Most Popular Posts of 2014

I know it's already the end of January (how the heck did that happen so quickly?) but I'm still reviewing 2014 and planning things for this year. Here's a look back at Emma's Travel Read more

15 Things to do in Bruges

1. Lizzie's Waffels If you're going to Belgium then of course you want to try some authentic Belgian waffels. In the name of research I tried lots of different waffels in Bruges but none Read more

Magical Melville Castle

January is traditionally the most depressing month of the year, so when I was invited to stay in a beautiful, 18th century castle on the outskirts of Edinburgh I literally jumped at the chance. Just Read more

Bruges In Pictures

Bruges (or Brugge in Flemish) is one of the most idyllic, fairytale-esque cities I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. I've just returned from a magical four days exploring the city and fell head Read more

20 Things to Do in Edinburgh

1. National Museum of Scotland  I visited the National Museum of Scotland for the first time earlier this year and absolutely loved it. It's full to the brim with fascinating exhibits on subjects ranging from Read more

10 Things I Believe About Travel

Travel is many things to many people. For me, travel is amazing, inspiring, educative and wonderful. I believe there are so many benefits to travelling the world and I think it's something everyone should Read more

Scenes from St Petersburg, Russia

Posted on by Emma Gray in Russia | 6 Comments

As a travel blogger and writer one of the questions I’m always asked by people is “what is your favourite place that you’ve visited?” and each time I can’t answer it. Asking me to pick one favourite place in the 35 countries and countless cities I’ve visited is like asking a parent to pick which of their children is their favourite.


Usually when I’m asked the question I offer up a handful of places that I’ve visited and loved but one which always passes my lips is St Petersburg in Russia.

It’s a place I’ve only visited once but absolutely fell head over heels in love with. I’d return in a heartbeat to explore more of the city and learn more about the fascinating history that exists here. Read more

My Favourite Places

Posted on by Emma Gray in France, Germany, Russia, Scotland, Travel Tales | 10 Comments

Any traveller will know that when you’ve been lucky enough to have visited many different places often people love to ask where has been your favourite. I know some people absolutely hate when people ask this question, but I don’t have a problem with it. It’s kind of a natural question I’d say.

Anyway, I always answer it that I could never pick just one place, so here are a few of my favourite places I’ve visited so far…

St. Petersburg, Russia

I was absolutely blown away by the time I spent in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. Russian history is utterly fascinating, and there’s something I find so intriguing about the country, culture and Russian people. I was also taken aback by the opulent and exciting architecture of some of the buildings in St. Petersburg and the surrounding areas.

The Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, by far my favourite building in St. Petersburg

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The Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg

Posted on by Emma Gray in Russia | 3 Comments

Russian city St. Petersburg is one of the few places I’ve visited that has really wowed me. I had expected it to be amazing, after all I’d seen pictures, read about the history and spent hours researching what to do and see there. But nothing could have prepared me for actually being there. It’s a unique and fascinating city with some of the most incredible architecture I’ve ever fixed my eyes upon. The Church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood was without a doubt my favourite building in the city, and probably my favourite building in the world.

The Church on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia These colours are mesmerizing… Read more

Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg

Posted on by Emma Gray in Russia | 7 Comments

During my time in St. Petersburg, Russia I was lucky enough to visit some of the most amazing places and over the next few weeks I’m going to explore some of my favourites on my blog, starting with Catherine’s Palace.


Catherine’s Palace, an 18th Century imperial residence, is located within Tsars village which is around 24km from the city of St. Petersburg. Tsars Village, or Tsarskoye Selo in Russian, was a popular summer residence among the Russian nobility who enjoyed escaping city life for the peace and tranquillity of the so-called village. It has immaculately maintained gardens and a number of small pavilions within the gardens. There are also many bridges over the river and many of these are in the beautiful chinoiserie style.


Catherine's Palace, St. Petersburg

Catherine's Palace, St Petersburg


Construction work began on the palace in 1717 and it is named after Catherine I who was the wife of Peter the Great who is credited with founding the city of St. Petersburg. The pristine blue and white exterior facade with its opulent gold finish is stunning, especially against a perfect blue sky backdrop.


Catherine's Palace St Petersburg
Catherine’s Palace

The exterior decorative features which you can see above in gold paint were originally decorated with over 100kg of real gold but were changed by Catherine II, or Catherine the Great as she is often referred to as, when she found out the cost of the gold. She viewed the extensive gold decorations as reckless extravagance and only allowed some gold finishing to remain.

