St Petersburg can seem a bit boring – just palaces and museums then more palaces and museums. So to add a little spice to your St. Petersburg trip here are some unusual attractions in St Petersburg, Russia.
- Museum of Soviet Arcade Games, Konyushennaya Square, 2b, daily 11am-8pm
This unusual St Petersburg attraction has almost made it into the conventional list of “things to do.” Not only can you see the Soviet era arcade games but you are welcome to play on them as well. There are over 40 machines with great themes like shooting the capitalist enemy submarine. There are also basket ball games, safari, Sniper, Battleships and pin ball machines. If you’re in Moscow there is a branch of this unusual museum there too.
- Museum of Death
Come to the Museum of World Funeral Culture to reflect on the hereafter. The museum is owned by the same person responsible for the Museum of Eroticism and the Power Museum. Here you can see death masks from the Vatican, skulls from Mexico, “gods of death” from Egypt and “the spirit of death” from Hong Kong. There are grave stones, coffins and mourning clothes on show as well as funeral urns and items related to funeral rituals from different countries and faiths. Don’t be surprised to see Russian Emos and Goths hanging around this place.
- Pyshechnaya Doughnut Café, Zhelyabova 25 (Bolshaya Konyushennaya ul., 25)
For a traditional Soviet-style doughnut (pyshki) visit this place which is on a busy shopping street. The small café is frequented by locals only and you can see the Russian mamas rolling out the dough behind the counter. You won’t find anyone who speaks English here but you will find cheap, greasy, delicious doughnuts and sweet, dark black tea.
- Pushka Inn, 14 Moyka Embankment
If you’re looking for a comfortable, centrally located, yet unique St. Petersburg hotel then this is the place. The hotel is in a former noble mansion built in 1860 but the interior has been entirely modernized. You get the historic value of the hotel (like the metal cage elevator)yet modern conveniences and fresh new furnishings. The doormen (actually women) are dressed in Kossack uniforms and there is a great balcony overlooking a canal.
- Art Hotel Rachmaninov, 5 Kazanskaya St.
For a truly unique St Petersburg hotel stay at this hotel housed in a 19th century building but completely decorated with contemporary art by local artists. All of the art is inspired by the music of Rachmaninov who lived in one of the hotel rooms from 1882 to 1885. In addition to the murals and framed art work there are artistic photographs and antiques on display. The hotel hosts regular musical events, exhibitions and art lectures. On the first floor there is a private garden and art gallery.
- Nabokov’s Butterflies, 47 Bolshaya Morskaya Ul., Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat noon-5pm,Sun closed
A little known fact is that the author of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov was in fact passionate about butterflies. He collected them in his youth in Russia and later worked as Curator of Lepidoptera at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. This St.Petersburg museum is housed in the home where Nabokov’s was born in 1899, here you can see his library, drawing room dining room, study and bedroom as well as some of his butterfly collections. The collection of Nabokovo ‘s personal items includes his books, photographs and his drawings.
- Museum of Hygiene, 25 Italyanskaya Ul., Mon-Thurs 10am-6pm, Fri 11am-6pm, closed Sat and Sun
This museum dates back to 1919 when it was called the Museum of Public Health. The purpose of the museum is to educate about the importance of medical hygiene issues and sanitation or in other words “issues of hygiene and the avoidance of danger.” On display you can see exhibits on the dangers of smoking, alcohol and drugs as well as displays on AIDs, STDs and radiation hygiene. There unusual exhibits include a giant model of a heart and graphic wax models of diseased anatomy. There are moving models of human organs in glass models of a man and woman. And another weird exhibit is one of Pavlov’s dogs – stuffed.
- Udelnaya Flea Market, outside Udelnaya train station, Fri-Sun 9am-3pm
This is not a glamorous market or a place where you’ll find hip knock-off products. Instead it is a market set up by locals who need to make a few extra Rubles. It is one of the largest flea markets in the world. You’ll see people who have just gathered a few items from home and come down to the street to sell. Here you can find second-hand clothes, Soviet memorabilia bric-a-brac, old furniture, stamps, books, uniforms coins, jewelry, silverware, rugs, ceramics, vintage items, military items, vinyl records, and some items “made in China.” Get there early to fish out the good stuff. This is an excellent place to find genuine memorabilia which is better than any souvenir from a souvenir store.
- Street Art Museum, 84 Shosse Revolyutsil
This unusual St Petersburg attraction is housed in an operating plastics factory in East St Petersburg. The main space is taken up by a work of art entitled “Practices of Growing Up” by Alexander Shishkin-Hokushai. This installation piece takes the form of a giant naked girl crouching down to look at a classroom full of children. There are 20 art works in the permanent exhibit of modern street art within the factory as well as outdoor displays. Outside there are displays of murals and other installations. The walls and old shipping containers are covered with bright colors and many have a social message. In the wall of shipping containers is a small bar where you can borrow board games and enjoy a drink while you play. The great thing about this museum is you get to see a different side to the city, not just the historic center but rather the industrial, post-Soviet St Petersburg.
- Upside-Down House, 5 Nevsky Prospekt, daily noon-11:30pm
Visit this place for some logic-defying pics. The entire wooden house is upside down with all the furnishings, textiles and everything else glued in place to stay upside down. When you enter it may take a while to get orientated but soon you’ll get used to walking on the ceiling and can take some cool photos. This is one of several upside down houses in the world including Wonderworks in Florida, Japan, Canada and Germany.
For something similar there is St Petersburg’s Ames Room on Moscow Ave. 107, however I was not able to confirm details of this place. Step into a room where proportion is distorted. This type of room is named after the American ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames Jr who made the first room of this kind in 1946. The room looks like a cube when seen from a particular angle but it is in fact trapezoidal. The walls are slightly slanted and the floor is tilted. People in the room look like they are growing or shrinking as they move from one corner of the room to the other. This interactive museum is great fun and a good laugh. Don’t forget to take lots of photos.
Still want more unusual attractions in St Petersburg? Try the Bread Museum, Blockade Museum, The Cruiser Aurora, Museum of the History of Religion or the Museum of Russian Political History.