Being on business in St Petersburg can be both a dream and a challenge; while you’re visiting one of Russia’s most beautiful and historic cities, free time to explore is often limited. If you haven’t got five hours to spend browsing artefacts at the Hermitage State Museum or wandering the imperial grounds of Tsarskoe Selo, there’s still plenty to keep you entertained for an hour or two. From strolling down Nevsky Prospect, to perusing treasures at the Fabergé Museum and gazing at magnificent architecture in Palace Square, here’s how to spend your downtime.
Take a walk down Nevsky Prospect
Take a break from meetings with a refreshing walk down Nevsky Prospect, St Petersburg’s most famous avenue. The street cuts straight through the historic centre of the city and is lined with beautiful buildings such as Mikhailovsky Palace which houses a Russian Museum, as well as restaurants and cafés where one can order a quick pick-me-up before heading back to the boardroom.
Marvel at Palace Square
If you have a few minutes to spare, Palace Square at the end of Nevsky Prospect is well worth a visit. It’s home to some of the city’s most striking sights, including the lavish Baroque-style Winter Palace (now the Hermitage State Museum) and the towering Alexander Column, dedicated to late Emperor Alexander I.
Visit Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood
A trip to St Petersburg isn’t complete without a quick visit to one of the city’s most photographed buildings, Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood. The Russian-style church is famed for its distinctive architecture and colourful domes, and is dedicated to Emperor Alexander II, who was assassinated in 1881 on this very spot.
Examine jewels at the Fabergé Museum
If jewels peak your interest, stop by the Fabergé Museum to explore the dazzling works of Russian jeweller Carl Fabergé, a Russian master famed for creating the illustrious Imperial Easter Eggs (nine of which can be found in this museum).
Sample Russian cuisine
Use your lunch break wisely while on business in St Petersburg, and treat yourself to a Russian-style feast. Palkin on Nevsky Prospect is one of the city’s oldest and finest Russian restaurants and serves up a decadent menu of traditional dishes in appropriately opulent settings. Elsewhere, Sadovata Street restaurant, Tsar gives a modern twist to the cuisine, washed down with an impressive array of accompanying wines and, of course, vodka.
Browse Russian contemporary art
If you’re an art enthusiast, take time to visit Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art on Vasilyevsky Island. Showcasing the modern side of St Petersburg, the museum presents an innovative permanent collection of over 2,000 Russian artworks – an inspiring alternative to looking at screens and presentations.
Take a boat trip
One of the best ways to see many of the city’s key sights in a short period of time is by boat. If the weather permits, a number of tour companies offer educational and picturesque boat trips down St Petersburg’s beautiful canals. After all, the city isn’t called the ‘Venice of the North’ for nothing.
Shop for souvenirs
With a burgeoning arts and crafts scene, there’s no lack of unique souvenirs to pick up across the city. Russian dolls (or matryoshka dolls, as they’re known in Russia) make great gifts for loved ones back home, and can be found at myriad stores and markets throughout St Petersburg.
Find a happy hour
If you find yourself with an hour to kill before dinner, explore St Petersburg’s thriving bar scene. If you’re heading back to Corinthia St Petersburg for a quick outfit change, take a break in the Lobby Bar and recuperate with an exquisitely crafted cocktail.
Murder, intrigue, crime and punishment… St Petersburg has it all. Those fascinated by the more ghoulish side of history will love these significant spots from fiction, and real life.