St Petersburg Holidays from Exeter International

By Ala Osmond

When Peter the Great built St Petersburg, he envisaged a city as unlike Moscow as possible, a modern city designed to a plan. The first stone was laid in 1703, and Peter invited architects, masons, artists and craftsmen from every corner of Europe to help create his new capital. After Peter’s death, a succession of empresses and emperors added to the beauty of St Petersburg, each one lending it a new style: Baroque, Rococo, Classical and Russian Revival.

Is St Petersburg the most beautiful city in Europe? Peter the Great certainly thought so, and generations of visitors have been dazzled by the glorious art and architecture.

The Fountains at Peterhof

I had the great opportunity of living in St Petersburg for several years and I consider it my second home. Arranging holidays for people to St Petersburg (and Russia in general) is more than just a business, it has evolved into something far more personal which makes a difference to you when you travel with us. We travel to St Petersburg regularly, searching out the latest restaurant (and what table to sit at), the latest hotel development - either new hotels or refurbishments, or hotels that sometimes can be past their best before date… Meeting our guides, old and new so that we have a profile on all of them and know how to match you the traveller to the best guide for your needs.

We can arrange everything for you, from your visa application to completing your landing card for you before you fly, smoothing all the petty bureaucracies so you barely notice them.

To get the most out of your holiday to St Petersburg, we will discuss your specific interests with you and design an itinerary for you. Alternatively, leave it to us to suggest the highlights, and spend more time exploring independently. We can tell you which museums and experiences you can discover independently, and which would be better with a guide. The choice is yours.

Helen, one of our guides

There are many museums and palaces that are of course a must: Peter & Paul Fortress, signifying the founding of the city and the best place to learn about the Romanov dynasty as you gaze at their tombs, wondering what if Anastasia had survived?; The Hermitage, not only because of the art on the walls, but the pivotal point that the Winter Palace played in Russian History; The Yusupov palace, to see how a noble family lived and to learn about Rasputin and his influence over Tsarina Alexandra that would ultimately lead to his death. Catherine Palace, part of what we like to call the Hollywood Romanov’s, gaudy and over the top, much like some of the Russia of today.

Peterhof, Pavlovsk and Catherine Palace were all completely destroyed during WWII – virtually razed to the ground. Even though the entire city had suffered incredible damage, The Soviets respected their history enough to painstakingly restore them and as Suzanne Massie, author of Pavlovsk: The Life of a Russian Palace says it was a ‘restoration not only of buildings, but of their country’s memory and soul, a startling human achievement accomplished against superhuman odds. It is unique’ See here for more culture and history.

We can also pre arrange a number of Extraordinary Experiences which are by appointment only and include:

  • A private tour of the Hermitage, one of the world’s greatest museums.
  • Exclusive entrance to the storerooms of the Hermitage.
  • A VIP tour to the Amber Room Workshops of Catherine Palace.
  • Exclusive access to the Gold Rooms at the Hermitage.
  • A private backstage tour of the Mariinsky Theatre.
  • A private tour of the Vaganova ballet academy.

See more recommendations

Once you have booked, we will send you our full travel tips (a few here) and current restaurant suggestions. All of which we have experienced ourselves, not just pulled out of a guide book.

Find out more about Exeter International’s bespoke city breaks. All tours are tailor-made, but as a guideline for costs have a look at our seasonal winter and summer offers.

For more details: 020 8996 5163 email

Our Guides

St Petersburg can be daunting in scale, although a week would not be too long, four days are sufficient to see the key sights. It’s not pure self interest to say that a guide is essential. Many people baulk at the thought of a guide, apart from cost the two main objections are: Control - our guides are not school teachers and they are all intuitive to their travellers needs and you have complete control over your itinerary. Secondly: What if I don’t like my guide? This virtually never happens, because we know our guides and take great care in requesting the guide that will be right for you. If it did happen, we can change a guide, even in the middle of an itinerary.

Catherine Palace

St Petersburg demands a guide to bring the city to life, save you time and get beneath the skin of the city. Most of our traveller comments are about our guides.

Our top reasons for pre planning your time and having a guide:

1.Each museum has a different day of the week that it is closed. Many palaces also have one additional day a month for cleaning.

2.Certain museums and palaces have appointment only tours that must be arranged in advance.

3.In many cases, and specifically in the Hermitage, when we have pre booked a service we can avoid the very long public queues.

Hermitage Public Queues

4.Some palaces are incredibly popular, particularly in the summer. We cannot always avoid the queues entirely, but we can tell when the best time of day is to go, which can really make a difference.

5.Taxi services are unreliable, smoky and will take advantage of you.

St Petersburg Holidays-Tailor-made for You

Whatever you decide we are here to give you objective advice on the planning of your holiday to St Petersburg from your choice of hotel the selection of your guide, and ideas for what to do.

Troika Ride

If you have always dreamed of enjoying a troika ride, Zhivago style in winter, a private boat tour during White nights, when the sun does not set we can arrange it. The best shop to buy a fur hat, the best seat at the Mariinsky theatre or concert hall, plan your restaurants so they are all in walking distance of your hotel, we can answer the questions and make suggestions on any aspect of your St Petersburg holiday.

Peter & Paul Fortress in Winter

Interested in St Petersburg Holidays? Talk to Exeter International

St Petersburg is a great year-round destination, and the choice of when to go is an individual one. The city changes dramatically with the seasons. In summer it benefits from long days and white nights, the sun glinting off grand pastel-coloured buildings and golden spires.

Church of the Spilled Blood

Winter - when the rivers are frozen and the city lies under a crisp blanket of snow - is stunning, and arguably the most romantic time of year. My favourite months of the year to travel are April and late September, avoiding the cruise ship season.

As experts in St Petersburg holidays, we can provide first hand experience and advice on how to make the best of your travel to this great city. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, soak up the rich architecture or simply get to know the St Petersburg of today, we can help.

For more on St Petersburg city breaks, contact an expert on 020 8996 5163 or email us at

Amber Room Workshops