Hipster Saint Petersburg: a beginners’ guide

I forgot how much I loved Saint Petersburg.

 

My recent Russia trip marked my first visit back to Saint Petersburg since 2011, when I spent almost six months living there. This time round, I immediately found myself falling in love again with everything I’d missed – the beautiful European architecture, the bustling Nevsky Prospekt and the long summer nights.

But I discovered something new, too. In the four years I’ve been away, Saint Petersburg has become hipster.

I never really thought of Saint Petersburg as being a very cool city – that title seemed to be jealously protected by Moscow – but it seems like Russia’s second city has caught up. In fact, only this week the city was named in a list of top destinations for Yuccies (the post-hipster fad) by Skyscanner.

So the celebrate the city’s new-found cool edge, here is the ultimate alternative guide to St. Petersburg.


Hipster hotspots


Hipster Saint Petersburg - Coffee Room

On our trip, we found Gorokhovaya Street (улица Гороховая) to be the epicentre of all things hipster. The street is one of the original three radial roads, stretching from the Admiralty south to Zvenigorodskaya. Between the Admiralty and Griboyedov Canal, there are no end of cool bars, small restaurants and cosy cafes.

Dumskaya Street (улица Думская) is a great area for cheap bars. Popular with students, the street is home to a number of long-standing alternative dive bars where a shot of vodka will only set you back 100 roubles – that’s around £1.10 or €1.50. Dumskaya is also home to Central Station, Saint Petersburg’s gay club.


See & do


To experience the latest craze in Saint Petersburg, you have to take to the rooftops. Over the past year or so, this Russian-take on parkour has boomed in the city, with countless Instagram accounts from resident adrenaline junkies showing off the city from new angles. (Try Boltenkov for a taster.) But if you want to get in on the fun, there are plenty of Rooftop Tours available, too. We didn’t do one so I can’t vouch for the safety of the tours, but there were signs everywhere to advertise this latest trend.

Check out this article from The Guardian for more information.

Arguably the city’s premier hipster hangout, ETAGI Loft Project is an all manner of things rolled into one: in one building you can find an art gallery, an exhibition space, a hostel and a café. The venture has been going for some years now and while we didn’t manage to squeeze in a visit on my recent trip, the open bright Green Room Café was a popular choice while I was studying in the city. The scheme seems to have gone from strength to strength and now regularly holds events and concerts.

Metro: Ligovskiy Prospekt | Лиговский Проспект

Beach on Zayachiy island

When the weather is good, head over to Zayachiy Island (Заячий остров), home of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Here you’ll find the city beach and a small park area, which is bustling with cool young people and families whenever the sun is out.

Metro: Gorkovskaya | Горковская

Another option is Yelagin Island (Елагин остров), a park island popular with rollerbladers and cyclists. You can even take to the island’s lake in a rowing boat.

Metro: Krestovksiy Island | Крестовский остров


Restaurants & cafes


If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in St. Petersburg, then your best bet is Gorokhovaya, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and burger bars.

English Breakfast in St Petersburg

Candies by Coffee Room  ul. Gorokhovaya 11

Home to possibly the best Full English Breakfast I’ve had outside of the UK (take note, Germany), Candies is a cosy little café which serves up great breakfasts and decent mains. Part of the Coffee Room franchise.

I’m Thankful for Today – ul. Gorokhovaya 24

Another popular Coffee Room hangout, I’m Thankful for Today occupies a cosy little corner on the Griboyedov Canal. The interior is very shabby chic, with window booths, long central table and mismatching chairs. The Big Burger is delicious.

Leica – Griboyedov Canal 29

A colourful sub-street café on Griboyedov Canal, Leica has a large food menu, but also serves up a few decent cocktails with shooters. We popped in for a Long Island Iced Tea on the way to Dumskaya.

Zoom Bar – ul. Gorokhovaya 22

A firm favourite from my 2011 days, Zoom Bar is an intimate café on Gorokhovaya that serves up great light bites. Zoom is a popular place so be prepared to wait for a table. The exterior is now a colourful green garden brightening up the street.

Clean Plates Society – ul. Gorokhovaya 13

At first glance, Clean Plates Society looks a bit like a nightclub (how many restaurants have a mirror ball?) but inside you’ll find a relaxed restaurant-cum-bar with a small but appetising menu and lots of Bohemian charm. A good place for dinner and drinks.


Bars & clubs


St. Petersburg has plenty of great bars to choose from over a few different neighbours, so take your pick. Za zdrovye!

Craft Brew Cafe - hipster St Petersburg

Craft Brew Café – Malaya Morskaya ul, 15

One of the most surprising finds on our trip was Craft Brew Café, a mere stone’s throw from our hostel. The chic bar has a large selection of both foreign and domestic beers and ciders, with an extensive array of options from Saint Petersburg. The staff weren’t particularly knowledgeable about their drink selection but if you know what you want, it’s a great place to go. There is also a decent-looking food menu.

