I was planning a trip to St Petersburg at end of March and have never been there. Any advice as to hotels, sights, and food. I am a hyatt diamond, marriott platinum, SPG gold, Hilton gold, and Royal Ambassador gold. Best transportation to hotel as well. thank you kindly.
Let me preface it by saying that the best time to see St Pete is in the summer - White Nights are just a divine season to do so. So, the end of March of is not ideal due to the weather, so it probably better to stay in the center, so you can be within walking distance of everything (metro is efficient and inexpensive but metro stops in the center are far a few between and fairly far apart).
Kazansky Cathedral is a good point to call it the center. Admiralty, the river and drawbridges as well as Nevksiy Prospect (beginning of it) are very close by, some of the museums (Hermitage, etc.) are not far away either (0.3-0.4miles). So, close to Kazansky Cathedral are the two hotels were we stayed (diagonally from a different point of the Cathedral's square): Renaissance St Petersburg Baltic Hotel (cat 6) and Starwoods' W hotel (cat 5). Cash rates in the summer can be high to obscene, so the use of points is imperative, while March period could be more conducive to paying out of pocket - depending on your value preferences/points availability.
Renaissance is more of a traditional-opulent-trying to impress hotel but the rooms are small-ish (read tripadvisor). Our junior suite came with a buffet breakfast and a view of the Cathedral and nearby rooftops. Food & drinks in the restaurants are expectedly overpriced vs. local options. Buffet spread at breakfast was pretty impressive.
W hotel is more hip, minimalistic (think white walls and modern accessories) but in our opinion it had more engaged/ready to please staff. They have a whole bunch of variations on the room types with fairly marginal differences. Free access to the pool in the basement with a spa was very nice after long days of walking around. We got upgraded to some better room type above the noisy hotel entrance but there was no free breakfast benefit for Plats. They also charge about $10-$15 (one-time) for a foreigner registration.
Overall, I got a better vibe from W but it is a matter of preference/choice. There are also a whole bunch of Priority Club hotels but we didn't stay in any of them due to value/point proposition.
A few of the nicer pleasures to experience in St Pete - Petergof (Summer Palace) and its palaces, nice river boat rides, etc. won't be available but there also will be fewer tourists clogging museums and streets. Enjoy it!
Last edited by fungirl; Dec 15, 12 at 4:56 pm.
End of March will actually be a great time to visit St. Petersburg. Although the weather will still be cold and the days grey and short of sunlight, don't let this put you off from getting excited about your trip. One of the major advantages you will have is that you will be in the city outside of it's tourist season. Many of the must see destinations located around the city are simply packed during tourist season where as you should be able to have more intimate experience while touring the city and it's sights. Make sure to check operational hours of places you would like to visit... some will still be running on a shortened winter schedule, so make sure to do a little homework before your visit so you can maximize your viewing pleasure.
As to hotels, I am partial to the Marriott brand and always stay at the Pushkin Courtyard. It's a 30 minute walk outside of the main center and 15 minutes to the local subway and train station but the hotel runs a free and efficient shuttle service that will whisk you away to numerous points within the city and will pick you up and bring you back to the hotel... it's a great service that will save you time and money. The Ren property is nice and strives for an elite feeling, including a nice bar/restaurant but to me personally there is something a miss at this property, same for the other courtyard which is located 20 minutes off the city center in Vasilyevsky Island. With so many sights located all over the city, it's hard to say there is truly one hotel that will put you within touching distance of all sights.
The major sights and experiences of the city are documented but if you have any questions I am sure many people here will gladly give you advice. As to some of the less then traveled paths, may I suggest the following....
Vasilievsky Island... often over looked by most tourists, this island is full of interesting sights and history. When visiting get off at the Vasileostrovskaya subway station on line #3. When going outside you will be greeted with a tree lined street for pedestrians only, numerous shops here that can be found on Nevsky Prospect but cheaper and less crowded. Just up from the subway station is Smolensky Cemetery, a beautiful and enchanting site full of history and stories. For more info, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smolensky_Cemetery
Catherine's Palace, located to the south in the city of Pushkin is a well documented site to see... especially the newly opened Amber room. However, what doesn't get enough credit is the park that holds the palace... it's amazing and huge. A chilly day in March should have you as being on the few tourists within the park... give yourself a full day to see the palace and to walk the park, it's massive and full of picturesque sights and buildings.
St. Isaac's Church... skip the lines and save your money for going inside and instead just pay and visit the church for it's outside views... the view from up top the church is amazing, even on a cold and grey day the sight is one to behold.
Alexander Park.... go there before 12pm and experience the daily firing of the cannon, it's shot off at noon everyday.
Varshavsky station also known as Warsaw Station... a former train station now turned into a museum. I'm not a train guy but the endless amount of trains from throughout Russian history was impressive. There must be close to 100 trains to view, very impressive display.
... I could go on and on but I will save your eyes. So much to do and see in St. Pete, don't plan on seeing it all... just too much to see and experience.
Last edited by jredknapp11; Dec 18, 12 at 11:37 pm.
Reason: a typo ... or two
Would 3 full days be enough here or should we add a day? Not sure how much time it will take to get from a central hotel like the W to the train station for Helsinki.
3 days is not enough, especially in the summer. We just came back from another trip to St Pete - stayed at W again as well as on Vasilyevskii island. Spent nearly 6 days and just barely scratched the surface. If you devote 1 day to Petergof (a must in the summer), you only have 2 days left for the city itself. You'll be rushing severely through the rest of main attractions -1/2 day for Hermitage, a few hours for Peter and Paul Fortress, 1/2 day for main Cathedrals (Kazanskiy, St Isaac's and Spilled Blood), a stroll along Nevskiy Prospect, the list goes on and on....
3 days will be tight if you really wish to explore. My wife and I did a very full five days and still hadn't "finished". We do tend to walk everywhere so that certainly added some time, but we saw sooooo much more.
We stayed at the Courtyard Vasilievsky Island, and loved the location - much more neighborhood-y.