St Petersburg Russia Guide – What to Do, Where to Eat

St Petersburg Russia Guide – What to Do, Where to Eat

St Petersburg Russia Guide – First time travelling to St. Petersburg, Russia? Fret not! We’ve got you covered with some essential travel tips – where to go and what to eat!

With the recent e-visa initiative introduced by the Russian government, Russia’s cultural capital, St. Petersburg, is now more accessible for passport holders and citizens from 53 different countries.

It is time to clear your misconceptions and fear of Russia, especially that of Russian mafias (disproportionately represented in Hollywood and Western media), and see St. Petersburg for yourself – a beautiful city brimming with rich culture, heritage and history.

Image credit: Tatiana Zhukova

Stepping foot in St. Petersburg

If it’s your first time in St. Petersburg (or Russia), you may be slightly intimidated and overwhelmed by the foreign language spoken by locals – English may not be available everywhere. 

Although the language barrier may pose a real challenge, you can turn to apps that come with photo-to-text and voice-to-text translation functions. Moreover, it’s a great way to practice communicating using the (mostly) universal language, complete with gestures and body language!

Recommended app: Yandex.Translate

St. Petersburg is well-connected by public transport which includes the metro, bus, tram and taxi services. Public transport is efficient and affordable, with the metro being the most convenient one as overground transport can be slightly more confusing.

What’s more, you can simply tap your credit cards for public transport, just look out for the card reader with the relevant logos (though it may not be applicable for older buses or trams). 

Alternatively, you can purchase a Podorozhnik card from any metro station. This can be used for most public transport services. It would be helpful to keep small change on hand for bus or tram rides as well. 

Recommended apps: Yandex.Metro, Yandex.Taxi, 2GIS (for navigation)

To stay connected, there are a few telecommunications companies which offer prepaid SIM cards and very affordable data packages. You can purchase a SIM card from the airport or from the official Beeline, Tele2, MTS and MegaFon stores.

St. Petersburg Metro Avtovo Station | Image credit: Wikipedia

What to do St Petersburg Russia Guide

The State Hermitage Museum is the second largest art museum in the world, and is definitely not one to miss in St. Petersburg. The museum houses over three million artefacts, including collections of Egyptian antiquities, Classical antiquities and Italian Renaissance, among many others. The museum complex also includes the Winter Palace, former residence of Russian emperors. For a better understanding of the history and narratives behind the artworks, you can book an English-language guided tour online.

The State Hermitage Museum | Image credit: Lynn Greyling

The State Hermitage Museum | Image credit: Artem Bryzgalov

Also Read: Kizhi Pogost – Russian Historical Site Built Entirely of Wood

The Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines houses a collection of Soviet arcade machines featuring simple, old-school games such as shooting, driving and foosball. You even get Soviet-era kopek coins as tokens to play the games! After you’re done having fun, you can enjoy a drink of Kvass (fermented Slavic and Baltic beverage) or a fruit-flavoured sparkling water from a vending machine from the Soviet times. 

Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines | Image credit: Wikipedia

Soviet Kvas Vending Machine | Image credit: Wikipedia

Grand and magnificent cathedrals are ubiquitous in the largely Orthodox Russian community, a central element of the Russian identity. You can recognise them by the colourful domes atop the building structure. Upon entering the cathedrals, you will be able to bask in the intricate details and artwork enveloping the walls all the way to the ceilings. Do note that for females, it is advised to cover your head with a scarf or head-covering as a form of respect. 

Some of the cathedrals not to miss are the St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, and Kazan Cathedral

St. Isaac’s Cathedral | Image credit: Jorge Láscar

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood | Image credit: Dušan Smetana on Unsplash 

Kazan Cathedral | Image credit: MariaShvedova

What’s a trip to Russia without a Russian ballet experience! A must-watch is the timeless ballets of Swan Lake and the Nutcracker – both of which you can catch in the Mariinsky Theatre. The theatre’s grandeur and immaculate performances will leave you in awe. For the classical music connoisseurs, you can enjoy operas and orchestral performances there as well. 

