I Heart My City: Elena’s St. Petersburg

Elena Kozlova relocated to St. Petersburg from another city in Russia in 2006 to pursue higher education, but her love for the city made her stick around after she claimed her degree. These days she holds a corporate job and shares her insider intel with the Spotted By Locals community in her spare time. To Elena, living in Russia’s former imperial capital gives “the rare feeling of living in a museum under the open air surrounded by water,” and she likes it that way. Here are a few of her favorite things about the charming port city she calls home.

See more of Elena’s recommendations on the Spotted By Locals blog.

St. Petersburg is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to the boat landing station to take a splendid boat tour.

My city’s best museum is Yusupov Palace, the site of Grigori Rasputin’s assassination, because very little effort was needed to make it a museum–the palace was already an amazing building itself, with fancily decorated interiors representative of the life of a noble and rich Russian family.

Bookstores or food shops are the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

You can see my city best from the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Locals know to skip Nevsky Prospect and check out Kolomna, a historic district associated with classic Russian literature, instead.

In the past, notable people like Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vladimir Nabokov, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky have called my city home

The beginning of July is the best time to visit my city because of the “white nights,” days when the twilight lasts all night and one can enjoy warm summer weather outside.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Tavricheskiy Garden or Moskovskiy Victory Park.

My city really knows how to celebrate high school graduation day in June. It organizes a big event for the kids with huge ships with scarlet canvasses sailing down the river.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they take along a pullover or light raincoat “just in case”–even when it’s summer.

For a fancy night out, I do simple things like eat vegetarian and go to my favorite bars in the Sennaya Square area.

Just outside my city, you can visit beautiful spots on the Gulf of FinlandSolnechnoye, for example.

My city is known for being old, but it’s really still a kid by many standards. (St. Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.)

The best outdoor market in my city is the Udelnaya flea market in the northern part of the city.

Coffee Station or ZOOM café are my favorite places to grab breakfast, and Marketplace or Pirogi are the spots for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read TimeOut Saint-Petersburg. The site’s in Russian, so you’ll want to use browser translation, but it provides very useful information–especially about events in the city.

My city’s biggest sports event is any game played by Zenit, a popular local soccer team. Watch it at Petrovskiy stadium or in just about any beer bar around the city.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I buy a bottle of wine and some snacks and sit with friends by the riverside where you can see the bridges opening and closing over the Neva throughout the night.

To escape the crowds, I wake up earlier and avoid Nevsky Prospect.

The dish that represents my city best is freshly caught European smelts (koryushka in Russian), which are sold and served from the end of April to the end of May, and the “Boyarskiy Shot” (vodka mixed with grenadine and Tabasco sauce) is my city’s signature drink.

Smolny Cathedral is my favorite building in town because you can climb up its belfry and enjoy a rare view of the city.

Cosmonaut or Poison karaoke bar are the best places to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Hello Hostel parties.

Snowy, rainy, and sunny weather–all at the same time–could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should rent a bike and take a ride through the cheerful streets of the city.

In the summer you should visit the outdoor areas and beaches along the Gulf of Finland.

In the fall you should go to Pushkin and Pavlovsk parks to see the beautiful greens and oranges of nature in transition.

In the winter you should dress warmly and go ice skating.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the amusement park at Krestovskiy Island.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s the disposition of the three main canals in the city: Fontanka, Griboedov, and Moyka.

The best book about my city is Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because the quote, “St. Petersburg is the new Berlin,” is very true; there are a lot of small bars, cafes, and venues to visit to explore.


  1. Valeria Semenova
    August 4, 2014, 6:51 am

    For travelers who are in addition to the classic tourist routes would like to have some unique experience, I recommend a web site where locals offer their excursions and walks, such as the roofs of houses, courtyards, bars and local markets. http://www.sputnik8.com/en/st-petersburg .Many of them are fluent in English.
    In case of bad weather, I highly recommend to go to Questroom in the heart of the city near the Savior on Spilled Blood: http://questrooms.com/ This is an exciting entertainment, where you will need to escape the room by solving puzzles. For example, out of the camera in St.Paul Fortress … Know the Russian language is not necessary, the instructions are in English. If you have 1-2 hours of free time – be sure to visit!
    Another great place – a hostel with a terrace on the roof in the magnificent view of the Nevsky Prospekt, there you can just come to drink tea with cookies, play games, watch the rooftops http://fdhostel.ru/
    If you have any questions just ask!

  2. Jen
    February 12, 2014, 9:19 pm

    I have been to Moscow and enjoyed it and was really disappointed on missing St Petersburg as so many people have said how great it is. Hopefully I will make it back the Russia someday soon. Thanks for sharing your insider tips.

  3. Libbie
    February 12, 2014, 7:14 pm

    This is an excellent article: concise, helpful, with a personal touch. I have spent two days in St. Petersburg and really hope to return one day. It’s a fascinating place.