We arrived at Saint Petersburg at noon, Our accommodation for the first 2 days was booked at a beautiful very well located Airbnb apartment at Nevsky Prospect.. We had started our day very early in the morning to catch a 06 Am flight from Kaliningrad, so first thing we did was to crash on the comfortable bed..After we woke up we walked the length of Nevsky prospect followed by dinner at the Great Punjab restaurant. We were awestruck by the beauty of St. Petersburg. Its' breathtaking by night but we fell in love with it since the time we stepped out of the airport . These photos and videos I will post from our first night there will hopefully help you to understand my strong feelings for the city but they definitely don't do justice to how catchy the city actually is! After a hearty dinner and a satisfying first day we retired to our flat..
Next day after breakfast we headed to the Cathedral of Saviour on the Spilt blood followed by Kazan Cathedral. There is an entry ticket to enter the Former however, entry into the Kazan Cathedral is free since it is a functioning church. The architecture of these monuments is simply amazing . It will leave you thinking of how was it humanly possible to bring such wonders to shape and that too 100's of years ago. Following this we headed to Dom Knigi (дом книги) an iconic Independent bookstore on Nevsky..where I purchased books in English for my Daughter. We even had a bite at the Singer Cafe on the 2nd floor of the book store..My daughter relished the hot chocolate..I say its a must try. I shopped for at Plush for some organic products, chocolates from the iconic store Kupetz Elseevs, It is one of the most historic and grand building gracing the Nevsky avenue. After this we headed back to our flat for a siesta. In the second half of the day we walked to the Galeria Shopping mall , shopped for some clothes for my DD..had dinner at an Italian restaurant and called it a day.
Post breakfast we headed out to see the winter palace and Hermitage museum. I have no words to express how taken away we were by what we saw. We spent about 2 hrs and probably saw not even 1/4 th of this vast awesomeness .One probably needs 2 days of full dedicated attention to cover this entire site. From there we booked a cab and headed to 'Tandoor" Indian restaurant for lunch; after which we got back to the Airbnb for the very important siesta..In the evening we set out walking to the Faberge Museum. I highly recommend go to this museum! you can prepare to dedicate atleast an hour admiring the ornately bejwelled easter eggs specially handcrafted as gifts for the royals! We ended our day with shopping for souvenirs at "Taste of Russia , Souvenir shop" followed by dinner.
We started our day by checking out of the Airbnb and shifting to Lotte Hotel for our remaining days in Saint Petersburg. After our check in we headed to Saint Issac's Cathedral. This cathedral was right across from our hotel. Unfortunately it was closed for visitors to visit the museum housed inside the cathedral. However, we could climb to the top of the dome and have one of the most memorable experience from our time in this beautiful city. Me and husband took turns to climb the approximately 200 stairs and it was totally worth it. In fact it is one of the high points of this entire holiday! This is something I highly recommend for everyone visiting St. Petersburg. After this we walked to the monument of the Bronze horseman which is actually a statue of Peter the Great mounted on a horse! After this we headed back to the hotel with some packed eatables . After a good rest we enjoyed a hearty dinner at Mamalgya, popular for its georgian cousine. We enjoyed the walk back to our hotel room and called it a day.
THE D DAY!! On this day we celebrated my daughter's 3rd birthday. We began by going to the Oceanarium followed by Grand Maket. Both of these places are a must visit if you are travelling with kids. Highly enjoyable for everyone age no bar. The okeanarium is huge and is not just an ordinary aquarium. At the Grand Maket, it is so heartening to see the attention to detail and the working model of Russia. Care has even been taken to depict the time of the day. It is very visually stimulating. We were all exhausted after our visit to these places so we headed back to the hotel had a quick lunch and went off to sleep. I had arranged for 2 beautiful foil balloons to be placed in our room before our arrival. When we got back my daughter was so happy and fascinated to find them there that she just refused to sleep! In the evening we headed out for her cake cutting and an early dinner at 'Oh Mumbai!' ..After dinner we headed back and slept off immediately..
The next morning after a hearty breakfast we headed to the Catherine Palace, Pushkin. It was the summer residence of the tsars. We took a taxi from our hotel to reach our destination. However, it wasn't easy to book return cab and we felt grateful that we couldn't book a taxi or else we would have never got to try the more economical and highly convenient public transport. And this is when I also experienced my first metro ride. We took the bus 342 from Pushkin (2gis app will direct you to the correct bus stand, a quick walk from the palace) and got off at Kupchino station from where we took the metro to Nevsky prospect. We exited the metro station and walked to our hotel.. Lastly we made dinner reservations at Cafe Kashmir after which we retired to our room.
