But today's blog post isn't about where we're going - it's about where we started, which is St Petersburg, Russia. Why here? The simple answer is a practical one: Paul and Dave, the company founders, took a trip to St Petersburg not long after the idea for ToursByLocals was hatched. While the trip's aim was primarily pleasure, they made a point of meeting several local guides to get a sense of their thoughts regarding the ToursByLocals business model. The response from the guides was extremely positive, and ToursByLocals was officially born with several enthusiastic St Petersburg guides leading the charge.
Nearly 7 years later, our guides in St Petersburg are still a strong presence in our worldwide network. We have 15 incredible local experts here, many of whom have been with us since early 2009. As they will tell you, it's a delight being a guide in a city that leaves visitors grasping for enough superlatives to describe its beauty.
Having a good guide in St Petersburg is an absolute must. Practically speaking, the city’s attractions are spread over a vast area; the grand palaces, like Peterhof and Yusupov, are located outside of the city, some close to an hour away, and having a knowledgeable driver-guide means you'll get to see more of what you came to see, without getting lost! Even more practically speaking, your guide can quickly and easily arrange the visa you’ll need to obtain to spend a day or more in the city.
Culturally, Saint Petersburg knows no bounds: its art, architecture and theatre performances are the city's true treasures, and having an expert along with you is like having the key to the treasure chest. For example, Irina, a ToursByLocals guide since March 2009, has Master's degrees in History and Fine Arts and is currently working on her PhD dissertation on the history of St. Petersburg architecture. Imagine touring the stately Hermitage with your own private guide explaining the significance and subtleties of one of the largest art collections in the world.
Maybe you’re interested in Jewish heritage, and would like a guide to drive and walk you through the various religious and cultural buildings associated with the Russian Jewish community in St Petersburg? Tatiana can do that on her Jewish heritage tour.
Or perhaps you’re traveling with children or grandchildren and are wondering how to make a “grown-up” city fun for kids? Our guide Elina has wonderful ideas for an itinerary that keeps young travelers engaged, including the Peterhof Fountains, a river boat ride, a climb up the colonnade of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and visiting the oldest zoo in Russia. (You can read all about her suggestions in more detail here: St Petersburg with kids.)
If you have a bit more time, maybe you want to spend it experiencing firsthand the culture of a Russian village? This local experience is possible with guide Elena, who will be your escort through the countryside outside of Ste Petersburg, to a market, local churches, and even a dacha for a home-cooked meal.
These are just a few of the options our guides offer; countless others await, along with the ability to choose a guide and customize your very own unique day. Our ToursByLocals guides are eager to share St. Petersburg with you!