Kanonersky Island, in St Petersburg’s south-west, is an acquired taste, but it can surely serve as an antidote to glamorous imperial palaces and well-combed royal gardens.
It is an isolated chunk of the working-class Kirovsky District, dominated by the shiprepairing yard and quite cut off from the city until a tunnel was opened in 1983 (which is to say you can’t get to Kanonersky on foot unless you’re quite a risk-taker). The most recent addition to the infrastructure, the Western High-Speed Diameter motorway, made the island look positively post-apocalyptic. Architecturally, nothing much fun. There is a monument honouring wartime sacrifice, as the island was near the frontline during the Siege of Leningrad. Great view of the monstrous Lakhta Centre skyscraper across the Gulf of Finland.
However, the long peninsula forming the side of the St Petersburg Maritime Canal which you can reach after passing the populated part of the island is a great hike – without cleared-up paths or signs, unless you count the giant one saying “Leningrad” across the canal. It was built in Soviet time to greet ships arriving by sea, and if you can see it you have reached the end of this journey. If you want more dignified engagement with St Petersburg’s nature, Komarovo eco-trail in north-western suburbs is a good option.
Kanonersky Island can also be viewed in quite some detail if you take a ferry bound for Helsinki. Also, it is the site of a highly recommended biannual art event, due next in 2020.