Interview with a Local : St. Petersburg, Russia

In this Interview with a local, we talk to Campbell and Alya about their hometown St Petersburg. This couple who have travelled the world together for the past 4 years, base themselves between travel in either St Peterburg or Capetown, Alya having been bought up in St. Petersburg. As full-time travel writers, together they own  documenting their adventures In Africa, Latin America South East Asia and beyond.

What you can expect from this article…

  • 1 Where are you living?
  • 2 Tell us about yourself? 
  • 3 What is your favourite thing about St. Petersburg?
  • 4 What is your favourite thing to do in St. Petersburg with a day off?
  • 5 What in your opinion is the one thing you can’t miss when you visit St. Petersburg
  • 6 Any top tips where to go/ what to do on a rainy day?
  • 7 Where is your go-to restaurant?
  • 8 And where do you suggest going for a drink in the evening?
  • 9   Is there one thing not many people know about St. Petersburg?
  • 10 Anything else you think we should know? 

Where are you living?

We spend the European St.Petersburg, my home city, and do some traveling around. In the European winter we are based in Cape Town, my husband’s home city, as it’s summer there and we can spend it exploring South Africa and neighbouring countries. 

Tell us about yourself? 

I was born in St.Petersburg and lived there for the biggest part of my life excluding a couple of years of traveling around the world. St.Petersburg is a cultural capital of Russia and has a lot to offer for art, history and classical music lovers. These are the things that used to be my hobbies since I was a child; going to the exhibitions, taking art and history classes in the Hermitage Youth club, going to a classical music concert once a week. And these are the things I miss most when in South Africa.

What is your favourite thing about St. Petersburg?

There are a couple of my favourite things about St.Petersburg; the first and the main one is the White Nights (end of May – beginning of July.) This is the time of the year all locals look forward during the long winter days. Just to give an idea how awesome it is; basically, you have 24 hours of day light. It does get a bit darker between 1am and 2.20 am but at 3am the sun is rising. The streets in the city centre are full of people both tourists and locals, restaurants, coffee shops, street bands playing at every corner from rock and roll to classical music. Street food places are open all night and on weekends public buses never stop running. The main event that keeps everybody awake are the Opening of bridges. Every night the bridges across Neva river get opened for ferries and ships to go through the city. Another thing I really like about St.Petersburg is its royal suburbs (I live in one of them, Tsarskoye Selo).

What is your favourite thing to do in St. Petersburg with a day off?

I love meeting with my friends somewhere in the city centre and just walk around, go to our favourite coffee shop, check out some hidden places like back yards with graffiti or street art. Though it’s a big city but you always stumble upon someone you know. And later after walking about 15-20km around the city if we still feel strong to go to the Hermitage museum (on Wed and Fri it’s opened till 9am) and have it all for ourselves as the main crowds are gone by that time.

What in your opinion is the one thing you can’t miss when you visit St. Petersburg

In summer stay awake till early morning, go for a walk in the city centre, watch the Opening of the bridges and visit Peterhof, the fountain capital of Russia and take a boat ride to get a different perspective of the city. In winter go to Tsarakoye Selo, enjoy real Russian winter with big snow piles – highly recommended on a cold sunny day. Any season; visit the Hermitage, one of the greatest art museums in the world, watch a ballet or an opera in the Mariinsky theatre, go up to the colonnade of St.Isaak cathedral to see the city on the palm of your hand and explore one of the most beautiful metro system in the world, some stations look like museums!

Any top tips where to go/ what to do on a rainy day?

If you haven’t visited the main museums; the hermitage, Russian museum or Kunstkamera, a rainy day is a good time for it. I used to go on a rainy dull day to the Hermitage to see the Impressionists their canvases are inspiring and optimistic. Or you can go to the Grand Maket Rossiay museum (model layout of Russia, 1:87 scale) and see the main Russian attractions in a small scale. For shopping lovers Gallery, a huge mall in the city centre (Vosstaniya square) is a great place to spend a rainy day; hundreds of shops, Food Court, coffee shops, cinema etc.

Where is your go-to restaurant?

One of the places we go quite often is MooMoo burgers – they have delicious juicy burgers and it’s on the way to the Mariinsky theatre so almost every time we go there we stop at the burger place before. You should try their Cheese blast, it’s delicious. Pelmeniya is another place to come for a quick lunch it’s a mono cuisine restaurant that serves momos, dumplings, khinkali and pelmeni.

And where do you suggest going for a drink in the evening?

There are many bars and clubs in the city, the most popular thing to do is a pub crawl on Dumskaya street, right in the centre. When it gets busy (usually Friday and Saturday night) it’s very social, many hostels do pub crawl tours and come here with their guests, it’s a good place to meet other travellers.

For a romantic dinner and a perfect view of the night city go to one of the panoramic restaurants e.g. Terrasa (terrace), Mansard or Bellevue Brasserie.

Is there one thing not many people know about St. Petersburg?

St.Petersburg is a great city to explore on foot, there are different walking routes through the centre or if you want to know more about its history you can do a free walking tour. St.Petersburg was a home city for many famous Russian writers, composers and artists. If you want to understand it better read some of Dostoevsky’s novels as most of them take place here.

Anything else you think we should know? 

Tourists from any country (even those that need a visa) can come to St.Petersburg by ferry as a part of a group and stay within city limits for 3 days without visa.

If you enjoyed this interview with a local, you may enjoy reading another interview! From Rio de Janeiro to Dubai to Lisbon, there’s plenty of city guides to give you travel inspiration!

Interview with a local in Cancun, Mexico, coming soon! Keep your eyes peeled!

Have you been to St. Petersburg? Or are you planning a trip there? I’d love to hear from you!

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