Itinerary / Russia

Things to do in St Petersburg

St Petersburg
Things to do in St Petersburg

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Visiting Russia and considering a trip to the Venice of the North? Known as the cultural capital of Russia, there are many things to do in St Petersburg. With its history, culture, and landmarks. 

St. Petersburg has 44 islands that are connected by over 300 bridges with 2000 libraries, 221 museums, 45 galleries, 80 theatres, 100 concert organizations, 62 cinemas, 80 other cultural establishments, and plays host to around 100 festivals each year.

St Petersburg was founded in 1703 and it became the imperial capital of the Russian empire for two centuries. The city was named in honor of St. Peter who was the founder of the city, and not Peter the Great. The name can be translated as “The City of St. Peter”. St. Petersburg, FL was named in honor of St. Petersburg, Russia by Russian-born railroad builder Piotr Dementyev (Peter Demens).

The cities name was changed three times before the original name was returned in 1991. Local residents often refer to the city by its shortened nickname, Piter.

When St Petersburg was first built, it was designed to be a port city and naval base, which it was for many years. The Neva River remains the city’s main artery, with a multitude of ships sailing down it every day. To allow larger ships to dock, all the bridges over the river are lit up and drawn at night, making for a beautiful view.

Where is St Petersburg

St. Petersburg is a port city in the northwest of  Russia. The city lies about 400 miles (640 km) northwest of Moscow and only about 7° south of the Arctic Circle. since its founding in 1703, St Petersburg played a vital role in Russian history. Not only is it the birthplace of President Vladimir Putin but its also the second-largest city in Russia.

How to get to St Petersburg

Depending on where you are traveling from, St Petersburg is reachable by air, train, and sea.

The distance between St Petersburg and Moscow is approximately 650-700km away from St Petersburg and will take anything between 4 to 8 hours by train depending on the type of train you take, or around 1.5 – 2 hours if traveling by plane.

How to get to St Petersburg by air 

Pulkovo Airport is located 17 kilometers south of the city center and is the busiest Russian airport outside of Moscow, serving many international and domestic airlines. However, there is also the option of flying into Lappeenranta Airport which is located across the border in Finland.

How to get to St Petersburg by train

 The railway system is extremely well-connected. Moscow can be reached in only four hours via a high-speed rail system, and there are also international connections to Helsinki, Berlin, and Eastern Europe. 

How to get to St Petersburg by sea

St Petersburg can also be reached directly via ferry from Helsinki and Stockholm.

Best time to visit St Petersburg

Best Month to visit RussiaSeasonCrowdsVacation in Russia Cost
Visiting Russia in Januarytemperatures can fall below -20 degrees or even higherLowLow
Traveling to Russia in February Still cold ModerateModerate
Visiting Russia in March Still cold and snowingModerateModerate
Visiting Russia in April Transitional month between winter and springModerateModerate
Visiting Russia in Maywarmer daysHighHigh
Visiting Russia in June warm but not boiling hotHighHigh
Visiting Russia in Julythe hottest month. over 30 °CHighHigh
Visiting Russia in August Starts getting cold in the eveningsModerateModerate
Visiting Russia in September The only month that truly feels like Fall (Autumn)ModerateModerate
Visiting Russia in October Start of winterModerateModerate
Traveling to Russia in NovemberYou can expect snow in many cities by mid-NovemberModerateModerate
Visiting Russia in December very coldLowLow

Things to do in St Petersburg

Before visiting St Petersburg, I highly recommend that you purchase the St. Petersburg CityPass. It gives access to most of the city’s museums, as well as various tours, either by bus or boat. You can buy it for 2, 3 or 5 days.  The pass will help you save money and save time which will be wasted waiting in line for tickets.

St. Isaac’s CathedralThings to do in St Petersburg

Taking 40 years to complete, St. Isaac’s Cathedral was built to be St Petersburg’s main church and the largest cathedral in Russia.

The cathedral’s facades are decorated with sculptures and massive granite columns (made of single pieces of red granite), while the interior is adorned with incredibly detailed mosaic icons, paintings, and columns made of malachite and lapis lazuli.

A large, brightly colored stained glass window of the “Resurrected Christ” takes pride of place inside the main altar. The church, designed to accommodate 14,000 standing worshipers, was closed in the early 1930s and reopened as a museum. Today, church services are held here only on major ecclesiastical occasions.