Mariinsky Theatre | Image credit: Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose

A great time to visit St. Petersburg is during summertime, because that’s when you will get to experience the white nights. During the end of May to mid-July, there will be long summer days where the sun never really sets and the city comes to life.

One unique phenomena not to miss is the raising of the drawbridges for vessels to pass through. You can witness this by the river canals or from a boat cruise on the Neva river. The information about the different bridges and the bridge raising schedule can even be accessed from an app.

Recommended app: Мосты Петербурга (Bridges of St. Petersburg)

Drawbridge | Image credit: Hu Chen on Unsplash

If you have time to spare, you can consider visiting Catherine’s Palace and Peterhof Grand Palace, the majestic summer palaces of the Russian czars. Both are situated further out from the city centre, and as such, would require more time to travel. Nonetheless, these lavish and opulent palaces, surrounded by beautiful landscapes, complete with cascading waterfalls and ponds, are the perfect scenic idyll.

Catherine’s Palace | Image credit: Makalu

Peterhof Grand Palace | Image credit: Ninara

For history enthusiasts, free English-language walking tours are readily available. To learn more about the history of the Russian empire, the city, and the significance behind historical monuments, this would be a great (and wallet-friendly) option.

Also Read: 8 Incredible Reasons Why You Should Travel to Russia

Where to eat St Petersburg Russia Guide

While Russia is not widely known for having an exciting plethora of delicacies, be sure to get a taste of Russia with their traditional food such as Borscht (beetroot soup), pelmeni (dumplings), bliny (pancakes), pirozhki (buns with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings) and medovik (honey cake), to name a few. 

Here are a few suggestions for where you can eat in St. Petersburg: 


Image credit: Wikipedia

This popular local fixture serves up traditional Soviet powdered sugar-topped donuts with hot coffee or tea – perfect for your breakfast fix. It’s also located in the city centre, near other attractions such as the Hermitage, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and Kazan Cathedral.

Address: Bolshaya Konyushennaya St, 25, St Petersburg, Russia, 191186



Image credit: Bushe

If you’re looking for a quaint cafe for coffee or brunch, Bushe, a local chain cafe and bakery is a great option. They serve a wide range of food, from fresh bread to cakes and tarts, to sandwiches, salads and pastas. There are many outlets in St. Petersburg, so just search for the one nearest to you! 

Address: Malaya Morskaya Ulitsa, 7, St Petersburg, Russia, 191186



Image credits: ReCa Holding

‘Kvartirka’ translates to ‘apartment’ – and that’s exactly what it is – a cozy cafe evoking the vibes of a Soviet-era apartment. The cafe is decorated with dial phones, phonographs, rare watches, and other vintage antiques. Enjoy a hearty Russian meal of Borscht, Russian olivier salad, pelmeni, and end it off with some sweet Russian pancakes. The menu can be found here.

Address: Malaya Sadovaya St, 1, St Petersburg, Russia, 191023 | Nevsky Ave, 51, St Petersburg, Russia, 191025



Image credit: Birch

For a gastronomic yet affordable fine dining experience, Birch is the place to go. They offer a delightfully well-curated menu with unique dishes and excellent service. There is also the option of a degustation menu for you to sample from 10 courses. If you’re feeling a little fancy, drop by to give yourself a treat. Don’t forget to complement your meal with a glass (or more) of wine of your choice! Do note that it is advised to make a reservation prior to dropping by.

Address: Kirochnaya Ulitsa, 3, St Petersburg, Russia, 191028

St. Petersburg is the heart of Russian culture and heritage. After you’ve seen for yourself the artistic epicenter, I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s more to Russia than vodka and Matryoshkas (Russian dolls)!

About Author

Rachel Ngu
Rachel Ngu

Culture enthusiast, avid reader, and bubble tea aficionado.