I had queued up for a while by this point so thought there was no going back, I was fully committed. Well, I personally wish I hadn’t paid the 100 roubles as it was one of the most boring things I did in St Petersburg. Walking along the deck was interesting purely because of the role the ship played in the past but the actual museum part was full of paintings and photos of ships and sailors with no information written in English and so I managed a record time of 2 minutes for this museum and swiftly went back on to dry land. My advice – look from the shore as the outside of the ship is far more impressive than the inside.
Recommended Cafe: Trotsky Most (Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt 9) – This cafe is the original branch of the vegetarian cafe chain. Just because it is a chain cafe does not mean that it is expensive however as it offers mains at around 100 – 150 roubles. When I was there I tried the apparently famous vegetable lasagne and was very pleasantly surprised when it tasted like vegetable lasagne rather than a Russian variation of the dish and I also ordered a strawberry and banana smoothie for the bargain price of 80 roubles! (£1.60) St Petersburg isn’t known for being a bargain destination and consequently the price of food and drink, especially coffee and fresh fruit juice, reflects this. The reason I was so amazed by the price of a smoothie at Trotsky Most is because elsewhere you’d be looking at around 180 – 250 roubles for the same drink.