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Reviewed March 16, 2019 via mobile

From the moment we arrived, Experience Russia made sure we felt right at home. As Americans, we were a bit intimidated by the inevitable culture shock we would experience in St. Petersburg, but the staff was so friendly and helpful in showing us the best restaurants, nightlife, and popular sights so we always had something fun to do when we weren't on tours. The tours were extremely insightful and full of learning. The staff made sure to go at a pace my group and I could keep up with, and always went above and beyond to explain every detail no matter how many questions we had. Aside from ensuring we learned loads about the history, they wanted to make sure we got familiar with the urban culture, which included lunches at traditional restaurants, shopping at local stores and visiting popular sport venues. Overall, Experience Russia made our first trip to Russia a lifelong memory, and is a main reason as to why we'll be going back!

Date of experience: July 2018
Thank Vidalinho10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Experience_Russia, Owner at Experience Russia, responded to this reviewResponded March 20, 2019

Dear Vidalinho10,

I am truly grateful for you sharing your experience here on TripAdvisor.

It was fantastic to have the opportunity to show you both around the city and provide you both with a memorable experience so soon after your engagement. Congratulations again to you both. :)

We always strive for our guests to have well-rounded experience, and it seems like we were able to provide that for you.

Thank you for choosing us for your first visit to Russia, we'd love to have you both back again! Stories like yours are what makes showing guests around St. Petersburg so rewarding.

If you ever hear of anyone who's interested in visiting St. Petersburg or Russia in general, we'd be honored if you would give us the opportunity to assist them.

Best wishes,
Mila

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Reviewed January 6, 2019

I had toured St. Petersburg with Mila in the past with another company and was delighted with my experience. I wanted to be sure that the group (7 of us in total) that I was travelling with would enjoy themselves as much as I had a few years ago, so I reached out to Mila directly to plan our visit.

This time, Mila far exceeded the already high expectations that we had for her. Since we last saw her on tour, she has started working on building her own company and she has pulled out all the stops in doing so.

Since I had already visited in the past, I had an idea of what places my family would appreciate, and we all wanted some quality time together, so I decided to arrange a two-day private tour for us. I contacted Mila and explained that we wanted to tour Catherine's Palace, The Hermitage, The Church on the Spilled Blood, and Peterhoff Park, and we were open to suggestions for other places to fill our itinerary. I also mentioned that it was essential for our group to have lunch at Stolle at least once, though we were also open to suggestions in this area as well.

Mila responded warmly with a list of her recommendations for places to visit based on the information I gave her about our group. After checking with everyone else, we decided that we wanted to also go on a canal cruise, visit Grand Maket, the Soviet Arcade Museum, St. Isaac's Cathedral, and its colonnade (I did a brief write-up of them at the bottom).

Admittedly, I had never heard of either of Grand Maket or the arcade, but she assured us that these were proverbial "hidden gems" and would give us a chance to get away from the crowds that the main attractions tend to draw in. We decided to give it a try nonetheless and we were all glad that we had.

If you have the opportunity, you absolutely must visit St. Isaac's Cathedral. Its interior evokes the same feeling of inspiration and wonder as St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican with a scale that is nearly as impressive.

During our tour Mila once again proved that she is an expert at navigating small groups of people through large crowds and makes it look effortless in the process. At every one of the museums, palace, etc. that we visited, Mila explained to us the historical backgrounds of each of them with her usual sense of humor and wit. If she would have been my history teacher in high school, I would have gotten much better grades!

While on tour, she paid special attention to the older members of our group and invited them to sit whenever it became clear to her that they were starting to fatigue. It truly did feel as if an old friend was showing us around the city as her guest.

Overall, everyone in our group was extremely pleased with our private tour and we couldn't have hoped for more. Further, since we went with the private tour option, we were able to make changes to the itinerary (slowing down, speeding up, or stopping for a snack), which just isn't possible with a larger group of strangers.

I've encountered tour guides in the past who insist on going through every word of their script, regardless of if the group was interested or not and needless to say, it was not pleasant.

