Top 10 (or 20) things to see, visit and do in St. Petersburg as a tourist
Saint-Petersburg is a fascinating place which dazzles the eye of a visitor with numerous architectural landmarks, museums, palaces, parks, wide avenues, spectacular bridges and stylish monuments. The most popular time to visit the city is from May till October, when the weather is warm and it permits many activities that are not possible in winter (like Boat trips, long walks, visit of the Petergoff Fountains, looking at the rising bridges at night and so on). The city is especially beautiful during magical White Nights, which start in the beginning of June and lasts up to the middle of July. But if you want to spend much time in museums and theater, it is recommended to travel not in the summer, to avoid crowds in the museums (especially in the Hermitage). Also, accommodation prices out of the summer are much lower.
10 things to do in St. Petersburg, the most essential
1. Visit the Hermitage Museum - one of the most important museums in the world. It occupies the former residence of the Russian tsars, including the "Winter Palace". More info: Hermitage Museum. The museum is located in the beautiful Palace Square, main square of the city.
2. Stroll along the Nevsky Prospect, the main street, informing yourself beforehand about the tourist attractions and interesting things that are located in the way. Apart of Nevsky Avenue, visit the most beautiful places, such as the Senat Square, Split of Vasilievsky Island and others. The easiest and fastest way is to make a guided sightseeing tour (for example, you can book it at our Guided Tours page), which lets you view everything in a few hours, but you can also do it yourself.
3. Visit any or all the main churches of St. Petersburg: The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul (in the Fortress), St. Isaac's Cathedral, the Church of Christ the Savior on the Spilled Blood, St. Nicholas Cathedral, St. Vladimir Cathedral, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, Alexander Nevsky Convent and others. Some of these churches function as museums, others are of worship.
4. Travel by metro / subway (out of the peak / rush hour!). The Saint Petersburg Metro is the deepest in the world. It was opened in 1955 and many stations, as in the Moscow metro, were built as "palaces for the people" and have a majestic decoration (marble, mosaics, sculptures), especially the line 1 (red one). The access to the platform is made by a very long escalator (100 meters).
5. Visit the traditional historical stores / shops (Book House / Dom Knigui, Gostiny Dvor, Passage, Eliseev store) and souvenir markets (the largest is next to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood). Buy some book (there are books about St. Petersburg in English), calendar, postcards, or something of Russian crafts or souvenirs.
6. Attend Opera or Ballet at one of the theaters, or Philharmonic Hall (classical music).
7. Try traditional Russian food at one of the local restaurants. Especially Borsh or Solianka soups, typical salads, "pelmeni", "blinis" (pancakes), beef "Stroganoff" or other Russian dishes that can be advised by local people. There are also some typical drinks like "Kvass" (non-alcoholic), local beer or vodka. The drinks can be found in restaurants, cafes or at any supermarket.
Things and activities to do in the SUMMER:
8. Make a boat trip on the canals or river Neva.
9. Visit Peterfoff parks with fountains. Petergoff is a former Russian Tsar summer residence. Preferably traveling there by speed boat in the Gulf of Finland. In the middle of the park is the Great Palace, it is also worth seeing.
10. At night go strolling along the waterfront of the Neva river and watch the rising of the bridges. The brigdes are rised to give a pass to the merchant ships. This has become a show that attracts thousands of tourists and locals. The viewers are watching it on the banks of the river and also there are organized excursions and boat trips to view the bridges from the water. Of course, this is possible during the navigation in summer. In winter the rivers and canals are frozen, there is no navigation and the bridges do not rise.
For those who want to go deeper, there are 10 other activities in St. Petersburg:
11. Visit the State Russian Museum. It will be more interesting to do it with professional guide who can explain well about Russian painters, the paintings, art and historical facts. This museum is the biggest collection of Russian art. Icons, paintings, sculpture. The Russian Museum is located at the Mikhailovsky Palace, on the Square or Arts (behind the Grand Europe Hotel if we see from Nevsky prospect). You can book a tour here: Guided Tours page.
