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Saint Petersburg

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Saint Petersburg

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For other places with the same name, see Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербу́рг Sankt-Peterburg; [30]) is Russia's second largest city, with a population of 4.7 million perched at the eastern tip of of the Baltic Sea and the Neva River. The city was formerly known as Petrograd (Петрогра́д), and later Leningrad (Ленингра́д).

The Hermitage and the Winter Palace across the Neva River

Understand

Saint Petersburg is nicknamed the 'Venice of the North'
Founded by Peter the Great, the former home of the Czars and the center of Russian culture, Saint Petersburg was known as "The Venice of the North" in its heyday. Rechristened Petrograd during the first World War, the city was renamed Leningrad in 1924 in honor of the communist revolutionary, V.I. Lenin. Bombed, blockaded and starved during World War II, the city took a back seat to Moscow during the Soviet era.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the city has been rapidly making up for lost time and is by far the most cosmopolitan of Russia's cities. Renamed once more in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, most Russians know it as Piter (Питер), a familiar diminutive of Saint Petersburg.

Events

May 9, Veterans Parade
  • During the last 10 days of June, the longest days of the year, Saint Petersburg celebrates the White Nights in a cultural extravaganza. Book early as accommodation and transport can be hard to reserve during this time.
  • In June or July the annual Message to man [31] international documentary, short, and animated films festival takes places here.

Get in

Russian visa requirements are complex. See the Get In secton of the article on Russia for information.

By plane

Pulkovo Airport (IATA: LED | ICAO: ULLI) [32] serves a wide variety of destinations both international and domestic. Terminal 1 serves domestic flights, while Terminal 2 is for international connections. The airport is located approximately 17 kilometers south from the center.

Taxis at Terminal 2 have now joined a structured pricing scheme based on geographic zones, which is prominently posted on a billboard outside the arrivals hall at the taxi stand. The fixed price for a taxi to the central district (Nevsky Prospekt/Hermitage area) is 600 RUB, for example, plus luggage surcharges. Traffic is usually quite heavy in the city, so plan on about two hours minimum during the day to get to the city by car. Those who speak Russian can order a taxi by phone for a lower price than the taxis at the airport. Companies such as 068 or 600000 (which are also their respective phone numbers) charge about 500-550 RUB for a trip to the city center/Hermitage area. The operator will take the order, then call you back to tell you the license plate number and color/model of the taxi that will meet you. They will also tell you the fare in advance, so there is no need to haggle. If calling from the airport arrival hall, it will take about 15-20 minutes for the taxi to arrive.

A cheaper option is to take a bus to the nearest Metro station, Moskovskaya, which will cost you only 16 RUB (Bus 39 to/from terminal-1, bus 13 to/from terminal-2). From there you can go to any station on the Saint Petersburg Metro for a 17 RUB (.80 USD) token. Private bus companies also operate full-size buses, which often have more space for large luggage, from Pushkinskaya Metro via Moskovskaya Metro to both airport terminals for about 100 RUB per person.

By train

Saint Petersburg is a major rail hub. The 5-hour train ride from Helsinki (Finland) is one of the most comfortable ways to reach the city. Trains also connect to destinations in the Baltics and Central Europe. Alternatively, you can head inland to Moscow.

There are five principal stations:

Note: Warshavskii Station (Варшавский вокзал) is now closed, trains to/from Poland arrive at the Baltic or Vitebsk Stations.

By bus

The cheapest, although by no means the most comfortable way of reaching Saint Petersburg from neighboring countries are long distance buses. Buses from Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, Finland, the Baltic states and Scandinavia stop at the main bus station (Avtovokzal).

Metro: Ligovskii Prospekt (far away from metro).

Two private bus companies also run overnight routes to and from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well as to Belarus and the Ukraine:

  • Ecolines [33]: has daily departures to Riga with stops at Luga, Pskov, and Ostrov as well as twice-weekly service to Minsk, Belarus and Kiev, Ukraine. From Riga, one can easily find connections to Poland and from there to most countries of Western and Central Europe. Tickets can be purchased online or through their Saint Petersburg Office at Pod'ezdniy pereulok 3 near Metro Pushkinskaya from 10am-8pm. Tel: +7 812 314 2550, +7 901 300 6170. Ecolines buses depart from Vitebskii vokzal (near Metro Pushkinskaya) and the Bus Station (Avtovokzal)
  • Eurolines [34] has multiple daily departures to Tallinn with a stop in Narva. They also maintain a daily route to Riga from which buses to most of Western and Central Europe can be found. Connections can also be made to the Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova from Riga and/or Vilnius. Tickets can be purchased online (although their website is rather difficult to navigate) or at their Petersburg office at Mitrofanjevskoe Shosse 2-1, near Metro Baltiskii. Tel: +7 (812) 438 28 39. Eurolines buses depart from Metro Baltiskii.

Eurolines also offers a quite attractive Baltic Pass [35], which allows for travel between Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and Saint Petersburg over a 14-day period.

By boat

In summer, cruises from Helsinki and Tallinn sail to Saint Petersburg. There is also a regular ferry connection from Helsinki, Stockholm, Kaliningrad and Rostock, which arrives at the harbor station. Subway: Primorskaya.

Passenger boats also operate on the inland waterway "Volga-Baltic" which links Moscow, the River Volga and Lakes Onega, Ladoga and Neva.

To get out, you could try your luck for Freighter travel, although the port is very large. It would be easier if you have connections in the port. Try to find a dispatcher [36].

Nearly all the major cruise lines (Princess, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Carnival, Celebrity, etc.) offer a Scandinavia/St. Petersburg itinerary, and most stay overnight to allow shore excursions to Moscow. Azamara has itineraries that dock for three days/two nights.

Get around

Traffic

Most means of transportation cease functioning at night. The subway is closed from 00:30 until 05:40, varying slightly for different stations. Taxis are available 24/7, but are much costlier at night. In Petersburg, every vehicle is a potential taxi. Flagging down a vehicle and paying for a ride somewhere is perfectly normal in Russia and quite popular although ill-advised for tourists. Safety is, of course, an issue. Never get in a private cab with more than one driver in it. Women traveling alone (and men, for that matter) should feel free to wave off any taxi for any reason whatsoever. According to the city police, crimes involving gypsy cabs are one of the most common types of crime against western tourists in St. Petersburg. Gypsy cabs which linger near popular bars and restaurants at night have been known to be especially dangerous, with several instances of druggings and robberies from these cabs in the past year or so.

