Travel to Russia by car
One of the most challenging tasks before visiting Saint Petersburg was planning of our first day in Russia because you never know how much time you may have to spend to cross Russian border – it may take from two up to 6 or even more hours.
We planned our route in a way to arrive at Estonian – Russian border crossing checkpoint Luhamaa very early in the morning (around 5 AM). This was right decision because we spent four hours to fully cross border and started our trip in Russia around 11 AM Moscow time (EET+2 hours). There is very useful Estonian web page where you can check border queues info of all Estonian – Russian border checkpoints and even for a small charge (a few Euros) officially book border crossing time in advance.
Road conditions were very good and after a short period of time we arrived in Pskov. It took more than 30 minutes to drive through Pskov because of very heavy traffic what seemed to be usual there. Pskov is very ancient Russian town, more than 1100 years old. Having enough time, in Pskov you can visit Kremlin, ancient fortresses, monasteries, churches and other sites.
To be honest, we were pleasantly surprised about overall conditions of Russian main roads (federal highways). Between Pskov and St. Petersburg there were only a few kilometres of not well maintained asphalted road (near border of Pskov and Leningrad regions). Completely different story is about driving culture. Many Lada and crossover drivers often ignore each other what results in a lot of accidents and even makes traffic dangerous (you may get involved in car crash without your own fault very easily). When driving, always focus and watch around!
Pushkin town and Tsarskoye Selo
Our first stop for a couple of hours was in Pushkin, near Saint Petersburg. Pushkin was founded in 1710 as an imperial summer residence named Tsarskoye Selo. Our intention was visiting amazing Catherine Palace. This palace was built by Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Catherine I, wife of Peter the Great. Catherine Palace was built to rival Versailles in France and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe.
Interiors of the castle are particularly glamorous. Guided tour of Catherine Palace, generally available in Russian language, for two adults and two teenagers costs around 20 euros. Foreigners additionally may purchase audio guide available in English and some another languages. After guided tour around Catherine Palace interiors, we continued our journey to Saint Petersburg arriving there shortly before 7 PM
Sightseeing in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg was founded in May 1703 by Russian Tsar Peter the Great and was the Imperial capital of Russia until beginning of the 20th century. In 1918, after communist revolution of 1917, the central government bodies were moved to Moscow. St. Petersburg with almost 4.9 million inhabitants is the second largest city of Russian Federation.
Some days we were mostly walking and using metro but as we had our own car we used opportunity to visit some interesting sites of St. Petersburg by car. One of them was Church on Spilled Blood – definitely one of the most impressive buildings in Saint Petersburg. When seen first time, you would definitely get a memorable and breath-taking experience. This church provides a dramatic contrast to the Neo-Classical architecture of central Saint Petersburg. Church is built on a spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.
Visiting sites in the city centre can easily be done simply by walking around. It is really exciting to cross different bridges across Neva river and walking on banks of the river. Major touristic attractions, for example, cruiser Aurora, Peter and Paul Fortress, Spit of Vasilievsky Island, Palace Square, Nevsky Prospekt, and Kazan Cathedral located in the city centre are pretty much close each to other.