We enjoyed seeing the old town, and the area around the castle. My wife and I took a guided to the Vasa museum -- fascinating. My kids feel that between an iPOD and GPS, who needs a guide, and did the city on their own. They found it easy to get around (particularly since the cruise ship ran a shuttle to downtown).
My daughter and her beau took the evening rooftop tour and found that to be quite an experience.
My main complaint is that the cruise line, and the independent mass tours available online all include a panoramic bus tour with all packages. Having two days in town, I would have liked options for a more intensive tour of one or two areas rather than repeating a drive around. For example, we toured the VASA museum, but then had to sit on the bus for another hour being schlepped all over the city. The time would have been better spent seeing another of the museums (such as the Swedish life collection) in the same area.
A very interesting room, part of Catherine's palace.
Catherine Palace Rating:
It just floors me that people, even royalty, could live in such style. There's more gold on the wall than in many country's national treasury. Again, miles (literally) of art, particularly art related to Russian history.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood Rating:
I can't imagine the manhours required to make all the mosaics that cover this church, inside and out.
Hermitage Museum Rating:
Seeing all that art is overwhelming. Rembrandts next to Degas -- pictures you only see in art books and can't imagine they'll let you see up close and personal. We also saw the treasure and gold rooms, which were worth the extra time in the museum.
Neva River Cruise Rating:
We did both an hour cruise in the evening and the hydrofoil to Peterhof. Both nice, particularly the hydrofoil which was a pleasant change from our van.
Peterhof Palace Rating:
We only saw the fountains and the grounds. Both were amazing, particularly the amount of water moving around and the use of gold. I'm used to copper and other base metals for fountains in American cities.
Private Tour Rating:
Only way to optimize your time is with a private tour. We could add a side trip on the subway, have dinner at an authenic restaurant, plus the guide could get us around large crowds in many places.
We used Alla tours and would book them again if going to another city they handle.
St. Isaac's Cathedral Rating:
The size is amazing. My kids walked up to the walkway around the dome, and thought it was worth the effort for the view one got from this vantage point.
City Tour Rating:
St. Petersburg explains why the serfs revolted -- just look at all the gold and realize how the city (younger than my home town of Philadelphia) was built.
A once in a lifetime experience, two days touring left us exhausted. My wife and I "trained" for six months prior to the cruise (treadmill, dieting), and it was absolutely worth it.
St. Petersburg -- by cruise ship or land tour, is a must place to visit.
One last overall comment -- get a good camera, portable but with a fast lens (lots of places are no flash), and learn how to use it !
Much more interesting than we expected. We had a private walking tour, same agency as we used in Russia. This allowed us to get a better feel for this medieval city which was a major contrast to the newer, and wealthier St. Petersburg. My cousin had us buying yarn, something Estonia is famous for.
Unfortunately, the KGB museum (which I wanted to see) was closed the day we were in port.
Nice overview of the area, and a nice break after three hectic days of touring. The kids thought this would be boring, and just walked around the town, which they found to be very interesting (a UNESCO historic site with it's city wall).
Just a wonderful city. A very different perspective on three centuries of war with Sweden than we heard in Stockholm (none of which is taught in american schools). Also interesting to compare the base metal domes, etc. of their palaces, churches, etc. with the Russian gold.
I wish we had more time there, more energy and the option of a more comprehensive tour (the only tours available were half--day).