When you consider that Alina Barlow grew up in such a visually and culturally rich city like Saint Petersburg, it comes as no surprise that she eventually turned her hand to crafting fine jewellery. After all, before moving to Sydney and starting her brand Alinka, some of the world’s finest art and architecture made up the backdrop to her upbringing. The proud Russian designer was only to happy to share her tips for living like a true local, and soaking up the best that the ‘Venice of the north’ has to offer.
What do you love most about Saint Petersburg?
Saint Petersburg is the city I was born in, and where I spent the first 19 years of my life before moving to Sydney. It has beautiful architecture and its streets have a lot of history, charm and romance. I love that the city becomes a winter wonderland in the months of December, January and February, and the white nights in the summer months of June and July when the city does not sleep.
List 10 of your favourite restaurants:
- Tzar: Russian cuisine
- Ginza: European cuisine
- Il Largo: Italian cusine
- Terassa: European cusine
- Tze Fung: Chinese cusine
- Probka: Italian cusine
- Beziker: Israeli cusine
- Budda Bar: European cusine
- Schastie Café
What are your top 10, favourite shopping and lifestyle destinations?
- DLT department store
- Tony & Guy
- Bosco Sport
- Den E Noch (Day and Night) store
- Ginza Flower House (Tzvetochnui Domik)
- The dry cleaners in the Grand Hotel Europe
- The bio-foods store on Pushkarskaya Street
- Café Truffle
- A kids hairdressing salon called “Voobrazylia”
Top 5 insider tips for enjoying Saint Petersburg like a local?
Take a stroll along Nevsky Prospect heading towards the Palace Square where the Hermitage (the Winter Palace) is situated, followed by a drink on the rooftop bar at the SO Sofitel (formerly the W Hotel). You should also…
- Visit/follow the footsteps of the Dostoyevsky characters on the streets of St Petersburg, then visit the apartment where Dostoyevksy lived.
- Have a soviet style coffee and a “pushka,” which is the Russian version of donut, in the very old traditional Soviet era café/canteen next to the DLT department store on the Bolshaya Kanushennaja Street. An experience not to be easily forgotten.
- Book a guided tour on the rooftops of St Petersburg.
- Walk up the many steep steps to the dome of St Isaack’s Cathedral.
- Take a ride to the first underground metro (tube) station called Avtovo and admire its architecture and the marble-lined walls.
Top 3 nightlife locations?
What is it about this city that inspires and excites you?
The city’s beauty and architecture inspire me. I get excited by walking the streets of St Petersburg. Crossing numerous bridges and walking alongside the windy canals, particularly on the long summer days that become white nights, you can feel the buzz and excitement of a city that is finally awake from its long cold and dark winter.
Tell us of 5 neighbouring towns, precincts or areas you love to visit?
What is the best time to travel to Saint Peterburg?
In my opinion the best time to travel to St Petersburg is the time of white nights, which is from the end of May to mid-July. It is just magical; it literally does not get dark.
Your top 5 must-see cultural landmarks:
- The Hermitage museum
- The Russian museum
- Kazansky Cathedral
- Saint Peter and Paul Fortress
- St Isaacks Cathedral
Describe the lifestyle in Saint Petersburg?
The lifestyle and day-to-day activities are largely dictated by the extremes of the climate. In winter it is very much an indoor lifestyle. People tend to wake up later to start their workday and finish later than in Australia, as typically it does not get light outside till 10am and then it dark again at about 4pm. In summer it is the other extreme. It feels like the city does not sleep and in the height of summer the sky remains light all through the night. Summer is a magical time to visit to experience the local traditions and summer lifestyle.
Your top 5 places to stay:
Favourite places to take kids?
- Kidsburg play centre
- The Summer garden in the city centre
- TUZ, a theatre just for for kids
- ZPKO park, where in summer you will find many rides for kids and lots of space for bike riding or roller-blading
- A Mariinsky theatre performance that is recommended for children
List 5 little-known tourist hacks:
- Hire a bike at any metro station and go for a bike ride to explore the city centre.
- If you happen to be in St Petersburg in summer explore the city from the water: Hire a small boat and go for a ride along many canals and under small bridges. You will understand why St Petersburg is often called the ‘Venice of the north’.
- Again, if you are in St Petersburg in summer wait up until 2am to see the opening on the bridges on the Neva river. It is very spectacular and a romantic experience – however it is frustrating for the locals at times to be stuck on the wrong side of the river when on their way home!
- Riding the St Petersburg underground is a must. It is one of the deepest and oldest in the world. You will also see the spectacular interiors of some of the stations.
- Go and experience a Russian Banya (bath house). Get ready for lashing with birch twigs followed up by a soap massage. It is a typical Russian experience that won’t be easily forgotten.
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