Sankt Petersburg is a well-thought-of city among tourists. Some even say that it’s the most beautiful city in Russia. Excluding Kaliningrad (in which we only had a stopover), it was our first destination in this huge country. We spent there the whole 2 days that were packed with attractions and watched the World Cup match. We encourage you to read our story and find out more about this wonderful place!
On Our Way To Petersburg
Our biggest and long-awaited trip started in Russia – to be more precise – in Kaliningrad. Very early in the Friday morning we took a bus from Gdansk whose destination was Kaliningrad. It was our first stop of this huge journey and we were extremely excited but also a little bit anxious, if everything will be fine. The trip was about to last 44 days and we were going to visit 10 countries altogether. You can imagine that it’s not an easy task to plan such a huge trip, especially that all days were so packed with attractions. In the subsequent notes we will write about all of our stops and how the journey proceeded.
But first things first – let’s focus on Russia. The ride with a bus to Kaliningrad took us about 5 hours. We didn’t have to make visas to Russia because we came to watch a football match (FIFA World Cup 2018), so instead of visa we had to show our fan ID’s on arrival and later at the airports. The funny thing happened to Paweł, as he still had his old passport with visa from Iran and custom officer grilled him a little about that :) We should have given her the link to our notes about Iran to show her it’s a safe country.
I’m very sorry to write that and hope that people from Kaliningrad won’t feel offended, but basically there’s nothing much interesting to do in Kaliningrad. We spent there the afternoon, but we didn’t do the sightseeing and only ate dinner and then went to the airport (we saw the stadium from the bus and even have some photos of it :))
At The Airport
We got to the airport that was very small and saw that one of the restaurant transmitted the match between Russia and Spain, which has just started. Russians were very excited about that and many of them watched the beginning of the game on their phones. The time was special and so was the atmosphere – we could feel all the emotions in the air.
We were going to Sankt Petersburg with Pobeda airlines and had to drop off our baggage although it was small (and weight was about 7 kilo). I finally need to write a post on how we pack because we always take very small luggage with us – no matter if we are going on a weekend or traveling for 6 weeks, so the post what to take for a trip might be helpful for budget travelers.
First Hours In Petersburg
Ok, so we landed and everybody cheered on board as they checked that Russia won. We were also happy for them as Russia held the World Cup and knew how important it is for hosts to take part in championships for as long as possible.
Next we took our luggage and headed straight to our host from couchsurfing as it was evening already and we didn’t plan to sightsee that day. When it comes to couchsurfing in Russia, it was very easy to find hosts because locals are very friendly, which we actually didn’t know before our trip. We haven’t heard much about Russia and Russians and definitely haven’t heard much about their hospitality and have no idea why. Maybe the problem is that not so many people speak English or if they do, it’s more of a basic level – again it was easier for us because we speak some basic Russian and always tried to communicate with locals in their language.
It turned out that our host was a great person, he was our age and we had many topics to discuss. He was a very interesting person so we spent hours on talking – we spent with him two evenings and each time we went to sleep at about 2:00 a.m. and then we needed to wake up early as he was going to work and we were going sightseeing.
Sankt Petersburg – Day 1
We’ve managed to get familiarized with the Russian weather already on the first day of our sightseeing. It was raining cats and dogs from early morning and we had a little problem as we’d expected the weather to be beautiful during our big trip and hadn’t packed any umbrella.
But at the same time we were lucky because we found a stall close to the main street with disposable plastic raincoats, which we decided (or rather were forced) to buy. And later it showed up that it was a bull’s eye. First of all because it’s very easy to fold it and pack and it doesn’t take much space. And second of all because we experienced a horrible weather in Russia. During our stay in Petersburg and later in Moscow and Listwianka it was raining heavily for very long hours.
And what’s very weird, after these downfalls the weather sometimes changed to very sunny, sometimes it was still cloudy, sometimes it was very cold like in autumn (it was at the beginning of July) and sometimes it became warm. Everything in one day!
I really don’t know if we were just extremely unlucky when it comes to weather in Russia or it’s normal, but remember that if you’re going there, you should be prepared for everything because the weather might get crazy. And as we mentioned before it was championships time in Russia so many other unaware tourists suffered from this weather as well and kept asking us where we bought our cool raincoats, so it was a real stormer :)
Our first day was a little bit a Cathedral day. We got to the city centre with metro and headed to Kazan Cathedral first. On our way, we enjoyed the architecture of the streets in Petersburg – the city is very pretty, buildings are nicely painted and streets well-kept.
Kazan Cathedral is beautiful not only on the outside. When we got there, we immediately went inside to see how it looks like. It was forbidden to take photos, so we don’t have any. The Cathedral has beautiful ornaments and paintings so it’s definitely worth to go inside (and one more plus: the entrance is free of charge). For both of us it was actually the first time to go into the orthodox church, so we were very curious about it. There were not only tourists, but also many prayers inside – they were lightning candles and women were having scarves on their heads.
Church of the Savior on Blood
On our way to the church we took some photos of the city:
We got to the Church of the Savior on Blood. It looks completely different than Kazan Cathedral but more like the famous Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. We took a walk there, which was very nice because of the surroundings – the church is placed near the Griboyedov Canal and the whole area is beautiful.
We didn’t go inside this time but we spent some time near the church. At the time we visited it, there were some restorative works at the top of the church so a little bit was obliterated by the scaffolding. But still even this couldn’t detract the beauty of the whole construction.
