At the very end of 2011, we decided to meet the coming 2012 in a different and quite unusual atmosphere. Guess, how and where would you get more impressions and emotions as usual? And – it should not be too far away from your home.
As we lived in Latvia that time, almost the only option we figured out was visiting Saint Petersburg in Russia. Saint Petersburg, some call it also the Venice of the North, was chosen as our destination because it is often described as the most Western city of Russia. Perhaps, it is most western biut only after you get there.Historic centre and related groups of monuments of Saint Petersburg are listed as UNESCO World Heritage site.
There are plenty of other incredibly beautiful sites in this city. After short consideration, we decided to go by car; for four of us it was cheaper than using public transport, would it be going by train or flying. In addition to usual activities when planning our trips, a number of additional tasks were completed before starting the journey – getting visas, necessary insurance policies (for car and travellers), authorisation for driving leased car outside EU and so on.
Hotels and living
There are plenty of convenient hotels in Saint Petersburg. When booking them in advance, you can get very good price for centrally located hotel comparing to overall price level in the city centre; the only issue might be parking facilities what may really be important if you visit city by your own car. Although, you will recognise that on smaller streets drivers often ignore signs prohibiting parking.
If you live in the city centre, be prepared to pay high price for meal and drinks; prices in suburbs and supermarkets are significantly lower. For example, half litre of beer in centrally located restaurant would costs no less than 7 euro. Good choice might be to have buffet breakfast included in the hotel price – that would save your time and also money. One I can say – food in Saint Petersburg is very tasty and healthy.
The best way to book hotel is using of some international booking services like booking.com as we did. As an opposite example, on the way back (near Pskov, town Izborsk), we booked apartment locally. Booking was made directly contacting hotel receptionist.
After arrival, we were told by the hotel staff that unfortunately our booked rooms are sold to another visitors. Instead offering another room, they offered accommodation in nearby located guest house Izborsky. However, the price for room in guesthouse was three times higher than for the booked room. It was no surprise when we found out that there is one owner of both hotel and guesthouse; one of the ways of making profitable business – book cheap, pay a lot if you do not have other options for your stay.
Next morning, we started city sightseeing from cruiser Aurora and visited such sites as Peter and Paul Fortress, Spit of Vasilievsky Island, Palace Square, Nevsky Prospekt, Dom Knigi (House of Books) and Kazan Cathedral. All these sites are beautiful and worth visiting. We concluded the day by visiting Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt. By metro (underground), we came back to our hotel to prepare for the New Year’s Eve celebration.
Just a few words about our hotel. We booked Saint Petersburg Hotel located in front of cruiser Aurora. Our choice was based on two criteria – location and value for money. Hotel itself is a bit old fashioned, built during Soviet times, however large rooms with beautiful view to Neva river and excellent breakfast buffet we appreciated and will remember for a long time.
A couple of hours before midnight, we went to Palace Square. Public waiting for beginning of 2012 had a possibility to visit a number of open-air stages, watch and listen live performances and celebrate all together. Shortly before 12 AM, speech of Russian president was translated on big outdoor screens. After 2011 countdown, public on Palace Square was singing Russian national anthem and watching fireworks made on Vasilievsky Island from embankment and bridges.
Afterwards, full of emotions, we went back to the hotel. All embankment near Winter Palace and Palace Bridge was closed for transport, no public transport was available even outside this area. So, we had to walk all four kilometres to reach our hotel before getting to bed. There is also another post about other experiences during this trip to Saint Petersburg.
In the afternoon day after New Year’s celebration, we arrived at Nevsky Breeze Hotel. It was chosen to spend one night in the very centre of St. Petersburg. From Nevsky Breeze Hotel there is just a few minutes walk to such sites as Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and Bronze Horseman. Just around the corner, you can find Winter Palace and Nevsky Prospekt. Hotel is small, quiet and comfortable, staff is very polite, however hotel’s excellent location I’d mention as the main advantage. Because of location, it was possible to enjoy fully Saint Petersburg’s nightlife not thinking about how to get back to the hotel.
Surrounding area of Saint Petersburg
We also visited some suburban areas of Saint Petersburg to see life of people outside the city centre. There is a number of suburbs with great historic sites located around Saint Petersburg. Town Pushkin and palace located there is mentioned in another blog about Saint Petersburg. Another great site, located on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland is Peterhof known also as Petrodvorets. Petrodvorets definitely is one of St. Petersburg’s most famous and popular visitor attractions; series of palaces and gardens are situated there. The palace-ensemble along with the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Best time to enjoy beauty of Petrodvorets is in summer.
Before leaving Saint Petersburg, we visited Russian entertainment village Shuvalovka located near Peterhof. Shuvalovka is an artificial ensemble of old Russian houses with main goal to entertain young and adult visitors, however it is possible to get there also insight of how people were living in Russia centuries ago and, in some remote places, even nowadays.