At night, the city is divided in two by the Neva; all the main bridges are drawn up at night except during the winter, when ice makes the river impassable. Try to make it to your side of the river before the bridges go up. Otherwise, you could find yourself stuck on the wrong side of the river until morning. One bridge - Volodarsky - will permit you to cross the river from around 3:45 am to 4:15 am. Most other bridges are drawn all night long, from around 1:45 am till 5:15 am; See the schedule for each bridge. The Big Obukhovski bridge is not drawn up, as it is an important part of Saint Petersburg Ring Highway.

By subway

Saint Petersburg's metro is the second largest underground railway system in Russia (Moscow being the first). It is arguably the cheapest and most effective way to get around the city. The trains are fast and run frequently (during rush hours, intervals go as low as 30 seconds between trains). The metro costs 17 RUR per entry regardless of the distance. Metro maps can be found in every train car, often with station names in the Latin alphabet. Names on station walls, however, are in Cyrillic, so if you are unfamiliar with the language, it may make sense to "count the stops" to your destination or keep your ears open, the conductor will let you know what station you are on. The Saint Petersburg metro can be unbelievably crowded during rush hour. Traveling during this time is a risky kind of sport and one should avoid unnecessary journeys if not used to big crowds. The Subway is also a major tourist attraction in itself thanks to the beautiful decorations of the stations.

Tip for using the Metro: Be aware of your belongings and don't be afraid to push when you arrive at your stop!

By tram

A more scenic, but slower way to see Saint Petersburg is by tram. In recent years, due to traffic troubles, some tram lines were removed from the centre of the city. They cost 16 RUR.

By bus or trolleybus

Buses and trolleybuses are cheap (16 Rubles) and frequent. Tickets are sold by a conductor sitting in the bus. Every bus has its own conductor. If the conductor is absent, then tickets are sold by the driver. However, buses and trolleys on main routes are frequently overcrowded. Buses to suburbs cost 16 or 32 RUR within the territory of St. Peterburg (Zelenogorsk, Lomonosov and others). If you do not hold a valid ticket you will be fined, but only for about 125 RUR.

By route taxi

Route taxi (marshrutka) is sometimes the fastest way to get somewhere. Taxis are 14-20 seat vans, usually white or yellow, always with a letter K and route number plate (K-28). Often they are small Chinese or Turkish buses. There are no regular stops; you must tell the driver when you want to get out, or wave while on the roadside to stop one. You must pay to the driver at entry, usually from 18 to 24 RUR. If you cannot reach the driver on your own, pass the money through the other passengers and be ready to pass other's money if you sit close to the driver. The Marshrutka experience may seem exciting sometimes, especially when you see some brave driver counting change while steering with his knees at 70 mph. Many marshrutka drivers are illegal immigrants and speak Russian poorly(if any at all).

See

Getting into the Hermitage
Advice for foreigners visiting the Hermitage Museum: Find a tour group. This may have changed, call the museum ahead of time to find out.: They're 200 rubles instead of 350, and include the photography fee and a whistle-stop tour of the museum (but note the free entry for students). Don't accept a tour from the numerous touts hanging around the queue. Instead, march past the queue and in through the main entrance, or the exit opposite if the queue's blocking the entrance (don't worry, you're not queue-jumping). Have a scout around for notices with museum tour times in your native language, or in extreme circumstances, ask at the desk. If you find a good candidate, you're all set to go to the Tours Office to book yourself on it. This is where things get slightly surreal. To get to the Tours Office from the main entrance, go forward past the cashiers, and turn left down the corridor. The Tours Office is in front of you at the end, and may or may not be marked. Get yourself a place on your tour, collect the bit of paper, go to cashier No. 5 (who is not with the rest of them, instead turn left out of the Tours Office and she's in a box at the end of the corridor), pay, get your paper stamped, take it back to the Tours Office and get it checked, stamped again and muttered over and then you're ready to brave the coat dungeon.


  • The Hermitage Museum/The Winter Palace [37] is Saint Petersburg's prime attraction, a massive palace-cum-museum showing the highlights of a collection of over 3,000,000 pieces spanning the globe. The Hermitage is truly one of the world's great museums, with an imposing setting displaying priceless works by Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Michealangelo, Reubens and more. It is recommended, though not required!, to get a tour guide. They can charge as much as $100 but they can tell you more about the building and the items and take you directly to the items you want to see.
Ticketing is complex, but the Hermitage itself is 100 rubles for Russians and 350 rubles for foreigners. Students of all nationalities get in for free, but don't forget your student card with photo! Entrance is free on the first Thursday of every month. Bags aren't allowed in the museum (and while technically neither are cameras without the appropriate ticket, they never check the photo-permission tickets so it's not worth buying them), so stash them in the busy cloakroom.
The Hermitage Museum