Dacha – ul. Dumskaya 9

A stalwart on the cheap student scene, Dacha is a typical dive bar with a decent atmosphere. Though lively most nights of the week, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the best.

Fidel – ul. Dumskaya 5

Two doors down from Dacha, Fidel offers a more extensive menu and a more exciting atmosphere, though it definitely exudes the same more-shabby-than-chic charm. We went on a Thursday and there was a DJ playing anything from techno to S Club 7.

Radio Baby – ul. Kazanskaya 7

Though we didn’t have time to visit this hipster gem this time around, Radio Baby was a staple choice during my time living in St Petersburg. The bar-cum-club has an open-plan layout consisting of four interlocking rooms, with a long bar and makeshift dancefloor. Judging by the website, the place has had a new lick of paint since my last visit and looks a lot better for it.

ModGriboyedov Canal 7

Another old haunt we couldn’t revisit, Mod is a cool but pricey club during the winter, which opens up a lovely rooftop terrace with BBQ in the summer. Entrance to the terrace was free on my last visit, though this may have changed. The perfect place to enjoy the white nights.


Hostels


Though it lacks the choice of Moscow, St Petersburg is home to some great hostels.

Simple Hostel - hipster Saint Petersburg

During our time in St. Petersburg, we stayed at Simple Hostel on Gorokhovaya, found right in the heart of the city’s historic centre. The hostel was small but welcoming with modern bathrooms and handy storage. Stay tuned for a full review!

Another option we considered was Soul Kitchen, a design-led hostel with hipster-friendly interiors and fantastic reviews. Maybe next time?

Would you visit Saint Petersburg as a hipster?
Comment below!

20 thoughts on “Hipster Saint Petersburg: a beginners’ guide

  1. I am no hipster for sure but really like the look of St Petersburg, Russia is definitely calling me – wish the visa’s were a bit cheaper though!

    1. If it weren’t for the visas, I think Russia would see countless tourists! Saint Petersburg is definitely worth the wait though. If you ever need visa help, let me know!

  2. Wow, you actually made Piter look cool! Who would have thought that possible… (But hey, as long as you’re referring to it Russia’s “second city,” we can still be friends 😉 )

    1. Haha, I was as surprised as you by the hipster scene, trust me! The great thing about Moscow and St. Petersburg is how different they are: too hard to compare!

  3. I loved St Petersburg and I totally annoyed myself by cutting a day off of a 3 day stay by being so fundamentally hungover from the overnight train from Lithuania! What a wasted day that was, however if I had to be hungover anywhere Soul Kitchen was the perfect place, it’s amazing!

    I’m not in anyway Hipster, but this is a great list and I’d absolutely use it when I ever went again, cheers dude!

    1. Soul Kitchen sounds like a great place – will have to aim for there next time 😀 And what are night trains for if not copious drinking???

  4. Ugh, hipsters! 😛 But St Petersburg looks very nice and that rooftop tour sounds great! I wanted to do a rooftop tour in Stockholm but it was super expensive 🙁

    1. At least the one in Stockholm would be safer… I was definitely not going to do one in SPB! The pics I’ve seen look amazing though.

  5. Wow, I never realized St. Petersburg can be a hipster city:)) Always saw it as a city of emotinally intelligent people and culture:) It has been on my go-to list for a while, with your description, I am even more sure I need to discover it soon:)

    1. It surprised me, too! But I think it’s great when a city can offer both high culture and bohemian hangouts.

  6. Have never thought of this as a hipster place, but it sounds very cool to visit (even though I don’t know if I’ll be on trend enough to fit in!)

  7. Me and my husband are planning a trip to Russia soon! After reading this post I am even more excited! That meal looks so delicious.

    1. Glad to hear it, Clarissa! Where abouts are you going in Russia? You have absolutely picked the right time to go!

    1. In changed a lot in just the four years since I had been there last, too. Will be interesting to go back in another few years I think!

  8. SPb is top cool. I was happy to find Zoom on your list 🙂 the city’s crazy about everything that can be related to hipster – books (secondhand bookstores are numerous and awesome), affordable vintage and antique stuff, fun things to eat (check Vkusnye Schtuchki with their fancy artisanal ice cream next time!), a fabulous flea market and lots of kinda secret places. My fav guide for rooftops and paradnayas is Roman Vezenin, you can easily find him on fb. =)

    1. Thanks for the tips Kate! I thought it looked like Petes had had a hipster invasion when I went back last year! It certainly gives the place a new nice energy though, which I really liked. Hopefully the scene will stick around for a while longer!

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