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St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local

5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local

Russia’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, is one of the best places to start your acquaintance with this diverse and controversial country (you can read my Beginners Guide to Russia here). Located between Europe and mainland Russia since its foundation in 1703, St. Petersburg has received a lot of European influence, especially in terms of architecture and education.

Best visited during summer months, St. Petersburg offers plenty of food for culture and history lovers. It also buzzes with all the modern life attributes – restaurants, cafes, bars and galleries one could wish for. One can spend days exploring the city, admiring it’s rivers and canals with impressive buildings along the way.

Calling St. Petersburg home for more than 20 years I still visit on a half-year basis. The city changes fast – every time I see new places, new buildings, new store and new concepts opening their doors. Somethings have stuck, others have left by the next season.

Let me share with you my 5 favorite places to visit in Russia, apart from the typical sightseeing tips you will find in every guide!

5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local

Take A Boat Cruise

St. Petersburg’s second name is ‘Northern Venice’ – the city is built along canals and rivers. One of the best way to see the city is from the water. There are plenty of different routes, and you can organize your boat ride right on spot – just look for people offering boat cruises on Nevsky Prospekt (next to Fontanka or Kanal Griboedova).

My tip is to board an evening boat around midnight and take a ride during the white nights season (end of June – middle of July). These boats usually depart next to the Peter & Paul fortress.

Hang Out On Rubinstein Street

A couple of years ago Rubinstein Street turned into a hub for going out. Here you will find plenty of cafes, bars and eateries open up till the morning for every taste and price point. It’s also great for people watching.

My favorite food place is Bekitzer – serving authentic Jewish cuisine for very affordable prices. For drinking, check out Diligent Drinkers Club for a brilliant choice and advice on distilled drinks. Rubinstein 15 is an address for a beautiful courtyard one might want to have a look at. Next door on Lomonosov Str. 14, check the courtyard – it’s one of those typical well-looking St. Petersburg courtyards the city is famous for. Be sure to also go inside the house (you can do so by ringing the button at hotel ‘Sonata’) to have a look on beautifully preserved entrance as well as the iron casted elevator. 

5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local

 

See The City From Above

Rooftops are another St-Petersburg “thing.” But be sure not to purchase any tours from private people offering their services. Apart from being illegal and unsafe, you might end up facing the police in the end. There are plenty of roof terraces and view point where you can see the city from above the legal way for a small fee. Here are some of my favorites:

  •  Open terrace of the Lotte Hotel offers some of the best views over St. Isaac’s Square
  • Rooftop of the ‘Zinger’ house. You are not allowed to get inside the dome, but the views over Nevsky Prospect are brilliant. There are special tours which cost about 20 Euros
  • Rooftop of the Karl Bulla Photo Studio-Museum offers great views over Nevsky Prospect and Sadovaya street. Entrance costs about 3 Euro.
  • ‘Terassa’ restaurant has great views over Kazansky Cathedral. The place is fancy but you can always have a cup of coffee.
  • ‘Moscow’ restaurant – a nice restaurant with a great rooftop terrace over Vosstaniya square.
  • Solaris Lab – nice rooftop cafe, but don’t order coffee (it doesn’t taste very good!)
  • Rooftop of Vedensky hotel –  nice views over the Petrogradskaya side of the city.

5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local

5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local

 

Explore New Holland

Located on a separate island right next to the city center, these former food storage hangars have been renovated after heavily bombings during the WWII and have opened their doors to the public a couple of years ago as a complex consisting of restaurant, café, small theater, skating field, street art exhibition and a green area. In winter you can ice-skate here. Another must-see in the city’s modern scene!

5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local

 

Visit Book Store ‘Podpisnie Izdaniya’

If you are a book-nerd like me, or if you just like being surrounded by beautiful printed editions, you have to visit this small, but cozy book store! You can spend hours here (and I usually do) searching for a good read. Most books are in Russian, but you will still find some in English and other languages. There is a little coffee shop inside and my favorite activity is to get a cup of coffee go upstairs and sit back with a good read.

5 Can't-Miss Sights In St. Petersburg, Russia: According To A Local


We hope you enjoyed this local’s guide to St. Petersburg Russia! Have you ever visited St. Petersburg? What were your favorite spots?

