Fur, diamonds, vodka. Yes we’re in Russia. St Petersburg’s days of decadence might have ended in bloodshed and brutality, but the bling stayed in and the city shines brighter than ever. A trip to the Imperial City is a once in a lifetime opportunity so grab your Visa card and go.
Buildings such as Hermitage Museum and the Church on Spilt Blood are reminders of the extreme wealth enjoyed by the Tsars of the past. Expect to get used to gold-tipped turrets and gilded fairy-floss coloured facades when you’re sightseeing on the streets of St Petersburg. But it takes an insider look to really appreciate the wealth and wonders this city is home to.
The Hermitage Museum houses more than two million objects – each more gilded than the next. Walk past paintings by Rembrandt and marble urns big enough to swim in, and make your way to the Treasure Gallery. Here some of Catherine the Great and the Tsars’ most valued processions are on display. The gallery’s Gold and Diamond rooms get crowded quickly so avoid the queues and use your Visa card to book Museum tickets in advance.
You’ll be mesmerised by filigree diadems from the first century AD and diamond-encrusted hair pins owned by the emperors of the 18th century. Several of Faberge’s famous eggs are also on display – stop by the museum gift shop on the way out and pick up porcelain replicas and miniature egg-shaped earrings to take home.
You don’t need to visit the Museum to see St Petersburg’s gems. The W Hotel is one of the city’s newest hotels and takes its design queues from the Faberge egg. Expect flashes of sparkle and hidden passageways. Rooms have roof top views of St Isaac’s Cathedral and gold globe-like chandeliers that are very this century. Check in with your Visa card and chill out, the W’s “Whatever/Whenever” motto means they’re at your beck and call.
Hotels aren’t the only ones bringing cutting edge design back into the city. Mansarda Restaurant has been given a makeover by Italy’s PiuArch (+ARCH) studio. Known for their work with Dolce & Gabbana, the studio has made the most of the jaw dropping views of St Isaac’s Cathedral with floor to ceiling windows and sleek and chic interiors. Make a booking and get out the Visa card because this is a meal you won’t want to miss.
Leave time for shopping after sightseeing. Nevsky Prospekt runs straight through the city and is a main shopping strip for international brands such as H&M and Zara. When it’s too cold to stay outside, work up a sweat exploring Galleria Shopping Mall. The two year-old centre is home to more than 200 shops including Polo Ralph Lauren, Karen Millen and Ecco, as well as a cinema and bowling alley.
Spend an afternoon aboard The Flying Dutchman. Tied up along the northern bank of the Neva River, the galleon is home to several restaurants, a 24-hour fitness centre, nightclub and hair salon – that’s something you won’t see everyday. Like the rest of St Petersburg, old is new again.
2, Dvortsovaya Ploshchad (Dvortsovaya Square)
+7 812 571-84-46
6 Voznesensky Prospekt, + 7-812-610-61-61
3-5 Pochtamskaya, +7-812-946-43-03
Galleria Shopping Mall
The Flying Dutchman
697 Mitnenskaya Naberezhnaya; +7-812-336-37-37
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