Top 20 unusual places in St. Petersburg.
Roofs, parades, courtyards-wells – an alternative view of the city
St. Petersburg – it’s not just palaces, cathedrals and canals. It has a lot of hidden places that are known only to residents and definitely worth a visit. Rooftops, communal apartments, iconic cafes and bars, old courtyards and other unusual places will help travelers to learn the city from a new perspective.
Rooftops of St. Petersburg
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of the northern capital is to climb on one of the houses and admire the old buildings and streets from a bird’s eye view. You can do this without much trouble: there are dozens of rooftop exits in the city. The best (and safest!) options will be shown by guides on themed tours.
For those who like comfort, on the open veranda of Nevsky Bereg Hotel, Roof Cinema, HI-HAT summer venue panoramic views of the city come complete with hot coffee or cocktail.
Courtyards and Parades
This is a separate item of obligatory acquaintance with Peter. In St. Petersburg you can not only see the traditional architecture but get a sense of the atmosphere of the historic districts. You can visit them all and enjoy the atmosphere of the historic districts.
The city on the Neva is famous for its luxurious 18th century state rooms with spiral staircases, traditional stucco and decorative wall patterns. Particularly famous, for example, is the mansion of the rich man Vasily Kanshin in heavenly colors, the most well-kept house on the Petrograd side of the Kolobkov merchants. In addition to visual enjoyment, there is an opportunity to learn a great deal of interesting information, for example: what is the difference between the front staircase and the back staircase, and what were they for in many of the tenement houses.
Communal apartments and apartments
In addition to luxury, there is a downside in St. Petersburg – the “household”. These are communal apartments and tenement houses for the middle and poorer strata of the population. They too are an important part of pre-revolutionary history of the city, which has its own special atmosphere.
On excursion routes you can visit the apartment of writer Sergei Dovlatov, where Joseph Brodsky was a guest, and there are still stains of port wine spilled by him. Visit the apartment building where Rodion Raskolnikov, the hero of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, lived under the very roof. You can even visit the hostess of the only feminine pre-revolutionary apartment in St. Petersburg that kept its historical image.
This building has a very unusual history. In less than two and a half centuries the St. Anna church has been not only a Lutheran parish, but also a hospital, a movie theater and even a rock club. And in 2002, it had a major fire that burned for almost a day.
Now the building has been partially restored and is functioning as a functioning church again. But traces of the fire decided not to remove, so the atmosphere here is really unusual. In addition to services, there are exhibitions, lectures, fairs, and classical music concerts.
This district is often referred to as a separate city within St. Petersburg. This is where the history of the Northern capital began at the dawn of the 18th century. Here you can walk along the narrowest street of St. Petersburg (Repin) with a width of only 5.6 meters and visit the first stone building of the city – the Menshikov Palace, built in the 1720s.
Vasilevsky Island is also interesting because of some milestones in its history. Great poets Anna Akhmatova and Nikolai Gumilyov lived here for a while, schoolgirl Tanya Savicheva wrote her famous siege diary. And on one of the streets is a boarding house, which was described in the fairy tale “The Black Hen” by Antony Pogorelsky.
Mansions of Stone Island
A small plot of land with an area of only one square kilometer can tell a lot about the rich history of aristocratic St. Petersburg. Almost from the beginning of its development in the 18th century it became an elite suburb. To this day here you can see the luxurious mansions and villas in various architectural styles. This is a great place to take bright pictures and a break from the hustle and bustle of the central districts.
Many of the houses here have a high historical and cultural value. For example, the mansion of Countess Kleinmichel was used to shoot a film about Sherlock Holmes. And on the coast of the river Krestovka stands the only preserved in St. Petersburg wooden theater – “Kamennoostrovsky”.
Cemeteries of Alexander Nevsky Lavra
The monastery is considered to be the main spiritual center of St. Petersburg. Its construction began in the 18th century almost simultaneously with the city. For the construction of the first temple, Peter I chose the place of the famous victory of Alexander Nevsky over the Swedish armies.
In addition to the ancient religious buildings and beautiful classicist architecture, visitors can find here several cemeteries with graves of famous personalities. In Lazarevsky necropolis there is burial of Peter I’s sister, in Tikhvin cemetery are buried Dostoevsky and Krylov, and in Nikolsky – Lomonosov and Fonvizin.
Forts and lighthouses of Kronstadt
The city on the Gulf of Finland is the main naval outpost of St. Petersburg. Dozens of legendary forts Kotlin Island has helped repel the enemy during the Northern, First and Second World Wars. In total, there are over 20 fortresses in the vicinity of Kronstadt. Many are now abandoned, but in some constantly held excursions for those wishing to.
It is worth to visit one of the largest local forts – “Grand Duke Constantine”, as well as the unusual “Alexander I” nicknamed “The Plague” (named after the laboratory to fight epidemics located on the territory). Among the important monuments of Kronstadt are also numerous lighthouses. There is even a lighthouse museum on the island, where you can learn their history and how they work.
The building, built in the early 20th century on Kirochnaya Street, is considered one of the most futuristic buildings in the city. Volumetric, expressive Baroque facades and interior with stained-glass windows and marble are striking, but its main feature is several “airy” suspended galleries that connect different parts of the large building.