Address: 4, Isaakievskaya Square
Metro: Admiralteyskaya
Open: Daily 10.30 am to 6 pm. Last admission is at 5.30 pm. Evening openings of the Cathedral in the summer only (May 1 – September 30): 6 pm to 10.30 pm. Evening openings of the Colonnade in the summer only (May 1 – October 31): 6 pm to 10.30 pm. Night openings of the Colonnade in the White Nights only (June 1 – August 20): 10.30 pm to 4.30 am.
Closed: Wednesday
Telephone: +7 (812) 315-9732
Website: http://eng.cathedral.ru/isakievskii_sobor/

Wander around the Peter and Paul Fortress

St PETERSBURG

The Peter and Paul Fortress was the idea of Peter the Great, who re-claimed the lands along the Neva River in 1703 and decided to build a fort to protect the area from possible attack by the Swedish army and navy.

The fortress was founded on a small island in the Neva delta on May 27, 1703 (May 16 according to the old calendar) and that day became the birthday of the city of St. Petersburg. The Swedes were defeated before the fortress was even completed.

For that reason, from 1721 onwards the fortress housed part of the city’s garrison and rather notoriously served as a high-security political jail. Among the first inmates was Peter’s own rebellious son Alexei. Later, the list of famous residents included Dostoyevsky, Gorkiy, Trotsky and Lenin’s older brother, Alexander. Parts of the former jail are now open to the public.

The Hermitage Museum

Things to do in St Petersburg

The Hermitage Museum is the second-largest museum in the world with over 3 million pieces of art housed within its wall and an essential stop and one of the best things to do in St Petersburg.

The museum was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky, the museum has more than 1500 rooms and been open to the public since 1852.

Address: 2, Dvortsovaya Ploschad (Palace Square)
Metro: Admiralteyskaya
Open: Daily 10:30 am to 6 pm. Last admission is at 5:30 pm. Wednesday and Friday, till 9 pm. Last admission is at 8:30 pm.
Closed: Monday
Telephone: +7 (812) 571-3420; +7 (812) 710-9079
Website: http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/

See St Petersburg’s first bridge

Trinity bridge St Petersburg

There are about 800 in St. Petersburg, and 218 are only for pedestrians. The city’s very first bridge – Troitsky Most (Trinity Bridge) – was built in 1803, and was originally a temporary pontoon bridge with a horse-drawn rail car that led to the Summer Gardens. It was opened to the public 100 years later in 1903.

The Trinity bridge is opened from 01:35 to 04:50.

Peterhof Palace

Things to do in St Petersburg

Peterhof Palace was built by Tsar Peter to outshine Versailles. He might not have managed to build a bigger palace, but the opulent water gardens his architects created beggar comprehension.

Visitors have the option of visiting the Grand Palace, the Peterhof Park and gardens, or the famous Fountains of Peterhof with its array of decorative fountains, including the unmistakable and incredibly impressive ensemble of the Grand Cascade.

Address: 2, Razvodnaya Ulitsa, Peterhof (town)
Phone: +7 (812) 450-5287
Website: http://eng.peterhofmuseum.ru/index.php?lang=eng
Admission: Combined tickets are offered. For example Lower Park + two pavilions/museums in the park: RUB 1000.00

Go underground to the St Petersburg Metro

Things to do in St Petersburg

St Petersburg Metro is the deepest metro system in the world by the average depth of the stations. Like the Moscow Metro, some stations look like underground palaces with mosaic panels, marble, sculptures, and paintings.

Admiralteyskaya station is the most beautiful and third deepest metro station in the world at 86m below the surface. 

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

St Petersburg

The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, officially known as the Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ or just the Church on the Blood.

This is where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated on 1 March 1881. The church was commissioned to celebrate the notable reforms he had been instrumental in enacting.

No baptisms, funeral services, weddings, or other traditional church services were held in the Church on the Blood, as this was not in Alexander III’s plans.

However, weekly requiems (for Alexander II) and sermon readings attracted large numbers of worshippers.

Address: 2, Naberezhnaya Kanala Griboedova
Metro: Nevsky Prospekt / Gostiny Dvor
Open: Daily 10.30 am to 6 pm. Last admission is at 5.30 pm. Evening openings of the Cathedral in the summer only (May 1 – September 30): 6 pm to 10.30 pm.
Closed: Wednesday
Telephone: +7 (812) 314-2168
Website: http://eng.cathedral.ru/spasa_na_krovi/

The Fabergé Museum

st petersburg what to see

The Fabergé Museum in the Shuvalov Palace is home to the world’s largest collection of works by Carl Faberge and was founded to preserve, study, and promote Russia’s cultural heritage.

