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The Insider Guide: Saint Petersburg

Hotel Domina.
Hotel Domina.
  • The best places to stay and eat, as well as the top things to do and see in Russia's second city

STAY:

Nevsky Forum

Nevsky Forum is a good option for those looking for a simple place to stay. Its location, on the Nevsky Prospect, the most central thoroughfare in this huge city, is excellent.

From here everything is accessible either by foot or via the metro (the Mayakovskaya station is nearby). Rooms are simple but clean and quiet.

Domina St. Petersburg

Confident, unconventional, contemporary Italian design has transformed this classic riverside imperial mansion into one of the most singular boutique hotels in the city. Found a few minutes' walk from Saint Isaac's Square and its cathedral, the main city sights, as well as the shops and cafés of Nevsky Prospect are around 15-minutes' walk away. Set on a tree-lined river embankment within the elegant island district of Kolomna, the Domina hotel is quite a surprise. As you walk over the threshold, you enter a light-filled atrium bursting with bold colours - a signature style of the hotel by designer Gianmarco Cavagnino. It's a refreshing contrast to all the imperial grandeur of the city.

Room categories are defined by colour and design too, including bright colours of nature for the duplex, open-plan Lifestyle Rooms.

Cocktail Bar Nove mixes design inspiration from the Amber Room of Catherine Palace (think crystal chandeliers and amber orange sofas) with cultural references to the Dostoyevsky, including an over-sized bust of the famous writer and philosopher at the end of the bar. It's a relaxed and friendly place to enjoy a refreshing vodka with a side of pickles. For a meal head across to Arcobaleno, the hotel's family-friendly restaurant, offering good-value lunches, special kids' menu and upscale dining.

The hotel also a wellness centre and gym. Business travellers have access to 24-hour services like scanning, printing etc and there are meeting rooms available.

Four Seasons.

Four Seasons.

The Four Seasons Lion Palace

Saint Petersburg is home to some of Russia's finest and most elegant hotels. Even if you are not a guest, it is really a pleasure to visit some of these temples of luxury for a drink or bite to eat - since most are found within magnificent imperial palaces that have been beautifully restored.

The Lion Palace, now the Four Seasons Saint Petersburg was designed by French architect Auguste de Montferrand and built for Princess Lobanova-Rostovskaya.

Indulge in belle-epoque glamour and modern Russian cuisine in the glass-roofed atrium Tea Lounge.

The spectacular Montferrand Ballroom is the sparkling setting for weddings as well as business meetings and conventions.

EAT:

Banschiki.

Banschiki.

Banschiki Restaurant

Banschiki restaurant, offering contemporary Russian cuisine by chef Stanislav Levokho, is also part of the 'Degtyarnie Bani' steam rooms, including a VIP bathhouse spa. This is the way business is done in the city - Russians like to bathe and lunch.

Fontanka Restaurant

Cuisine from before the 1918 revolution is the idea behind this Saint Petersburg restaurant Fontanka. Imperial recipes prepared in a contemporary way.

Restaurant Centralny/Tsentralny

A kitsch time-warp experience. The theme is Soviet and Leningrad cuisine, featuring dated-looking, yet for Russians, nostalgic family dishes from a time when the Soviet Union was stable and at peace - like the salmon and mayonnaise Mimosa salad. There's food too from the former Soviet Republics, like lamb from Uzbekistan, or cheese from Georgia; and classics like black caviar with blinis and a shot of Beluga vodka; or Pirozhki, which are small pastries with onion, eggs and cabbage (or meat) inside.

Centralny restaurant.

Centralny restaurant.

DO:

Oleg Suturin - Private Guide

Saint Petersburg native, Oleg, is an English, Spanish and Portuguese-speaking guide who will bring to life the fascinating and remarkable stories of wealth, intrigue and royalty from the City of Tsars.

Yusupov Palace

There are innumerable art and cultural sights to enjoy in Saint Petersburg, from cathedrals, churches, palaces, castles and elegant parks, to the exceptional Hermitage and the unique collection at the Faberge Museum.

Yusupov palace.

Yusupov palace.

Yet the Yusupov Palace encapsulates so much of this remarkable city. It was once the home of the richest family in the Russian Empire, the Counts of Yusupov. There's the most amazing private theatre to discover, art by old mastersand plenty of marble, gold, crystal - and more. This was where Grigori Rasputin was murdered by Dukes and politicians, alarmed by his influence and intimacy with the family of Tsar Nicolas II. This is the best place to discover the inside perspective on one of Europe's greatest murder mysteries.

MICE:

ExpoForum

Saint Petersburg is determined to put itself on the world stage for conventions and exhibitions. This was given a boost with the opening of Saint Petersburg's new high-tech ExpoForum. It certainly sets the bar for exceptional facilities - said to be the best in Russia and among the best in Europe. There are three exhibition pavilions, a convention centre for 10,000 people (with 35 conference halls) and two Hilton Hotels.

ExpoForum.

ExpoForum.

National Congress Palace

Saint Petersburg's Konstantin Palace is probably the city's most prestigious events venue, having already hosted a Russia-EU summit, as well as G8 and G20 leaders' summits.

BUY:

White Night 'matryoshka'

Most visitors want to buy nesting dolls. For a unique, intricately hand-crafted version, look out for the famous 'White Nights' artisan examples. Each typically feature city landmarks such as the iconic onion domes of the Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood, and the monumental Winter Palace. Be warned, prices can be the equivalent to hundreds, sometimes thousands of euros.