On the Neva River where it joins the Baltic Sea, Saint Petersburg is perhaps Russia's most-storied city, famed for its State Hermitage Museum and its links with novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel Crime and Punishment. Once called Leningrad and until 1918, Russia's capital. Now Russia's second-largest city, this UNESCO city (there are approximately 8,000 monuments) is a popular tourism destination. St. Petersburg event venues and attractions feature the beautiful Palace Square, numerous architecturally important, pre-Revolution streets and much high-end culture, including ballet, theater and classical-music schools and companies.
The city's international airport, Pulkovo (LED), has two terminals – Terminal 2 being the international area. Approximately 12 miles south of the city center, it has easy links to most continents, but Americans will need to change somewhere else in Europe, notably London or Paris.
Chief among St. Petersurg event venues is the Lenexpo Exhibition Complex, which has nine exhibit halls, 400,000 square feet of space indoors, 630,000 outdoors, 10 meeting rooms and a 2,800-seat congress hall. In 2014 it will be joined, at another site, by the ExpoForum Convention & Exhibition Center, which will have one million square feet of exhibition space, 40,000 more outside, more than 100 meeting rooms, a 3,000-seat congress hall and at least two hotels.
Hotel venues in Saint Petersburg where groups can meet include the massive, 1,200-room Park Inn by Radisson Pribaltiyskaya (often favored by tour groups), which has space for up to 1,500 persons; the 207-room Hotel Dostoyevsky, which has four meeting rooms named after famous Russian writers and one named after Crime and Punishment's principal character, Raskolnikov; the 188-room Rocco Forte Hotel Astoria, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012 and has event space in a grand ballroom and Winter Garden for up to 400 persons; the sumptuous, trendy, 177-room W St. Petersburg, which has three meeting rooms; and the 102-room Renaissance St. Petersburg Baltic Hotel, which has seven meeting rooms.
This ornate city has many excellent places for memorable group events. Top of the list is the State Hermitage Museum, one of the world's most important museums, which includes such areas as the old, new and small hermitages, Hermitage Theater, Menshikov Palace and the Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory and has numerous spaces large and small for groups. Another wonderful, majestic space in the city is the State Russian Museum (aka as simply the Russian Museum), which also has several sections, including the Mikhailovsky and Stroganov (on grand Nevsky Prospect) palaces and has lecture rooms and a winter palace. Most other spots in the city cannot try and be as ornate, but many come very close. Try the National Pushkin Museum, which celebrates the famous Russian writer Alexander Pushkin and also comprises several museums where the Moika River joins Nevsky Prospect; the non-state-run St. Petersburg Doll Museum, which has eight exhibit halls and is on Vassilievsky Island, and the more 21st-century St. Petersburg Nevsky Plaza (still ornate by most standards), which has meeting rooms, a lounge, a business suite and full IT and videoconferencing facilities.
Excellent nonhotel restaurants in St. Petersburg for groups include The Idiot (named after another of Dostoyevsky's most famous novels), with a Russian and seafood menu; Stroganoff Steak House., which has two banquet rooms for up to 90 persons each; Russian Vodka Room No.1, an ornate, calm place with a Russian menu, 132 seats, private room for 14 and the Museum of Russian Vodka (be careful!); Restaurant 7:40, with a Jewish menu, the need for transport there and back, cozy confines and a name culled from a Russian-Jewish song; and Austeria, which sounds perfect for these careful economic times but is in fact not cheap, an 80-seat restaurant with a Russian menu (supposedly, some of Peter the Great's favorite dishes remain on it) in a fabulous building inside the Petropavlovskaya Krepost (Peter & Paul Fortress), the city's original citadel.