Gone are the days when a sightseeing tour meant a map, some good walking shoes and a fast-talking guide waving an umbrella. Nowadays, it’s all about hot air ballooning, sledding and even Segway rental. And when it comes to St Petersburg sightseeing, the tours can be just as unique and exciting as the city itself. Take to the sky for a light plane flight, hover over the city in a helicopter or keep your feet firmly on the ground and hop aboard a retro tram. Whatever your travel style, there’s the perfect alternative tour in St Petersburg.
Get a bird’s-eye view of St Petersburg by floating up above the landmarks in a hot air balloon. A once in a lifetime experience for many people, hot air ballooning offers both panoramic vistas and a memorable way to tour the city. Guests climb into a basket, which is attached to a large balloon known as an envelope. The air trapped in the balloon is then heated up, usually by an open flame, which causes the whole contraption to rise into air for an unforgettable sail through the sky. Neva Aero is one of the leading hot air balloon companies in the city and offers captivating flights over the stunning Pushkin district, home to former imperial residences such as Alexander Palace and Catherine Palace.
An exhilarating way to see a new destination, helicopter tours are popular among visitors looking for truly spectacular St Petersburg sightseeing; from the sky, it’s easy to see why the imperial city inherited the nickname ‘the Venice of the North’. A number of companies offer helicopter rides over the city and its islands. MaxiBaltTours takes visitors on 15-minute flights directly over the city’s top architectural sites, setting off from the lawn next to Peter and Paul Fortress and flying past the Winter Palace, St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood, among other key landmarks.
Another impressive way to see the city, light plane flights make for memorable St Petersburg sightseeing tours. HeliSky offers a number of routes, ranging from 15-minute loops over the city centre to hour-long flights taking in the whole of St Petersburg and nearby Kotlin Island. The company also offers evening flights for those who wish to witness the striking image of the city illuminated by millions of lights.
Back down on the ground, one of the most exciting sightseeing tours takes visitors around the city by Segway. Hop on one of the self-balancing vehicles and nip between sights with ease and speed. Segway SPb offers Segway rental for independent trips and guided tours following several routes depending on what guests want to see and how much time they have to spare.
If you’d rather sit back and relax on your St Petersburg sightseeing tour, hop aboard a retro tram. Running on a network of tracks throughout the city, the historic tramcars transport guests back in time. If you have an hour to spare, jump on at Vasilievsky Island and travel past sights such as Peter and Paul Fortress and the State Hermitage Museum, before disembarking near the colourful domed Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood.
If you’re visiting St Petersburg during winter, or need an excuse to return following a summer trip, another exciting sightseeing tour option awaits. Taking place when the snow falls in the grounds of Peterhof, malamute sleds are pulled by large dogs and wind their way around the grounds of the imperial Pushkin estate, taking in the magnificent gardens and palaces that were once home to Russia’s Tsars.