Take a trip around St. Petersburg with this insider guide to Russia’s fairytale city. With the help of Lidia Nerobova of MariaRosaTours, we’ll reveal what to see, where to shop and when to visit.
So, Lidia, what’s your favorite thing about being a tour guide? It gives me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world while helping visitors better understand Russia and St. Petersburg.
What makes St. Petersburg so special? It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world with a very rich culture. It has beautiful architecture, interesting history, lots of events, famous museums and theatres. It’s also a modern city with nice shops, good restaurants and clubs.
What’s your favorite place in St. Petersburg that tourists rarely visit? I love the Peter the Great Bridge. It’s quite far from the city center and not often visited by tourists, but I love looking at it from a distance as well as how it looks when you drive through it.
What’s the most Instagram-worthy place in St. Petersburg? It has to be the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. It’s on pretty much every guidebook cover, magnet, watercolor and postcard of St. Petersburg!
Nobody should leave St. Petersburg without having seen/visited… Everybody should enjoy the unforgettable view of the Neva embankments from the spit of Basil Island. Visitors should also walk along Nevsky Prospect, the city’s main street that’s lined with beautiful palaces, churches, monuments, shops and all types of restaurants.
Where are the best places to eat in St. Petersburg? Head to Terassa or Moskva for tasty food in perfect locations. From their open terraces, you have a fantastic view of Nevsky Prospect.
Where’s the best place to shop in St. Petersburg? Galeria Shopping Mall! It’s the biggest and most famous mall in the city center.
What’s your favorite word/phrase in Russian? Chut-Chut (чуть-чуть), which means “a little.” For example, “I speak chut-chut Russian.”
What’s your favorite season in St. Petersburg? When spring is turning into summer as everything is in bloom. This is also when we celebrate the famous White Nights, which is when the sun never really sets.
What’s the most exciting event to happen in St. Petersburg this year? The city is ready for the World Cup! We’ll host seven games at this year’s tournament, including a semi-final and the third-place playoff.
What can people expect from your tours? My tours take visitors to all the must-visit places. I run tours that showcase St. Petersburg’s beautiful squares, buildings, palaces, churches, rivers and bridges. Any visit to St. Petersburg is incomplete without seeing the Hermitage and the amazing tsar residences of Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof and Pavlovsk.
With its art-nouveau spas, picture-perfect architecture, and mouthwatering restaurant scene, it’s easy to see why Budapest has emerged as one of Europe’s most unmissable destinations. To find out how to explore Hungary’s capital like a local, we chatted with Hidasi Kata Lídia of budapestUNDERGUIDE, who’s been helping visitors discover everything her home city has to offer for over a decade.
So, Kata, what’s your favorite place in Budapest that tourists rarely visit? I have a few! I do love places connected to nature, like Római Part, which is a riverbank in the northern part of Buda. It’s a very charming area with plenty of nice cafes, bars, kiosks, and restaurants. Veli-Bej (a Turkish bathhouse) is a bit harder to find because it’s surrounded by an old hospital. However, it’s well worth a visit as it’s not very busy because they limit how many people can enter. Just be sure to check the opening hours before you go as it closes for a for few hours during lunch time.
What are your favorite restaurants and bars that only locals visit? Fellini at Római Part is a real favorite of mine as is Manó Büfé, which is a very old bar located in Zugló. It’s located literally in between two train tracks, and on Saturdays, they cook open-air ‘gulyás’ and other cauldron meals. I also love the authentic Hungarian-Jewish food and atmosphere at Rosenstein in District 8. Elsewhere, Pagony is a quirky open-air bar with an outdoor cinema. It used to be part of the Gellért Baths’ garden, and the old outdoor pools have been turned into (dry!) seating.
Where are the best places to eat in Budapest? Budapest has many great brunch places: Stika in the Jewish district, Zoska next to the Károlyi Garden, Csiga in the bohemian District 8, Villa Bagatelle on the Buda side (away from touristy Pest), and Coyote in front of Parliament are some of my favorites. For lunch, head to Hellohal if you’re a fish lover. Csiga has a cheap and delicious lunch menu, and Gettó Gulyás has a lovely atmosphere and great food. My favorite dinner spots include Zeller Bistro, Rosenstein, BorsSó, and, of course, the Michelin-starred (but not very expensive) Borkonyha.
