Warning: this will be a loooong post!!!!
We debated for ages what to do on our 2nd day as we didn’t have the weather on our side!!! We knew that on day 3 it’s gonna rain so we wanted to do all the outdoor activities we can on the 2nd day!!! Hence it was a pretty hard core day especially as I had slept really badly the night before… I know it doesn’t look like much from the itinerary but read on and you’ll understand!!!
Peterhof, lunch @ Teremok, Catherine Palace (Tsarskoye Selo), dinner @ Kilikia, honey cake!!!
As we knew today was going to be a long day we left the hotel pretty early around 9am. Our plans was to try and get the hydrofoil ferry to the Peterhof complex but unfortunately this wasn’t running yet (believe it’ll start running around mid May) Luckily there are other ways to get there and cheaper too!!! So off we headed to our nearest metro station!!!
We found the metro in St Petersburg to be cheap, clean, safe and easy to use. In facts I cannot recommend it enough and would actually say it’s a must do/see of your trip!!! Because the platforms are the most decadent I’ve ever seen!!! These spaces are decked out with Roman columns, chandeliers and statues!!! In fact they were more like a museum than a metro platforms!!! Some lines are more attractive than others especially the red line!!! There are only 5 lines to choose from so it’s very easy to navigate (you can get the map from here, the best thing is to copy or save this image instead of taking a screen shot otherwise it gets blurry) you just need to know the last station in the direction you want to go and follow the sign. Lastly at 31rub approx 40p for all distance it’s almost rude not to use it!!!
The way to use the metro is that you can buy a token from the machines, insert that into the barrier on the way in then ride the metro and walk out! Easy!
You can find the different ways to Peterhof on their website. We went for metro then minivan, which seems the easiest way. You just need to decide which station to go for. We went for Avtovo (red line) as it was the 1st stop. If you decide to go for this stop then you just need to come out of the station, use the underpass to get to the other side of the road then the vans are right in front of you. These are the same type of minivan you get from the airport. You don’t even need to know which number, you just need to look for the Russian word for Peterhof (Петергоф). There’s a price chart on the bus and if you ask the driver he would point to this for you. It cost us 60rub each which is not bad for a 30mins journey. Don’t worry about missing your stop as pretty much everyon is going to the same place.
I won’t repeat how to buy tickets but you can see this in my earlier post here. I have to say this was our 1st clue that the Russians are not great at signs and not many of them speak English!!! I think the tourist industry here is very much still only geared towards the domestic market. We were pretty confused the whole time until we got into the Grand Palace which was pretty impressive. However I was surprised that the interior was very European and that theme carries onto all the other palaces!!! In facts many people compare this to the Palace of Versailles, for me I went a long time ago so cannot recall…
The garden is absolutely huge and you can spend hours here. This is also the garden of fountains, there were so many and I believe in the evening they also do lights show!!! There were other museums within the complex but you do have to pay for each so beware. We didn’t spend that long as we needed to head off to the 2nd palace which is in the other direction out of SPB so time to leave after a couple of hours.
It’s easy to get back to the metro station, you just cross the road from where you got off the bus earlier and look for a bus with the destination M. Автово for Avtovo.
We got back on the metro and headed towards Moskovskaya station where you can get a minivan towards Catherine Palace. This part was a little bit more confusing then our last leg as the station is a lot bigger and we weren’t sure which way to go!!! We finally managed to find the bus stop after we did some research using the free Wifi provided at the lunch “restaurant” Teremok. Actually this is more of a fast food place but this branch opposite the station actually serve their food on china plate and you get proper cutlery!!! There’s a menu broad behind the counter as other fast food chain but you can ask for a English menu.
They speciality is blinis with all sort of toppings and there are many options on the menu. We have tried quite a few as we actually went to another branch for lunch on the next day lol!!! Unfortunately in both times we were devoided of red caviars. However everything we have tried were delicious with the exception of the cured cheese cake… Our favourite was actually the pelmeni which was tiny morsels of happiness!!! The prices of course we’re very wallet friendly and as mentioned earlier you get free wifi!!!
We had a delicious and filling lunch which gave us the energy to carry on finding the bus stop especially we now have a better idea. So to help you not to end up in the same fate. It’s actually pretty easy!!! After you got off the train, follow the sign for going to the airport which will lead you to a tunnel after the barriers. Then instead of following the sign you now take the first right exit, once you’re outside, turn right, walk to the end of the street and across the road there’s a big square with the Lenin Monument. Don’t cross the road yet but turn left then cross the street and the bus stop is in front of the big cream coloured building. In case you’re still not sure you should now be facing the back of the monument!!! The buses you need to look for is 342 or 545. If you’re unsure show the Russian name Царское Село to the driver to be sure. Actually cannot remember the cost but think it was around 40rub. Very cheap!!!
The journey was very long!!! In fact both of us nearly dozed off especially after that carb heavy lunch!!! Luckily there was a helpful passenger to tell us when to get off!
When you get there just follow the crowd to get to the garden gate. Again check out my post here for tips regarding tickets. Personally I actually prefer Catherine Palace to Peterhof even though most reviews I’ve read would tell you otherwise! As we had some difficulties finding the bus and the long journey we arrived here with only an hour to go before closing time!!! So 1st thing we did was headed to the palace to buy our tickets but the current time slot was sold out so we were told to come back later.
We spent the time walking around the garden and again I prefer this garden, maybe because it was more green? There were also more interesting buildings and you don’t need to pay to get into anywhere else!!! We then headed back to the palace to get our tickets but by now there was a big queue!!! We were soooo worried that we wouldn’t get tickets especially after the journey we had to get here!!! Luckily they were able to accommodate everyone. I would definitely recommend getting an audio guide as they gave you a lot of information. Again the palace was very European but of course beautiful and opulent!!!
To get back to Central SPB, we followed the crowd along the street and ended at a bus stop opposite where we got off earlier. We decided to try going to a different station to see if we can shorten our bus journey especially as it was so busy!!! Our destination was to be Ку́пчино and hoped for the best…We well right and the journey was halved!!!
For dinner that night we wanted to try something a bit different and found an Armenian restaurant called Kilikia. Another plus point for this place was that it was a 5 mins stroll from our hotel!!! This is another basement restaurant and can be hard to find but do make the effort!!! To be honest the food was very similar to Turkish food and we both love Turkish food!!!
There were no desserts that tempted so we decided to head to a patisserie to try our luck. However as luck would have it about 5mins from the restaurant I’d spotted a little cafe that was still open. Not only that I also spotted that they had honey cake in their display cabinet!!! I was originally introduced to this delightful cake during an afternoon tea at Mari Vanna in London (highly recommended)!!! Honey cake or Medovik Tort or торт Медовик is a traditional Russian cake made up of layers of honey cake sponge sandwich with caramel cream. The amount of layers is not specific as far as I understand and everyone seems to have a slightly different recipe. In facts we’ve tried 3 different versions in on this trip alone!!! This particular one was a little dry but the cream was very good so not a bad start at all!!!
That ends our hectic 1st full day in SPB, I’ll try to consolidate the rest of the trip in 1 post as I’m not so keen on such long post neither…