My mom has a knack for finding the neatest places to stay while on vacation. Whether it be a tower on a hilltop overlooking a vineyard in Tuscany, a converted barn in the countryside of Ireland, or a working ranch complete with fresh baked cookies before bed in Wyoming, we always ended up somewhere unique and immensely memorable. So, as Tyler and I planned our trip to Saint Petersburg, I tried to keep the cookie cutter hotels off my radar, and the eccentric, firmly on it.
Where to Stay
The Dom Boutique Hotel proved to be the perfect place for us to put our feet up after long days of strolling through the city. We were within walking distance of the center and all of its attractions, but without the loud city street noises keeping us awake at night.
The staff was extremely friendly, especially Aleksei and Alexsey. Eager to offer you a warm pot of tea while you wait for your car or an umbrella as you walk out onto the rainy streets, they were beyond gracious (a complimentary glass of wine didn't hurt either). We would definitely stay here again. (FYI - Don't bother paying for the breakfast buffet...not worth it.)
Where to Shop
Shopping in St. Petersburg can be overwhelming. There is the main street, Nevsky prospekt, which is littered with tourist traps and the usual global brands (H&M, Zara, etc.). The reason to walk down this street is not for the shops, but rather for the stunning architecture (more on this tomorrow).
Where Tyler and I found the neatest shops, were off the main roads.
We had heard of a couple of good bookstores, the best being Podpisnie Izdaniie. It's filled with the obvious and also has a great selection of magazines, cards, notebooks, and other knick-knacks.
You can grab a coffee and pastry and read your most recent find by the window, or you can go upstairs and find a place at a counter overlooking the entire store.
Another great place to find anything from vintage to cosplay clothes, from tea to tech accessories, and everything in between, is ETAGI. It's spread over a few floors and it's a fun place to get lost in.
We also stepped into a city/farmer's market by chance. There are a few around the city, and kind of neat to quickly wander through, but be aware that the fruit vendors really want you to buy their goods, so don't engage unless you're hungry for a few things.
The ladies selling honey; however, are charming and practically giddy for you to try all of their samples. Don't mind if I do!
There are antique stores everywhere and they are so fun to meander through. Our favorite, which we stopped into twice, is Kollektsioner. I found a tea tin from the Soviet era and Tyler found some old post cards and lusted after a few heavier items that we weren't sure how to best get home.
Now, there is one exception to avoiding the shops on Nevsky prospekt, and that is Yeliseev's Food Hall. It's opulent in every sense of the word and a food lovers dream. Housed in a pre-revolutionary building, it carries beautiful food and gifts that are sure to check off anyone's tasty desires.
You can even sit under a pineapple and enjoy a hot chocolate and croissant, but don't forget to look up. It seems every old building in St. Petersburg has incredible art adorning its ceilings.
Lastly, have some fun with the street vendors. They sell lots of cheesy gifts, but also some real treasures, like genuine Russian hats.
I've been searching high and low for the perfect fur hat and I finally found one. You can negotiate, and in fact, you should. They expect you to and it really does pay off.