7 Reasons Why You Should Visit St. Petersburg Today

St. Petersburg, a city built by the Tsar, is nothing short of awe and splendor.

Imagine Vienna combined with Paris, Hungary and a little bit of Venice. It is a city rich with art, cosmopolitan, culture and history mashed with colorful odds and curios, relics of its ethnic diversity.

I didn't know what to expect of this city and country. After all, it has been made so exclusive by its government and hardly anyone I know has been. Truth to be told, the application process for the tourist visa left me feeling a bit dismayed with the country and its bureaucracy at first. So it was with complete surprise that I fell in absolute fascination with the city soon after a few days of being there.

Bureaucracy aside, Russia is a stunning country and St. Petersburg is its heart and soul. I visited St. Petersburg for 5 nights/6 days, and I just loved walking around and feeling unreal about the city the entire time.

Dostoevsky St. He lived here, and his statue overlooks the avenue.
If you are into arts, neo-classical architecture,  dense yet incredible history, then St. Petersburg might be just the place for you.

Here are my top 7 reasons why you should put St. Petersburg onto of your bucketlist today:

1) Cityscape and Architecture
Empire, Baroque, Neoclassical and Romanticist- style architecture make up St. Petersburg's landscape. The feel is a 18th-19th century European city, where you can easily imagine women in ballgowns and horse carriages parading down the street.

Walk around and you might notice the similarity of architecture to another European city. You might not be wrong in suspecting the same architect or design plan behind the works.

When St. Petersburg was being built, Peter the Great hired architects to build his palaces, mansions, churches, and playhouses after some of  his favorite infrastructures across Western Europe. It is because of this and the fact that foreign influences are restricted, St. Petersburg has much more of an Old World European vibe compared to another major European city.

2) The Hermitage and Priceless Art
Catherine the Great was an avid collector of arts, and her museum is the BEST in the world. Honestly, I feel with any museums I'd find something interesting in a collection with a success rate of 100:1. At the Hermitage, my interest and engagement with its collection improved up to 10:1.

Not only were the pieces of art beautiful, the physical characters of the galleries themselves, room after room, were absolutely stunning.

3) Kunstkamera Natural Museum of Human Curiosities and Rarities
Peter the Great was a collector of fine arts and a self-professed nautical junkie. He was also a collector of 'fantastic'  things. This museum houses his vast collection of "scientific findings." These include, and not limited to, baby fetuses in jars, pickled animals, two-headed beasts, more corpses and dissection of things and much much more.

It's popular with tourists and is especially a great attraction for children. Think of it as a grotesque fun-house and imagine the hours of entertainment you will have!

For people with lesser appetite, head next door to the Zoological Museum. It's got an extensive and an excellent collection of taxidermied animals, including the only WOOLY MAMMOTH in the world.

4) The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
This building is commonly mistaken for Moscow's Saint Basil's Cathedral, and you can see why. It's got that unique onion-bulbs-of-domes that we have long associated Moscow with. Upon closer inspection however, you will see many artistic differences between the Church and Saint Basil's.

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is located on the second inner ring of the city, right on the banks of the Griboyedov Channel. The view from the main street, Nevsky Avenue, is positively arresting. You can't help but gravitate towards it.

As this is one of the top tourist sights, you can imagine the hustle and bustle surrounding the Church. The embankment is lined with restaurants, cafes, gift shops, colorful vendors and buskers. It's a really fun and energetic place, and you nearly forget the troubled history of the split blood.

5) World Class Ballet and Live Theatres
Once in a while, you've got to hang up your jeans and Merrill boots and experience something classé. What better place than St. Petersburg, cultural capital of Russia!

Like you wouldn't miss the opera house in Vienna, you couldn't possibly leave St. Petersburg without seeing one of its world class ballet recitals.

The concept of formal ballet training and academy for performance art was born in St. Petersburg. Russia's best ballet companies would be so lucky to perform at the Mariinsky Theatre, one the oldest and most prominent theatres in the world.

Tickets average $60-$100pp and what you get out of it is priceless.

6) The Underground
Public transit in St. Petersburg is impeachable. The underground runs on schedule like 99.9% of the time. Seriously, there's actually a timer at the platform counting up to 90 seconds.

Predictably, at each 90 sec, you feel the floor tremor as a tank of a train come hurtling down the tunnel. It is FAST and really super aggressive. It's a tad scary too the way the door clangs shut so hurriedly. It's a mechanic door, and there is no sensor to save your straggling friend.

It is soviet-era efficiency and pragmatism, and you feel it all the way down to the rough fibers and dimpled-plastic benches.

In contrast to the ironclad metro, the upper -level interiors of the train stations can be positively exquisite. The decoration can be likened to a palace or museum, where there are  marble statues, bronze sculptures and murals made from mosaics.

Each metro station has a theme, and it is possible to take a guided tour to visit the most beautiful metro stations in the world.

It's a quintessential Russian experience to ride the metro in St. Petersburg. Do it!

7) Popular Culture
St. Petersburg has a modern side, and this shouldn't come as a surprise. It's got upmarket malls and chic restaurants, hipster soviet-era themed cafes and self-time bars.

What's a self-time bar, you ask? It's a bar where you pay a fee for the amount of time that you spent in the place. When you first check-in with reception, you are given a card with a barcode on it. It logs in the minutes and hours you stayed in the bar.

A self-time bar like this can have many rooms, each with different functions happening. One could be a board game room, another could have live-music and one big chill-out space with 'nearly' wholesale price drinks to boot.

The reason why I say nearly is because I didn't completely understand the Russian guy. All I know is that the drinks and food are discounted heavily, because you pay for your time being there.

The view from Commode onto Nevsky Ave. 
The one I went to is Commode. Getting to this place can be a bit cryptic, and you have to be buzzed in. So, at the very least, learn how to say 'Spasiba!'

A pair of ancient sphinx from Egypt sits at the northshore quay. They are 3500 years old. 
St. Petersburg is really one of the most fascinating travel destinations in the 21st century. The extra planning and details going into making a trip like this possible are completely worth it.

Go before everything changes!

Me, in front of the Hermitage. FYI, there is no air conditioning in the museum, so wear light clothes!