Mila is a wonderful tour guide with a delightful personality and a great understanding of what we needed, often before we even realized what we needed ourselves! She was friendly and personable without being imposing or intrusive, guiding our visits while allowing us to enjoy each other's company. If you find yourself with the opportunity to visit St. Petersburg, you'd be remiss if you didn't contact Mila to help plan your stay.

******
I'll forgo further descriptions of the usual sites (Catherine's Palace, etc.), since they've been written about exhaustively and I'd like to shed some light on these less well-known attractions for anyone reading this who might not otherwise look into these options.

St. Isaac's Cathedral Colonnade

This is another one of those "must-sees". After climbing a few hundred steps up a spiral staircase to the colonnade below the cathedral's cupola, we were greeted with an incredible panoramic view of the city. Because of the city's design, namely - all "usual" buildings being limited in height, we were able to see over the tops of all of them. This view really put into perspective for us how beautiful of a city St. Petersburg is and we were able to see all the major sites that people come from all around the world to see. If you are physically able, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to the colonnade for the view alone.

Grand Maket

Grand Maket is a huge miniature (the oxymoron isn't lost on me) of Russia and depicts scene from all around the country. All throughout the model are many little playful and witty "Easter eggs" and life-like depictions of scenes, many of which are activat1ed by pressing a button on the outside wall of the model.

Among these were a group of protestors holding signs such as "Move your hands away from us!" (referring to guests who might not be able to overcome the temptation to reach into the model) and "They break us!". Another scene depicted a fire truck dousing a forest fire that was breaking out, complete with smoke and a simulation of a stream of water dousing the flames.

The attention to detail throughout the model was fantastic and the scenes from the various regions of Russia gave us a better perspective of what lies outside of the usual destinations- St. Petersburg and Moscow. This was much in the same way that Disney's EPCOT would give children a better perspective of the cultures in a few countries of the world.

These scenes raised many questions for our group and Mila was available the whole time to explain what life is like in other regions of Russia, though we were free to explore the layout on our own. Overall the model was very enjoyable and was a welcome change of pace from the rest of the itinerary.

The Soviet Arcade Museum

Before we decided on visiting this museum, which doesn't sound very compelling on its own, Mila had explained to us that it is more of an "Arcade" than a museum. In other words, though this museum features many arcade cabinets from the times of the Soviet Union, they aren't housed in glass to be observed from a distance. Instead, these cabinets are out in the open and are available to interact with. Let me clarify, these were not reproductions, but actual vintage arcade cabinets available for use.

When we arrived, we were each handed a small paper pouch with a stack of actual (from the 1960's, hammer and sickle and all) 15 kopek coins. This instantly took me back to visiting the arcade as a child with my father and it was a great feeling. Mila gave us a quick run-down of her favorites after showing us how to use the soda dispensing machine, which I had previously only seen in movies.

Like in The Grand Maket, we were able to enjoy the museum independently and at our own pace, but Mila was available the whole time to help us understand how a given game worked or to interpret the signage for us. In the center of the arcade is a small full-service cafe with a wide selection of teas, coffee, and espresso drinks. With our inner-children taking over, we opted for ice cream, which really rounded out the experience.

Date of experience: June 2018
Thank floridatraveller300
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Milla l, Owner at Experience Russia, responded to this reviewResponded January 13, 2019

Dear floridatraveller300,

It was wonderful to see you again and to have the opportunity to show you and your family around St. Petersburg. We are very pleased that you all enjoyed your private tour so much.

We are especially pleased that everyone was happy with the custom itinerary which included the more obscure sites, the Grand Maket and the Arcade Museum. Thank you for sharing your experience on TripAdvisor, it truly means the world to us.

If you know of anyone who is planning to visit St. Petersburg, we'd love to show them around!

