St. Petersburg is brimming with grand galleries, enormous museums and enough history to overwhelm even the most intellectually curious amongst us. Trust us, there’s no shame in taking a little break from the hustle and bustle of the city center and all its cultural offerings! So if you feel like escaping the glitz and the glam of Nevsky Prospekt and co., why not take a trip to one of St. Petersburg’s lush and spacious islands? Explore Krestovsky, Petrovsky and Yelagin Islands with us!
This one is probably the most famous of the three islands – at least this summer – because it’s home to Krestovsky Stadium (a.k.a. Zenit Arena), one of the most advanced stadia in the world and one of the main venues for the 2018 FIFA World Cup!
The origin of the name of the Island is still contested to this day. Many claim the name refers to a lake on the Island, which appears to be cross-shaped (“krest” mean cross in Russian). Others, however, suggest that on Swedish maps the Island is referred to, in Finnish, as “Cross Island”. Whilst the Russians may contest the name of the Island, one thing they definitely do not contest is that there is plenty of fun to be had here! It therefore should come as no surprise that over the weekend the Petersburgers flock in their masses to Krestovsky Island, especially on the elusive sunny days.
The simplest way to access the Island is by metro; the station, Krestovsky Ostrov, is located on the Purple V5 line in the north of St. Petersburg. Fortunately the metro only has one entry and exit point, so there’s no need to think twice about which way to go. After exiting the metro simply walk down the steps towards Ryukhina Street, and if in doubt, follow the crowd. Once you approach the road you will find yourself with several choices depending on the kind of itinerary you’re looking for.
One great option available to you is walking along Yuzhnaya doroga. Whilst there may not be any specific destination awaiting you here, this riverside promenade really captures the essence of Krestovsky Island. Without having any end goal in mind, walk at leisure down this street and you will pass numerous bars, cafes and restaurants. Some options worth trying are Villa ZimaLeto (www.zl-group.ru/villa-rest), Royal Beach (www.royalbeach.ru), SunDay Ginza (www.ginza.ru/spb/restaurant/sunday_ginza) and Russkaya Rybalka (www.russian-fishing.ru/krestovskiy).
If you’ve got kids with you – or are simply young at heart – Divo Ostrov is another great option. This funfair ground truly put Krestovsky Island on the map. Remember that feeling as a child, walking into a sweet shop? The same kind of nostalgia awaits you at Divo Island. Entry to the funfair is free and customers need only pay per ride, however it is possible to buy a pass for the day, allowing you to enjoy as many rides as you’d like at a fraction of the cost. The rides really are very diverse; there are children’s rides, family rides and extreme rides.
Those who prefer an active lifestyle can bring (or rent) roller blades or bicycles. As well as being a fun mode of transport it is also a convenient way to get around, and with so many beautiful features in the park to take in, strap on your wheels and head in any and every direction! There are so many little stalls selling snacks, treats and drinks, you’re guaranteed to come across a bench where you can eventually sit down and enjoy them along with the view.
Going back to where we started, the football fans amongst you may relish the opportunity of viewing Krestovsky Stadium. FC Zenit’s new, super-modern stadium was built on the site of the Kirov Stadium, which, in its day, was one of the country's largest stadiums, with a capacity of 110,000. The tender to build Krestovsky Stadium was won by the renowned Japanese architect Kisho Kurosawa.
Circling the stadium, you'll notice a pedestrian bridge leading over the Neva Bay. At the other end of the bridge you'll find the Park of the 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg. With its quay, fountains, alleys, arbors and playgrounds, the park creates a great atmosphere for entertainment. You can enjoy your summer here by biking, rollerblading, skateboarding or playing beach volleyball. The central alley leads to a 22-meter lighthouse and elements which symbolize the past three centuries of life in the city. The big beach, near the Gulf of Finland, is a special spot in the park where you can see a splendid view of St. Petersburg from across the sea. Piterland, the biggest indoor waterpark in Russia, is located right next to the park.
Petrovsky Island is a unique place that balances the slow pace of country living and a close proximity to the center. One of the smaller islands in the Malaya “Little” Neva River, it is connected by bridges to the neighboring Krestovsky and Petrogradsky islands. It is the perfect summer escape for those days when you find yourself craving some peace and tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Visit Petrovsky Park and stroll along the paved walkway on the banks of the River Zhdanovka and take in the magnificent views. Created on orders of Nicholas I in 1837, it’s a beautiful landscape park; in the center, you’ll find two large ponds and natural forests and meadows are alternated with planted trees and shrubs. For years people have loved coming to Petrovsky Park, and enjoyed playing, shooting, boating, and all sorts of attractions.
Leading through the middle of the park is Petrovsky Prospekt. At number 13 is “Dom veteranov stseny’’ (House of Veterans of the Scene), founded in 1896 by Russian actress Maria Gavrilovna Savina and designed by architect M. F. Geysler. Petrovsky Prospekt turns into Petrovskaya Kosa as you start approaching the end of the island and that’s where you’ll find the St. Petersburg River Yacht Club, established back in 1860. It is one of the oldest Yacht clubs in Russia and often hosts various competitions, festivals and concerts. There are several cafes and restaurants located in and around the club. In the summer it is a favorite spot for enjoying a leisurely lunch/dinner with excellent wine and array of fresh seafood. The more active readers among you will be pleased to know that here you’ll also find River Wake Club, a water sports center where you can wakeboard, wakesurf, jet ski or rent a small sail boat. Overlooking the moored yachts, you would be forgiven for thinking you are vacationing at sea – and all without having to leave the city!
An island which is entirely parkland, Yelagin is the perfect place for a leafy stroll, echoing the sun drenched Vondelpark of Amsterdam or the dappled pathways of Paris. The island lies between the Bolshaya and Srednyaya Nevka; its western tip offers a viewpoint of the Gulf of Finland and at its eastern shore a view down the Bolshaya Nevka towards mainland St. Petersburg. Exiting Krestovsky metro station facing the park opposite, you should turn right and follow the road to the bridge to Yelagin Island. Once there, following the winding pathways between the trees eventually reveals a well-kept lawn stretching towards the elegant bright white Yelagin Palace (home of the Museum of 18th-20th Century Crafts and Design) peeping out from the trees.
A meandering stream of people of all ages can be found wandering or roller blading along the twisting paths, over bridges and under the cool shade of the trees. The 237 acres of gardens have faithfully preserved centuries old trees and special flora, and because of this some areas are indeed off limits. There are convenient cafes hiding amongst the trees, play areas for children and even the chance to take a boat or pedalo out on the island’s ponds.
To escape from the hubbub of central St. Petersburg and find the city’s greener side, a visit to Yelagin Island is a must. Though more lavish grandeur can be found in the Hermitage, the clear elegance of Yelagin Palace and its effortless harmony with its green surroundings offers a cultural element to a relaxing day trip to a charming park. There really is too much to do for us to list here, so visit the Island’s website to check out the map for the full range of activities and events on offer: elaginpark.org/en.