St Petersburg has good news. Citizens from 53 countries are now able to stay in St Petersburg and the surrounding Leningrad region with a free-of-charge electronic visa.

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More visitors will be able to experience the delights of St Petersburg ©TomasSereda/Getty Images

The list of the countries, whose nationals can use this e-visa, include Bahrain, India, Indonesia, Iran, Qatar, China, North Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Turkey, the Philippines, Japan, as well as all EU member states other than the United Kingdom. Visitors may stay in St Petersburg for eight days out of the 30-day validity period. An application for an electronic visa must be submitted on the website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs no later than four days before trip. This move is expected to attract 12 million tourists each year. Last year this number was 8.2 million.

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Naryshkin Bastion seen from across the Neva river ©Kira Tverskaya/Lonely Planet

Eight days is a good amount of time to spend in the northern capital. It should be enough to visit all the classic sights like the Hermitage, Russian Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, Kunstkamera and Faberge Museum. Not to mention the magnificent orthodox cathedrals – St. Isaac’s, Kazan and Aleksander Nevsky Monastery. 

Besides the good old classics, St Petersburg now has many interesting creative must-visit places that reflect the city’s transition into a modern, cosmopolitan city. Creative spaces like New Holland, Sevkabel and Golitsyn Loft are home to art galleries, restaurants, bars and studios. Different music, art and food festivals are held there almost every weekend.

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Soviet memorabilia at souvenir market ©Jonathan Smith/Lonely Planet

St Petersburg today is also one of the finest European gastronomic destinations. The country's and the city's culinary offering didn't have an international profile to speak of, beyond borscht and Russian salad. This is now changing very quickly thanks to young, energetic and creative chefs who thrill both locals and visitors with their contemporary take on the country's cuisine. 

As the e-visa is valid for travel in the Leningrad region as well, the imperial suburbs Peterhof, Pushkin, Oranienbaum and Pavlovsk are definitely worth a visit, as are the famous beaches stretching along the Gulf of Finland. With all that, eight days don’t seem so much time for a trip to St Petersburg but with the e-visa travelers will definitely come back more than once. 

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