Australia / New Zealand

48 Hours in Sydney

Sparkling turquoise beaches, ferries jetting across the harbour, the iconic Opera House, and rich history- the possibilities are endless in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is a place with diverse culture, a safe and welcoming atmosphere, and enough natural beauty to fill your spirit long after you’ve left.

There’s never enough time to soak up all the delights of Sydney, and that’s coming from someone who has lived here quite a while, but if you only have 48 hours, you can still make the most of your adventure.

 

Where To Stay

Basing yourself in a central location, such as Sydney’s Central Business District (referred to as the CBD), or the Rocks will give you convenient access to the city’s public transportation and ferries. For a weekend of complete luxury, look no further than the Park Hyatt Sydney, with harbourside views, modern design and elegance, and picture-perfect views of the city and the Opera House. Other great options include the Harbour Rocks Hotel, the Four Seasons Sydney, The Grace Hotel, or the Sydney Harbour YHA – the Rocks, perfect choices for all budgets.

Wherever you stay, pick up an Opal Card on arrival in Sydney- these reusable cards are your key to public transportation across the city, tapping on and off as you go. You can top up the balance at most convenience stores or train stations, or online via your account.

 

The Rocks and Circular Quay

Spend your first morning strolling through the Rocks, Sydney’s oldest settlement and learn about the city’s convict past at the Rocks Museum, or browse the delectable treats and local crafts at the Rocks Markets, held every weekend. Pop into the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Cafe for a bite to eat and to browse their stunning collection of modern art. After you’ve had your fill of art and croissants, meander across the harbour to check out the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as well as Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. Sydneysiders, as the locals are known, have a massive love for coffee and cafe culture, so order a flat white and take your time to explore the cafes as you stroll around- there are so many hidden gems to be found.

 

If you have time, hour-long guided tours of the Opera House operate throughout a day, a fun way to learn more about the architectural marvel, and how the building came to occupy the edge of Sydney’s Bennelong Point. Gelato Messina in Circular Quay makes for a refreshing stop after the Opera House for a sweet treat- pear & rhubarb or apple pie gelato can’t be missed.

 

Bondi to Coogee Walk

If the weather is nice, use your Opal Card to take the train to Bondi Junction, then catch a bus down to Bondi Beach. The 6km walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee is stunning, with sandstone cliffs, crashing waves, and photo opp after photo opp. Don’t miss Bondi Icebergs, offering fine dining, poolside yoga, and, of course, Sydney’s most Instagrammable vistas.

On a rainy afternoon, consider exploring the NSW Gallery of Art or the Australian Museum, both easily accessible by public transportation.

After a long day of sightseeing, consider an evening cocktail at the Shangri-La’s famous Blu Bar on 36, offering stunning view from the 36th floor, followed by a relaxed dinner at one of the historical pubs in the Rocks, such as the Glenmore or Australian Hotel. Or, splurge for Japanese in the Rocks at Sake or Nakashima.

 

Ferry to Manly

Head back to Circular Quay the next morning to catch the ferry to Manly, for what must be one of Sydney’s most scenic commutes. Find an outdoor seat on one of Sydney’s iconic yellow and green ferries, and cruise past the Opera House, Watsons Bay, and out past the headlands over to Manly Beach, on Sydney’s north. Take in the relaxed beach vibes under Manly’s iconic pine trees, enjoy a fish and chips on the beach, check out the surf shops, or try a surfing lesson. Or, a short walk down the Esplanade from Manly Beach is Shelly Beach, a protected marine alcove and a perfect spot for diving and snorkeling. 

 

After your day at Manly, considering popping over to the trendy Inner West, a short train ride from the city. The neighbourhoods of Newtown, Surry Hills, and Glebe offer bountiful locally owned boutique shops, cafes, and hole-in-the-wall speakeasy-style bars.

Moonlight Dining at the Opera House

Finish your epic Sydney weekend off with a dinner at the Opera House’s Bennelong, for a true taste of modern Australian cuisine, or dine under the stars with a glass of wine at the Opera House Bar, a popular alfresco spot, offering harbour views and a relaxed, social atmosphere.