Catherine's Palace St Petersburg


The interior of Catherine’s Palace is even more lavish than the exterior and the Great Hall and the majority of the rooms have stunning golden façades. A tour of the inside of Catherine’s Palace is a must in order to see some amazing artwork and incredibly ornate ceilings and floors and to generally get a flavour for the flamboyant way of life in which Russian royalty lived.

If you do decide to take a tour of the interior of the Palace then you are given some rather fetching blue covers for your shoes to minimise any damage to the intricate wood floors in certain parts of the palace.


Definitely one of my hottest looks!

Once inside and fitted with your highly attractive shoes covers you are greeted with awe inspiring and intricate decor which you could easily spend hours admiring.

Catherine's Palace St Petersburg




white interior of Catherine's Palace

Stunning gold facade in the Ballroom

Traditional Russian dress which Catherine the Great would have worn


If you do decide to explore the interior of Catherine’s Palace, which I highly recommend, then you are required to take a tour. Unless you organise this before arrival all tours are generally given in Russian so it’s best to contact a tour company before you intend to visit.

Also inside Catherine’s Palace is the world famous Amber Room which is created of amber panels which are backed with gold leaf and mirrors. It was created for Peter the Great in the early 18th Century with pieces from Berlin City Palace. It was then destroyed during World War II when the Germans invaded, after a failed attempt to hide it beneath ordinary wall coverings. It was taken to pieces by the Germans and transported away from St. Petersburg but the whereabouts of the pieces have never been discovered and there are many theories surrounding it.

Under orders from Vladimir Putin reconstruction of the Amber Room began in 1982 and it was finally re-opened to the public in 2003. There is an extra charge if you wish to visit the Amber Room, which has been called the eighth wonder of the world.

St. Petersburg, Russia

Posted on by Emma Gray in Russia | 1 Comment
What a city! What a river! An unparalleled city! … Look what harmony! How all the parts complete the whole! Such beautiful surroundings, such taste and altogether such variety springing from the union of water and buildings – Russian poet Konstantin Batiushkov.
During a two week cruise in the Baltic seas the undoubted highlight of the trip was a two day stop in St. Petersburg, Russia. Before leaving home we researched and booked a two day tour with a Russian company, Alla Tours (, and it was easy and hassle free from start to finish. Our tour meant that we did not have to wait in a single queue for anything as our wonderful tour guide took us to the front of every queue and saved us hours of time by doing so. We quickly learned that queuing is a thing that Russians simply do not do- the tourists queue and the Russians simply walk to the front!
The first thing we did was to take a boat trip to view the city from the water which was a great way to obtain an initial overall view of the city and its many beautiful and ornate buildings. This was followed by a visit to the St. Peter and Paul Fortress and the inside of the Cathedral where many of the Russian Tsars are buried. The history of the Tsars is fascinating and wonderfully scandalous. We then travelled to Peterhof via hydrofoil (which took just 30 minutes rather than an hour by coach) and wandered through the beautiful, ornate gardens and taking in the many fountains, which are all powered by gravity.
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Catherine’s Palace is a place which any visitor to St. Petersburg should visit. The strikingly beautiful blue and white exterior of the building did little to prepare us for the stunning interior with many rooms decorated in gold, ornate ceilings and dazzling chandeliers adorning the Palace.
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The second day of our tour began in the Hermitage Museum, the third largest in the world. We spent more than two hours there admiring yet more stunning rooms decorated in gold and marble and saw original paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet and Titian to name but a few. The Hermitage can get very busy and another advantage of having a private booked tour was obtaining early entry into the museum which allowed us to see much of it comfortably and without too many crowds and this is something which I would highly recommend.
This was followed by a visit to The Church of the Spilled Blood, one of the most awe inspiring buildings I have ever seen. The bright blues and greens of its exterior together with its shining gold domes are something not to be missed. The interior is just as striking- it’s mosaic covered walls and ceilings were painstakingly restored after the Bolsheviks went on an offensive against religion and destroyed churches all over the country in the 1930’s. The restoration of this, and many of the other buldings in the city, serve as a testament to the brave and courageous Russian people who have been through so much politically and socially in their country in relatively recent years.

The Church of the Spilled Blood
The final stop of our two day whirlwind tour of St. Petersburg was the Yusupov Palace and a walk through the room where Gregory Rasputin was allegedly poisoned and spent some of his last hours before escaping onto the streets of the city. Like the lives of the Tsars, Rasputin’s life was also very interesting and somewhat scandalous.
Overall St. Petersburg is a fantastic city with so much to do and see. Despite having been lucky enough to visit a large number of cities in Europe I was wholly unprepared for the entirely different architecture which I found here. It is a city I would love to return to and spend much more time exploring.