A product of the imagination—and iron will—of Peter the Great, the city is a busy tableau of architectural whimsies (Neoclassical colonnades, palaces of yellow and mint green). Peter envisioned his imperial capital as a window into Europe, and it has long been a center of culture and sophistication, with some of the world’s best art and ballet. The Soviet years were hard on St. Petersburg, and its ties with Europe were cause for ofﬁcial suspicion—and neglect. Ever since native son Vladimir Putin took ofﬁce, however, the city has been getting a face-lift. Streets are newly landscaped, and a $2 billion refurbishment of the urban center—sparked by the 2003 tercentennial celebration—has created a ﬂashy backdrop for the nouveau-riche residents.
Dining on Russian cuisine—hearty borscht served with fluffy garlic rolls, anyone?—at Na Zdorovye!, an unassuming restaurant decorated with farming tools and wooden matryoshka dolls.
Hunting for Soviet-era propaganda posters with phrases such as “Keep quiet!”, “Don’t drinks!”, and “Work harder!” at DVK, a local bookstore.
Climbing up the 250 steps to the colonnade of the dome at St. Isaac’s Cathedral for 360-degree views of the canal-filled city.