St. Petersburg is Russia’s capital of culture as there’s so many spectacular palaces and museums to explore. Ludmila Tours offer private and grouped visa-free tours of the city, perfect for short-stay visitors such as those arriving on cruise ships and ferries.
Benefits of booking a private or group tour in St. Petersburg:
- Visa-free visit to Russia* (check with your country of origin)
- Personalised service
- Competitive price compared to cruise lines
- Less time queuing, more time sight seeing
As a first time visitor to St Petersburg and Russia (on a Baltic cruise from Southampton), booking a 2-day group tour meant passing through customs in the cruise ship terminal was easy by presenting a print out of our booking confirmation with Ludmila Tours and passport ID. Our friendly tour guide Tatiana was waiting to greet us inside the terminal to escort us to a luxurious minivan where we were given an audio device (so we could always hear our guide) and a bottle of water.
Their group tours have a maximum of fifteen people, so it proved to be a very personal experience as there’s not many people to cater for. As it happened we were a party of five so we could ask our guide lots of questions and be a little more flexible with the timings of our stops.
Our tickets to the palaces and museums were taken care of by the guide, meaning we were able to skip a lot of general admission queues and get around the city in good time. For this level of service you’d expect to pay a premium, but at $275 per person it’s (at the time of publishing) $200 cheaper than a 2-day excursion offered by our cruise line – although itineraries do differ slightly.
Day One of the St. Petersburg Group Tour
City Highlights & The Underground Metro
Our journey began next to the Neva river where we were introduced to Russia and St Petersburg’s history through monuments like the Egyptian Sphinxes and Peter and Paul fortress. We were then taken on a ride of the city’s famous Metro, beginning at the grand Narvskaya station and ending at Avtovo, described as one of the world’s most beautiful metro stations.
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We left the city to explore the grounds of Peterhof Palace and gardens – undoubtedly one of the top things to do in St Petersburg. It was a very pleasant September day and the trick fountains and gold statues were dazzling in the autumn sunshine. We had a lovely time roaming through the gardens down towards the Bay of Finland before regrouping to travel to Catherine Palace.
Located on the outskirts of the city in Pushkin, Catherine Palace is a colossal estate restored after the World War to its former glory. The bright blue facade and glistening domed roof is a spectacular sight to behold – and must provide locals with a welcome splash of colour during the cold and dark winter months.
Inside is even more spectacular, the grand golden ballroom is breathtakingly beautiful and the Amber Room is referred to as the ‘8th wonder of the world‘. We returned to our cruise ship for an evening onboard before another day exploring the city.
Day Two of the St. Petersburg Group Tour
Canal and Neva River Cruise
Our second day began with a couple of photo stops at Kazan Cathedral and the Palace Square while it was quiet. We then embarked on an hour long canal cruise near the Peter and Paul fortress to see the city from the water and learn how and why Peter the Great designed St. Petersburg like Venice.
The Hermitage Museum
After the canal cruise we visited one of St. Petersburg’s most famous attractions, The Hermitage and Winter Palace, the second largest art museum in the world containing pieces by Da Vinci and Michelangelo. As it’s somewhere you could spend a whole day our knowledgeable guide showed us all the unmissable exhibits before we departed for lunch.
A Traditional Russian Lunch
No trip would be complete without sampling some of the local cuisine – included in the price of this trip on day 2 was a traditional Russian lunch. The locals love borscht soup (beetroot with sour cream) and Pelmeni – meat dumplings.
The Church of the Savoir on Spilled Blood
The colourful domes are one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks and inside is a feast for the eyes! From a distance the interior walls look painted with biblical art, but they’re actually individual pieces of coloured stone and makeup one of the world’s largest displays of mosaic art in a church.
St Isaac’s Cathedral
Our final stop was St Isaac’s Cathedral and there are few words to describe the scale and grandeur that await inside. Currently operating as a museum, St Isaac’s took 40 years to construct and can hold 12,000 people!
When is the best time to visit St. Petersburg?
The summer months (May to August) are when the ‘white nights‘ occur due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, so days are very long and temperatures are warm. To enjoy the city before the peak season rush, look to visit in May, temperatures are on the rise and it tends to be drier than the summer.
Can you visit Moscow and St. Petersburg in one trip?
One of the easiest way to travel between St. Petersburg and Moscow is on the high speed Saspan train which takes around 4 hours. If you are cruising to St. Petersburg and stopping overnight you could visit Moscow on the first day when you don’t need to be back early for the ship’s departure.
Visit Ludmila Tours website for more information about their St Petersburg shore excursions.
*check the Visa requirements for your country of origin before booking your trip as the information above may differ.