Tips Articles

Meet your guide to St. Petersburg

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.

 

Meet your guide to Budapest

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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9 surefire romantic ideas for your perfect Valentine’s date.

Valentine’s Day is hard: there is so much expectation and hype around the perfect romantic experience. But the truth is, it should be about you and your partner. That’s why we put together these 9 surefire ideas for Valentine’s Day to help some wayward Romeo’s.

1. Your own photo shoot

nice photoshoot blog

So, this one is a no-brainer. A romantic professional photo shoot tells the story of you and your partner, immortalizing it visually forever. Great for making your friends jealous on Facebook too.

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2. A spontaneous road trip to the countryside

countryside blog pic

Give yourself some peace and quiet, for Christ’s sake! Hit the road together and get away from the hectic city. Dramatic landscapes and tranquility are a must for any romantic getaway. It’s a great way to spark that sense of adventure that every romance needs. Driving too stressful? Hire someone to do it for you.

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3. Learn to cook together

home cooking class

Teamwork builds trust and if you can trust your partner with sharp kitchen appliances: your relationship is on sound footing. Take a trip to the store together, pick out the ingredients, bump into each other in the kitchen, and learn something new. Grab some wine and put on some music and you’re cooking with fire.

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4. Experience sensual delight on a food tour

food tour

Discover new flavors you never knew existed. You can book a tour, or meander about in your favorite picturesque neighborhood, stopping in at all the cafes. Feed each other and indulge your senses. Fun tip: make it a competition to see who can eat the most. Winner gets a free massage.

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5. Romantic spa date

spa dayOr let someone else do the massaging. The stress will melt off and you can enjoy each other’s company. The best way to do so is with an ice-cold bottle of champagne while soaking in a thermal bath. Order some fruit and spoil each other with sweets.

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6. Learn to tango together

tangoEveryone wants to be swept off their feet (admit it, men!). But, let’s just say not everyone has the ability to do so. Nothing embodies passion quite like dancing and undertaking something new together. The experience bonds: physically and mentally!

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7. A rooftop dinner

rooftop

Sprawling cityscapes framed by a colorful sunset. Enjoy the seclusion and the view together. Make sure you ask the waiter for some candles and don’t skimp on the special requests. Request a favorite song or a “surprise” in the ice bucket (maybe a little box with something special inside?).

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8. Take the plunge on an extreme sport together

skydiveReady to take the plunge? An extreme experience – like skydiving – will get your heart racing. The thrill of holding on for dear life makes anything seem possible. Once survival mode kicks in, it’s straight into each other’s arms. Netflix and chill can wait. We promise.

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9. Sunset on the water

barcelona cruise

Let the waves take you away. It is liberating floating on the open ocean, with the wind in your hair and nothing but the horizon in front of you. Set the atmosphere with some romantic music and wine or go for a dip together.

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Have any other ideas? Make sure to share on Facebook with your own ideas to help inspire others!