The museum’s collection includes nine of the famous Imperial Easter Eggs which are regarded not only as of the finest jeweled works of art but also unique historical artifacts.

Mariinsky Theater

Theatre

The world-renowned The Mariinsky Opera and Ballet Theater is the finest in Russia, known during Soviet times as the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre, reverted to its original name in 1992. The present building, which dates back to 1859.

The building and its marvelous 1,625-seat auditorium were severely damaged during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad but later restored in 1944. Since then the theater has maintained its excellent reputation, particularly for classical ballet.

Alexandrinsky Theatre

St Petersburg

Open in 1832, The Alexandrinsky Theatre is the second most famous theatre in St. Petersburg, home of the oldest theatre company in Russia, and one of the finest works of the great neoclassical architect Carlo Rossi, at the center of a remarkable ensemble of buildings created by him on and around Ploshchad Ostrovskogo that Petersburgers consider one of the architectural jewels of the city.

Today it is home to the Opera and Ballet which has launched the careers of several artists formerly of the Imperial Ballet School (known today as the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet).

Address: 2, Ploshchad Ostrovskogo
Metro: Gostiny Dvor
Getting there: From the main exit of the metro station, turn right along Nevsky Prospekt, crossing Sadovaya Ulitsa via the pedestrian underpass. Take the first right onto Ploshchad Ostrovskogo, and the theatre is at the end of the square.
Telephone: +7 (812) 312-1545
Website: http://en.alexandrinsky.ru

Watch the opening of the St Petersburg Palace Bridge 

St Petersburg

The Palace Bridge is one of the most famous things to see in St Petersburg, the bridge drawn at night is a symbol of the city.

The central span of the bridge splits into two wings, which are raised through an angle of over 45° to allow ships to pass up the Neva River. The Palace Bridge is opened from 01:25 to 02:50, and again at 03:10 to 04:55.

Explore the Summer Garden

st petersburg

The Summer Garden is located where the Fontanka River flows out of the Neva River. It was founded in 1704 by the order of Peter the Great, who was personally involved in planning it and is laid out according to strict geometrical principles. 

The Summer Garden is home to marble statues acquired from Europe especially for Russia’s new capital, and also to rare flowers and plants, as well as fountains. It was a traditional location for courtly life outside the palace, and balls were held here by the nobility, who also enjoyed simply taking the air in the Garden.

Open in Summer: Daily, 10 am to 9 pm. Winter: Daily, except Tuesday, 10 am to 7:30 pm.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan

Kazan Cathedral

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan was constructed between 1801 and 1811. It was built to an enormous scale with an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a garden and fountain. It was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was meant to be the country’s main Orthodox Church.

The cathedral was constructed between 1801 and 1811 by the architect Andrei Voronikhin, was built to an enormous scale and boasts an impressive stone colonnade, encircling a small garden and central fountain.

The cathedral was inspired by the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome and was intended to be the country’s main Orthodox Church. After the war of 1812 (during which Napoleon was defeated) the church became a monument to Russian victory.

Russian State MuseumRussian State Museum

The Russian State Museum houses more than 400,000 exhibits covering the entire history of Russian art, from the 10th century to the present day: Russian icons, paintings, graphic arts and sculpture, numismatics, etc.

Travel Insurance for Russia

Use travel insurance while visiting Russia so you are covered for theft and medical expenses. There are a lot of adventurous activities to do in Russia, and it’s best to have peace of mind while driving, hiking and trying some of the best food in the world.

Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a booking after clicking on a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!

 

6 Comments

  • Lerato
    04/06/2020 at 11:05 AM

    @Alexandra, I’m South African and we don’t need a visa to visit Russia

  • Alexandra Booze
    04/06/2020 at 8:06 AM

    I’ve always wanted to go to St. Petersburg!! Was it difficult getting a Visa? I’m considering still applying for when this situation is over!

  • Jenny Bhatia
    04/05/2020 at 6:30 PM

    These buildings are fantastic. I never knew. I will get there one day, until then, I will enjoy your words and images. Be safe.

  • Cris F.
    04/05/2020 at 5:47 PM

    St. Petersburg is such a magnificent city! You’ve provided a wonderful itinerary to see the best of it.

  • Taylor
    04/05/2020 at 4:17 PM

    This is a great blog post! I hope to get to Russia some day. St. Petersburg looks so beautiful. 🙂

  • Camille
    04/05/2020 at 1:08 PM

    My husband and I are planning to visit Russia. I’ll definetely bookmark your list. Thanks for sharing

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