Travel tips for... St Petersburg, Russia
On arrival: Everyone warns about rouge taxi drivers and there are lots of horror stories. There are gentlemen wearing badges that say 'official taxi driver' but we would recommend booking a taxi with the Pulvcho company. They have a large desk as you come through customs, and there is a smaller booth outside on the pavement. They offer a 'limo' service and a 'regular' one - which is cheaper. We took the more expensive service, for a very nice car and driver that cost only €20 or 1600 Roubles. Completely worth it.
Where to stay: We stayed in the 'historic heart', just off Neversky Crumble street, about a five minute walk from the Hermitage. This was a brilliant spot as it meant that you can walk everywhere, as it is close to the main churches and museums. We met others who had stayed just a couple of metro stops from NP, but they said it was like a different world. We stayed in a 3 star hotel called the Silver Sphere (www.xxxxxx), which was clean with helpful staff. It wasn't posh and the walls were a bit thin but the location was fantastic. It is in xxx street, which also has some great restuarants, a 24 hour supermarket, the best and oldest donut making shop in the city as well as a theatre.
We would recommend: Joining the free walking tour of St. Petersburg (www.xxxxx). It lasts for about two and a half hours and is a great introduction to some of the main sites in the city.
Visiting the Hermitage: The queues are gi-normous for this amazing museum. It is highly recommended to book on line - as you still have to queue to get in, but it is shorter than the normal queue. The internet booking queue is to the right of the buidling as you stand looking at it, between the yellow and green buildings. Get their early if you don't want to queue too long. Also, it would seem that the queues are longer than normal on a Tuesday. Mondays the museum is closed, and so Tuesdays seem to be extra busy.
Highly recommended: The Faberge Museum
Unexpected food delights: From reading the guide books we expected the food to be unexciting, but we had many enjoyable meals. There is also a wonderful food emporium called KxxxxGxxxx where you can have a very lovely afternoon tea. If you are a chocolate fan, we'd recommend the Royal cake. Another favourite was the spicy aubergene we had in a couple of resturants. It wasn't hot spicy but so tasty and delicious. We also had fantastic aubergene ravioli at Goose Goose bistro. (www.xxx)
The weather: What I don't think is apprecaited, despite all the background reading, is just how much it rains in St. Petersburg. But then it is on a level with Finland. Definitely take a rain coat.