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In addition to the scores of private agencies that operate in the city, every major hotel has a tourist bureau that can help you book individual and group tours, make restaurant reservations, or purchase theater tickets. Even if you're not a hotel guest, you're usually welcome to use these facilities, provided you're willing to pay the hefty fees for their services.
Mir Travel Agency (1½ ul. Marata, Liteiny/Smolny, St. Petersburg, 191186. 812/325–7122 or 812/325–2595. mir-travel.com. Metro: Mayakovskaya.)
Reisebuero-Welt (Northern Capital business center, 3 nab. Reki Moyki, 6th fl., City Center, St. Petersburg, 191186. 812/449–4564. www.reisebuero-welt.com. Metro: Nevsky Prospekt.)
A float down the Neva or through the city's twisting canals—Exkursii na katere po rekam i kanalam—is always a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon or a White Night. For trips through the canals, take one of the boats at the pier near Anichkov most on Nevsky prospekt. Boats cruising the Neva and the canals leave from the piers outside the State Hermitage Museum; outside the Admiralty Building (2 naberezhnaya Admiralteiskaya) at the Dvortsovsy most; from the corner of naberezhnaya Reki Fontanki and Nevsky prospekt (27 naberezhnaya Reki Fontanki), and a number of other spots. Boat trips have departures from the early morning to the late afternoon from mid-May through mid-September. In warmer months, typically May through October, you can find many boats offering such trips along the Neva, and travel agents can help with booking
Astra Marine (Central Pier, 2 nab. Admiralteyskaya, Admiralteisky, St. Petersburg. 812/647–0017. www.boattrip.ru.)
Vodohod (209 Obukhovskoy Oborony pr., South of the city center, St. Petersburg, 192131. 812/335–1778. www.vodohod.spb.ru.)
There are many private tour guides who can provide detailed tours in English at the many sights within and outside of St. Petersburg. They can be very helpful, especially in places like the Hermitage. Many of them are highly educated in history and art, and they must also go through a rigorous training process before becoming licensed. Rates begin at about $20 an hour.
Ksenia Belous (905/229–1907. firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Natalia Velikaya (905/277–5394. email@example.com.)
If you prefer to plunge into city life instead of observing it from the window of your tour bus, the best bet is to take an excursion (from 650R) with one of the city's best-known walking tour companies, Peter's Walking Tours. Founded by inveterate local backpacker Peter Kozyrev, the company turns, walks, and pub crawls through memorable experiences that interweave history, current affairs, mystery, and gossip.
Peter's Walking Tours (812/943–1229 information, booking. www.peterswalk.com.)
Devote your fourth day to St. Petersburg's inner streets, squares, and gardens. Begin with the grandeur of ploshchad Iskusstv, or Square of the Arts. Here you can visit the State Museum of Russian Art before moving on to the colorful Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Finish your walk at the Summer Garden with its famous railing designed by Yuri Felten in 1779. After lunch, visit the Kazan Cathedral. On the fifth day, if it's summer season, head west of St. Petersburg to Peterhof (Petrodvorets), accessible by hydrofoil. The fountains, lush parks, and the magnificent Great Palace are at their best in the summer.