Russia

AMAZING things to see in St. Petersburg, Russia recommended by a local

posted by Liza 19th March 2016 7 Comments
St Petersburg travel tips blog

Last updated on April 15th, 2019

St. Petersburg is a beautiful city and I must say that you’re very lucky if you have a chance to visit it. In this post, you will read about AMAZING things to see in St. Petersburg, Russia that are recommended by a local – that’s me. If you didn’t know (e.g. you’re new to this travel blog), hi, I’m Liza. I was born and grew up in Saint Petersburg before starting to travel the world and settling down in London.

If you already bought your tickets to St. Petersburg or only planning your visit and you’re looking for some St. Petersburg travel inspiration, congrats, you’ll find a lot of blog posts about St. Petersburg here!

I wrote this post in 2016, shortly after I started this travel blog, however, I decided to sit down and massively update it in 2019 (it’s still work in progress), after I added a lot of travel information about Saint Petersburg to this blog.

If you’re interested in what to wear in St. Petersburg, what’s the weather like in different months or just looking for generic tips – head to my ultimate guide to St. Petersburg, Russia, where I covered all that. Read it here >>>

Also, if you’re looking for a place to stay and not quite sure, which areas of St. Petersburg are good, head to this post >>>

Without further ado, let’s get started with the best things to see in St. Petersburg, Russia!

AMAZING things to see in St. Petersburg that you will definitely enjoy

In order to get around St. Petersburg by yourself (without a tour), download offline Google Maps. St. Petersburg is pretty walkable (however, it’s actually very big as well, probably bigger, than you think). You can also get everywhere by taxi – for that, you will need to download the Yandex Taxi App or Gett app.

If you prefer a tour that will cover some (if not the most) of the best things to do in Saint Petersburg mentioned on this list, I would recommend this tour here (check the availability and prices here, as some tours sell out very quickly).

I will also list the exact address of all the things to do in Saint Petersburg as well as the working hours, so you can plan your itinerary for St. Petersburg. Most of the museums in Russia don’t work 7 days a week and have a day off – which day it is depends on each museum individually. I’ll list these days off below as well.

1. Admire the Savior on a Spilled Blood Church

best museums in saint petersburg

Address: Griboyedov channel embankment, 2B Nearest metro station – Nevsky Prospekt)

Working hours : it works from 10:30 until 18:00 and closed on Wednesdays

Fee: 350 Rub during the daytime, 400 in the evening (don’t ask me why – I don’t know why it’s more expensive in the evening)

The best of the best of the amazing things to see in Saint Petersburg is the famous Savior on a Spilled Blood Church. You probably think that the “Disneyland-style church” (how some of my Austrian friends called it when they visited it) is St. Basils Cathedral and it’s located in Moscow, but…. Well, you’re absolutely right! However, there is another one, which is located in St. Petersburg, and, personally, I love this one way more. Inside it’s also marvellous!

The Savior on a Spilled Blood Church has very sad history – it was dedicated to the Russian Tsar Alexandre II, who was assassinated on that exact spot. The Church is newer than it seems – it was completed in 1907 compared to 1561 when St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was built.

You don’t really HAVE to go inside, however, you will see very beautifully painted walls – Russian Orthodox Churches generally look like that. The queues are usually not that long, however, make sure you have 1-1.5 hours to allow yourself to buy the ticket, wait in the queue and see what’s inside.

Moreover, there are some nice parks (The Summer Garden, for example), located around this Church. Not mentioning that some other important landmarks are also within 15 min reach.

Read my post about 15 best museums to visit in St. Petersburg >>>

2. Visit the Hermitage Museum and the Palace Square in front of it

Moscow vs St. Petersburg - if you can only visit one city in Russia...
what to do in St. Petersburg, Russia

Address: Palace Square 2 (Admiralteyskaya metro station is the closest)

Working hours: 10:30 (sorry, early birds) to 18:00, extended hours until 21:00 on Wednesday and Friday.  Closed on Mondays, 1st of Jan, 9th of May

Fee: 700 rubles (free every 3rd Thursday of the month, on the 8th of March, 18th of May and 7th of December), free for all students (including international students, just show your ID).  If you buy online, tickets are roughly $17.

The Hermitage is one of the biggest museums in the world and one of the most lavish ones for sure (in terms of the interior and the collection). Even if you’re not a fan of museums, this one is a MUST.

You’ll probably need around 4 hours to jog through all the rooms of Winter Palace part only and more than 1 day to see the artworks located in other buildings as well. If you’re limited by time, just spend circa 2 hours there visiting the throne rooms on the 1st floor and the famous peacock watch. The Hermitage is located on the Palace Square, the main square of the city, so for sure you will see it while heading to the entrance of the museum.