The Menshikov's Palace
The Exchange Building and the south Rostral Column
Bridges by night
The fountain in waters of Neva River at the spit of Vasilievsky Island
The Kunstkamera
  • Russian Museum/The Mikhail Palace [38] This is the other art museum in St. Petersburg. Mostly Russian paintings, sculptures, etc.
  • Peter and Paul Fortress. You can go in for free, but to enter the church and exhibitions you need tickets. You can get a combo ticket for everything, or you can just enter the church. Other than the church, which is where the all of the Romanov Czars of Russia from Peter the Great (bar two or three) are buried, the other things on the island aren't terribly impressive, so it might be worth it to just see the church.
  • The Admiralty, located in the area of Admiralteyskaya. You can't go inside, but the facade is nice. It's across the street from the Hermitage
  • Menshikov's Palace. Built for Peter the Great's favourite and 1st governor of the St. Petersburg.
  • Navy Museum/The Excange Building. Founded by Peter the Great.
  • The bridges on the Neva [39]. Open 2 times per night to allow boats to pass.
  • Ethnography Museum
  • Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (also known as the Kunstkamera). Not to be confused with the Ethnography museum (See above), this museum is primarily famous for its one-room collection of 300 year-old deformed fetuses in formaldehyde (of which you are not allowed to take pictures). The rest of the museum consists of trinkets from various world cultures (over one million exhibits). Despite this museum's fame, the exhibits don't seem to justify the ticket price. It's of interest mainly as it is the oldest state museum in Russia, established by Peter the Great in 1704 - consequently it has a very dated feel.
  • Alexander Nevskiy Monastery. Located at the Eastern end of Nevskiy Prospekt next to the River Neva. The site also has the Tikhvin Cemetery which houses the tombs of some of the world's most famous composers; Tschaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky and Borodin, and also the author Fyodr Dostoevsky, along with many other famous Russian figures.
  • Museum of Artillery, Combat Engineers and Signal Troops. Housed in old Arsenal fortress-like building near the Peter and Paul Fortress and surrounded by moat.
  • Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. A traditional style Russian church built on the spot where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. The majority of visitors view the Church from the exterior, and from the Memorabilia market behind the church. It is located beside the Griboedova Canal, and is easily accessible from Nevskiy Prospekt. The interior is elaborately decorated with over 6000sqm of mosaics.
  • Our-Lady-of-Kazan Cathedral (Казанский собор, Kazansky Sobor). Located approximately half-way down Nevskiy Prospekt. Free to enter, but the exterior is more impressive than the inside.
  • Saint-Isaac's Cathedral [40]. Located near to the Admiralty. It was built in 1818 and is a major attraction in the city. It is the third largest cathedral in the world. There are night time visits, which cost 300 rubles for foreigners for the church, and 300 rubles for the observation deck.
  • Smolny Institute
  • Peter the Great's Cabin. Peter the Great's men built the small wooden cabin in a matter of days for him when he planned the city and it has been preserved in a small brick building in the district Petrogradskaya. It is located close to the Cruiser Aurora on Petrovskaya Naberzhnaya.


Do

Opera and Ballet

No trip to St. Petersburg is complete without seeing an opera or ballet performance. The Mariinsky is perhaps the most well-known institution, but it is by no means the only theater in the city. Tickets are sold throughout the city at kiosks and shops called Teatralnaya Kassa, which charge a nominal (usually about 20 RR) fee for "insurance," which is theoretically optional. The theater box offices themselves sell tickets directly, too, and usually for the same price. Sometimes, blocks of tickets sell out at the kiosks but tickets are still available at the theater, or vice versa, so it is worth checking both places if you have your heart set on a particular performance. It is possible to take not-so-small children into some performances if you take a private box, although you will need to ask when you buy your tickets.

  • Mariinsky Theater, Theater Square 1, 326 41 41, [1]. The Mariinsky Theater (formerly the Kirov, which is the name the troupe still uses when touring abroad) is world-class for both opera and ballet. There are English supertitles for operas sung in Russian; operas in other languages have Russian supertitles. Performances are offered in two halls: the main theater, and the newly-built Mariinsky Concert Hall. Tickets can be purchased on the theater's website.
  • Mikhailovskiy Theater, Ploshad Isskustv 1 (Between the Russian Museum and the Grand Hotel Europe), 595 43 05. The exterior is not as recognizable as the Mariinsky, but the interior is nearly as grand, and the theater hosts both Russian and foreign headliners in opera and ballet.
  • St. Petersburg Opera, Galernaya Ul. 33 (West of the Bronze Horseman). An intimate theater (half-sized stage, and only about 150-200 audience seats) which puts on the major repertory operas at a lower price than the major theaters and has a fascinating foyer - one has to see it to believe it.
  • Conservatory Theater, Theater Square 3 (Across the street from the Mariinsky Theater). While the hall itself is not lavish - quite sterile, really - a good option for seeing Russian and repertory operas cheaply, performed by faculty and students of the conservatory where Tchaikovsky (and many other famous figures from the Russian music world) studied.

Concerts

The music scene in St. Petersburg is diverse, with several classical, jazz, and pop concerts to choose from each week. Tickets are available at the same Teatralnaya Kassa locations as ballet and opera tickets, although tickets to pop concerts - especially US and European stars on tour - sometimes use exclusive distributors. For pop and rock concerts, unless you buy tickets for the dance floor (tanzpol), you are expected to sit quietly in your seat as if you were at a ballet - ushers are vigilant about keeping the audience from standing up, dancing, or cheering (polite applause is allowed, but that's about all).

Several of the ballet and opera theaters above also offer orchestral and recital performances, so those are not repeated below. Also, don't forget the many small clubs where up and coming bands play.

  • St. Petersburg Philharmonic Grand Hall, Mikhailovskaya Ul. 2 (Entrance across from the Grand Hotel Europe). A world-class orchestra which records and tours abroad. The Small Hall (Maliy Saal) hosts excellent chamber music performances and recitals.
  • St. Petersburg Philharmonic Small Hall, Nevsky Prospekt 30 (Next to the Metro station on Nevsky Prospekt). The Small Hall (Maliy Saal) of the Philharmonic hosts excellent chamber music performances and recitals.
  • Jazz Philharmonic Hall, Zagorodny Pr. 27 (South of Nevsky Prospekt, use Vladimirskaya Metro Station). Offers a variety of Jazz performances several times per week.
  • Ice Palace (Ledoviy Dvorets), (At Prospekt Bolshevikov Metro Station). One of several sports arenas that also serves as a concert hall for pop and rock concerts.
  • Oktyabrskiy Concert Hall, Ligovskiy Prospekt 6 (Near Ploshad Vosstaniya). Pop and rock concerts in an auditorium close to the city center.

Film

Most cinemas in St. Petersburg show Hollywood films dubbed (often quite poorly) in Russian. DVDs of American/European films are also often dubbed. There have been crackdowns on sellers of bootleg DVDs, so it may be difficult or expensive to find DVDs in English these days. There are several DVD stores in the city - often near Metro stations - and it is worth asking about films in English.

  • Dom Kino, 12 Karavannaya Ulitsa (Near Gostiniy Dvor Metro Station), 314 56 14. Sometimes shows films in their original language.
  • Avrora Cinema, Nevksy Prospekt 60.

Canal boat tours

A tour of the canals by boat is a great way to see the city in the summer. The typical tour is through the Moika, out to the Neva to see the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Cruiser Aurora, then in through the Fontanka (sometimes as far as the Mariinsky Theater). Tours start at many points along the route and return to their starting point - hawkers for different boat companies abound - and the boats may or may not have a cafe and toilet on board. Almost all tours are in Russian. 400-600 Rubles seems to be the average price.