We caught the early morning sapsan train to Moscow from Saint Petersburg as we wanted to reach Moscow early and utilise our time for sightseeing. We had booked our accommodation at Hilton Hotel which was at a very short and convenient walking distance from the Moscow railway station even with two 32' suitcases and a stroller , not to mention the rucksacks and small cabin baggage suitcase we had between the 2 of us. After an early check in we crashed and caught up on the much needed sleep. Finally without much ado at 1430 we left for the Red Square , where it was a real treat to see the picture perfect sight of Saint Basil's cathedral, It is indeed hard to take your eyes off and control the urge to click photos from every possible angle of this marvel! The Kremlin , Lenin's mausoleum and the GUM mall are all very conveniently located in the same vicinity. Unfortunately, we were short of time and could not see the Kremlin museum from inside..By the time we finished absorbing the beauty of Red square and the GUM mall it was dark and before heading to Darbar's for dinner we walked on the floating bridge overlooking the River Moskva. It was such a peaceful and gorgeous night. Another highlight from our trip! Very high on recommendation list. Finally made our way back to the hotel post dinner at Darbar's which is one of the oldest Indian restaurants in Moscow. We were lucky to be there on a saturday night as we were able to enjoy a live dance performance as well as good food.
On our last but one day we went to the Museum to Causmonautics. If you are travelling with children I strongly recommend taking them here. It will surely be a very engaging , motivating and satisfying experience for both grown ups and kids. After the museum we headed to Masala House for lunch followed by the Izmaydovo market. I strongly suggest that you reserve your shopping list for this place. This place is much cheaper and the vendors are open to bargaining. You can buy gifts in bulk for yourself and friends back home. We were extremely tired by the time we got back, so we ate dinner (packed from Restaurant Jaganath) in our room.
This was the last day of our trip where we checked out of Hilton, Moscow and flew back to Kaliningrad.
This trip has left me completely rejuvenated and energized mentally and physically.
The beauty of Saint Petersburg will leave you spell bound..an architectural marvel I was left gaping at how can such results be achieved by working on something like stone!!the craftsmen have all my respect for creating such delicate designs from a material as hard as stone...Sculptures throng the entire city...It is mesimerising..no wonder some of this country's greats- artists, poets and people of creative mindset made it their home.... I came all hung-over from the highs of the trip to carry on with my life at Kaliningrad. I have to specially mention here that every time we travel with our daughter we evolve as much as she does. I will mention below a few pointers to keep in mind when you travel...it will help you be comfortable on the hence making it the enjoyable experience you intend it to be.
1) The highlights or the most memorable experiences from this trip for me- Cathedral of Saviour on the Spilled Blood, KAzan Cathedral, Winter Palace, Going atop the Saint Issacs cathedral, Saint Basil's Cathedral, Floating Bridge.
2) It is important to understand the climate of places that experience such harsh winters with snow fall, strong winds and sub zero tempratures. Investing in a good quality coat, gloves, cap scarf, warm socks and boots (never step out without these) will save you a lot of misery in a country where there is a language barrier and you might not be lucky to find and english speaking pharmacist. Even if you do get all the support you need, falling sick or feeling cold in the outdoors will leave you in pain. TRussia and many other european and scandinavian countries have this kind of climate. So in order to move around and make the most of your time here..purchase good quality wollens preferably from brands that specialise in clothing for such climates. Yes they will be expensive but are worth it and an investment you will not regret making!
3) Carry your medicines for -pain relief, cough, cold, fever, indigestion, vomiting, paedatric medicines for any accompanying kids. It is expensive to buy medicines here and they may not be available in an easily comestible form that you are generally used to.
4) In case you are travelling with toddlers or younger children do not forget to carry the stroller or any baby wearing gear that you use. It can be a real nightmare if you cant walk around freely soaking the beauty of the architectural marvel that Saint Petersburg while sipping mulled wine to warm your spirits.
5) Don't forget to take it easy when travelling with kids you might not be able to cover everything on your list. Bask in the moment. Ensure that the kids and you get your rest on time. It has been convenient and suited us well to devide our day in 2 parts..morning to lunch and siesta followed by evening leading upto dinner.
6) There are so many more things that I will probably cover in my second visit to these cities. We have to respect the climate ..and take care of our comfort not every thing can be done in every kind of weather. I would love to visit the numerous parks sprawling these cities speacially Gorky Park in warmer weather, boating in the very many water ways in Saint Petersburg, a river cruise in Moscow, watch a show in the Merinsky and Bolshoi theatre, Peterhof Palace which will be splendid to watch with its fountains in bloom in summer.
7) This was my first experience staying in an Airbnb. After trying out hotels and airbnb I conclude that Airbnb is the best option for us with a baby it is good to have a kitchen when you have small children and their system gets disrupted when there is this change in food. My daughter would crave for rice daal almost daily. Having a kitchen gives you the much needed flexiblity.
8) To sum it up, Russia is a must visit destination no less and maybe even better than the other popular destinations of the world..In addition to all the reasons above you will experience almost zero currency conversion shock when you visit Russia ..how amazing is that!! As far as being expensive or not is concerned I would place these cities at par with Mumbai or Delhi so yes slightly expensive as against Kaliningrad which is surprising cheap (in terms of eating out) for the kind of quality and beauty this small town offers. With this I end write up..