What is the Hermitage famous for?

The Hermitage has a huge collection of paintings (featuring some famous works of Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Monet, Renoir, Raphael and more). Moreover, Hermitage has a lot of sculptures, furniture, ethnographic collections (e.g. the one of the Scythians is particularly impressive), the famous peacock clock and overall, incredibly beautiful rooms that are worth visiting on their own.

You can also buy the skip the line tickets that come with a guided tour to save time and take the most out of your visit to the Hermitage. You can check the prices and availability here >>>

Also, you can stay at the official hotel of the Hermitage Museum. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s the most lavish (or one of the most lavish) hotels in the city. You can check it out here >>>

3. Survive an all-nighter during the famous White Nights 

How expensive is Russia? What’s the cost of travelling in Moscow and St. Petersburg? I’m going to cover this and much more in this post about the cost of travel in Russia. Let’s get started.

When:  End of May – Beginning of July

Well, I would actually place this activity on the first place of the best things to do in Saint Petersburg, however, it’s only feasible during the months of June and early July. As you probably know, St. Petersburg is a Northern city and besides some obvious features of the northern cities (like terrible climate and no sunlight in winter) it has the most amazing summers. They are amazing because the night only lasts for a couple of hours or so and it almost doesn’t get dark.

On a warm day in June (to be precise, from end of May until the beginning of July), you can do an all-nighter in St. Petersburg – just walk around the city, explore the canals and the bridges of the city, eat in one of the hundreds of 24-hour restaurants in St. Petersburg (you can find literally anything that is open 24 hours in St. Petersburg – from pharmacies to restaurants and nail bars), all located in the city centre.

I really miss these amazing summer days when I used to meet with my friends around 9 pm in the evening, head to a cafe and start wandering around the beautiful city centre for hours, until, eventually, we would get hungry again and go for sushi around 3 am. 

Read my post about the best itinerary for St. Petersburg in 72 hours >>>

4. Enjoy the fountains and the lavish palace of Peterhof

Moscow or St. Petersburg
Best museums in St. Petersburg, Russia

Address: Sankt-Peterburgskiy Prospekt 48 (Peterhof is outside the city, read my guide to getting to Peterhof here >>>)

Working hours: Monday – closed. Winter season (until the 26th of April and since the 15th of October) – 09:00 to 19:00; the palace is open from 10:30 until 18:00, last admission 17:00;  Summer season – 08:00 until 21:00 and since 10:30 am for the palace (last admission 20:00).

Fee: 900 lower park with fountains, 1000 the palace

I assure you that the Palace in Peterhof along with the great park full of fountains will be the most impressive palace you’ve seen in your life! It was intended to be better than Versailles and most people actually prefer Peterhof. Peterhof is located outside the city of Saint Petersburg and it takes around 1 hour by taxi or 1.5 hours by public transport to get there. There’s also a speed boat to Peterhof that departs from the Dvortsovaya Pier. If you’re interested in visiting Peterhof, read my post about getting to Peterhof, where I list all the way to get to Peterhof, the easiest one, the cheapest one etc.

Peterhof has a lavish palace and a fabulous fountain park. While you can visit the Palace all year long, the fountains only work from the end of April until the mid-October.

5. Watch a ballet or an opera in one of the best theatres in the world

St. Petersburg ballet - where to see ballet in Russia
Mikhailvosky Theatre

Where: Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky Theatres

One of the best experiences ever that you can find in Saint Petersburg is watching a ballet or an opera performance in one of the best theatres of the world. St. Petersburg has two amazing theatres: Mariinsky (former Kirov) – the most famous one and Mikhailovsky, which is also amazing. I honestly prefer Mikhailovsky and I visited it around 20 times, but I also love Mariinsky. You can buy tickets online – both websites have English versions and there is no need to buy through resellers.

I would recommend watching the Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, La Fille Mal Gardee, Giselle from the ballets. There are also, of course, other amazing performances.

Read my guide to how to buy tickets for opera and ballet in St. Petersburg, what and where to watch and where NOT to watch ballet in Russia >>>

6. Watch the drawbridges open at night

best things to do in St. Petersburg drawbridges

Where: most bridges across the Neva river

When: ca 1:30 am (arrive early) and they stay open until 04:30 am (approx and depending on each bridge)

Another of the best attractions in Saint Petersburg is the drawbridges that open at night. Watching the bridges open is actually pretty romantic, so don’t miss out on bringing your other half there. The bridges open from the end of April to November and block the people who want to go home that is on the other side of the city (in the north). However, St. Petersburg is so famous for these bridges and most people love it, so residents are normally willing to live with it, even if it means taking the ring road and driving extra 30 km. 

