Saint Petersburg, the Venice of the North, arguably the most beautiful city in Russia. To walk around its streets is a treat for anyone who is even slightly interested in architecture, art, or history. Regardless of the city’s beauty at ground level however, there is an even better way to experience its aesthetic qualities, from above.
If you just want to get a view of St Petersburg from on high, there is always the option of taking a rooftop tour, but if you want to get higher than that you’ll need to know which buildings to look for. To help you with that here is a list of 4 places you can go to get a bird’s eye view of the Northern Capital.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral
St Isaac’s Square, 4, Sankt-Peterburg, 190000 – eng.cathedral.ru/
The first place on this list is already well known to most travellers to St. Petersburg, but maybe not as a rooftop spot. St. Isaac’s Cathedral is famed for its huge columns, golden domes and lavish interior, but not as many people realise that it’s actually possible to climb to the colonnade on top of the church for a magnificent view of the Neva, Nevsky Prospect and the rest of the central district.
The 43 metre high panoramic view is truly a sight to behold, and with tickets costing just 150 roubles, it’s rather affordable. St. Isaac’s is a great choice for those who are new to St. Petersburg or have little time in the city and want to see it from above. The cathedral is already a must see for all tourists in St. Petersburg, so visiting the museum first and then heading up to the colonnade is a great way to tick two things off your St. Pete’s to-do list at once. With the student card you get from the Derzhavin Institute entrance to the museum itself costs just 50 roubles, so you can see both St. Isaac’s interior and the colonnade for just 200 roubles in total. In addition to all this, during the White Nights period, St. Isaac’s colonnade is open at night too. Normally the colonnade is open every day from 10:30 to 18:00 (not including winter months) but between April 27th and September 30th it stays open until 22:30. Visits to the colonnade in this extended time period do cost more however, coming in at 400 roubles per person.
Loft Project Etazhi
Ligovsky Ave, 74, Sankt-Peterburg, 191040 – www.loftprojectetagi.ru/en/
Loft Project Etazhi is a modern art centre on Ligovskii Prospect. In that sense alone it has a lot to offer you, from free galleries and interesting shops, to small independent cafes and more. You can read more about those aspects of Etazhi here (https://derzhavin.com/en/pages/907/34/), but for now let’s focus on the roof. Unlike the rest of the complex, entrance to Etazhi’s rooftop space is not free; tickets cost 100 roubles and can be bought from a small desk on the fifth floor. The roof itself is an open space with an area of about 1200 square metres. There’s plenty of space to relax and there’s even bean bags and a grassy area (well AstroTurf technically) to help you loosen up. You can take food, drinks, and even alcohol (so long as it’s not stronger than wine) up onto the roof with you. It’s a great place to wind down after a long day of study and tourism. Despite being located on one of St. Petrsburg’s busiest streets the roof of Etazhi manages to remain an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle below. It’s a fantastic feeling to look down at all the people hurrying to and fro far below you and then look around at the St Petersburg sky line, knowing that you don’t need rush anywhere.
Pereulok Pirogova, 18, Sankt-Peterburg, 190000 – https://vk.com/solarislab
Perhaps you want a place to relax but bean bags, AstroTurf, and modern art just aren’t your thing. Well then Solaris Lab might be just your cup of tea. To get to Solaris lab you’ll need to head to a spot located between the River Moika and Canal Griboedova where you’ll find a short little alleyway with an unassuming building at the end. Enter the building, head up to the top, and then head up a little more until you enter a small cafe housed within a glass geometric dome.
Welcome to one of the most relaxing spots in the city.
Thanks to the aforementioned dome neither rain, nor cold, nor even snow, can spoil Solaris Lab for you. The cafe serves coffee, a variety of specialty teas and some exceptionally tasty cakes. There’s seating inside under the dome, but should you have the good fortune to be there on a sunny day, it’s also possible to take a seat under the open sky on the terrace outside. While it is certainly the lowest spot on this list, Solaris Lab nevertheless offers a wonderful view of the surrounding rooftops and is just high enough to let you look out on the city’s skyline. The cafe is also is open from 13:00 to 23:00 every day so if you’re looking to see St. Petersburg by night, then it’s worth considering.
Lermontovskii Prospekt, 43/1, Sankt-Peterburg, 190103 – https://skybarspb.ru/
So far the places on this list offer decent views of the city but none of them will give a true top-down view over the entirety of St. Petersburg. Not of them, that is, except this last place, Sky Bar. Sky Bar is, as the name suggests, a drinking establishment. It is located on the 18th floor of the Azimut Hotel, which is literally just around the corner from the Derzhavin Institute. The bar offers good food, fantastic cocktails and an as-of-yet unrivalled view of the Northern Capital. It also makes a fantastic location for celebrations and, sad as it is so suggest it, farewell parties. You’re sure to make plenty of friends during your time at the Derzhavin Institute and what better way is there to see them off when they eventually do have to head back home, than sitting, high above the city, enjoying fancy cocktails and feasting on the view of all of St. Petersburg’s collected architectural masterpieces below?
Sky Bar is open from 17:00 to 02:00 but it can get a little busy at weekends. It you want to make sure you get a table, or if you want to be certain you get one near the windows, it’s worth calling in advance to make a reservation. Almost all the staff there speak English (it is in a hotel after all) so you’ll have no problem ensuring you get a good seat regardless of your level of Russian.
So there you have it, four places you can go to for fantastic views of St Pete’s and more besides. It should be noted however, that, whilst these are four of the best places for views over the city as of the present moment, relatively soon they will all be eclipsed in terms of pure height by the 360 degree, panoramic viewing platform of the currently under-construction Lakhta Centre, located to the north west of the city. Standing 360 metres off the ground, this platform, when completed, will be far higher than any of the other spots on this list. It will, in fact be the highest viewing platform in Europe. Regardless of whether you think the Lakhta Centre is a good addition to St. Petersburg’s skyline or not, that has to be worth a look. You can get a sneak peak of what to expect from the new build here (http://www.the-village.ru/village/city/picture-story/271484-lahta-view).