My husband and I did two bicycle tours of St Petersburg with Viktor and couldn't have been happier. We went out to Pushkin and saw everything EXCEPT Catherine's palace - fantastic gardens, bushland, history and then a city tour of St P the next day. It was great riding and exciting to ride the roads and footpaths of St P. Viktor also knows his stuff and can answer all your questions, great English.
I would like to recommend taking a private tour from Tatiana.
My wife and I visited in summer (2010) and were very pleased with Tatiana's services. With her we entered the museums quickly bypassing the public queue. She is knowledgeable - but doesn't show off by inundating you with endless historical facts and figures as some guides have a tendency to do. We feel she struck a good balance between historical information and interesting stories/anecdotes.
You also have the chance to visit places more off the beaten path. For example as a contrast to the grand palaces Tatiana took us to the former private apartment of a communist leader Kirov. We really enjoyed this visit. I doubt that large groups go there, and think it would be difficult to do independently unless you speak Russian.
St Petersburg is a great literary city.
Walk the streets of Dostoevsky, like in Crime and Punishment, following the footsteps of Raskolnikov. There are even special tours which visit the places. See the fading yellow buildings, looming large, driving to madness. The squalor and poverty he personally experienced is reflected in his novels. There is also a Dosteovsky museum where he used to live.
Walk alongside the mighty Neva, with it's granite embankments, so glorified by Pushkin. Or the Bronze horseman depicting city founder Peter the Great looming large over the city. Pushkin house is a museum.
Walk down Nevsky Prospekt.
'All powerful Nevsky Prospekt' said Gogol in his sketch bearing the name of this famous street.
Imagine yourself in Petersburg to be in a Gogolian nightmare. This is the little man pittted against the big artificial city with it's structures of power and insane obedience to rank and status.
Watch the sheer artificiality and pre planning of old Petersburg as Tsar Peter dragged Russia forward with a European capital as a window on the west, the facades, ensembles, baroque and the squares. Built on cold rationale as a complete antithesis to the Russian soul. As Dostoevsky said--'the most abstract and artificial city on earth'
Anna Akhmatova was a Soviet poet, who variously lost husband and son to the Gulag camps. You can visit her apartment.
Petersburg- city of words. This is a map of the city with literary quotations from people associated with it.
The only way to view the greatest of the treasures in St Petersburg Hermitage Museum is on a private tour. You will need a guide and an appointment, both of which can be arranged by Exeter International, a specialist tour operator with offices in the UK and Russia. What you will see there will blow your mind.
020 8956 2756
This is the smallest of the three ‘out of town’ royal palaces and, from the outside, the least ostentatious. It was built for Catherine’s son Paul and is situated in the middle of a large, wooded park that seems very popular with the locals nowadays. Inside it’s decorated as lavishly as any of the others and includes a Grecian Hall, an Italian Hall and a Hall of War.
From St Petersburg Vitebsk station to Pavlovsk station. Then a 30 minute walk through the park or buses 370 or 383. Guided tours also available.
Also known as the Catherine Palace, this is the most spectacular of the former royal palaces in the environs of St Petersburg.
The first sight of it will linger always in the memory; the dominant blue, decorated with gold and white trimmings is overwhelming given the scale of the building. It contains the famous amber room, which is panelled entirely with amber taken from the Russian forests. The original is said to have been destroyed or stolen during the second world war, no one knows the truth, but they've just finished restoring it using the same original methods and materials.
Apparently Elton John played in the lavish ballroom not long ago - I'm surprised he hasn't put in an offer yet.
Pushkin, 25 km south of St Petersburg - there's plenty of organised tours; www.alexanderpalace.org/tsarskoe/
Whether or not you want to see what’s in it, the palace is more than worth visiting in its own right. First walk around it, from Palace Square to the embankment to get a feeling of the grandeur and splendour – if you have time, go up onto the Dvortsovy bridge and admire the view with the Neva in the foreground. Then return to the entrance and go inside. The golden staircase is very decadent, but still gorgeous, and then there’s just room after room of opulence. No wonder the peasants revolted.
Palace Square - main entrance Dvortsovaya Nab (on the embankment)
On the banks of the Moyka canal, not far from the Mariinsky Theatre, is the yellow palace once owned by the Yusupov family. It’s rather subdued and conventional exterior belies some quite startling secrets within, not least that this was the place where Rasputin was murdered by Prince Felix Yusupov and his cohorts.
Besides an exhibition on the mad monk, you can view most of the rooms, which include one in a fabulous Moorish style and a superb miniature Rococo theatre that's hard to tear yourself away from.
The staff are used to coach parties, so seem a little surprised if you turn up on your own, but with a bit of sign language they're quite amenable.
Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki 94;
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