We loved all the places, but the highlight of our trip was St. Petersburg. We were there for three days, and we had a fantastic tour guide, Gennadiy Chentsov, who picked us up at the ship at 9:00 AM and returned us at 6:00 PM each day. He grew up in St. Petersburg, speaks perfect English, and had been recommended highly by some friends of ours. It was quite extraordinary!!
Everything was arranged before hand - he got visas for us, he made reservations at all the historical places and restaurants, he had a driver for us, since there were 6 in our group - we had absolutely no worries or concerns. He took us to unbelievable places, and wonderful restaurants for lunch each day. Some places we would never had seen if we had taken the cruise excursions - and the price was much better. I cannot say enough about how he made our St. Petersburg experience so memorable!! He will arrange your schedule of places according to how many days you will be in St. Petersburg. We were there for three days, and each day was packed with so much. Our first day we went to St. Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Isaac's Cathedral and the Church of the Spilt Blood in the morning. Then we went to lunch across the water from the Church of the Spilt Blood to Cafe St. Petersburg. Absolutely delicious food - loved the borsch!! That afternoon we went to the Smolny Institute for Nobel Ladies, where the Bolshevik Headquarters were after the revolution of 1917, and where Lenin and his wife lived. The next day we went to see the statue of Peter the Great on Horseback, stopped at the monument preserving the memory of those tragic and heroic 900 days of the siege of Leningrad - 1941 - 1944. We went to Pushkin and saw the Russian Orthodox church that Tsar Nicholas and his family attended in their last days, and where they lived at Alexander's Palace. We continued on to Catherine's Palace which is filled with history and absolutely gorgeous - blue, white and gold!! We had another delicious lunch back in St. Petersburg at Cafe Bernedy. Then we went to the fabulous Hermitage, which is unbelievable. Gennadiy was so informative about all the art works, and all the history - amazing!! Our last day we went to Peterhof, which was Peter the Great's Grand Palace overlooking the Gulf of Finland. Absolutely beautiful fountains and grounds!! For lunch we went to the Vodka museum, where we had a tour of the museum, had a snack with a sampler of vodka, and another delicious lunch. It was such a fun time!!! Then we went to the Yusupov Palace, which survived the wars with much of its original interior and artwork. In the cellar of this palace, Rasputin was poisoned!! So much history and so interesting. What a fantastic last day we had in St. Petersburg!! It was very hard to say goodbye to Gennadiy, as he was such a wonderful guide, and such a nice person. We would recommend him to anyone who would like to really see St. Petersburg, learn a lot of history, and have a pleasant person to guide you!! It definitely was the highlight of our marvelous trip!!