In the revenue house of engineer Buck rented apartments many famous people: portrait painter Fyodor Becker, poet Anatoly Mariyongof and others. At the beginning of XX century there were even illegal casinos and brothels. The building is recognized as a cultural heritage site, but the preservation of its interiors remains on the conscience of St. Petersburgers who live there.
St. Petersburg Cathedral Mosque
Ironically, the Muslim temple, built in the early 20th century, is located in the heart of Orthodox St. Petersburg, not far from the Peter and Paul Fortress. The process from the first petitions of Muslims to build the mosque took almost 110 years.
From the street you can admire the high minarets and the beautiful turquoise dome of the building, but inside – the traditional oriental interior. To design it, the artist who worked on the plan personally went to Samarkand. The mosque is open to non-Muslims, but with some rules: before entering, you must remove your shoes, turn off your phone and be as close as possible to your clothes.
In another part of St. Petersburg, on Primorsky Prospect behind Elagin Island, is another unexpected for the city religious building – the current Buddhist temple. It was built in the early 20th century at the request of the St. Petersburg community, which at the time numbered only 180 people.
It is not a very popular place for tourists, but it is a great place for exploring the multifaceted oriental culture within the same city.
Walking along Liteyny Prospect, you can unexpectedly find yourself in an authentic Asian corner. Friendship Garden is a kind of gift to Petersburg from sister-city Shanghai: it was arranged in 2003 and all the materials for the building and even some of the plants were brought from China.
On the territory is an artistic wall of nine dragons, a pagoda, a pond with fountains, planted real cherry trees. Interestingly, the entire Friendship Garden is a detailed recreation of a miniature of the Garden of Joy in Shanghai.
The Tear of Socialism House
The building is located near the Fontanka embankment, on Rubinstein Street. It is a historical monument of victory over the bourgeoisie, which was built in the first third of the XX century as a commune for writers and called the House of Joy. However, life in small rooms without private bath and kitchen quickly lead to despondency of the inhabitants, and the people began to ironically call the house “the Tear of Socialism”.
A tour of the building will help tourists get acquainted with the realities in which many Soviet writers and poets of “second” magnitude lived hand in hand: Olga Berggoltz, Wolf Ehrlich, Alexander Stein and others.
A center of attraction for modern youth on Vasilievsky Island opened in 2018. Technically it is not a port, but a coastal cultural center in the former cable factory building – with concert venues, stores and cafes. On the territory there are interesting art objects and “vertical” benches, and the wide wooden embankment the creators of the project in general call the new hallmark of the Northern capital.
Visit “Sevkabel” is a change of scenery and a break from traditional St. Petersburg. Interesting events are constantly held here, so you can combine your visit with a cultural program.
John Lennon Street
In the arch of the house number 53 on Ligovsky Avenue is a whole world dedicated to the legendary musician and the band The Beatles.
The name of the street is unofficial, as is the landmark itself. Busts of the Beatles on the wall, colorful graffiti, and a house-museum in an ordinary apartment – all this is the work of St. Petersburg resident Nikolai Vasin, who paid tribute to his idol. The creator of the “street” repeatedly applied to the city authorities for official permission to rename it, but after numerous refusals he decided to act “outside the law. Such a story resonates perfectly with the rebellious spirit of the Liverpool Four.
The Castle Yard
In St. Petersburg you can also plunge into a real medieval entourage. The courtyard on Kanonerskaya Street looks very original, where a local artist drew a knight’s castle and fantasy stories with dragons and other magical creatures on the walls of the houses.
House with Towers
The Rosenstein-Belogrud House is considered one of the symbols of the Petrograd side. The unique look of the building of the early 20th century is given by the two towers towering over it. Due to very strong construction house heroically survived the explosion of land bombs in the time of the Great Patriotic War.
You can take great pictures against the background of the house, especially in the evening, when they turn on the lights all over the facade.
Major Kovalev’s Nose
One way to see the literary face of St. Petersburg is to visit the Palace Embankment on Vasilevsky Island. There, not far from the Menshikov Palace, the sculpture “Major Kovalev’s Nose” from Nikolai Gogol’s famous novel is installed. Not far away there is a composition “Reflections on the Little Prince” and a monument to famous figures of Russian literature: Akhmatova, Nabokov, Gumilyov, as well as Gogol himself in the form of an unusual armadillo.
Despite the remoteness from the center, this place is worth getting to. The square is designed in an unusual shape of an octagon and surrounded by five buildings, uncharacteristic of St. Petersburg. They are built in the style of German Art Nouveau and reminiscent of Austrian architecture – hence the name of the square. It is interesting that for 150 years (until the end of XX century) it remained nameless.
One of the most unusual courtyard-columns is in the building on Fontanka. Its form was caused by the first owner’s requirement not to block the sunlight to the neighbors.
Several rooms were rented here by Alexander Pushkin’s family. But because of uncomfortable passageway apartments the building was not a long-lived home. Now offices are located there, and the building is considered a cultural heritage site. And the local residents believe that if you go into the courtyard, look up at the sky through the round well, and make a wish – it will come true.
On the usual tourist walks it is difficult to imagine how much interesting is hidden behind the facades of the houses. Finding the doors to the unofficial St. Petersburg is helped by experienced Tripster guides – St. Petersburgers who know and are deeply immersed in the “underground” life of their native city. They are happy to guide groups and individual travelers through the rooftops, potholes, and stairwells of the city. You can book such a walk on the Tripster website.