Places to visit outside St Petersburg
Summer is fast approaching and it’s time to get outside and visit some new places! We know St Petersburg has plenty to offer within the city itself. However, here we recommend some places to visit outside the city:
Peterhof is a series of stunning palaces, leafy gardens and gravity-powered fountains. It’s located on the Gulf of Finland around 20 miles west of St Petersburg and provides a great little day trip. The history of Peterhof began with Peter the Great building a small cabin there in order to oversee the construction of the naval base on Kronstadt Island. Apparently, he fell in love with the place; it was the perfect location for a new imperial residence. The centre piece of Peterhof is the Grand Palace and Grand Cascade, an ensemble of over 140 fountains and canals! You can even go on a grotto tour beneath the Grand Cascade to find out more about how the fountains work and practise your Russian aural skills.
Despite not having fountains, the Catherine Palace is truly stunning. One of the most distinctive aspects of this particular palace, nearly 1km in circumference, is its glorious blue and white facades gilded with over 100kg of gold! Ornately decorated, this was the summer residence of the tsars and was named after Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great. The interiors of the palace are equally as impressive, in particular the Amber Room. To create this extraordinary chamber, Rastrelli, the famous Italian architect, used the panels of amber mosaic surrounding them with gilded carving, mirrors and further mosaics of Ural and Caucasus gemstones.
If you fancy a trip to the beach, then Sestroretsk is the place to go. Located half an hour’s journey on the elektrichka train north of St Petersburg, this little town provides a perfect day trip. The beach is certainly the main event but make sure to walk through the leafy park on your way there with an intriguing children’s play area filled with statues of Soviet cartoon characters. The beach itself is sandy and stretches on for miles. It’s a windy spot so you’ll always see the kite-surfers out; the multi-coloured kites whirling through the air is an impressive sight. For those who fancy a swim it’s a pleasant temperature. The Gulf of Finland heats up quickly since it’s so shallow.
Head further afield, to the historic town of Vyborg, around a 2-hour train journey from St Petersburg. The most prominent landmark of this little town is the 13th century Swedish-built castle; located near the Finnish border, Vyborg has changed hands several times during its long history making it such an interesting place to visit. From the top of the castle’s tower you can even see Finland in the distance. Outside the town is the wonderful Mon Repos, one of the largest English landscape gardens in eastern Europe, gloriously green and beautiful in comparison to the busy St Petersburg metropolis.