St Petersburg has long been the place to go for a vibrant mix of Russian cultural heritage – iconic landmarks, elaborate monuments, UNESCO protected historic sites and some of the world’s most spectacular art. However, digging a bit deeper one will find St Petersburg to be full of less-celebrated gems worth exploring. It has been years since my last visit to St Petersburg and I must admit I was a bit surprised to learn that the new St Petersburg also has a big quirky side to it. I decided to dig a bit deeper and find out what are the best offbeat spots and alternative things to do for millennials visiting St Petersburg. Here’s what I narrowed them down to:
1) Take a hidden walking tour
For first-time visitors you should without doubt take tours that introduce you to the most famous attractions in the city. But the real St Petersburg experience can be found behind the stunning facades of the iconic masterpieces and grand palaces. Hire a local guide to take you to around the quirky alleyways of the old city and discover the hidden secrets of St Petersburg.
2) Shop at Udelnaya flea market
Udelnaya is a cool place to experience when you want to get out of the busy city center. This buzzing flea market is popular among locals and a great place to spend a day exploring the endless stalls for hidden Soviet treasures. The market is open every day but for the best selection of merchandise available head over on the weekend.
3) Explore and shop underground arts at Loft Project ETAGI
An anarchist utopia, ETAGI is an old bread factory turned into a creative space that hosts art galleries, hostel, radio station, recording studio, English language school, café, bike shop, vintage clothing store….you name it! This kooky hipster hangout place, once also described as an “anemic hipster shopping centre”, is a great place to take the pulse of St Petersburg’s modern art scene.
4) Marvel at the beauty of the city’s underground metro stations
The metro stations in St Petersburg are a thrilling experience in themselves and one could easily spend the entire day getting lost in this incredibly unique underground network.
Each one of the stations is different and offers architectural details so stunning it’s hard to believe you’re in an underground station. The oldest and most beautiful stations are decorated with mosaic walls, marble floors, ornamented pillars and extravagant chandeliers, while the more modern ones offer a fascinating mix of classic and modern design.
5) Get a bird’s eye view of the city on a rooftop tour
Hanging out on the rooftops of the city’s magnificent buildings seems to be the new ‘thing’ for young locals. Now some of these youngsters are also offering this (not-exactly-legal) experience to tourists looking for alternative excursions. A small word of advice though: these tours are not for the faint-hearted or those scared of heights!
So, next time you’re in town, head down the side streets and alleyways and you might come across some spectacular and unexplored corners of the city.
Insider tip: If you’re still on the lookout for accommodation for your trip to St Petersburg, I’ve got some great news for you: Corinthia Hotels recently announced its annual sale, offering a 50% discount across its many five-star hotel destinations in Europe, including Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg. Book on corinthia.com before 28th February 2017 and get a room in this stunning luxury hotel for as low as 4975 RUB (~78 EUR)!