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Saint Petersburg Introduction

Once the imperial capital, Russia's cosmopolitan second city has a reputation for elegance and grandeur. Its central districts are beautifully preserved, and travellers love its Italianate mansions, lavish palaces and imposing places of worship. Saint Petersburg's canals and location on the Neva river draw comparisons with Venice. Like its Italian counterpart, it's a national hub for museums and art, with more than 200 venues covering everything from musical instruments and ancient history to abstract art.

Hotels in Saint Petersburg

Hotels in Saint Petersburg cover the full gamut of accommodations, from regal suites in five-star venues all the way down to discount hotels. Luxury hotels in Saint Petersburg are frequently housed in extravagant imperial-era palaces, and offer refinements like full-service spas, fine-dining restaurants, and opulent antique furnishings. Cheap Saint Petersburg hotels tend to focus on freebies like Wi-Fi and airport shuttles, and can still be well located. Since many of them are in older buildings, you might find hotels at the lower end of the budget spectrum don't have elevators.

Where to stay in Saint Petersburg

With its splendid grand boulevard, the chic district of Nevsky Prospekt has a reputation as Saint Petersburg's glitziest spot. Many of the city's fanciest hotels are set in the area, and it's ideal for fine dining and high-end shopping, while also being close to big sights like the State Hermitage Museum and Summer Garden. To the north east, Vasilievsky Island is a distinct island community with a lively nightlife and a large number of religious sites and museums. Neighbouring Petrogradskaya storona might be a good bet for families, with botanic gardens, popular Saint Petersburg Zoo and iconic Peter and Paul Fortress.

Things to see in Saint Petersburg

Set across 6 historic buildings including the former imperial Winter Palace, the State Hermitage Museum is a vast collection of arts and antiquities. It's the largest museum in the world, with over three million items in its collection, from prehistoric artifacts to Picasso paintings. Across the Neva river on Petrogradsky island, Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of Saint Petersburg, and the gold spire of its cathedral is visible for miles around. The lack of skyscrapers in central Saint Petersburg means the palaces and religious buildings dominate the views, and alongside Peter and Paul's spire, the other big spot on the skyline is the great gold dome of St. Isaac's Cathedral. While you're there, the iconic Bronze Horseman statue, just next door, is one of the city's most distinctive monuments. For spectacular city views, many people head to the Strelka, a grassy promontory on Vasilievsky island.

How to get to Saint Petersburg

Most travellers will get into Saint Petersburg through Pulkovo Airport, the main international airport in the area. From the airport, you can get into central Saint Petersburg via bus and metro, or by taxi. A lot of people also visit Saint Petersburg on cruise ships travelling from ports like Helsinki and Tallinn, and the main ferry terminal is on the western end of Vasilievsky Island. Once in the city, travel in Saint Petersburg is usually accomplished through the underground metro system. Cheap and efficient, many first-time visitors to the city are amazed by the splendour of the stations.