Feb 21st, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Travel

Seniors Discover the Venice of the North

St. Petersburg has long been a major Russian attraction. It is the second largest city in Russia with a population of about 5 million people. It is Czar Peter the Great’s “window on the west,” and was built in the early 1700s on 44 islands, mostly swampland – a feat that took the lives of millions of workers. Today St. Petersburg is a beautiful city, laced with canals, graceful bridges, the awe-inspiring  St. Isaac’s Cathedral, whose construction took more than 40 years.  Seniors find the city intriguing, often described as the most Western city of Russia.

With 221 museums and 80 theaters, 342 bridges and many water canals St. Petersburg is called “The Venice of the North.”  It has all the ingredients for an unforgettable senior travel experience: high art, lavish architecture, nightlife, an extraordinary history and rich cultural traditions that have inspired and nurtured some of the modern world’s greatest literature, music, and visual art.

Although just 300 years old, St. Petersburg has a rich and exciting history, full of dramatic events and major historical figures. Nearly everyone in St. Petersburg today has a family member who lived through the 900-day siege of the city by Nazi forces, and mere mention of the humanity-crushing blockade still brings tears to the eyes of those who survived it.

Today it’s not only Rastrelli’s architecture and Tchaikovsky’s operas that entice senior visitors, but also beatnik bands, edgy art galleries, underground clubs and delectable dining. St Petersburg’s bohemian side gives a glimpse into the 21st century; and (to borrow a communist slogan) the future is bright!  St Petersburg is legendary for its White Nights: those long summer days when the sun barely dips below the horizon. Revels start in May, when the city finally succumbs to spring and the parks are filled with flowering trees.

Seniors Enjoy the Largest Art Museum in the World

Saint Petersburg is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. In 1914 the name of the city was changed to Petrograd, in 1924 to Leningrad and in 1991 back to Saint Petersburg. It is the former capital of Russia.  Saint Petersburg is home to The Hermitage, the largest art museum in the world.  This pistachio-colored gem on the banks of the Neva River was designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli as the winter residence of the Russian tzars. The State Hermitage will inevitably be the focus of any first visit for seniors to St Petersburg, and rightly so. At the information kiosk of the State Hermitage Museum you can pick up a free color map of the museum, available in most European languages. Immediately after ticket inspection you can hire an audio guide (R250) with recorded tours in English.

Lonely Planet provides seniors a list of things to do in St. Petersburg that you will want to check out. Frommer’s will fill in any gaps like walking tours, side trips, shopping and night life. The Metro is awesome, don’t miss it.

Anyone who is coming from Moscow will be pleasantly surprised to learn that St Petersburg is significantly cheaper than the capital, which ranked number one in the world on Mercer’s list. US dollars and euros are easy to change around St Petersburg, but other currencies will undoubtedly cause more hassle than they are worth. Whatever currency you bring should be in pristine condition. Banks and exchanges do not accept old, tatty bills with rips or tears. For US dollars make certain they are of the new design, which has the large offset portrait. Do check out my Best Russian Websites prior to your visit to learn a few words in Russian. jeb

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