The following is a quick overview to some of those services and products that students often need in the course of a semester or summer abroad. This covers everything from haircuts to pharmacies and gyms to computer repair. Students should generally expect to need to speak at least some Russian when seeking out these experiences – that’s part of study abroad!
1. A Practical Introduction to St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg takes great pride in its cultural heritage. Beautiful buildings and landmarks surround gorgeously restored gardens. The streets are filled with cutting-edge fashion, music, and copious museums dedicated to the artists, authors, history, and cultural elements that make the city so unique.
For students interested in museum studies, cultural diplomacy, or Russian studies, St. Petersburg is an excellent destination.
St. Petersburg is a historic port city built on a former swamp. It’s still surrounded by swamp and, of course, filled with its famous canals and rivers. For this reason, mosquito repellent is highly recommended, particularly in the summer. Students should also not drink the tap water – but rather bring or buy water filters.
St. Petersburg is also a northern city. In winter, days become almost non-existent and in summer, days almost never end. Winters can be mild or bring a severe, damp cold. Come prepared. Exercise and vitamins can fight off seasonal blues and colds, which can be common in a humid, densely populated, foreign city. In summer, a sleeping mask and an umbrella are helpful.
St. Petersburg’s long cultural history has created a city filled with treasures waiting to be found and cherished by anyone who loves literature, art, and culture.
2. Eating & Going Out
The following list is a quick list of recommendations based on SRAS’ long history in St. Petersburg. It is meant to supplement the broader range of reviews on this site for various St. Petersburg eateries.
Traditional Gone Pop: Try traditional Russian blini served fast-food style at one of the city’s Teremok locations. For a delicious homestyle pirozhok, you can’t beat Stolle’s, which now has several locations across St. Petersburg.
Coffee: Kofe Khaus and Shokolodnitsa are Russia’s ever-present chains – both offer decent coffee and food – Kofe Khaus is particularly commendable for its breakfast specials. Shoko Mokko is a local chain that has been popular with students for their free WiFi. Surf Coffee is also a good option for students as it has a hipster feel with free WiFi. Starbucks has also expanded to St. Pete.
More Traditional Russian Cuisine: Try some traditional Russian fare at Severyanin which is located near Sennaya Ploscad. There is also a restaurant called Tsar’ if you prefer a higher end dining experience. The goal of the restaurant is to treat its guests like the former Tsars that lived in St Petersburg.
Ethnic Experiences: You will find many more unique cuisines than just Russian in St. Petersburg!
A. Georgian: Georgian food is highly recommended as a way to please the most ardent vegetarians and die-hard carnivores. Between the khachapuri, vegetable dishes, and shashlyk, everyone walks away happy. The city’s best value for the money is at Kvareli – a tiny restaurant near the city zoo that is so good and so tiny that you may want to book in advance. A bit more expensive, but larger and still affordable, most students like Tbliso for its delectable khachapuri and excellent service and Caravan for its festive atmosphere and wide range of dishes.
B. Uzbek: Uzbek is also well known as one of the former USSR’s most yummy culinary experiences. Try the lahgman and plof – both are delicious! Try Dastarhan – a cosy Uzbek restaurant that offers delicious food and a luxurious, exotic atmosphere for a reasonable price. Be sure to order from the Russian menu, however, as the English seems to be less extensive and higher priced.
C. Mexican: Tequila Boom has several locations in St. Petersburg and has hearty, generously-portioned, affordable dishes. Live music is a staple most nights. Conchita Bonita has more expensive fare but with really fresh ingredients and a friendly staff.
D. Asian Food: Along Griboyedova you can find a fast-food style restaurant called Pho’n’Roll which is an inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant chain in St Petersburg. If you prefer Thai food, Dedushka Ho is a great option for cheap meals. If you like Sushi and want a finer dining experience go to Sub Zero, or if you’re looking to have a relaxed meal, try Tokyo City which has Asian, Italian, and American food.
E. Everything Else: Try Zoon.ru for a great search engine of restaurants in St. Petersburg. You can filter for anything you want – Chinese, Indian, Arab, etc.
Summer Dining: The Seventh Line is a pedestrian street near SPGU. It is lined with small, decently-priced cafes and, on weekends, street musicians and artists. It’s a good place to stroll and eat.
Pizza Gone Wild: Mama Roma is the go-to place for students who want Italian food. They have a variety of pizza, pasta, and salads. If you take the pizza home with you instead of eating in, it is half price! Pizza Olli’s is also popular and hits the right balance of satisfying and imaginative pizza-making. With more pizza topping options than you’ll likely ever find at home you can order something you’ve never had before while still reaping the benefits of enjoying a student comfort-food favorite. Good vegan pizza is available.
