Helsinki and St Petersburg make an ideal combination for a twin centre city break. What is more, providing you arrive and depart St Petersburg by cruise ferry and stay for less than 72 hours you are able to take advantage of a visa-free cruise package.
Helsinki, a short two-hour flight from London, is small in comparison to other European cities. The vibrant capital city of Finland is an enchanting place with suburbs sprawling out over a number of islands and peninsulas. One of the most popular islands for a day trip and definitely worth visiting is Suomelinna, a large sea fortress spread over six islands and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Helsinki is home to welcoming people, great shopping and a quaint harbour area. One of the advantages of a short break to Helsinki is the great transport links to the rest of Finland, as well as Stockholm, Tallinn and of course St Petersburg.
There are two ways to reach St. Petersburg; one is by overnight ferry and the other by a five-hour high-speed train. Arriving for a short break in St Petersburg by train is an exciting experience, the grand buildings flash by you with the Cyrillic alphabet blurring the shop names and street signs. Around every corner is another beautiful and brightly coloured building lined by the river or canals.
Named the “Venice of the North” the whole city was built on marshland and is interconnected by a number of canals, split through the centre by the Neva River.
On one side of the Neva River stand the grand buildings of the Hermitage complex. Overlooking them from across the river is the gold spire of the Peter and Paul fortress and the rostral columns of the Strelka or ‘Spit’ of Vasilevsky Island. St Petersburg has a wealth of historical landmarks, beautiful architecture and interesting walkways and canals connecting the varying types of buildings. Old grey Soviet-style rundown housing contrasts with the grand palaces of the Tsars holding a wealth of gold and treasures.
The 4* Angleterre and the 5* Rocco Forte owned Astoria located opposite St Isaacs Cathedral are perfectly-located for those wanting to explore the city by foot. Spend your time looking around one of the world’s largest museums, the Hermitage, with its beautiful palace rooms and huge collection of fine arts. Meander along Nevsky Prospekt, the main thoroughfare of the city full of shops, cafes and pretty buildings. Also, not to be missed is the Cathedral of our Lady of Kazan, and just off the main road is the Church on Spilled Blood.
St Petersburg is a magical city to visit at any time of year; with the winter comes frozen canals and snow covered buildings and in the summer the magic of the midnight sun and the White Nights festival.