St Petersburg – The City with the White Nights
St Petersburg – Russia’s second largest city has had its name changed four times. From Saint Petersburg to Petrograd to Leningrad and full circle to Saint Petersburg. In a way, these names have mirrored the outlook of the city. Present day Saint Petersburg is the cultural capital of Russia. The city – with its chill, laidback attitude – is getting increased attention by everyone around the globe and is turning into a bigger cultural hotbed.
1. History of St Petersburg
Originally established by the Swedish colonists as a fortress town at the mouth of the Neva river in 1611, St Petersburg- then called Nyenskans- was a tiny seaport. Peter the Great arrived on the scene in 1703, during the Great Northern War and took it for himself to use as a seaport.
The first brick and bone building of city was set down on 27th May, 1703. The city was planned out and the capital moved here from Moscow in 1712. It remained the capital of the Russian empire for the next two centuries until the communist revolution. The city was the focal point of the February Revolution which radiated to neighbouring areas and ultimately led the the end of monarchy in Russia and gave rise to the Soviet Union.
2. Night Life of St Petersburg
St Petersburg was, arguably, the first Russian city to adopt a club culture. Starting from underground rock clubs, the nightlife has now moved onto a scene of great rave bars, the legendary jazz bars and dance clubs which give the capital a run for its money.
You can start your night from Dumskaya. Just off Nevsky Prospekt, Dumskaya and Gostiny Dvor have a couple of great bars. Locals, expats and students usually frequents the bars here.
If you’re a rocker, the legendary rock club – Fish Fabrique- is not one to miss. Experimentalists can head to GEZ-21, an experimental sound gallery.
St Petersburg is a cultural hotbed, with ballets, operas and jazz. Jazz clubs litter the city, with intimate clubs to the enormous Jazz Philharmonic Hall.
Liteiny and Ligovsky avenues, Rubinstein, Kazanskaya, Zhukovsky and Belinsky streets also have a thriving nightlife scene other than the notorious Dumskaya.
3. Safety in St Petersburg
St Petersburg is a very safe city. Apart from the usual petty theft, tourism is very safe. The usual safety precautions that you would take while roaming your home city are warranted here as well. Avoid groups of beggars, gypsies and the northern part of the city. Keep a check on your valuables and keep your passport safely with you at all time.
The pedestrians, here, do not have the Right of Way, so be careful about that. Do not drink the tap water nor any unlabeled vodka.
Women should not travel on dark streets and alleys. If someone follows you, do not talk back and head to someplace with a lot of people. St Petersburg does not treat women badly, but the usual precautions can go a long way to keep one safe.
4. Living Expenses in St Petersburg
Being the second most important city in Russia, St Petersburg ranks fairly high on the “how expensive is this place” liSt The city was ranked the 28th most expensive city to live in, by Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
The cost of an economic room, set in a residential area with old houses, can range from 15,000pуб (USD 250) to 22,000pуб (USD 330). A modern apartment, with better amenities and locations near the city centre can cost as high as 40,000 pуб (USD 600).
A square feet of apartment space costs about 15,000pуб (USD 250) in the city centre, as opposed to 9,000pуб (USD 140) outside the city centre.
Budget hotels have tariffs around USD 50 per night. Whereas, luxury hotels can cost as much as a whopping USD 400.
5. Cuisines of St Petersburg
The Russian cuisine is a collection of the different traditions of the people. Considering the gigantic physical expanse of the country, the cuisine is a wonderful amalgamation of a number of influences and traditions.
Around the 17th century, food was being imported for the aristocracy. Consequently, creativity blossomed, food and food techniques were refined into a culinary wonder.
Soup, porridge, meat, fish, dessert and beverages constitute the basic layout of the cuisine.
St Petersburg has something for everyone. If your cash is stretched, budget options are in gallore. You will also find the incredibly posh restaurants here. A very traditional meal in a traditional setting is what Na Zdorovye offers. Decorated like an old farmhouse, the food is both inexpensive and delicious. The highly authentic food is homemade, mostly. Try out the famous Borscht. This beetroot soup taste, simply put, like heaven. Шоколадница is the place if you’re feeling adventurous. Pick anything up from the blini (these are basically Russian pancakes) menu and hop on. Elki Palki (Ёлки-Палки) is also famous for it’s authentic food and vibe. Radio Ireland remains jam packed during lunch time. Their pelmeny is unparalleled. Outside the Winter Palace, you will find food trucks selling perogi. Grab that.
In the recent years, the city’s culinary scene has grown to reflect the laidback attitude of the city which has put St Petersburg as one of the best culinary hotspots in Russia.
6. Statistics of St Petersburg
St Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia. It is often described as the “most westernized city” of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. With over 5 million inhabitants, the city stretches over 1,400 sq. km with a population density of almost 4,000 residents per sq.km.
The 2010 census stated that the largest ethnicity was Russian, followed by Ukrainian, Belarusian, Tatar, Armenian and Uzbek.
The population of the city has been fluctuating since the beginning of the 20th century. At present, the death rate in the city is higher than the birth rate.
7. Public Transport in St Petersburg
St Petersburg is a major transportation hub with extensive networks of roadways, waterways and railways. The city was home to the first Russian railway in 1837. Petersburg is connected to the rest of the world via the Pulkovo Airport.