What are the most Instagram-worthy places in Budapest? The Castle District of Buda (especially near Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion) is particularly beautiful. Margaret Bridge provides you with perfect views of some major sights, including Parliament, the Chain Bridge, the Castle District, and Gellért Hill. A secret spot for you is atop the Bálna (Whale) Cultural Center. A tiny rooftop garden awaits those who walk to the top. It may be closed when raining, though.
Where are the best locations to see the sunrise and sunset in Budapest? For sunrise, make sure you’re on Buda’s riverbank. You’ll get a great view of the sunrise from Margaret Bridge and Margaret Island, Gellért Hill’s Garden of Philosophers, and the Castle District. For a picturesque sunset, head to the western side of the Castle District or Gellért Hill. The rooftop bars of Hotel President (360 Bar) or Aria Hotel (Skybar) are also great locations.
What’s the best activity to do on a rainy day? Go to a bathhouse! Budapest is famous for its magical thermal water, which is great for both your body and soul.
When’s the best time to visit Budapest? Spring, especially between late April and early May as this is when the city is full of love and flowers! Each season has its advantages, but spring is my favorite as it’s not as busy as in June, July, and August.
What is the most exciting event to happen in Budapest this year? Well, it depends on what excites you! The Night of the Museums on the shortest day of the year is always an exciting program as is the 100-year-old building celebration and Budapest Spring Festival. If you prefer pop concerts, then Sziget Festival in August is the event for you! To mark our biggest bank holiday on August 20th, Budapest holds a firework show along the river bank as well as hosting lots of programs throughout the day.
Where are the best places to shop in Budapest? Head to the Jewish district for both vintage and designer clothes and jewelry. For great wine, check out Cultivini where you can both taste and buy.
What gift should visitors take home? Take your pick from Hungarian wine, a Rubik’s cube (as it’s a Hungarian invention), or a Folka figurine (not only are they cute but they also represent Hungarian folklore).
What’s your favorite thing about being a tour guide? I’m definitely not an office-person, so it’s great to be on the run all the time. I love architecture, history, urban legends, food, and wine, so my job is basically my hobby and passion, which makes me very lucky. I love my city and country, and it’s great to introduce it to everyone.
What can people expect from your tours? We design unique, tailor-made experiences, tours and private events for our clients, including our “goLOCAL!” tours. We have a huge variety of tours focusing on different topics, covering general sightseeing to specific ones, like food tours, Jewish district tours, photo tours, and child-friendly Buda castle tours to name just a few. We also organize countryside trips, for example to Szentendre and Lake Balaton.
Tokyo just doesn’t do boring. It’s simply not in its DNA. From ancient temples and traditional sushi houses to neon-lit karaoke bars and futuristic firework displays, Tokyo is a city that doesn’t stand still — and it’ll get you moving to its unique rhythm of life from the moment you arrive.
But in a city ripe for exploring, where do you even begin?! Sure, you know the main sights, but what about Tokyo’s secret spots and under-the-radar events? To find out, we chatted with Taku Takabe of Japan Panoramic Tours, who has spent the last 30 years exploring all Tokyo has to offer.
So, Taku, what’s your favorite place in Tokyo that tourists don’t visit? Taku: It’s a secret Japanese-style pub in Nishi Shinjuku called Sumiyoshi. Here, I can try all kinds of different sake while learning lots about them.
Where’s the best place to eat brunch in Tokyo? Taku: I recommend a vegetarian restaurant called T’s. It’s easy to get to as it’s located at Ueno Station, and it’s very healthy!
What’s the most Instagram-worthy place in Tokyo? Taku: It has to be Asakusa! There are vivid colors all around, and you’ll also find temples and shrines. There are all kinds of interesting buildings and monuments in this neighborhood.
What’s the most exciting event to happen in Tokyo this year Taku: Tokyo hosts a number of firework festivals during July and August. They are really amazing!
What’s your favorite season in Tokyo? Taku: Winter’s my favorite season. Tokyo does get very cold, but there are beautiful illuminations located across the city.
What’s the best activity to do on a rainy day? Taku: I recommend visiting the Edo Fukagawa museum. It recreates what Tokyo looked like during the Edo period.
How long have you been a tour guide? Taku: I’ve lived in Tokyo for the last 30 years, and I have been a tour guide here for three years. I organize tours of Tokyo, Mt Fuji, and Kyoto. I recommend our Tokyo tour for first-time visitors because it provides people with a great overview of the city.