48 Hours in St. Petersburg: What To Do When Your Ship Arrives

St. Petersburg Cruises: Making The Most Of Your Short Stay

St. Petersburg cruises
Andrey Berezkin gives advices on how to have the perfect St. Petersburg experience.

On St. Petersburg cruises, you’re allowed no more than 72 hours in St. Petersburg on a transit visa. The norm, however, is two days, meaning that if you plan to sleep, you’ll have less than 48 hours to see this grand city.

How do you make the most of it? Resolve that no matter how quickly you speed through all of St. Petersburg’s attractions, you’re only going to get a taste of Peter the Great’s city. After all, this city of 5 million spans a large area, covering more than 200 square miles. Add to that the choke of traffic, and 48 hours gets consumed fairly fast. There are ways to get a more satisfying first taste, however.

Efficiently Exploring: St. Petersburg Cruises

Avid Cruiser Audio Snapshots With Andrey Berezkin, port of St. Petersburg
How to spend a perfect day in St. Petersburg.

church_spilled_blood.jpg
Church on Spilled Blood

If you’re planning a cruise in the Baltic Sea, you’re likely old enough to remember such events as the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), U.S. President Ronald Reagan and congressional conservatives characterizing Russia as the Evil Empire (1982) and the Cold War, which lasted until late 1991.

Thus, visiting St. Petersburg for the first time may hold a mix of emotions for you — the intrigue of seeing one of the world’s greatest cities combined with apprehension of visiting a former enemy state.

But the world has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades, and Russia, or at least the city of St. Petersburg, is both welcoming and increasingly hospitable. More than 300 years old, St. Petersburg leaves visitors smitten.

On the coast of the Gulf of Finland, in the estuary of the Neva River and on the islands of the Neva Delta, St. Petersburg was well positioned to embrace the rest of Europe while maintaining the grandeur of the Russian Imperial Court.

The city’s opening to the sea made it Russia’s cultural oasis while its architecture evoked Russia’s former Imperial power. From 1712 to 1918, St. Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire. Having survived 11 emperors, revolutions, economic reform, floods, a 900-day siege during World War II and more, St. Petersburg emerged as a destination that astonishes even the most experienced traveler.

As a cruise ship passenger, you’ll need to be astonished quickly. That’s because you’re allowed no more than 72 hours in St. Petersburg on a transit visa (for more about the visa, read Papers Please: Visiting St. Petersburg With A Visa). The norm, however, is two days, meaning that if you plan to sleep, you’ll have less than 48 hours to see this grand city.

How do you make the most of it? Resolve that no matter how quickly you speed through all of St. Petersburg’s attractions, you’re only going to get a taste of Peter the Great’s city. After all, this city of 5 million spans a large area, covering more than 200 square miles. Add to that the choke of traffic, and 48 hours gets consumed fairly fast. There are ways to get a more satisfying first taste, however.

Hermitage/Winter Palace
The Hermitage

Assuming your ship overnights in St. Petersburg, spend one day in the city itself, and the other day visiting a couple of palaces outside the city. Read on for what to do in the city of St. Petersburg. For what to do outside the city, read Palaces & Parks: Day Excursions From St. Petersburg.

In the city, you’ll likely want to visit The Hermitage, the world’s second largest art museum (Paris’s Louvre is the largest), a cathedral or two and Nevsky Prospect, Russia’s most famous street.

Avid Cruiser Audio Snapshots With Andrey Berezkin, port of St. Petersburg
How to make the most of The Hermitage.

The Hermitage alone boasts some 400 rooms containing more than 3 million exhibits (Catherine the Great began the collection in 1764 with only 225 pieces). “If you spent one second looking at each exhibit, you would spend nine years seeing it all,” guides are fond of telling visitors. That’s somewhat exagerrated. As there are 31.5 million seconds in a year, you could spend 10 seconds on each piece and see everything in the Hermitage in 365 days. You, unfortunately, don’t have 365 days, however. You have 90 minutes. For a taste, visit the “masterpieces of the masterpieces,” such as the original works of art by da Vinci, Michelangelo and Rembrandt.

The Hermitage houses the second biggest Rembrandt collection outside Amsterdam as well as the largest collection of French art outside France, including original works by Degas, Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin and Matisse. Book a private tour to visit the Hermitage, and you’ll breeze through the museum past the large tour groups.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral
St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg’s largest

Plan to visit St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg’s largest, and/or the ornate neo-Byzantine Cathedral of the Resurrection, also called Church on Spilled Blood, constructed on the very spot where tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.

When visiting any of these attractions, you’re either on or near Nevsky Prospect. The famed street is to St. Petersburg what the Champs Elysses is to Paris, or Broadway to New York.

Ask your guide to take you to a cafe for a coffee, Russian beer or Soviet champagne (sparkling wine). “Walk along Nevsky Prospect, have a cup of coffee, watch people pass by, and you understand all of Russia,” says Timophey Beliaev, of the Corinthia Nevaskij Palace Hotel, situated on Nevsky Prospect.

Avid Cruiser Audio Snapshots With Andrey Berezkin, port of St. Petersburg

How to enjoy Soviet ‘champagne’.

Strolling Nevsky Propsekt

At the end of the day, take in ballet or opera. St. Petersburg is chock full of theaters, notably The Mariinsky Theater, one of Russia’s largest and oldest music theaters, famous the world over for opera and ballet.

Late-night canal cruises also are offered. Located on 44 islands formed by the Neva River and 90 more rivers and canals, St. Petersburg is known as the Venice of the North.

While St. Petersburg is relatively you, its history is intense. The land it occupied once belonged to the Slavs and was the starting point of the Great Varangian-Greek Trade Way, which linked the Baltic to the Black Sea via the territories of the old Russian state. However, this region was seized by Sweden in the 17th century. On 27 May 1703, Peter the Great, after the recovery of lands along the Neva in the course of the Northern War, founded the city St. Petersburg. He had conceived the city as a gate to Europe, connecting Russia to the European world.

In the 20th century the city saw much tragedy and bloodshed. The revolution of 1917 resulted in the establishment of the Soviets. In the Second World War, Nazi troops besieged the city. The 900-day siege of Leningrad ended in January 1944. In 1991, the city took on its original name St. Petersburg.

Avid Cruiser Audio Snapshots With Andrey Berezkin, port of St. Petersburg

Must-Try Soviet Foods

How to property consume Vodka.

Also see: How A Tourist Visa Can Enhance Your Cruise Stay In Saint Petersburg

Avid Cruiser Posts, Photographs and Videos Featuring St. Petersburg.

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