From Russia with Love...
Updated: Mar 2
In the Autumn of 2016 we visited St. Petersburg, a Russian port city on the Baltic Sea with our 15 month old daughter. Previously known as Leningrad, and founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St. Petersberg (or STP) remains one of Russia's most thriving cities, and proves a fascinating insight into Russian history and culture.
We couldn't wait to explore the city, and with a very eager-to-toddle daughter, staying in a central location was therefore essential for us! We chose The Pushka Inn, on the river embankment, just a stone's throw from the world famous Hermitage Museum and Palace Square.
The Pushka Inn had it's own restaurant which was open all day, and with our fussy eater was, frankly, a life-saver! Serving delicious Russian staples such as Gazepoucho, stroganoff and home-made kievs, the restaurant also provided a fantastic buffet breakfast for guests including hot and cold offerings. With child-friendly and helpful staff, the restaurant even had a highchair. India-Rose was not keen to eat anything other than eggs and fruit/veg crudites during this phase and, with the ok from the staff, we were able to prep some snacks for the day ahead from the breakfast buffet. This was a real help as lots of restaurants did not cater for young children.
TIP: Take a portable booster seat for restaurants in STP such as this one: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Munchkin-051696-Travel-Booster-Seat/dp/B003WUKZSC/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1548242392&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=munchkin+booster+seat&psc=1
MUST SEE THREE
1) St. Isaac's Cathedral: Two words: LOOK UP! One of the most stunning places we have visited, around every corner were more gilded angels and frescoes. Miss out at your peril!
2) The Hermitage: You simply cannot visit STP and not pay a visit to the world famous State Hermitage museum. I could have spent a week perusing the sculptures alone ( it does, after all, house the second largest art collection in the world). But we had one day set aside for this, and with an 15 month old, couldn't hang around for too long! We had a tour of the more popular halls and saw works from Raphael, Michelangelo and Da Vinci.
3) The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood: An iconic landmark in STP. The interior is a must see, containing over 7500 square metres of mosaics alone. The surround of the Church is a haven for tourist touts, souvenir stalls & visitors from across the globe. The best place to get a photo is from the bridge over the Griboedov canal.
BEST OF THE REST
Peter and Paul Fortress . The original citadel of STP, founded by Peter The Great in 1703.
Mariinsky Theatre. A historic theatre of opera and ballet, catch a show to experience true Russian culture.
TIPS FOR TINY TYKES
Visit Palace Square after dark for a truly magical experience! The entire palace is lit up, and the courtyards make for a fabulous toddler stomping ground. We were incredibly lucky to have this as a stone's throw from our hotel, affording us many trips for walking, souvenirs or photo stops!
Visit the Marketplace restaurant on Nevsky Avenue for a fantastic eating experience. Whether you fancy Thai curry, goulash or freshly baked bread there will be something to please even the fussiest of kiddy tastebuds! At the time of our visit there were no highchairs so please consider taking a portable booster if you know you're eating out in STP.
Don't forget to visit Mikhailovsky Gardens, adjacent to Church on the Spilled Blood. A fantastic play park with sand pit and acres of green to tire out little travellers, so you can soak in the history of the Church in peace! It was full of autumn leaves at the time of our visit, so a wonderful photo opportunity.
NEED TO KNOW
We got ours from the Russian consulate in Manchester. You can also attend embassies in London or Edinburgh. Cruise ship passengers can stay for 72 hours without a Visa if tours are booked through licensed companies. For further info check out www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/russia/entry-requirements
We flew with Lufthansa from Birmingham which was perfect for us, as we are Midlands based. The flight was around 6 hours via a stop at Frankfurt. Direct flights are available from Heathrow, but we find it easier to fly from our local airport with kids!
The main airport used is Pulkovo airport. We had a pre booked driver arranged with our hotel, who collected us from the airport, this was such a great service. Another vote for Pushka Inn!
The centre of St. Petersberg is around 23km south of Polkovo. There is no direct bus but there is a 20 minute bus ride followed by a metro trip which will take you to the centre, should you prefer.
We absolutely loved St. Petersberg and all it had to offer in terms of culture, tourism and food. The Russian hospitality can be a tad frosty at times, however with children in tow, that frost soon melts away. Not all restaurants have baby change facilities so take a decent changing mat as well as supplies. Be aware that not many menus in the city are in English, unless you stick to the touristy restaurants. But we got by with some sign language, a few learnt words and Google translate! Stay close to the amenities to enable quick nap/py stops! A wonderfully different place to spend a week with the family.