  • Anglotourismo Boat Tours, Fontanka Embankment 21, 8 921 989 47 22. Canal boat tours in English, departing from near the Anichkov Bridge (Nevksy Prospekt and Fontanka)

Learn

Universities and private schools offer Russian language courses (individual and group tuition).

  • CREF - Centre of Russian, English & French Studies, [2]. Private language school in Saint Petersburg, Moscow & Nizhni-Novgorod
  • Center of Russian Language and Culture, [3]. Saint Petersburg State University, Smolniy Campus
  • Department of Philology/SPSU, [4]. Saint Petersburg State University on Vassilevskiy Island
  • EducaCentre, [5]. Private school in Saint Petersburg
  • Language Studio, [6]. Private school in Saint Petersburg
  • Liden & Denz, [7]. Private school in Moscow and Saint Petersburg
  • School of Russian and Asian Studies, [8]. Schools in major Russian cities

Work

Buy

There are plenty of ATMs and legit currency exchange booths. Do not exchange money on the street: the rate won't be any better, and you run a high risk of encountering any of numerous scams.

  • Apraksin Dvor. The Apraksin Market (Apraksin Dvor) is perfect for people watching, but keep your purse and camera close since it is a favorite of both shoppers and pickpockets. You can find almost anything here.
  • Gostiny Dvor. The city's oldest and largest shopping centre, dating to the mid-18th century. The name means "Guest Yard", as its old role was to provide both shops and housing to merchants from far away. It sells almost everything from Playstations to Saint Petersburg Vodka. The prices of goods are the highest in St.Petersburg.
  • Nevsky Prospekt. Saint Petersburg's Champs-Élysées, lined with department stores and fancy shops. A recommended shop for Souvenir hunters is Nevsky Gifts on the corner of the road entering Palace Square.
  • Passazh. The Harrods of Saint Petersburg, a smaller and very beautiful shopping center for the elite.
  • Souvenirs Market sells a huge variety of cheap souvenirs from Matroyshka dolls to Soviet Memorabilia. It can be found behind the Church of the Saviour next to the Griboedova Canal. There are also some souvenir stalls in the square across from St. Isaacs Cathedral.

Eat

Budget

Nothing, absolutely nothing, tastes better than hot Russian crepes with caviar, mushrooms, caramel, berries, or what have you with a cup of tea on a cold winter street.

  • Chainaya Lozhka (Чайная ложка), Several locations (Nevsky Pr. 44 is one of the most centrally located). These fast-food restaurants serve blini (Russian crepes) with a variety of fillings - you choose your own at the counter. They also have a wide selection of teas.
  • Teremok (Теремок), Several locations. This blini chain began with street-corner kiosks throughout the city (many are quite easy to find), and they have expanded to include counter-service restaurants serving not only blini, but also kasha, salads, and other quick, inexpensive fare. Some central locations are Bolshaya Morskaya Ul. 11, Nevsky Pr. 60, and Nevsky Pr. 106. The restaurants have menus in English if you ask. 40-100 rubles for a filling meal.
  • Samovar (Самовар), Ulitsa Gorokhovaya 27, 314-39-45. This neighborhood blini shop makes blini as good as homemade (so says a native Russian blini-maker). Choose from a wide range of fillings and have your tasty blini made fresh; also has a decent selection of tea. Better lunch than any of the chains. No English; but you can just point at the fillings on the counter if you don't want to bother translating the menu with your guide book. 20 rubles for a blin.
  • U Tyoshi Na Blinakh (У тёщи на блинах), Several locations. Cafeteria-style Russian and Ukrainian food for a reasonable price with faux-rustic decor, not like a Soviet-era stolovaya. Has more than blini: soups, salads, meat dishes, desserts, etc. Those who know the Mu-Mu chain in Moscow will recognize this, although on a smaller scale. One location is near Sennaya Ploshad.
Saint Michael's Castle by night

Mid-range

  • 1,001 Nights (Тысяча и одна ночь), ул. Миллионная, 21. noon-23:00 daily, live music & belly dancing F-Su 20:00-23:00. This would be but an ordinary undistinguished Uzbek restaurant, were it not within one block of the Winter Palace. Given location, the place is spectacular in that it maintains decent service and very good food. 300-500 rubles.
  • Acquarel, (next to the Birzhevoy bridge), +7 (812) 320-8600. Right on the water this restaurant offers Italian food alongside a French/Asian fusion menu. Friendly people, delightful atmosphere, and a wonderful view, Acquarel is a wonderful and delicious dinner option or even a great place to relax and get a drink in their lounge chairs.
  • Art Deco, Sadovaya 47 (intersection of Griboedova channel and Stolyarny pereulok), +7 (812) 310-6454, [9]. 12:00-02:00. Artistic meals serving and interiors (from windows to the restrooms), free Wi-Fi
  • Cafe Old Tbilisi (Кафе Старый Тбилилси), В.О. 4-я линия, 5 (near the Vasilieostrovskaya metro station). 11:00-23:00 daily. You'll probably be the only foreign visitor to this small unassuming place on Vasilievsky Island, but the great Georgian food is absolutely worth the short metro trip. The quality for the price here is just outstanding. 650 rubles.
  • Caravan-Sarai (Караван-Сарай), ул. Некрасова, 1, +7 (812) 272-7153. In a city with plenty of Uzbek food, this may outshine the competition. Not for the service or the decor, but for the very long menu of top-notch Uzbek cooking. 400-600 rubles.
  • Gin-no Taki (Гин-но Таки), пр. Чернышевского, 17. 11:00-06:00 daily. A very reasonably priced Japanese restaurant just across the street from the Chernyshevskaya metro station. The interior is very stylish, even if the fashion shows on the TVs are a bit much, and you can control your service with the aid of a call button. The food is good, but the sodas might be even better—free refills! It's also a very solid choice for a place to unwind late-night after a wild night. 150-400 rubles.
  • Kafe Ket, 22 Ul. Stremyannaya. In a country where only 1% of the population is reported to eat out in a restaurant more than once a year, Kafe Ket is a wonderful alternative to the pushy alternatives which have no place in the city other than to cater for the culinary whims of busloads of foreign tourists. This little restaurant serves probably the nicest Georgian food, menu in English.
  • Kafe Tbilisi, Sytninskaya ul, 10 (Metro Gorkovskaya behind the market), +7 (812) 232-9391. Georgian food. The dishes prepared in pots are excellent.
  • The Idiot (Идиот), 82, Moika Emb, +7 (812) 315-1675. Named after the Dostoyevsky novel, and offering a wide variety of very tasty vegan and vegetarian dishes at prices higher than what you'd expect in the city, in a very cozy and attractive cellar stocked with books, ex-pats, and intellectuals.
  • Montana Saloon, 20, Kirochnaya str. or 19, Izmailovsky pr. American cuisine, wonderful steaks (best in S-Petersburg), good wine and pleasant atmosphere. A bit expensive (the best steak costs 850 rubles), but it is worth this money.
  • Restaurant Harbin, ул. Жуковского, 34/2. 12:30-23:30 daily. Chinese in Saint Petersburg is often better than in most parts of Europe. This restaurant is cozy and overcrowded (show up early or late if you want to ensure that you get a table), and has an extraordinarily long and complex menu. If you don't have a native speaker with you, it's a must to bring a food dictionary, since otherwise you'll have no idea what you are ordering! 800 rubles.
  • Traveling Sack for a Pregnant Spy (СаквояЖ для беременной шпионки), ул. Б. Конюшенная, 17, +7 (812) 570-06-37. M-F 11.00-02.00 Sa-Su noon-02.00. A very fun Russian restaurant, that would be worth visiting as a gallery of weird spy-kitsch, but the food is actually quite good as well. 800 rubles.