The Metro in St Petersburg is to be envied. Grand, elegant and elaborately decorated, the metro is one of the deepest in the world, so that makes it worth a visit. The routes connect the city properly.
Buses, trolleys, trams and marshrutka comprise the over-ground the roadways network. The city is connected to other cities in Russia, as well as Helsinki, Berlin and former USSR republics by train.
Tourists can avail the facility of the St Petersburg Card. The card provides the usual free public transport. It also comes with added features and a special guidebook for tourists to traverse the city. The validity ranges from 2 to 7 days.
Pollution in St Petersburg: Being the second largest city in the country, St Petersburg has poor air quality and fails to maintain fragile ecosystems. Air pollution in the city is rated the second worst in the country, with Moscow topping the liSt Moscow emits a total of a million tons of pollutants per year.
8. Weather of St Petersburg
With short, warm summers and moderately cold, wet winters, St Petersburg has a humid continental climate. The Baltic Sea cyclones also have a moderating influence on the city’s climate. Due to the Gulf of Finland, Petersburg’s winters are warmer than Moscow’s.
On an average there are 75 snowy days. The Neva river remains frozen between November through April. The annual precipitation averages at 660 mm per year.
Summer: June till September. Average Low: 13°C. Average High: 22°C
Autumn: October to November. Average Low: 2°C. Average High: 5°C
Winter: November till March. Average Low: -7°C. Average High: -3°C
Spring: April to June. Average Low: 5°C. Average High: 10°C
9. Culture of St Petersburg
St Petersburg has been the Russian cultural capital ever since Peter the Great arrived on the scene. Considering all the wealth of the nobility, it is not surprising that Petersburg is a major centre for visual arts. Evidenced by the plethora of museums in the city, like the Hermitage, in all its unmissable enormity, ranges from the grand treasuries of Russia to the exciting contemporary pieces on display.
The Mariinsky Theater is globally famous and is just one among the city’s more than fifty theaters. The famous Mariinsky Ballet Company stages regular performances along with the opera. St Petersburg has been the first to get exposed to and follow the newest trends in music. This city was home to the first jazz club in the entirety of the Soviet Union. Famous bands from the city include Tequillajazz and Aquarium. Petersburg has also been home to many other artists.
The Palace Square has hosted musicians of the likes of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and the Scorpions.
The White Nights Festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and show. The event’s highlight is the Scarlet Sails celebration which marks the end of the festival.
In Russian literature, St Petersburg has been repeatedly been used to depict the changing face of Russia.
10. Places to Visit in St Petersburg
Things to do in St Petersburg: Visit the famous Church of the Savior on Blood; Check out the first stone buildings of the city – Peter and Paul Fortress; Visit the Winter Palace, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Peterhof Palace, Kazan Cathedral, Smolny Convent and Moika Palace; Attend the ballet or the opera at the Mariinsky Theatre; Listen to the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic; Take a serene walk along the Griboyedov Canal; Take notes of the architecture at the Alexander Column, Nevsky Prospekt, Pavlovsk Palace and Stroganov Palace; Pay homage to the Great Tsar at the statue of the Bronze Horseman; Experience the city’s graffiti; Have the famous Russian vodka.
Things to do for Kids in St Petersburg: The Saint Petersburg Zoo, which opened in 1865, is a treat for young kids; The Oceanarium, Planetarium and the Dolphinarium are similar great places; St Petersburg also has an entire Doll Museum; The 90 year old icebreaker – Krasin- has been turned into a floating museum your kids are bound to love; Breaking from the zoos and museum, there is also the Saint Petersburg State Circus which will keep your young ones enthralled.
Museums and Galleries: Saint Petersburg’s culture scene is something to be envied. This city has some of the finest museums in the world. The list includes the Hermitage, Kunstkamera, Smolny Institute Museum, the Erarta, Menshikov Palace, Faberge Museum and the Russian Museum.
Places Nearby: The imperial estates built by generations of Tsars make for a great day trip from St Petersburg. Pushkin, Peterhof, Pavlovsk, Gatchina and Lomonosov have sprawling grounds and spectacularly built palaces. Novgorod is a must visit. This UNESCO Heritage Site houses some of the oldest Russian monuments.
Offbeat Places: Vyborg is a 13th century town passed over to the Russians by the Finnish who got it from the Swedish. Kronshtadt is an island fortress used by the Vikings, which now makes for a fascinating day trip. Shlisselburg is another island fortress at Lake Laoga. It dates back to the 14th century and was one of the most infamous prisons in imperial times. Despite the scary past, the ruins are well worth exploring.
Author’s Conclusion: This ex-capital gives Moscow a run for its money. St Petersburg carries with itself an immensely rich culture, an incredible nightlife and some more of that awesome culture. A trip to Russia without visiting this wonderful city is incomplete.
|Area||1,439 sq. km|
|Population||5,191,690 as of 2015|
|Currency||Rubles (RUB) (1 USD = 67.85 RUB as of 20th March, 2016)|
|Time Zone||Moscow Time (UTC +3)|
|Driving||Right Hand Traffic, Left Hand Drive vehicles|
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