If you’re looking for something a little different to surprise your Valentine, then why not treat them to a romantic break in Russia to celebrate the popular day of love? It’s not a public holiday, and has only really been celebrated by Russians for a couple of decades, but as in the UK, the giving of red roses or chocolates and of course the almost obligatory card has become commonplace. Many stores offer special Valentine’s Day discounts so you can splash out on a gift without breaking the bank.
With snow on the ground and a good chance of sunny blue skies, Russia offers myriad opportunities for picturesque backdrops and romantic gestures. Top of the list must be the elegant city of St Petersburg with its regal architecture and countless museums, galleries and theatres to entertain. The most romantic spot in the city? Chances are that if you ask someone that question they’ll direct you to the Potseluev Bridge. Nicknamed the Bridge of Kisses, it spans the Moika River close to the Mariinsky Theatre. Back in the eighteenth century, a local man ran a nearby inn called Potselui, meaning “a kiss”. These days it’s the place for a passionate embrace with your sweetheart and to leave a padlock engraved with your names. So the superstition goes, the longer the kiss, the longer lasting the relationship. Well, it can’t hurt to try, can it?
St Petersburg is known as the “Venice of the North” and what could be more romantic than a canal-side stroll in the arms of a loved one? A classic route follows the Fontanka Canal and Griboyedov Winter Canal, passing countless bridges and the facades of luxury mansions that grace the waterfront. Make sure you pull on a warm overcoat, furry hat and snow boots to keep you toasty as you wander.
Even the weather gets too much, there are plenty of cosy cafes in which to warm up or delightful restaurants to stage that all important candlelit dinner. Palkin’s has a long pedigree, serving the likes of Dostoyevsky, Chekhov and Tchaikovsky. Originally opened in 1785, it was restored to its former glory in 2002 by the Hermitage Museum and patrons can once again enjoy the finest gourmet food including blinis with caviar, borscht and sturgeon.
If you’re newly single and can’t face the thought of all those loved up couples, then ditch St Petersburg and head to the city of Belgograd instead. It’s just the place to escape to. In 2011, its governor Yevgeny Savchenko banned the holiday on the grounds of protecting residents’ “spiritual safety” stating that Valentine’s Day wasn’t traditionally Russian.