Splurge

  • Austeria (Аустерия), Iohann Alley, Peter & Paul Fortress (Near the entrance to the fortress). 12:00-24:00. This restaurant, offering a very European setting with mostly Russian food of high quality, nabs a lot of tourist visiting the fortress. But nonetheless, the service and food remain phenomenal—while tourists are trapped here, it is no tourist trap. During off season (particularly in the snow) the place can be almost magical, as you get the beautiful restaurant to yourself. 1150 rubles.
  • Baku, +7 (812) 941-37-56, +7 (812) 571-84-70, [10]. 12:00-02:00. One of the city's more impressive interiors, modeled after the palaces of the Shirvah Shahs (imagine eating in Sheki's Khan-Saray). Only opened in 2006, but has received rave reviews from all quarters since. A great place to try out Azeri cuisine. 1300 rubles.
  • Grand Hotel Europe Restaurant. The Sunday Jazz Brunch here is a "Not to Miss" if you are looking for a real splurge. About $90 USD per person includes a full caviar spread and sushi bar in addition to the normal brunch fare (carving station, omelette station, salads, fruit, baked goods, desserts, the options are nearly endless). There is also bottomless champagne glasses (and the champagne is quite good) and a huge frozen ice sculpture that is tapped where you can refill your glass with iced vodka as many times as you'd like. The jazz is very good and the pace is relaxed and enjoyable. The only caveat: As with most Russian eateries, there is no non-smoking section, so if you are not a smoker, ask for table away from the majority or risk having to inhale cigarette smoke while you dine.
  • Kalinka-Malinka (Калинка-Малинка), ул. Итальянская, 5. Its an overdone and overpriced Russian-kitsch tourist trap for foreigners (Russians wouldn't be caught dead here). But if you're staying nearby, they'll treat you fine and you can eat some bear meat. 1400 rubles.
  • Na Zdorovye! (На здоровье!), П.С. пр. Большой , 13/4 (3 blocks up Bolshoy Prospect from the Sportivnaya metro station). 12:00-23:00. This is the kitschiest kitchen in town, but it's no tourist trap, not by a long stretch. Its way off on the Petrograd Side north of the stadium, and is frequented mostly just by Russians, who come to enjoy the fun over-the-top decor, and the delightful "tastes just like babushka makes it" cooking. Sending the kitsch even further over that top are the performances of Russian/Gypsy folk music and singing 19:00-23:00 daily. Come here for a full meal or the vodka shots + zakuski, and you'll have a memorable night. 900 rubles.
  • Sunduk (Сундук), ул. Фурштатская, 42. M-F 10:00-24:00 Sa-Su 11:00-24:00. A great, small, cozy, and very stylish brick-walled Russian restaurant, with excellent food, and good enough service. Live entertainment comes often, and is often surprisingly good—imagine sitting down and only then seeing a solo jazz guitarist sit down to play some beautiful music. It's been open for more than a decade, and there's a reason why it's a fixture of the local restaurant scene around Furshtatskaya. 850 rubles.

Drink

Saint Petersburgers know how to party. There is a wide and excellent selection of great clubs that will satisfy all tourists looking to spend the night out. The city hosts clubs of all music. Rock, Pop, Jazz, Hip Hop/RnB, and a lot more. The most popular trend within music and clubbing in Russia at the moment is Techno.

Pubs

  • Dickens Pub, 108 Fontanka Canal (Near Sadovaya & Technologichesky Institute metro stations, just off Moskovsky-Fontanka bridge), +7-812-380-7888. Dickens Pub offers good service, great food, and a wide range of English and other international beers, with over 15 on tap. There are also many superior Whiskeys too! A good place to eat and then mingle with the fun-loving locals. Be prepared for a party - Fridays & Saturdays!
  • Gordon & MacPhail's Whisky Bar, Nekrasova St 9, +7 812 579 4059. lovely place where you can have a couple of whiskeys and a pint in the evening. Lots of brands and a cosy atmosphere.
  • Hemingway Bar (Хемингуэй-бар), ул. Ломоносова, 3, +7 (812) 310-7007, [11]. 12:00-05:00. A comfortable, big bar with upscale drinks and cooking. The biggest draw is the cool clientele and live performances: blues, jazz, R&B. One tip though, if you open the door to a DJ blaring Russkaya popsa—leave because you won't be able to hear yourself think. ~1400 rubles to eat.
  • Red Lion British Pub, (near St Isaacs square adjacent to the Bronze Horseman). Offers traditional British food such as Shepherd's Pie and alcoholic drinks. Has the atmosphere of a pub in the UK.
  • Tsinik, Per. Antonenko 4, [12]. Open between 12PM and 3AM.
  • The Other Side Gastro Bar & Refuge, 1 Bolshaya Konyushennaya St (Metro: Nevsky Prospect; a 2-minute walk from The Church of Our Saviour on The Spilled Blood), +7-812-312-9554, [13]. Open 12PM-?. Rapidly emerging as a favored spot among foreign visitors and long-term residents alike, The Other Side offers what too many bars in St. Petersburg do not: gourmet bar food, a solid selection of drinks, fabulous background and live music, friendly, relaxed service and a cool, classy atmosphere.

