Saint Petersburg was always that out-of-touch city I could never get to. Whenever I dreamed of traveling there, thoughts of picture perfect ballet performances and imperial architecture was quickly lost to propaganda.
I’d think about how impossible it was to get a Russian visa. How getting into the country would surely be a headache. That when I got there I’d have to spend hours searching for a restaurant that served food I actually ate. There were so many ignorant misconceptions. And I realize now that I had never really known what Russia was until I traveled there.
Getting a Russian visa was a breeze, but getting into the country was unbelievably easy.
My mom and I spent a night in Helsinki before boarding the Allegro to Saint Petersburg and spending a very leisurely 3.5 hours onboard, peering out into the Finnish wilderness. Border patrol collected our passports as we entered Russia, and with a quick nod, our inspection was complete.
When we arrived in Saint Petersburg, that feeling of “wow I’m actually in Russia” is quite overwhelming. What was once a city in a book or on the TV screen, was finally real. I could breathe the air, walk its streets, eat its food, see its people.
Our itinerary was packed with The Dostoevsky Museum, The Winter Palace, The Church of the Spilled Blood, Walking over the Blue Bridge, going to a ballet performance, watching Cossacks, and catching a touristy hop-on-hop-off bus (purely to get acquainted with the city).
We covered all of this and more.
One thing you’ll find out when you arrive here is that Saint Petersburg is a very walkable city for travelers. If you stay close to the city center, you’ll have no problem walking or even catching the metro a few stops, to see the sights.
You’ll also be astounded at the prices of Uber rides. We paid $2.50 for a 20-minute drive around the city—a steal.
Saint Petersburg is a lively, dazzling metropolis.
The city is a romantic dream during the day, with its narrow canals and huge Baroque buildings, tourists flocking into cafes on the sidewalk and the palace-like metro stations echoing with commuters.
And then night arrives, and Saint Petersburg just gets even more charming. Ballet halls are packed, restaurants are open late, street performers dance and sing for the crowds—it’s magical.
We spent five days in Saint Petersburg and loved every moment of our little taste of Russia. It was sad when we had to leave! But another trip is in the works which I’m very excited for, so stay tuned.
Written by Rachel Ruiz; Photographs by Rachel Ruiz.
We flew to Helsinki via Norwegian Air and entered Russia on the Allegro Train. While staying in Saint Petersburg, we lodged at the four-star Petro Palace Hotel. To visit Russia, you’ll need an official invitation from the hotel to apply for your visa and Petro Palace made it a very easy process for us. Click below to book your Saint Petersburg stay with them.
Rachel Ruiz-Oakley is the Managing Editor of Slide Night.