12. Visit the Park and Catherine Palace in Pushkin (or Tsarskoye Selo) - the summer residence of the Russian tsars with the famous Amber Chamber (or the Amber Room). For those, who are very interested in Russian history, in Pushkin there is also another palace: Alexandrovsky Palace, where the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II was living with his family, till their departure to Siberia in 1918. The sightseeing in Pushkin can be combined with a visit to Pavlovsk Palace - another residence of the Tsars, surrounded by a huge park. In summer, a guaranteed visit to these places is recommended with a guided tours, with the entrance tickets are booked well in advance. For example, you can book such tour at our Guided Tours page.
13. Search and browse the most interesting St. Petersburg Bridges.
14. Walking through the "Neighborhood of Dostoevsky" - a historic old town area (it is not an official name, it is an area in the district Admiralteisky, near Hay Square). The best ride is going there is from the bustling Hay Square by Griboedov canal embankment to the opposite direction to the center. There you are can find old houses and streets, romantic canals (Griboedov, Moika, Kriukov), impressive churches (such as St. Nicholas Church), very few people and cars at the streets and the "spirit" of "Old Petersburg".
15. Visit (with a guide) the Palace of the Prince Yusupov - apart from the rooms (and even their family theater) of this particular palace, you can see the basement where was killed the famous mystic and favorite of the last Russian Tsar - Grigory Rasputin (there is an exhibition of wax figures).
16. Strolling through the Summer Garden - beautiful garden with Italian statues, created by Peter the Great (in the summer).
17. Visit (better with a guide who can better explain what you see) the Museum of Russian Political History. It is a very interesting and useful place to know more about Russian history, especially the twentieth century.
18. Visit the Convent (also called "Laura" or "Monastery") of Alexander Nevsky - Monastery with several churches and cemeteries of the famous people of Russian culture (writers, composers ...).
19. Board the battleship Aurora - symbol of revolution in Russia, which in 1917 gave the signal for the start of the Bolshevik Communist Revolution.
20. Go out of the center of St. Petersburg, to learn the modern neighborhoods. They are totally different from what you see in the historic city center. Most of the population (over 5 millions of people) live in modern neighborhoods far from the center.
Other interesting places, not mentioned above:
Vitebsk train station: wonderful example of arquitecture of modernism (Art
Mariinsky Theater (Kirov)
If you have suggestions what else you would recommend to visit in St. Petersburg, or see any mistakes or errors, please, let us know.
Practical information for travelling to Saint Petersburg
Money: Russian currency is Rouble. You can bring US dollars or Euro (banknotes in good condition) and change them in Russia, it is very easy to change them in the city, there are many banks and exchange points. Also, you can get cash from ATM machines and use your credit card. You must pay in roubles or by credit card in shops and restaurants, dollars or euros can be accepted only for some private services, also they are accepted at sovenier markets.
For your safety: St. Petersburg is generally safe, people are pacific and reserved. But, anyway, it is a big city with all kind of people. Be careful with people you do not know, the first time it is better to meet them on neutral territory: park, cafe. Do not open the door if you do not know a person calling, just do not answer. Hide well your wallet and expensive digital camera when walking, do not use crowded public transportation, because some pick-pockets exist, especially in crowded central areas, Nevsky prospect, shopping centers, subway, public transport, coffee-houses, etc. They are very professional and can act in pairs or groups, so, put your wallet, passport and valuebles into the inner pockets, do not have them at your bagpack or exterior pockets and do not leave your belongings not attended.
Electricity: Russian standard is 220 Volts AC, 50 Hertz.
Shops: The most of the shops work every day (including weekend) and do not have a lunch brake. Usually the stores are open since 10.00. till 20.00., 21.00. or 22.00. There are stores, cafes, etc. open 24h.
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