A walk along the Griboyedov canal
Day 1, 4 p.m. – After a flight that was as quick as it was pleasant, I head off for a relaxing moment along the Griboyedov canal. Once called the “Catherine Canal”, it was renamed in 1920 in the honour of a Russian writer. I'm struck by the beauty of Saint Petersburg, a city of water and light. I roam the quays watching the surging Neva River that flows through the heart of the capital. During winter when temperatures plunge dramatically, a sheet of ice can develop. In all seasons, the view from the Neva is unforgettable! I continue onwards to reach the Nevsky bridge and cross over to the other bank for dinner.
Authentic Russian atmosphere at the Teplo
8 p.m. – After a long walk that was both refreshing and invigorating, I hurry towards the Teplo. This small and unusual restaurant with a quintessential Russian atmosphere is a place you wouldn't want to miss while in Saint Petersburg. The beautiful sculpted busts out front and the mouldings of the building are impressive. Inside, the mood is calm and welcoming. Comfortably settled into one of the rooms with unique decor, I go for the famous Beef Stroganoff that the restaurant is renowned for. I have heard that in the summer, diners hurry to be seated on the terrace outside. To finish the meal on a sweet note, I order a hot apple tart, a real delight.
Bolshaya Morskaya St. 45
Saint Petersburg 190000
+7 812 570 1974
An idyllic night in the legendary Astoria Hotel
10 p.m. – For a comfortable and luxurious night in an authentic setting, I booked a room at the Astoria. I did my homework and learned that the hotel is over one-hundred-years old! In addition to being one of the location sites of the GoldenEye James Bond movie, it also served as a hospital for artists for a few years. From my bright and spacious room, I see the superb Saint Isaac cathedral, built over 160 years ago. To relax at the end of this packed day, I take my time in the sublime white marble bathtub. I make the most of the moment, relaxing in this sumptuous setting before enjoying the soft mattress for the rest of night.
Bolshaya Morskaya Ul. 39
Saint Petersburg 190000
+7 812 494 5757
Between art and tradition at the Russian Museum
Day 2, 10 a.m. – After a delicious breakfast at the hotel prepared by a French chef, I'm off for a cultural getaway in the heart of the city. I'm all ready for a leap into the extraordinary world of Russian art during the Alexander III and Nicholas II eras. Here, the works are exposed in chronological order and range from traditional paintings from the 12th century to recent works by Chagall, Kandinsky and Malevich. Indeed, I found what I came for! Objects of national craftsmanship are also on display: ceramics, jewels, boxes and toys. While admiring the Russian realist movement called the Wanderers, I give in to a feeling of travelling in time to the end of the 19th century. Breaking with their time, these students of the Russian School of the Arts chose to express their own view of the world. Sublime and touching!
State Russian Museum
Inzhenernaya St. 4
+7 812 595 4248
Lunch with a view of Saint Isaac's cathedral from the Mansarda
12 p.m. – After a rich cultural experience at the Russian Museum, the Mansarda opens its doors to me for an exceptional lunch in a modern setting. A few steps from the Hermitage, this establishment favoured by the Saint Petersburg youth promises a tasty meal! In summer, guests take a seat on the large terrace to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Saint Isaac Cathedral's golden dome. Comfortably located on the 6th floor of the Quattro Corti business centre, the Mansarda offers Asian and international fusion cuisine. What is going to have my preference? I decide to order the pizza with smoked salmon and caviar, which I taste accompanied by one of the many great wines of the menu.
Business Center Quattro Corti
Pochtamtskaya Ul. 3
+7 812 946 4303
Dive into Saint Petersburg history
2 p.m. – Don't put off your visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress, for good reason! As a tribute to its status of former jail, it is at four o'clock sharp that the doors of one of the most symbolic places of St. Petersburg close. In the Peter and Paul Cathedral, I discover the tombs of the Romanovs imperial family.
Before passing the beautifully decorated outer wall, I pause a few moments to admire the spire of the cathedral: it apparently measures nearly 122 metres! While this fortress was originally built to protect the capital during the war against Sweden, I read that it had also served as a political prison for several years. Here, as nowhere else, beats the pulse of this tercentennial city and, in my chest, my heart resonates in concert.
Peter and Paul Fortress
+7 812 230 6431
Between culture and architecture at the Hermitage Museum
4 p.m. – As there are fewer visitors at this time of day, I head for the Hermitage to begin my visit. The turquoise façade with white and golden mouldings is decidedly striking. The three buildings that make up the Hermitage contain nearly a thousand windows! Entering the main building, the Winter Palace, I marvel at the huge chandeliers, lacquered parquet floor, and interminable stairs – this place seems straight out of a fairy tale! Within this grandiose architecture, the Hermitage houses about three million works dating from all eras: from Rubens to Renoir to Fragonard and Monet, it's a feast for the eyes! And for night owls, the museum remains open until 9 p.m. on Fridays!
The Hermitage Museum
Palace Square 2
+7 812 710 9079
A soft-lit dinner at the Idiot
8 p.m. – After filling up on culture at the Peter and Paul Fortress and at the Hermitage, I'm getting ready for dinner. Just 20 minutes from the sublime Winter Palace is the Idiot restaurant, a true paradise that is both cosy and laid back. I dive into a large leather sofa that looks inviting. Nestled between several shelves filled with books and cradled by soft lights in this calm corner, I order an appetising dish of salmon caviar and shrimp. Before going off for the evening, I savour the glass of vodka that was offered as a welcome drink, but always in moderation!
Nab Reki Moyki 82
+7 812 946 5173
Menu: around 3,500 RUB
Nightclub Mod, for a crazy vibe!
11 p.m. – Twenty minutes away from the Idiot, near the Hermitage, the Nightclub Mod is the perfect place to end the evening with an electric touch. Pink neon and multi-coloured spotlights provide the energy for this place that brings together many artists all year round. I settle into one of the red leather booths to enjoy a glass of vodka, just one, then I hurry into the young trendy crowd in this hot spot of Saint Petersburg! The atmosphere of this major spot is exactly what I needed to relax after a long day of sightseeing.
Griboyedov channel embankment 7
+7 962 728 0998
In the private world of a famous writer at the Pushkin Museum
Day 3, 10 a.m. – To make sure I have the time to get to the museum before my return flight, I decide not to drag on in my room! It's impossible to leave without visiting the famous Russian writer's apartment, just 20 kilometres north of the airport. If the home of he who is celebrated every February 10th was rebuilt in 1925, his office has always remained intact. I admire his study that contains many books from his personal collection as well as numerous trinkets. Tears come to my eyes when I discover his love letters, written in perfect French, to his future wife Nathalie. And to know that the author of The Queen of Spades passed away when he was just 38!
The ‘Russian soul' is everywhere to be felt in Pushkin's work, and almost all of Pushkin is in Saint Petersburg, 20 kilometres to the south. There is even a city that carries his name. After these two days filled with emotions and discoveries of all kinds, it is time to return to my Parisian life. I travel to the airport, hearing these lines from the Bronze Horseman in my head: “I love you, Peter's creation/I love your severe, graceful appearance/ The Neva's majestic current.”
National Pushkin Museum
+7 812 571 3531