 

If you can stretch your time a bit longer in Sydney, consider also spending some time in the nearby Blue Mountains, South Coast, Palm Beach, or even Canberra. There is so much to see and do in Sydney, depending on your interests, but hopefully this guide will provide some inspiration when planning your next trip!

Africa Food Insider Tips

South Africa Photo Diary

When I reflect on my trip to South Africa, I am filled with feelings of being grateful and incredibly happy. The country of South Africa, which too frequently is associated with being overly dangerous, is filled with so many exceptionally
generous and friendly people.

After flying in to Johannesburg, we travelled to Nelspruit and spent three days in Kruger National Park. We were advised that three days in the park would feel like three weeks of relaxation, but truly it took me until the last day to fully understand. Kruger National Park is magical.


Our days were spent waking up and heading out for a morning safari, relaxing in the early afternoon while observing hippos at a nearby watering hole, and then leaving again for an evening safari. The safaris were planned around the time the animals were most active, so the morning safaris started around 6:30am and the evening safaris concluded by 9:00pm. One of the most fascinating parts was watching how our guides interacted with the wildlife; not only were they incredibly respectful, but they were able to read the animals’ behavior in order to determine how close we could get.


In a total contrast to the brown hues and relaxed atmosphere of Kruger National Park, Cape Town was a vibrant and energetic city. Filled with stunning landscapes, spectacular hiking, and inspiring art, there was never a dull moment.
Some activities to note: Chapman’s Peak Drive, hiking Lions Head, watching the sunset from atop Signal Hill, visiting the stunning Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, having afternoon tea at the Silo Hotel, and –of course- hiking Table Mountain.


In addition, Cape Town is a foodies delight. From the abundance of varying restaurants to the incredible Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill, we were constantly enthralled. (For anyone visiting Cape Town, I strongly recommend
visiting The Old Biscuit Mill market on a Saturday, as the extraordinary food options will not disappoint).

Overall, I am so incredibly grateful for my trip to South Africa. In a country where experiences are prioritized over material goods, and wildlife is nurtured and respected, I was reminded of the beauty of our world.

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Europe Insider Tips

Tuscan Towns: A Photo Diary

Tuscany is full of countless darling towns scattered through the rolling hills of the countryside. On a trip to Tuscany, you’re sure to be memorized by scenes of cypress trees and Tuscan villas. Strolling by outdoor cafes, gelato shops and cobblestoned alleys, it’s easy to fall in love with any Tuscan town, but these are a few of my favorites.  

Montepulciano
Tuscany as a whole is known worldwide for amazing wine, but Montepulciano and Montalcino specifically produce Brunello. Be sure to try this specialty when visiting the region. E Lucevan le Stelle is a nice wine bar near one of many lookout points in Montepulciano.

Insider Tip: You wouldn’t know from the front, but Caffè Poliziano has the most darling balcony in the back facing the countryside.

Tuscan Towns: A Photo DiaryTuscan Towns: A Photo DiaryTuscan Towns: A Photo Diary

San Gimignano 
I’m not going to lie to you, I really only visited San Gimignano for the gelato and the gelato alone. Gelateria Dondali has won several gelato world championships and there’s a line out into the piazza to prove it. Go later in the evening after the crowds have died down. If you’re after more than world famous gelato, the town is also known for its fourteen medieval towers.

Tuscan Towns: A Photo DiaryTuscan Towns: A Photo DiaryTuscan Towns: A Photo Diary

Siena
Built of medieval brick, Siena is a university city in central Tuscany. I think of Siena as the younger, hip sister to the more refined city of Florence. Head over to Fortezza Medicea for views of the city painted in shades of burnt sienna after grabbing a pastry and caffé at Bar Pasticceria Nannini. In the evening, Piazza del Campo fills with socializing students, locals on their evening passeggiata and tourist taking their part in the celebrated Italian pastime of aperitivo.

Tuscan Towns: A Photo DiaryTuscan Towns: A Photo Diary

Cortona
This little town is a must if you are fan of Under the Tuscan Sun. I adore that movie and Eat, Pray, Love (really any movie with a female protagonist in Italy!). You can stay at Villa Laura where they filmed the movie or drive by the actual Bramasole, the private home of author Frances Mayes. After strolling through the shops and taking in the views, relax on the steps in the main piazza and watch the town walk by. It’s a perfect Tuscan town!

