My First Day in Russia | Saint Petersburg Travel Guide

Saint Petersburg, Russia – the start of our 25-day Trans-Siberian Railway adventure!

If only getting here was as easy as one phone call – Truth is, this is a project we’ve been working on for over two years. 

When I first received the message from Yaroslav back in 2017 inviting me on a one-in-a-lifetime adventure across Russia, I never believed it would actually happen.

And yet, after countless email chains, visa logistics, and travel mishaps – here I am. Nervous, excited, tired, and hungry.

So before we do anything, I drop my luggage off at the hostel and Yaro takes me to a little soviet-inspired cafe for a crash course on Russian breakfast.

St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia behind Moscow, and It’s considered the cultural capital of the country.

So our first order of business as a team is to get a view of this sprawling cityscape from above.

From the rooftops, we head back down to ground level and make our way through the streets with another local guide named Victor.

We stop at the oldest and most expensive train station in Russia.

Originally, it was a one-story wooden building erected in 1837 for the first Russian railway under Nicholas the first, and it’s been remodeled and renovated many times since.

For a much different historical attraction, we visit the home of one of Russia’s most notorious characters – Rasputin.

and to be completely honest, I never fully understood Rasputin’s role until I watched the Last Czars on Netflix.

He was a mystic and self-proclaimed holy man who gained considerable influence in late imperial Russia by befriending the family of Tsar Nicolas II – the last Russian monarch.

My first reaction is, this seems like a pretty modest home for such a figure.

Regardless, we hear stories of his exploits over tea with the caretaker and then press on.

Saint Petersburg Russia Travel

we change gears again to get a broader perspective on our impending adventure.

Back downtown, we enjoy golden hour along the canals and grab a quick dinner nearby. 

Roasted meat with veggies, buckwheat, and some Russian pancakes or blinis.

We call it an early night on day one because tomorrow we’re waking up way too early.

Built across the marshlands of the Neva River delta, there are more than 342 bridges in the city limits of Saint Petersburg. Peter the Great wanted to design the city as another Amsterdam or Venice, and if you wake up early enough you can have the labyrinth of canals virtually all to yourself.

Back on dry land, it’s time to traverse the city as tourists.

First, down to the one of the deepest subway systems in the world. 

It’s built this way because of all the water running under the city, and also as a bunker for any future wars.

This is where we end up spending our last few hours in Saint Petersburg. 

Watching the sunset and enjoying some live music. 

Truth is, after our first two full-on days in Russia travel, we actually passed out right here on the ground until it was time to go catch our train.

It was perfect.

My name is Gareth Leonard, a Marketing Director turned World Traveler with a passion for slow, meaningful travel. I have been traveling the world full-time for the past 9+ years and document it all on Instagram and YouTube. Come join me!

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