Nightclubs

  • Mod Club (Мод), Konushenaya sq. 2 (Metro: Nevski Prospect), [41]. Cult club in the St.Petersburg center, next to Church of the Savior on Blood. Two rooms - one where bands / DJ`s are playing, the second with a jukebox and comfortable sofas + cosy balcony. Very diverse music program: from raggae to punk/metal, but mostly rock. Friendly atmosphere. The crowd is combined of students, musicians, artists and expats. Design of the club is worth cheking out as well. Menus on English, English-speaking bartenders (looks like the owner only hires sexy girls for this position, not counting famous French barman Oliver). Great on Tuesday Nights when DJ Atomiq hosts famous Indie Disco. The entry is 150 RUR on Fridays and Saturdays, with free entry all other days.
  • Trinity Club (ex club two, club one, club zero) (Троица), Ul Lomonosova 5 (Metro: Gostiny Dvor), [42]. Highly advised on Saturday nights for the insane nu-rave/indie parties. The venue is situated in the very heart of the city in the building of XVIII century market. Club is packed with mostly young & crazy girls (during the first half hour of the eveing, girls can enter the club for free) dancing to DJ's mixing dance rock with electro. Two dancefloors, cheap alcohol, and control preventing stupid people from entering. Most of the crowd speaks at least a little English and are friendly. Entry 50-300 rubles, cheaper with guestlist thru their site ($7).
  • Underground (ex-Tunnel) (Undergeound), Zverinskaya Ul (Metro: Sportivnaya), [43]. Reputedly Russia's first techno club and certainly its most legendary, Tunnel is back after an extended shutdown. This unused bomb shelter isn't exactly pretty and the crush and "face control" at the entrance when the doors open at 12 midnight sharp are legendary, but the crowd and the DJs are worth it. Entry 250-350 rubles depending on who's playing.
  • Griboedov (Грибоедов), Voronezskaya Ul. 2 (Metro: Ligovsky), [44]. A suitably spaced out place for a club whose name can also be interpreted as "the mushroom eater" or a famous Russian's poet surname, the acts here are famously offbeat, especially on weekdays when you're as likely to find a poetry reading as live reggae or a DJ spinning psychedelic trance. Also hidden in an underground bomb shelter, open daily except Tuesday.
  • Metro Club (Метроклуб), 174 Ligovsky Pr (Metro: Ligovsky), [45]. Saint Petersburgs biggest club. Mostly for people from age 16 to 30. Entry prices vary from 180 RUR to 400 RUR depending on the time of arrival. The club is open between 10 PM and 6 AM every day. The club boosts 3 floors and 6 bars. The preferred music is techno, trance and house.

Gay & lesbian

  • Central Station [46]. The sole gay club in Saint Petersburg. It is considered one of the best gay clubs in the world and features three floors, dungeon decor, two dancefloors with house and disco music, performances of drag queens, a dark room, a public shower and more. Be aware that gays are not very accepted among the locals and are even targeted once in a while. It is not uncommon for people to wait outside to beat up clubgoers.

Sleep

Budget

  • RedMedved Hostel (From 12 eur. per night), 57 Zhukovskogo str., +7 (812) 272 21 82 (), [15]. REDMEDVED is the funiest and most eventful hostel in St.Petersburg. It's located, only 5 min from the main train station. Free towels and bedlinen. Light and spacious rooms. 12 EUR per night.
  • Nordhostel, 10 Bolshaya Morskaya street, +7 (812) 571-03-42 (), [16]. Located in the very center of the city — a stone's throw from the Hermitage. Free internet access and continental breakfast. A grungy place, but excellent location, and relatively cheap. 24 EUR (888 rubles) per night.
  • Sleep Cheap, Mohovaya Ave. Very hard to find (go to number 18, and through the dark tunnel), no Internet Access or hot water (for a couple of weeks during the summer). 700 rubles per night.

