Award-winning vlogger and blogger Alex Hunter is the host of Attaché, a travel channel where useful information collides with off-the-beaten-track tips for the frequent traveller. Using Corinthia as their base, the Attaché team set of on a mission to explore the Venice of the North. Watch the full episode here and get Alex’s take below…
As seasoned travellers, what surprised you most about St Petersburg?
During my research for our episode, I was horrified to learn how much the city had suffered in the 20th century. I had prepared myself to see a city that bore the scars of a painful history, but I was very wrong. What I found was a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a perfect balance of European influence and Russian heritage. Modern architecture sits comfortably next to monuments of a bygone era. It shows, quite admirably, what a people can do in the face of unimaginable darkness – they can create a place as captivating as St Petersburg.
Would you go again?
Absolutely. Even with three days of exploring I feel like we only scratched the surface of the city. Since my return, I’ve told friends and family of our St Petersburg adventures and, almost without exception, I was bombarded with enthusiastic recollections of their trips to the city. So now I have a list of the places and experiences I’d want on my itinerary for when I inevitably return.
What was the best part of your trip?
Skipping across the Neva Bay in a Soviet-era hydrofoil to Peterhof, the Tsar’s summer palace. It was a chance to experience the extraordinary Soviet engineering prowess before stepping back even further in time and exploring the beautiful grounds of Peterhof, in all its ostentatious glory.
Which activity would you recommend over all others?
As banal as it sounds on the face of it, riding the metro. Never before have I experienced a form of transport as exquisite or as unique as the St Petersburg Metro. Each station is its own work of art and each train is a time machine, taking you through history, through day-to-day, through St Petersburg life, all while surrounded by the people who make the city hum.
Top tip for someone staying at Corinthia St Petersburg?
This is a wonderful hotel in a wonderful location, you really do have St Petersburg on your doorstep. A couple of blocks in every direction from the hotel you’ll find a different flavour, both literally and figuratively, of the city – soviet cafés, bohemian coffee shops, niche museums, trendy bars. All of that just a few steps away from the comforts of one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in.
Favourite cultural quirk: Less a quirk, more an unusual flavour experience – herring under fur. It’s a comfort food from generations past that consists of pickled herring topped with beetroot, carrot, potatoes, mayonnaise, hard boiled egg, and chopped onions. Tastes a lot better than it sounds! A quirky dish from a bygone era.
Best thing you ate: Pishki (beautiful deep-fried St Petersburg donuts)
Best thing you drank: Vodka purified with deer antlers at the Vodka Museum (but don’t tell my mother!)
Best practical tip for navigating St Petersburg: It’s an extremely walkable city so, once you’ve had your fill of the metro, walk, walk, walk. You’ll get to know the city and you’ll be rewarded with views of breathtaking facades, hidden gems, and the occasional soviet relic.