St. Petersburg, Russia
Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, Russia's second largest city and principal Baltic port contains a tsar's ransom in architecture, palaces and art treasures. Once the capital of Imperial Russia and playground of Russia's elite, the city's name was changed following the 1917 revolution to Petrograd, then Leningrad, before resuming its original name in 1991. St. Petersburg is patterned after Western capitals with canals reminiscent of Venice, a grand boulevard that evokes Paris and a spirit that is uniquely Russian. Explore Condé Nast Insider Tips for St. Petersburg
International Tsarskoye Sel Carnival
The White Nights Festival
June - July
Off the Beaten Track
For a trip down memory lane, head to the Cruiser Aurora. A survivor from the Russo-Japanese war, the Aurora was intentionally sunk during WWII and later refloated and converted into a museum. Six halls house technical and mechanical devices, the radio deck house, and boiler compartment. For a small fee, you can tour the engine-room; otherwise, admission to the Aurora is free. Another must-see attraction is the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in the city center. While the museum houses an impressive collection of cultural artifacts, most people come here for something else - Peter the Great's collection of curiosities. The equivalent to America's sideshow, the collection includes everything from unusual bugs to preserved body parts and deformed fetuses. Be warned, though - This is not a place for the faint of heart.
Russians are very reserved when dealing with strangers, although they take pleasure in expressing their opinions loudly. Exercising political correctness is uncommon and failure to do so should not be considered rude. Womena and old women in particular (babushas) are very respected and it is expected that a younger person will offer a seat to an older woman. Babushkas are easily offended particularly outspoken so be respectful when in their presence.