Go SUP surfing

There’s a reason St. Petersburg is often referred to as the Venice of the North. With almost 100 rivers and canals, there’s plenty to explore by water. Sharing a boat with strangers (such as on river tours) in a time when social distancing is the name of the game might not exactly be safe, so how about trying SUP surfing? You’re all by yourself on a SUP (stand-up paddleboard), you move at your own speed, and you get to enjoy a workout as well as beautiful views.

Just last week, the city hosted Fontanka-SUP 2020, a SUP festival that attracted thousands of paddleboard enthusiasts. Many expressed their vibrant personalities through catchy costumes and board designs – a nice contrast with the classical architecture and the granite of the embankments that surrounded them.

Fontanka-SUP 2020. Credit: gorod-plus.tv
Fontanka-SUP 2020. Credit: gorod-plus.tv

Newbies are encouraged to hone their skills along the route around Krestovsky Island, where you can explore quiet, shaded waters and glide your way under low-hanging bridges. A popular route downtown will take you around the Kazan Cathedral, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, and the Hermitage. For a romantic sunset, take your SUP out to Lake Lakhta and enjoy the views of the Lakhta Center skyscraper amidst the greenery.

Some companies offer instruction and rentals and some also offer small group tours or can set you up with a custom trip.

Rent a bike

The Smart Bike hub at the Novokrestovskaya metro station is the perfect spot to begin your tour of the city. Credit: Smart Bike
The Smart Bike hub at the Novokrestovskaya metro station is the perfect spot to begin your tour of the city. Credit: Smart Bike

Not quite ready to take to the water? They say you can’t forget how to ride a bicycle, so now might be the perfect opportunity to explore the city on two wheels. Smart Bike lets you rent a bike through an app and once you’re done, leave it in one of the many designated parking spots. The service is available throughout almost the entire city.

Another way to explore the busy downtown is on an electric scooter, such as Molnia or Whoosh. Again, simply download the app and zoom along until you’re ready to return to your feet-walking ways at one of the designated parking spots.

Be on the lookout for Whoosh scooters parked around the city – whether at special stations or at any given streetlight or fence. Credit: facebook.com/whoosh.bike
Be on the lookout for Whoosh scooters parked around the city – whether at special stations or at any given streetlight or fence. Credit: facebook.com/whoosh.bike

Some of our favorite bike routes are away from busy streets. One picturesque urban route could be had by starting at the 300th Anniversary Park, crossing Yakhtenny Bridge (the longest pedestrian bridge in St. Petersburg!) and making your way around the Zenit Arena to Krestovsky Island with its lush parks. Push on through there and you might even get all the way to Betancourt Bridge with its Insta-worthy views of both the city center and the Gulf of Finland.

Join a tour (or make your own)

Exploring St. Petersburg by foot is the perfect way to discover its landmarks as well as its lesser-known corners. Credit: unsplash.com/@ischelkanov
Exploring St. Petersburg by foot is the perfect way to discover its landmarks as well as its lesser-known corners. Credit: unsplash.com/@ischelkanov

Generally, St. Petersburg doesn’t have a shortage of tours – but with social distancing strongly encouraged, it might be a better bet to go for a custom or very small group tour that takes place outside. The guides at Petersburg Through Engineers' Eyes help you explore architectural wonders through the engineering lens with just enough geekiness to keep it fascinating.

More comfortable with distancing than social? St. Petersburg is a perfect city to explore with an individual local guide through apps such as guruwalk – or on your own with a self-guided app such as gpsmycity.

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