Mid-range

  • Northern Lights, Bolshaya Morskaya st.50/6, +7(812)571-91-99 (, fax: +7(812)570-64-09), [17]. checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. A small, beautifully designed hotel located in the historical center of St. Petersburg. The hotel is Western owned and managed, ensuring that services are up to the highest International standard.Continental breakfast, free internet access, visa support, airport transfers and more: we have done everything possible to create a comfortable, home like atmosphere for our guests. Prices are from 50 to 100 on low season.
  • Bed & Breakfast Sabrina, Bolshaya Morskaya st.21, +7(812)314-76-02 (, fax: +7(812)314-76-02), [18]. A family-run bed & breakfast perfectly located 1 block from Nevsky Prospect and the Hermitage. Basic, but very clean and comfortable. A bit difficult to find as it is on the fourth floor of an apartment building. Code for building entrance: 2230#. Prices are from 40 to 100.
  • Ermitage Hotel, Millionnaya st.11, +7(812)571-54-97, [19]. A small hotel with genuine St. Petersburg spirit. Located in the historical center, close to the Hermitage and the Marble Palace. Offers 4 double rooms that allow usage of a fully equipped study and a magnificent hall with fire-place - and with the whole staff of the hotel at your disposal. 120+ Euro.
  • Herzen House, Bolshaya Morskaya st.25, +7(812)315-55-50, [20]. A newly opened hotel right at the historical center. An ideal place for business or tourist trip. 20 rooms of different types, TV, bathroom,phone, Wi-Fi, air-condition in each room. 24-hours English speaking reception. Excellent breakfast (buffet) is included in the price, free internet access for guests. Room price - from 85 Euro.
  • Comfort Hotel, 25 Bolshaya Morskaya Ul. (2 blocks off Nevsky Prospekt between the Moika and Admiralty), +7 (812) 570 67 00 (), [21]. Small hotel (14 rooms), attentive service. Central to public transportation and walking distance to St. Isaacs Square and Palace Square. Rate includes breakfast buffet, free internet. Elevator, English-speaking staff, above-average security, credit cards accepted. 3200 to 7500 Rubles, depending on room and season.
  • Alexander House, Old City, 27 Kryukov Embankment, +7(812)575-38-77, [22]. 16-room hotel in a quiet neighborhood, southwest of the city center.
  • Matisov Domik, Matisov Island, [23]. A small, cosy hotel located a short walk away from the Mariinsky Theatre. The hotel has excellent service with large, clean rooms and satellite television (all but one News Channel, Russia Today, are in Russian). The hotel is a jewel in an otherwise poorer area of the city, however this should not put potential visitors off as it is the perfect way to see both perspectives of the city.
  • Moskva Hotel, 2 Alexander Nevsky pl (Metro Ploschad' Alexandra Nevskogo), +7(812)274-4001, [24]. Incredibly gargantuan concrete monolith that continues to carry forward the Soviet traditions of former monopoly operator Intourist. Ugly and user-hostile, but the location right above a subway station is excellent and the price can be right, especially if booked in a package.
  • Nevsky Grand Hotel, 10 Bolshaya Konyushennaya St, +7(812)703-38-60 (fax: +7(812)703-38-60), [25]. Just around the corner from Nevsky Prospect, 5 minutes from the subway and a 10 minute walk from the Hermitage Museum, the Nevsky Hotel Grand is an ideally located hotel in Saint Petersburg for city tours and excursions to the city's surroundings. Hotel has free very reliable Wi-Fi access in all rooms (very speedy also), and air conditioning in every room. Rooms are very small, but functional. Staff speaks English well, and breakfast is included in the room rate (available from 7 am til 11 am)
  • Petro Palace, 14 Malaya Morskaya, [26]. A clean, very efficient, and brilliantly located hotel. It has a spa, swimming pool and gym (but only free for guests before 11am) and the rooms maids are very efficient - appearing to clean rooms several times a day. It is within a few seconds of several excellent restaurants, coffee bars and a small shop.
  • Hotel Vera, Suvorovsky prosp. 25/16, 5th floor (close to Grand Hotel Emerald), +7(812)702-72-06 (fax: +7(812)271-28-93), [27]. checkin: 2pm. Up-to-date and cozy rooms; 4th to 6th floors of an old building. Staff speaks English by default, not Russian--which is quite rare. 6th floor features mansard windows. Some rooms have poor sound isolation from the corridor (eg. 514, 604). Free internet over wire, cable supplied. Breakfast: No-frills; no hot plates but fresh fruits; no espresso, only American coffee.

Splurge

  • Grand Hotel Europe, 1/7 Mikhailovskaya st., +7(812)329-60-00 (, fax: +7(812)329-60-01), [28]. A five-star hotel in the centre of town. Hosts Ballet, and several restaurants. Many rooms have great views over the city. Well worth a visit.
  • Radisson SAS, 49/2 Nevskiy pr., +7(812)322-50-00 (, fax: +7(812)322-50-01), [29]. A five-star hotel located on Nevskiy Prospekt. The hotel boasts a fitness centre, sauna and massage parlour. Conveniently located.

Contact

There are four GSM 900/1800 networks (MTS/Beeline/Megafon/Tele2) and a CDMA 2000 network (SkyLink) and the coverage is quite sufficient (every built-up area and most of the country roads). If you stay for a few days or more and need to make local calls it is advised that you buy a pre-paid SIM card (you may be asked for a passport) and a cell-phone if you don't have one matching local standards (possibly a used one) which is going to be much cheaper than roaming in most cases. A SIM card with a balance will cost you less then $10. Cell outlets are plentiful around the city (numerous at every subway station and shopping center). You can pay for your talks at most supermarkets, cell-phone shops and ATMs. The emergency service number is 112.

For international calls, consider buying a calling card which allows very cheap calls (a few rubles for a minute to Europe or the US). Calling from a hotel room may result in rather painful bill. There are a lot of internet cafes around the city, although it is not so easy to find one when you need (you'd better ask locals). Also there are so-called computer clubs with dozens of computers for network gaming (usually crowded by kids playing CounterStrike) which also offer internet access in separate rooms for a little charge.

Free Wi-Fi is available in the airport, most major hotels, business and shopping centers, restaurants and other public places.

Stay safe

Saint Petersburg has a somewhat undeserved dangerous reputation. Things have calmed down since the Wild West days immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but some common sense is still required.

As with most major cities, avoid traveling alone at night, and do not get into altercations with drunks. If traveling at night, it is recommended to stay on the main sidewalks and not go into any dark alleys or yards. Gypsy cabs are not recommended in any circumstance, and those which linger near bars where expats and tourists congregate have been known to be especially dangerous.

The Downtown, western and south central parts of the city are the most safe. Suburbs like Kupchino, Kolpino are struggling with criminality and poverty.

Gangs are a problem, although mafia gang wars are unlikely to affect tourists. Some gangs, however, such as neo-Nazis or angry hooligans, are out looking for trouble and committing crimes that can affect tourists. After the war with Chechnya and terrorist attacks in some russian cities, local hatred is growing toward people with darker complexions, and neo-Nazism is a concern. As of 2007, St. Petersburg and Russia in general can be regarded as a seriously dangerous destination for tourists of darker complexions, especially to black people. Travelling in groups is highly advised.

Also, Saint Petersburg's football club, Zenit Saint Petersburg, is one of the biggest clubs in the country, and has its own band of hooligans. If you decide to visit the football stadium to watch the club play, you should buy tickets to center sectors. If you do not do this, and a fight starts, you are likely to get dragged into it by either the hooligans or the police since both will think you are part of the brawl.

Take care of money, documents, cameras, mobile phones, and anything of value because of pickpocketing. Especially watch out on the Metro during busy times, as people start pushing and pickpockets are frequent. In 2007, several expats and tourists have been pickpocketed at the Gostinyy Dvor Metro Station by the same scheme: a group of men will block the train door while their "mark" is trying to enter or exit, and they will lift items in the frenzy to get in or out of the car before the doors close. When riding the Metro, keep in mind that robbery is a real threat; you should constantly watch what is going on around you and who is standing very close to you. Cameras must be kept in bags slung across the body at all times, with your hands keeping a firm grip on them, and no watches or jewelry should be visible at all. Quite obviously, do not show in public that you have a lot of money. Robberies are not uncommon and many foreigners have been threatened at gun and knife point. However, foreigners are not targeted, and robbers attack both foreigners and tourists that openly show that they are wealthy. In the 90's, Moscow and Saint Petersburg experienced horrific times where rich people were hunted and murdered, many of whom were Westerners. These times are thankfully over.

