By Rachael Funk
St. Petersburg is Russia’s second largest city and former capital. Filled with striking architecture thanks to Peter the Great, the city is a center of culture and elegance. Boasting some of the world’s best ballet and art, St. Petersburg thrills with its formidable beauty and irresistible command of the fine arts.
What to Know
This maritime city was founded in 1703 and is now home to over five million inhabitants. Considered Russia’s most romantic city, St. Petersburg is filled with canals, palaces, and a robust historical heritage. The city has 800 bridges, 218 of which are for pedestrians. In addition to the landmarks, views, and thriving arts culture in the city, you can also expect Russia’s best bars, free karaoke, and specialty cocktails.
When to Go
Winter in Russia is notorious for being brutal, with February often being the coldest month of the year. Summers, however, are sunny and mild, making June to September the best months for travel. If you go between late June and early July, you can enjoy the White Nights festival, an international arts festival which includes ballet, opera, and music events.
How to Get Around
The city of St. Petersburg has an expansive public transport system which is efficient, reliable, and cheap. Every day of the week, the public transport systems run between 6am and midnight. You can opt to use the Metro or hop on a bus, trolleybus, or tram. Taking the Metro is the preference for most who travel through the city.
Taxis are available in St. Petersburg, however traffic in the city is infamously heavy. Drivers are generally advised to add about half an hour to their drive time if they are on the road in the evening. Unless you have lots of time on your hands and cannot use public transit, it is not advisable to try to take a taxi.
One option which is only available during the summer, water taxis will transport you over St. Petersburg’s rivers and canals. These boats travel along a fixed route and stick to specific timetables, so planning ahead is mandatory. Most locals don’t use water taxis as regular public transit, however visitors may find the line useful.
Advanced bikers may enjoy making their way around the compact city by bike. St. Petersburg is relatively flat, however the roads can be rough. Though more people are starting to opt for bicycles to get around, the city is still not bike friendly and drivers tend to dominate the roads.
Where to Eat
Not only is St. Petersburg one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, it is also a top culinary destination! In the city, you can find European, Georgian, and Cuban-themed restaurants, among other tempting offerings. If you’re not sure where to find good eats in the city, try one of these great places to grab a bite!
Baklazhan Ligovsky Ave, 30 А, Sankt-Peterburg Phone: +7 812 640-16-16
Fyodor Dostoevsky Vladimirskiy Prospekt, 9, Sankt-Peterburg Phone: +7 812 334-22-44
Palkin Nevsky avenue, 47, Sankt-Peterburg Phone: +7 812 502-22-00
Café Abat-jour 9-Ya Liniya B.o., 30, Sankt-Peterburg Phone: +7 812 409-00-39
Stroganoff Steak House Konnogvardeyskiy Bul'var, 4, Sankt-Peterburg Phone: +7 812 314-55-14
What to See
The official residence of the Russian monarchs from 1732 to 1917, the Winter Palace is St. Petersburg’s most famous building. The monumental palace is now part of the Hermitage art museum. A stunning example of merging architecture and decorative plastic art, the gorgeous palace is a must-see for all visitors.
Located along the south and west facades of the Russian Admiralty, this monument-filled garden was a popular place for aristocrats to visit. Designed as part of the 200th anniversary of Peter the Great’s birth, the garden was opened in 1874. It is still a very popular place to visit, especially in the summer.
Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul
This is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located inside the Peter and Paul Fortress in the city. St. Petersburg’s oldest landmark, the cathedral boasts the world’s tallest Orthodox bell tower. Though officially designated a museum in 1924, religious services resumed in 2000. The cathedral holds the remains of almost all the Russian emperors and empresses from Peter the Great to Nicholas II.
Tips and Tricks
Plan and reserve your travel and accommodations as far in advance as possible. As St. Petersburg is a highly seasonal destination, prices rise considerably during the high season as opposed to the rest of the year.
If you plan to visit Moscow as well, take the Sapsan. This high-speed train cuts the ride from 9 hours down to about 4.
Dress in layers – the weather in St. Petersburg is variable and fluctuates often.
Peterhof was called a “window into Europe” after its inception in the 1700s. Located on the Gulf of Finland, Peterhof was established as a stop for ships traveling to and from the Kronstadt fortress. Now, you can visit and stroll its majestic fountain park and enjoy the gardens.
An old imperial residence, Pavlovsk gets its name from the emperor Paul I who received the property as a gift from his mother, Catherine the Great. The park is immaculately kept, but the crowning jewel of the area is the Great Palace. There, you can explore the beautifully designed interiors and a small collection of old-world masterpieces during your visit.
The town of Slisselburg was built around a 14th-century fortress which, though made of wood, still remains mostly in tact today. The fortress first served as a defense base, was captured by the Swedes, and was later taken back by Peter the Great. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shlisselburg is a popular destination for day trips from St. Petersburg.