Florence
No list of places in Tuscany would be complete without the capital city, Florence. I especially like Florence during December with its charming Christmas decorations. There’s also a quaint Christmas market in Piazza Santa Croce selling local and German specialties like cheese, panettone, ornaments and glühwein. Lines to Florence’s treasures like Michelango’s David and the Uffizi (and to get a panino at All’Antico Vinaio) are much shorter in the off-season too.

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Europe Food Insider Tips

A Weekend Guide To Nuremberg

Ahh, Bavaria. The southern region of Germany is very visually and culturally different than what you’ll find in Berlin. Bratwursts, old beer halls and streets lined with half-timbered houses abound. The region’s charm is unmatched — and Nuremberg is the perfect place to get a taste of it. Read on for Dame Traveler Contributor Meredith of The Glass Passage’s tips for the perfect long weekend in the city!

Market Square by night — home of the world famous Christmas Market every December!

WHERE TO STAY?

Located just inside the walls of the old city and a stone’s throw from the main train station, you’ll find historic Hotel Victoria. The boutique hotel has been privately owned since its opening in 1896 — so you could say they know a thing or two about how to create a lovely and inviting environment that keeps guests coming back time and again!

The rooms are comfortable and modern, yet the building itself is under monumental protection from the city, so it’s a wonderful blend of old and new. My favorite part, however, was every morning at the amazing breakfast buffet. It was definitely an ideal start for a long day of exploring!

WHERE TO EAT?

No visit to Nuremberg is complete without trying some traditional Franconian (which is the exact region where the city sits within Bavaria) food. Nuremberg is famous for it’s Bratwurst and let me tell you, it did not disappoint! The best place to try it (along with the BEST potato salad and sauerkraut I’ve ever had) is at Bratwursthäusle, which has been making its sausages in their in-house butcher’s shop in the back of the restaurant for ages. The restaurant sits right in front of St. Sebauldus church, just off the Main Market square and is so charming and authentically Franconian in its decor.

Bratwursthäusle & St. Sebauldus Church

We shared a table with a lovely German couple visiting their great uncle, who told us stories (in German, which the couple graciously translated to English) of his experiences before and during the war, all in between swigs of local beer and schnapps shots!

WHAT TO SEE?

Unlike other European destinations, Nuremberg’s high season comes in December with the arrival of the world famous Christkindlesmarkt (or Christmas Market). The Main Market Square is filled with stalls selling smoked meats, mulled wine and fresh gingerbread, all happening in front of the stunning Church of Our Lady. However, even in November it was still beautiful with a local market selling fresh gingerbread, flowers and other kinds of street food.

For some good cafes and coffee shops (AND photo ops 😉 ) head over to Weißgerbergasse (Tanner’s Lane) for the largest grouping of traditionally Bavarian half-timbered houses.

Walk up past the Old Town Hall and pop into St. Sebaldus Church (which is gorgeous and packed with so much free historical information!) on your way up to the Kaiserburg, or Imperial Castle. The Imperial Castle sits high overlooking the city and was one of the most important fortified imperial palaces of the Holy Roman Empire. It also has a museum inside the castle that is worth a visit.

The view from the Imperial Castle

Nearby, you can visit the house (and now museum) of famed German artist Albrecht Dürer which is still in tact from when it was constructed in 1420! Other sights for history buffs include the Nuremberg Trials Memorial and the Documentation Center for the Nazi Party Rally Grounds.

Exploring the Old Town area

 …when in Germany 😉

THE BEST DAY TRIP?

If you have more than 2 days in Nuremberg, I highly recommend taking a short 1 hr train and visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber — one of the most well-preserved medieval villages and truly something straight out of a story book. Its small size allows for it to be easily explored in a day, and it is really, just, I mean, well…I’ll just let my photos do the talking here 😉

Climb one of the towers of the old city walls for an incredible view!

The city walls envelop the entire Old Town and it takes about an hour to walk around the entire perimeter.

There are tons of little shops with all kinds of German treats!

Plönlein (the little yellow house) — one of the most famous views of the town!

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