Russian driving is wild. Drivers attack their art with an equal mix of aggressiveness and incompetence. Guidelines are lax and rarely followed. As a pedestrian, take great care when crossing the roads, as pedestrian crossings are widely ignored. If you are thinking of driving yourself, bear in mind that the Russian traffic police is the most notoriously corrupt institution in the country and that if you fail to stop when waved, they have the authority to open fire on your car!

Saint Petersburg has a relatively big problem with street children who make their living out of stealing. They could be a hassle and can beg you aggresively. Act like any other Russian would. Being polite is not necessary. Just tell them to get away with a strong voice.

Homosexuals must practice extreme caution while staying in Saint Petersburg as attacks often occur.

Bar fights do occur. In the center of the city and around Nevsky Prospekt they are unlikely to happen. However in the suburbs and local pubs, fights occur between 5 and 10 times every evening. If you are staying with locals living in these areas, you should avoid these bars. Police are unlikely to show up as they consider fights as small, unimportant, regular and a waste of time.

Overall, be warned that if you are used to living in the US and/or western Europe, Saint Petersburg, as well as the rest of Eastern Europe, will seem different, and, at times, a bit intimidating. Russian people are extremely friendly and welcoming towards foreigners and nothing should happen to you unless you really want it yourself. If you don't care about them, they don't care about you and nothing should be in your way of having a great holiday!

Stay healthy

The city's water-system is not ideal because of some number of old pipes and as a result does not provide 100% clean water. Consult locals you trust; otherwise buy bottled water or filter tap water.

In Saint Petersburg cold water is cleaner than hot, also there isn't hot water in 3 weeks every summer.

There are numerous public toilets, most of which are attended by a person who will charge about 15 roubles for entry. It is a good idea to take your own toilet paper, as it is not often provided. The toilets are typically extremely dirty by Western standards. If you are a westerner, you can get away with wandering into the western hotels, which have lovely bathrooms—the Grand Hotel Europe in particular. Just don't ever push your luck with suit-clad men guarding the hotel entrances, they are tough as nails if provoked.

Cope

Not away from city center, 2001

The first 24 hours in Saint Petersburg may be a shock to the system. The welcome from immigration officials seems like a hang-over from Communist times- don't expect to be spoken to or even looked at by officials. Flying into Saint Petersburg may seem unusual, with the sight of old concrete tower blocks and factory chimneys. The suburbs of the city are a contrast to those with which you may be familiar. Nevsky Prospekt is the most 'westernized' street in the city and would be more familiar to westerners traveling to Saint Petersburg. If you are from a Western country, you will find this either shocking or amusing.

Saint Petersburg is plagued by an number of mosquitoes during the summer, as the swampy surroundings of the city give the mosquitoes excellent living conditions. In budget accommodation with few counter measures against the mosquitoes this can be a problem at night, putting your well deserved sleep at risk.

Get out

One-day excursions are popular with travellers to Saint Petersburg. Taxicabs and buses are the most common forms of transport and trips can often be organised either with the holiday operator e.g. Intourist, before traveling to Russia, or from your hotel. Several tour bus companies have kiosks in front of Gostinyy Dvor, with some tours (but not all) offered in English. Some of the most popular excursions include:

  • Gatchina — big park and museum. Can be reached by train from Saint Petersburg Baltiskiy station to the Gatchina's Baltiskiy railway station, which is situated fairly close to the palace. One can also take a bus from near the former Warsaw station (next to Baltiskiy station) in St. Petersburg.
  • Kronshtadt — old seaport town on the island. Main Russian naval base from early 18 century.
  • Lomonosov — big park with museum. Not far from Peterhof (15 minutes by car). Station name is Oranienbaum.
  • Novgorod — Ancient town with churches and museums. About 150 km. from St. Petersburg.
  • Pavlovsk — very big and nice park. You could feed the squirrels from your hands. Can be reached by train from Vitebskiy station (not the main hall, but the smaller hall for local trains, which is on the right side as you face the station). Pavlovsk train station is close to the northwestern gate to the park, and from there it is a long (but pleasant) walk though the park to the palace.
  • Peterhof — the sumptuous "Russian Versailles". Fountains, parks, museums. Can be reached by train from Baltiskiy station, although figuring out which station you want to arrive at can be tricky if you can't read Cyrillic. Station's name is Noviy Peterhof.
  • Pushkin (A.K.A. Tsarskoye Selo) — a city 25 km south of Saint Petersburg, with beautiful parks and palaces, most notably the Catherine Palace built for Tsarina Catherine I. Can be reached by train from Vitebskiy station (not the main hall, but the smaller hall for local trains, which is on the right side as you face the station). Take the train to Detskoe Selo station, but be advised that the palaces are still about a 20-minute walk through town from the station.
  • Repino — House-museum of the artist Ilya Repin, located just off the Gulf of Finland, where he lived and worked. To get there: Elektrichka train from the Finland Station (round trip fare 120 RR, eleventh stop on the westbound line - check in advance to make sure the train you board stops in Repino - then from the station cross the main road and walk down the path to the left of the supermarket through a resort complex to the next major road. Turn left and walk about 1.5km to the gate marked Penaty. The walk takes about 45 minutes.) The museum and grounds close at 3:00 pm, or earlier if there are no visitors.
  • Ivangorod and Narva - two towns on the Narva river (border between Russia and Estonia). Twin castles (Russian, established Grand Duke Ivan III, and Danish/Swedish). Clarify your visa status before crossing to Estonia, as you may not be able to come back on single-entry Russian visa.
  • Vyborg - town situated on the Karelian Isthmus near the head of the Bay of Vyborg, 130 km to the northwest of St. Petersburg, 38 km south from Russia's border with Finland, where the Saimaa Canal enters the Gulf of Finland. Swedish built castle, started in the 13th century and extensively reconstructed by Russians in 1891–1894. Mon Repos, one of the most spacious English parks in Eastern Europe, laid out in the 19 century. Fortifications of the Mannerheim Line (built by Finland against the Soviet Union) are close by.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!