The absolute best bridge to watch would be the famous Palace bridge next to the Hermitage museum. However, there are also plenty of other options including the Troitsky Bridge, Liteyniy Bridge, Trinity Bridge, Exchange Bridge and more. You can see the full list of the bridges and their opening times here.

7. Get the Anastasia movie vibes in the gorgeous Catherine Palace

Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg in winter
St Petersburg travel tips blog

Address: Garden St, 7, Pushkin town (it’s outside St. Petersburg, however, very close to the city)

Opening times:  Closed on Sundays (all year) and on Sundays and last Monday of the month (from October to April only). Open from 12:00 until 17:00.

Fee: 1000 rub for the palace and 150 rub for the park entrance (which you need to pay to be able to walk to the palace).

Catherine Palace is absolutely gorgeous. The main ballroom (which you might have seen in the Anastasia movie (cartoon) from Disney, the Amber room, the outside area – all these places are unmatchable. Catherine palace is my absolutely favourite palace and I definitely recommend it to everyone. Even if you’re visiting St. Petersburg for 72 hours, you can still visit the palace, as it’s located pretty close to the city.

The easiest way to visit the palace is to buy a tour (check the prices and the availability online here) >>>

8. Take a 2-hour river and canal cruise

canal cruise Saint petersburg
best museums in st petersburg

Where: Moyka, Fontanka, Neva and Griboedov Canal rivers

When: Mid-April to October (depending on the weather conditions)

River and canal cruises are really popular in St. Petersburg and I would definitely recommend you to go on one of these cruises. You get a totally different view of the city and you can actually spot a lot of famous landmarks from there. Some canals are so narrow that seeing the boat navigating there is already an attraction itself. However, the river cruises are not available when the canals are frozen and that’s roughly from the end of October to mid-April. Also, when it’s cold, sitting outside it’s pretty miserable, so you need to dress warm or pick a boat that has an inside section with heating.

You can buy the tours in person on the crossing of Moyka embankment / Neva River or online – you can check the prices and availability here (it’s a very affordable tour)

9. See where it all started in the Peter and Paul Fortress.

best museums in saint petersburg, russia
Photo by Andrey / Pixabay as I don’t have a decent photo

Address: Next to the Gor’kovskaya metro station

Opening times: 09:30 until 20:00, but it’s closed on Wednesdays. The Cathedral is open until 18:00.

Fee: the fortress is free, however, the museums inside are not. The entrance to the Cathedral is around 550 Rub.

That’s the place where it all began in 1703. Saint Petersburg is located on 33 different islands and that one (Hare or Zayaciy Island) was the island where the first building was constructed. Later a fortress was erected here. The fortress is really interesting inside too, you can visit various museums and the first cathedral ever built in St. Petersburg. Every day at 12 pm a cannon inside the Fortress fires, it’s quite loud but, don’t get scared, be prepared.

10. Visit the Isaac’s Cathedral

Isaac's Cathedral - best museums in Saint Petersburg
how expensive is Russia, Moscow and St Petersburg prices (2 of 7)
The view from the Colonnades

Address: St Isaac’s Square, 4 (closest metro station – Admiralteyskaya)

Opening times: 10:30 until 18:30, in the summer season (27th of April – 30th of September) additional working hours until 22:30. Closed on Wednesdays

Fee: 350 Rub for the Cathedral and 200 for the Colonnades. You can buy the tickets online if you want – here.

This majestic cathedral is one of the tallest dome-shaped cathedrals in the entire world. It’s not a working cathedral so inside there is a church-museum.

After you’ve seen what’s inside, you can climb on top of the Cathedral (the Colonnades) and enjoy the most beautiful city panorama in Saint Petersburg. Just stunning. You can go there in the evening and see the sunset.

11. See a holy mess in the Kazan Cathedral

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Address: Kazan Square, 2 (closest metro station – Nevsky Prospekt)

Opening times: 06:30 until 20:00

Fee: free (it’s a functioning cathedral)

Located just outside the Nevsky Prospect metro station, Kazan Cathedral is very easy to reach and impossible to not see. The first thing you see exiting the metro hall is this gorgeous building. It may remind you of the Vatican, as it really looks a bit similar but inside it’s totally different. Since it’s the working cathedral, the entrance is free and you may also have a chance to see a real Russian holy mess. That’s something very special.

12. Find the most beautiful metro station in St. Petersburg

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