Best wishes,
Mila

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Reviewed December 29, 2018

I thought that I had reviewed this company previously, but as I am researching places to go on vacation, I see I hadn’t posted it so in thinking it is better late than never, here it goes.
When traveling to a new city that has so much to see, it is essential to do your homework so that you can make the most of your time there. When traveling to a country with another language this is especially important as there may be language barriers if you don’t speak the language of the country. When we decided to travel to Russia, not only did we face that possibility, but the added challenge of reading the Cyrillic alphabet, made it even more of a possibility.
A friend who had been to St. Petersburg had previously took a trip to Russia recommended Experience Russia. When we looked in to the tours, we found that there were a variety of tours to choose from. In the weeks prior to our visit, we were in regular email contact with Mila who would also be our guide. In our exchange of emails, she gave us many options for tours as well as the ability to customize them to our needs and desires. She also arranged transportation for us upon our arrival and departure to the city.
You should note that in Saint Petersburg there are weeks’ worth of sights to see, but many visitors only spend a few days as a stop on a cruise. We opted to fly there as a few days in port on a cruise ship, didn’t seem to offer us the amount of time we wanted to see and experience the city, especially during White Nights.
Regardless of whether you are on a cruise or visiting the city for an extended time, a certified guide is must to ensure you visit the best sites of the city as well to learn about the history and significance behind the sites.
Much to our surprise, we learned also from Mila that becoming a certified guide is no easy feat as it entails several days of rigorous exams about history and the various attractions. Each day of the tour, Mila who is fluent in English, Mandarin and Russian, met us at the hotel and went over the day’s itinerary as well providing us with an in-depth historical background of the day’s sights.
She also provided us with several options of restaurants for lunch which were friendly on the wallet. It quickly became evident that she not only loves what she does, but also is very experienced at it. She was a walking encyclopedia of Russian history and culture. Having grown up in the city of Saint Petersburg, she was also able to provide us with the insight of a native’s perspective on historical events and in answering our questions about life in Russia.
With each stop Mila ensured that we saw everything and that our endless list of questions and that any desired photo opportunities had been taken. When entering the various stops, we noticed that there were many waiting in long lines to enter at some of the stops, but unlike many of the others who had to wait in the elements, we breezed by and were able to take in more of the sights and sounds in St. Petersburg. (And there a seemingly infinite number to see.)
It was as if she had a sixth sense for navigating her way through the crowds. With a liking to also stray of the beaten path, we had expressed that were curious about the subway system having heard that several of the stations are almost palatial or museum-like. The Avtovo station, for example, complete with chandeliers marbled columns and ornamental glass, is listed as one of the twelve most beautiful subway stations in the world.
After seeing several of the elegant stations (imagine that- hearing ‘elegant’ in the same sentence as the word subway), we suggested there be a tour of just the stations as well as the history and artifacts that are contained in the them. In looking back at our delightful visit to St. Petersburg, we were delighted to have arranged our tour through Experience Russia.
Given the depth and experiences Mila afforded us, we truly did feel we “experienced Russia”. In addition to being able to customize a tour fit to our interests and desires, Mila, was very knowledgeable, friendly and dependable which made for our days spent touring to be thoroughly enjoyable and went flawlessly. To top it all off, it came at a price which was agreeable.
In visiting the various attractions and seeing several guides from other companies who did not seem to possess the same level of professionalism and knowledge as our guide, we were even more pleased with our choice to use this company and will not hesitate to use it again when our travels bring us back to Saint Petersburg.

Date of experience: July 2018
1  Thank Tyroltrekker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Milla l, Owner at Experience Russia, responded to this reviewResponded December 30, 2018

Dear Tyroltrekker,

Thank you for taking the time to show your appreciation for the experience you had with us. We are delighted that you enjoyed your visit to St. Petersburg and are as fascinated by the metro stations as we are. It is always so rewarding to hear that all of the preparation that went into a tour pays off.

Though you were able to see much of the city, as you mentioned, there are still many more sights waiting to be seen. So we hope that you'll join us again in the near future.

If you would, please share your experience with your friends and relatives so that they too may join us on their vacations. Again, thank you for choosing to Experience Russia with us and we hope to see you again soon!

Sincerely,
Mila

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