Cheap!: Shawarma Liteyniy at Liteyniy Prospekt, 64 is a 24-hour joint offering the classic chicken wrap for 100 rubles, usually (depending on who’s working) with a free beer thrown in. Very popular with students. For a cheap dessert, Pyshki (Donuts) at Bolshaya Konushenaya, 25 offers 12 ruble fried donuts and 18 ruble cups of coffee. It’s a historical building in itself, operating in the same space with the same interior and pyshki-making process as it did more than 50 years ago. There is another pyshki location near the university – at Sadovaya Ulitsa and Muchnoy Pereulok, across from the Dixie.
Kosher in St. Petersburg: There is a kosher restaurant called Lekhaim inside the Beit-Khabad Jewish Community Center.
Vegetarian Friendly: Troitsky Most is vegetarian chain that offers affordable food that is so imaginative and delicious that vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike would do well to make it a regular eating place. For a more intimate and upscale (though still affordable) dining experience, The Idiot is another excellent choice and offers a variety of traditional Russian dishes – without the meat. The Green Room Café, part of Loft Project Etazh offers inexpensive vegan and vegetarian dishes from organic and, when possible, locally-sourced produce. Rada and K offers vegan soups, salads, desserts, and some Indian-inspired dishes. Pizza Olli’s offers vegan pizza. Georgian ethnic food (see above) will also offer many meatless meals. You might also check out HappyCow, a site that runs a world-wide ratings site for vegetarian restaurants. On this website you can find Vegan Pyramid, a favorite among vegan students where you can purchase a delicious 500 gram falafel for 150 rubles. Remember though, it is cash only. It’s one of the best in the city!
Delivery: Yandex Eats is a very popular app for food delivery in Russia. If you see someone in a yellow jacket with a scooter – you’re likely seeing the company’s delivery people. They’re everywhere! Delivery Club is also a really good resource for the days when you don’t feel like leaving the dorm or cooking. You can find plenty of budget friendly options on both websites.
Music and Dancing: Biblioteka is a pub and bookstore in one hip package. It has burgers, spare ribs, fish and chips, and even Belgian waffles with ice cream. SPB, a city-wide chain of bars, offers a lot of Western pub favorites like cheese sticks, chicken wings, fries, burgers, milkshakes and more. The Shamrock is an Irish-themed bar with a dance floor.
A. Clubs: For a student new to St. Petersburg nightlife, the best place to go is somewhere that has several bars/clubs next to each other, with a different atmosphere in each. That’s easy – Konyushennaya Ploshad (near the Church on Spilt Blood) is stuffed full of some of the best clubs the city has to offer. Closest to the church is Mod Club, an artsy place with a gritty feel and colorfully-dressed crowd. On that street is also VNVNC, which is popular among students. The famous/infamous trifecta of Fidel, Datcha, and Belgrade, are all located in the same building on Dumskaya street. This street has an increased police presence. As an alternative, there are lots of pubs and bars along Rubensteina. St. Petersburg also a few gay clubs – Central Station being one of the better-known.
B. Live Music: A2, The Place, and Mod Club are popular for indie music. Opera is known for heavier groups, including metal and those of the ‘core’ genre (i.e. hardcore, emo-core, etc.). Money Honey is for those seeking rockabilly. For Jazz shows, see JFC Jazz Club, (the established hot spot for jazz in St. Petersburg), The Krasny Lis (The Red Fox) or Dom 7. Fish Fabrique and Tsokol (formerly Moloko) are excellent places to go for alternative music (ethic, punk, jazz, fusion, etc.) and cheap beer in the company of Russian artists and intellectuals.
C. More Information: The Saint Petersburg Music Guide offers lots of info on the subject! During the summer, New Holland Island (Address: Embankment of Admiralteskiy Kana, 2) holds a weekly free concert series, usually on Fridays from May through mid-September.
While the capitalist cornucopia in and around Nevsky Prospect is sure to tempt you, some of the best souvenirs and clothing items can be bought further from the center.
Groceries: If you are looking for a store with wider variety and potentially lower prices that what you might find near the center, try the Okey Supermarket by the Ladozhskaya Metro Station. For an even larger selection, try Auchan.
Art and Souvenirs: At the St. Petersburg Art Community – also known as Pushkinskaya 10 (Ligovsky Pro, 53, under the arch) you can find art shops, used clothing, and an alternative record (yes, plastinki) shop. For antiques and souvenirs, look for the rinok between the Church of the Spilled Blood and the Neva River. One of the best places to get a deal on souvenirs is the Lomonosov Factory Store (Obukhovskaya oborony, 151), where you can still get fine porcelain cup-and-saucer sets for as low as 100 rubles (around $5). Another souvenir idea is a customized university sweater from UniFashion. There you can choose between different colors and logos.
Books: There is a great book market for Russian books called Knigomania by metro Elizarovskaya. Go out, left, and find it two streets later. It’s great if you want something cheap to practice with. Word Order is also another inexpensive option for Russian and English language books.
