Rooftop tour gives unique look at St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg is a city built to impress. There are grand palaces, cathedrals and museum. Tourists who explore St. Petersburg quickly discover what the locals love about their own city. It is regal, bright and completely unique.
"I like how St. Petersburg is deeply engrained intellectual vibe to it. It's very different from Moscow which has an eastern bizarre thing going on. In St. Petersburg, people look and think and talk differently," said Olga Tankovich, a bartender at the Idiot Restaurant.
Sometimes people in this city take a different approach to touring. It is a St. Petersburg secret now being shared with visitors willing to take the journey. They leave the tourist routes behind and below them.
Welcome to the roofs of St. Petersburg.
This view is possible because of how this city is constructed. Many of the buildings are connected, allowing you to walk for blocks above the city.
"Many people think it's not possible to go up on the roof. We help. It's interesting," said tour guide Yuri Senatrskiy. "When you go to the roof, you can find some things that you cannot see from downstairs from the streets where people are normally walking. You can find what architects tried to express with their buildings and that is possible to see from the top of the roof. The roofs where we walk are allowed. There are no problems with residents of these houses and no problems with the police."
"Here you can get the best photos of the city. I love being on the rooftop tour," said Aleksandra Skorobogatova who operates Sputnik8 tours.
The tour company connects visitors with informal guides. Tourists can learn how to cook Russian food in a local apartments, participate in a pub crawl and take tours about Russian art and literature, or they can book a three-hour tour of the roofs for $60.
There are challenges to this tour. Visitors must climb up several flights of stairs and wander through dark attics to reach openings to the roof. There is no safety harness and you better watch your step. There are wires, antennas and debris on the roof.
"The roofs where we walk, they always have borders on the edge. That's why it is always safe. If people follow the safety techniques, there will be no problems. If you see any bottles, be careful. Don't step on the glass. They are left by residents of this house who love to go upstairs to the roof to enjoy the view of the city and drink some beer," said Senatrskiy.
The noise and busyness of St. Petersburg seem very far away. There is serenity on the roof.
"It's very peaceful. When I come at night, it's very beautiful when all of the city is full of the lights," said Skorobogatova.
The rooftop tours are quite popular. People say the roof is the place to celebrate, find romance and enjoy the end of the day.
"Sunsets are always loved by people because they can look at the beauty of the city," said Senatrskiy. "They can think about their life and the clearness of their soul."
St. Petersburg moves to a different beat. Whether you are exploring by foot, or on the water, this city is a feast for the eyes.
But, as I discovered the best view may come at the end of the day, perched above it all.