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There are few cities in the world that go beyond the quintessential skyscrapers and fancy lights to adopt a character that defines them. St. Petersburg is a city that never had to try too hard, for it isn’t merely a city, but a work of art. From the lamp post by the river to the pink building on the curb- only St. Petersburg can carry off so many colours, palaces and statues with such finesse. No wonder the poets and authors of the world call this city their home. For truly, this city embodies art and culture like no other place in the world. The gorgeous river that flows around this beauty, only adds to it’s charm.

How many times have you wished to see the palaces, ball gowns and gorgeous Russian buildings while watching Anna Karenina on your couch? Here’s why you should book that ticket to Russia today:

1. You can tour the entire city by river:

The biting cold is only a small sacrifice for an incredible tour of this city by boat. It isn’t all that bad though, specially because they hand out blankets! Hop onto one of these water taxisto experience St. Petersburg through an entirely different lense. The Neva River Cruise takes you around some of the most famous monuments that shaped the city’s identity. The wind, the water and the beauty of St. Petersburg!

neva

2. This morning coffee by the river could be your best coffee experience:

This one’s tricky to describe, for I take the risk of subjectivity. Walking through the garden adjacent to Saviour of the Blood Cathedral, I chanced upon a quaint little café in the open. With the garden on one side, facing the river, was a tiny monument. Intrigued, I took a closer look only to discover a couple of tables and tasteful white chairs with potted red plants. As I walked towards the café, I discovered there was a cozy section inside with baked goodies and coffee I could purchase! I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to sit by the river and sip some delicious latte with marshmallows.


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3. Feel like royalty (and die of jealousy after): 

You’re going to wish you were born a couple hundred years ago, for your majesty, the queen’s winter palace, or The Hermitage, will leave you spellbound! Once you make it past the entrance queue, followed by the queue outside the cloakroom, your eyes are in for a treat. The steps up to the first floor left me speechless. It took me a couple minutes to take it all in. From the chandeliers to the statues and all the way to the painted ceiling- I couldn’t take my eyes off every intricate detail. There’s no other way to describe it other than to say it’s absolutely magnificent!

Catherine Palace St. Petersburg

4. Prayer time at the Kazan Cathedral:

I have a rather embarrassing tale to tell about this one. So beautiful was the ceremony, I couldn’t stop myself from recording it. My lack of knowledge got me into trouble with a cop- only then did I realize photography during the ceremony is prohibited. There’s no entrance fee for this cathedral, and it’s a wonderful idea to swing by in the evening during prayer time.

Kazan snip

5. Visit the cathedral that inspired Aladdin’s castle:

Most must-do blogs will tell you this is not to be missed. A small entrance fee of 400 roubles will get you inside this Alladin-style castle. Aside from it’s popularity as the spot where Emperor Alexandre II was fatally wounded, the cathedral is also known to be one of the largest churches made out of Mosaic. The work is so intricate, it almost puts the best of artists to shame!

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6. Watch the bridges shut at night:

This might not be anything out of the ordinary for frequent travelers, but it’s still quite a sight at night. St. Petersburg is a beauty at night as all monuments and buildings light up on either sides of the river. Adding to it’s glory are the bridges that shut every night between 1:00-2:00 am. If you happen to be traveling during the White Nights, I recommend you park yourself at one of the cafes with a view of the bridge as the city gathers together in celebration. The atmosphere is too festive to pass up!

7. Watch the world go by at Palace Square:

Right before you enter Hermitage Museum, spend some time at the square. Plonk yourself by the fountain or simply on the floor and watch the youngsters go about enjoying themselves. Look around and you will find photographers, musicians, skaters, tourists, carriages and horses! There’s no better way to spend the afternoon than chatting up some locals or visitors. Many an interesting conversation could take place here. It’s an easy way to experience the culture, the youth and life of Russia.

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Nikita Butalia is a solo 20-something traveler who documents her experiences around India and the rest of the world in witty narratives and travel tales that are best read curling up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate on a winter evening.

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