Clothing and Shoes: Russia, with its often harsh and wet weather, is very hard on shoes. If you find your old pair is done in, check out Troitsky Market (130a Fontanka Nab. – behind the Troitsky Cathedral). This is also a great place to find cheap clothes as well. For another option for shoes, check out Tsentr Obuv’ (basically Russia’s version of America’s Payless stores). For American style clothing you can also find a Zara and an H&M near you on Nevsky Prospect.
Pharmacies: Bring a supply of needed medications with you. However, if you need something, look for the international symbol of a green cross or the word “аптека.” If looking for something specific, try looking it up on Wikipedia in English and then clicking on “Russian” in the language menu on the left panel.
Electronics: If you are looking for electronics while you are in St Petersburg first check out Zurbagan near Sennaya Ploschad. If you are near the mall Galleria, you can also check there. In the mall is a Sony Center and a Re:Store which sells Apple products.
Sports: The Central Park of Rest and Culture (цпко) has everything from a rope park to “rollerdome” for people who enjoy rollerblading. In the summer you can rent out boats to take on the river and rollerblades. In the summer you can rent winter sports equipment like toboggans and and skates. There are plenty of opportunities to participate in different sports in St Petersburg, there are lots of yoga and dance studios, gyms with martial arts, and places to rent cross country skis. In the winter there are numerous places where you can go, rent skates, and skate. One option in the winter is New Holland Island and in the summer, every Friday a group leaves from Palace Square to a skating rink for a midnight skate.
Eyeglasses and Contacts: If you know your eye glasses prescription you can purchase contacts in a vending machine in the Perekrestok on Dumskaya. This website is a good resource for finding an optometrist and shops that sell both glasses and contacts in St Petersburg.
Kosher products can be found at a small store at the Grand Choral Synagogue.
Vegetarian/Vegan Foodstuffs: Soymilk can be found at Maxi Sopot, a very large shopping center just behind the Primorskaya Metro station at 68 Zheleznovodskaya Ul. VkusVille locations offer mostly locally-produced foods and many speciality healthfood items like peanut butter. There is also an Indian Foods Store located at 22 Vosstaniya Ul. that carries many vegetarian items.
Cell Phone and Mobile Internet: For more on this, see our Guide to Student Budgets: St. Petersburg.
Internet Cafes: Cafe Max has a 24-hour location still functioning in St. Petersburg. There are also a number of “Internet Clubs” in St. Pete. They are geared for gamers looking for head-to-head match-ups, but also offer Internet service. Free WiFi is now abundant in St. Pete as well, you’ll find it in most chain coffee shops and many cafes. You will need a Russian cell number to log in, however.
Public Transport: Moscow’s beautiful metro system transports a few million people a day between the hours of about 6am and 1am for less a dollar a ride. Moscow’s busses, trolleys, and trams are also cheap and reliable. To navigate the city, Yandex Maps, Yandex Metro, and 2GIS are available in app stores and favored by locals. The St. Petersburg Metro has an interactive map (in Russian) as well. For more on public transport costs, see our Guide to St. Petersburg Budgets.
Private Transport: Uber and Yandex Taxi are the favored ride-hailing apps in Moscow. Connect your credit card to the account for maximum security (no bargaining or cash involved!). In summer, your options expand with (city bikes / scooters? boats?)
Medical Services: If at all possible, call your insurance before seeing a doctor. Often, there are certain doctors they want you to see. General care is available in English at American Medical Center and EuroMed. Quality dentistry can be done at Dental Palace.
Haircuts: Hair Fcker is a very popular hair salon for Russians and expats alike. The salon always has an English speaking receptionist and at least one English speaking hair stylist that is available to foreigners. If you walk along Sadovaya you can also find cheaper alternatives but employees will likely not speak English. Here is a map of the hair salons in the area. The options are numerous.
Computer Repair: If you have an Apple product that needs repairing go to B2X. The company is certified by Apple to repair their products. If you have a PC product that needs to be repaired try PC Tekhservis or PC Wizard Repair and Service Company.
Laundry and Drycleaners: Though most of the student residences offer laundry service, Prachka.com is a chain of self-service laundromats with several locations across the city. Stirka 40 Garusov is an interesting self-service coin-op that doubles as a café and performance space. Downtown, Garant dry cleaners has a few locations. For anyone based on Vasilievsky Island, Rodnik dry cleaners is the closest service.
Charitable Giving: There is a Salvation Army located on Liteiny street that accepts donations of clothes for adults and children, as well as household items (kitchenware, furniture, lights, fans, etc.), and books that you may have accumulated during your time in St Petersburg. We encourage you to donate whatever you cannot bring home after your program that can be used by a family in need.
Recycling: Yes, you can recycle in St Petersburg. Check out this guide written by an SRAS student.
Bathing: During the summer, all Russian cities turn off the hot water (communally provided) for “pipe maintenance.” It can be off for a couple weeks, meaning that showering can be difficult, if not painfully cold. For a great site that lists prices, locations, and services, see Hots.ru. Note that all Russian banyas are cheaper if you go as a group. Depending on the banya you go to, groups of 6-10 are usually best. Call ahead to verify prices and details.