Although St. Petersburg itself has plenty more to explore, a third day offers an ideal opportunity to whiz up the Baltic Coast to Peterhof, the palace Peter modeled partly on Versailles. The ride itself -- on hydrofoil, ferry, or the private boats roaming the shore -- is part of the adventure, offering a seafarers' view of the city and surrounding forest. In the winter, you can take a bus or commuter train and enjoy the countryside that way. You can easily return in time for a dinnertime cruise through the city's canals in the months when they're not frozen over (May-Oct).
Start: The piers on Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya in front of the Winter Palace, or the bus stop outside Nevsky Prospekt metro station. Nearest metro: Nevsky Prospekt.
1. Peterhof (Petrodvorets)
Gliding up to the pier of this opulent "country house" is the most impressive way to greet it. The dense forest is suddenly cleaved by a hill of fountains cascading from the palace toward the sea. The palace holds so much gold it's almost headache-inducing. The long and rather narrow structure gives every room a view of the sea, but this means that visitors are herded in one direction with little room to maneuver. Explore the caves beneath the fountains for an inside view of this 18th-century engineering feat.
2. Take a Break -- Imperatorsky Stol
Dining options on the palace grounds are mediocre, but Imperatorsky Stol (tel. 812/427-9106) is the most pleasant. Housed in the orangerie close to the river, it's a good spot for a hot drink or a full, Russo-European meal.
3. Evening Canal Cruise
Once you're back in town, continue the waterway theme with a canal tour. Boats holding up to 15 people start from Griboyedov Canal just north of Nevsky Prospekt. They offer English-speaking tours or tour guides. Private boats also roam the area offering rides for up to five people for an always-negotiable price, which is often less than the group-tour price. During the White Nights of summer, the private boats run much of the night. However, they often lack security features, so they're not a good option if you're traveling with kids.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.