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
Our third church was Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. We were happy to go there as the Cathedral is stunning and we loved the fact that all of the three churches we saw that day were beautiful and each of them completely different when it comes to architecture. That’s why there was no possibility of getting tired or bored with sightseeing them.
Palace Square (Dvortsovaya Ploshchad)
We also planned to see Palace Square, which is located in front of the Hermitage museum. This place is just wonderful – the Hermitage museum looks impressive and the square is vast. Even though it was raining we wanted to stay there for a while and enjoy this place. We wanted to go inside but on the next day and were hoping that the weather will be better so that we could take photos of the Hermitage with more sunny sky.
Our next stop was Stolovaya – it’s a popular canteen with local food that you can find in many places in various cities of Russia. We found one near the Palace Square and wanted to have some rest as we were tired already (not so much with sightseeing, but more with the perpetual rainfalls – it can be a real nightmare of all travelers).
We needed to wait in a queue for a while to choose and grab what we wanted to eat. Everything was very cheap so this place is a perfect option for budget travelers. Many tourists and locals go there and that’s why it was pretty crowdy. We usually don’t expect much from such cheap food but this one was really tasty and we can definitely recommend it to you :)
We visited Fan Zone that day as well. The game was between Mexico and Brazil. We loved the atmosphere – it was great to visit Russia during the World Cup. There were so many tourists from all over the world and many of them were wearing national shirts and hats. People were very happy and enthusiastic and it was easy to get infected by this optimistic prevailing mood.
That was all of the sightseeing for the first day. In the evening we met out host and spent the rest of the day with him, which was a lot of fun and we also got to know many interesting facts about Russia and Russians at firsthand.
– Day 2
We left our host’s apartment early and needed to take backpacks with us as we had a train to Moscow late that day. Our host came with us to show where we can store our luggage so that we wouldn’t have to wander around with it for the whole day. We are still very grateful to him for his help and we were generally delighted with the hospitality of Russians.
The State Hermitage Museum
We headed to the Hermitage Museum and were happy that it wasn’t raining and deeply hoped that it won’t start. When we saw the queue to go inside we weren’t happy – it was so long that we didn’t see the entrance and waited more than an hour. And unfortunately for us, short after we stand in the queue it started raining heavily :) so imagine how we looked like after about 40 minutes waiting in the rain. We were soaked wet and completely frozen (it got also were cold together with the rain). But the good thing for us was that as students we didn’t have to pay for the entrance :)
First of all it’s absolutely worth to visit Hermitage Museum but it also took us some time. It’s like with Louvre in Paris – it’s physically impossible to see everything, so it’s better to focus only on the most important things straight from the beginning. We saw many impressive exhibits inside – the collection is just wonderful and the museum is huge. We saw many famous paintings and thought at first that there’s a possibility to see one of the Fabergé eggs as well but later we found out that there aren’t any in the museum’s collection.
I don’t know why but Russian weather didn’t like us – just after we entered the museum, it stopped raining and the sun came out :) Fortunately the weather remained beautiful for the rest of the day and we could make beautiful photos in front of the museum.
We felt encouraged by our previous experience and went to Stolovaya again after our visit in the Hermitage Museum. This time we went to another restaurant but the food was as tasty as yesterday, which made us very happy.
Sweden – Switzerland Match
We had tickets to see the match between Sweden – Switzerland, which started at 5:00 p.m. but of course we needed to be earlier there. We took metro to get there just like many other people – it was very crowded and after we got out of the metro we immediately noticed a huge mob. Many people were wearing national shirts or even costums (even if they were other nationalities than the playing teams :)).
The weather was finally very beautiful and it was sunny. We went to the stadium, which is located opposite the Bolshoi Obukhovsky Bridge. The bridge is astonishing and makes the area very attractive so we decided that after the match we will focus more on it and take many beautiful photos. We couldn’t wait to see the match so we headed towards the stadium immediately :)
At The Stadium
After waiting for about 30 mins in the queue, we finally found ourselves inside the stadium. It’s just huge and literally took our breathes away. We had our seats pretty high so the footballers looked actually very small from our point of view – no wonder as it’s so big that it can seat even 70.000 people (our match was attended by about 64.000)!
Basically, we are big fans of watching World Cup matches but the experience of watching one live is so much different from watching it on TV, in pub or even Fan Zones. For us the funny thing was that in general we came to see the game but we probably focused on it the least. The view from the stadium was very impressive and the atmosphere was exceptional – we felt that something big is happening to us and that’s why our attention was distracted from the game. But without any doubts it’s absolutely not a bad thing – it’s just different.
We didn’t know which team to support because we didn’t feel particularly related to any of the playing countries. We just hoped to see even one goal and were lucky because in the second part Sweden scored one goal and won.
After The Game
After the game we spent some time taking photos of the area – the stadium and nearby bridge. We were excited by this event still for a long time and will never forget that day and the strong emotions.
Next stop – Moscow
After 11:00 p.m. we had a night train to Moscow, which was included in the price of the match tickets. The train was new and very comfortable. We booked two places in 4-person-compartment but nobody else joined us so we were only by ourselves. The views from the train were beautiful and it was pretty bright till late because in Petersburg there is a phenomenon of midnight sun and our stay in Russia was at the time when during the nights sky wasn’t fully dark.
Petersburg – Our Conclusions
Our stay in Petersburg was wonderful and even the crazy weather couldn’t spoil it. Leaving this amazing city we still had 42 days of travel ahead of us and were happy that our first destination made such big impression on us.
And have you ever been in Petersburg? If so, let us know what wheather you experienced during your visit!