Last updated on July 16th, 2017
In this ultimate guide to St. Petersburg, Russia, you’ll find everything you need for a trip to the cultural capital of Russia and read quite a few tips from a local.
Have you ever thought of going to Russia? Russia is the biggest country in the world, and it has plenty of places to visit. Siberia, Kamchatka, Far East, Sochi and the South and Karelia, I can continue this list for ages. Even though I’m Russian, I haven’t been to most of these places (somehow people think that a Russian person must have been everywhere in Russia and of course, have seen some bears in the wild). Well, that’s not about me. I’ve only been to Moscow, Sochi, Karelia, Pskov, Vyborg and Nizhny Novgorod. But in this post, I’ll tell you about Saint Petersburg, the most beautiful and the most European city in Russia, where I was born and lived most of my life. I haven’t seen much comprehensive content about Saint Petersburg online and even fewer travel guides to St. Petersburg, Russia, so I hope this guide to St. Petersburg will be very useful for you.
In this ultimate travel guide to St. Petersburg, Russia you’ll find information covering visas, weather, what to wear in St. Petersburg, things to see, basic phrases in Russian, food, transport, accommodation and cost of living.
Saint Petersburg is probably one of the most underestimated cities in the world. It deserves way more tourists than it has because its architecture is no worse than in Paris. However, the visa policy of Russia is very complicated, moreover, there are no low-cost airlines flying to Russia (except for Easyjet, which has a flight to Moscow), so it’s quite hard and expensive to get there unless you’re travelling from the neighbouring countries like Estonia or Finland. Hopefully, this guide to St. Petersburg will help to make your visit to this beautiful city a little bit easier.
Visa to St. Petersburg, Russia
There’s still an opportunity to visit St. Petersburg visa-free for 72 hours, in case you’re arriving to St. Petersburg by ferry from Estonia, Sweden or Finland. Read more about visa-free St. Petersburg in this post. Also, I created a special route for 72 hours in St. Petersburg and you can find it HERE.
Otherwise (if you’re intending to visit St. Petersburg by car or plane or even bus), you need to apply for a Russian visa. You can find more information about Russian visas here.
How much time do you need in St. Petersburg?
Even though Saint Petersburg is a huge city with a large historical city centre as well as marvellous palaces in the suburbs, it’s possible to visit some of the landmarks within 3 days. In order to discover all the main landmarks, you will probably need at least 10 days. If you’re staying for 2 weeks, I also recommend you to take a weekend cruise to Karelia, an amazing place in the North of Russia.
The guide to weather in St. Petersburg
The weather in Saint Petersburg is very unpredictable. Have you ever been to Edinburgh, Scotland? Well, it’s quite similar to that. (In case you haven’t been to Edinburgh: the weather changes every 15 minutes). The summers in St. Petersburg can be either very hot (up to 30 degrees Celsius) or most probably quite rainy and chilly (for example, last summer it was raining a lot, and the average daily temperature was around 20-21 degrees). The best months to visit Saint Petersburg would be May to end of September and January (if you’re not afraid of the cold). Also, I guess the beginning of October would be nice and very impressive (with all these yellow leaves).
The average temperature in January is low: be prepared for it to be below zero (sometimes significantly below zero). I would suggest you bring a really warm snow parka and a moderately warm jacket. Don’t forget a hat and some warm gloves. You will also need some fleece pants or fleece pants to keep you warm outside. Don’t forget about warm boots too. UGGs for girls will do, but guys will need something equally warm. You’ll need to walk a lot around the city and suffering from cold isn’t enjoyable.
February is pretty much the same as January. However, sometimes it could be very rainy, so bring the warm waterproof boots.
March in St. Petersburg is cold, too. Though, not as cold as January. The temperatures are slowly rising and striving towards zero, in the middle of March it’s usually around +4- +7 Celsius, while in the end of March it could already be around +10 – +13 degrees. You will need a waterproof jacket (in the case of some wet snow).
April can be both: freezing cold and very warm. Which one would you get? A mystery. Usually, it’s very cold at the beginning of April but closer towards the end of April you could experience even 25 degrees. This April was a disaster though, with the temperatures being close to 0 the whole month.
May is a great month in St. Petersburg. It’s usually from moderately warm to very warm. You need to bring very different sets of clothes though – a wool coat for cold days and maybe a hoodie for warm days.
June is pretty unpredictable: it usually gets quite chilly in the middle of June: the weather could be rainy and the temperatures could be pretty low for the summer standards: around 14 degrees Celsius. However, in the end of June, it’s usually way warmer: around 20-25 degrees. However, it makes sense to always bring a coat or jacket with you. For example, this one would be perfect for summer in St. Petersburg, Russia. In this guide to St. Petersburg, I recommend you to visit St. Petersburg in the end of June – beginning of July.
July is definitely the best month to visit St. Petersburg: it’s usually warm, sometimes even hot. Bring some jeans and jackets, but don’t forget about shorts and T-shirts, as the temperatures could reach 30 degrees!
August is great in the beginning, but the Autumn usually starts in the middle of August: it’s not so warm anymore: around 16-22 degrees and it gets colder every day.
September – The weather in September is usually alright during the first half of the months, but after the 25th of September it usually gets very cold, the temperatures can sink to zero.
October – October is already very cold in Russia, the average daily temperature is around 2-7 degrees and at night it can get to minus. You will need the same clothes as in March!
November – It usually snows in November in Saint Petersburg, but most of the times it rains. While October is a very beautiful month (yellow leaves in the parks and so on), November is my least favourite: it’s cold, wet and grey.
December – in December, the weather is pretty much the same as in November, but there is usually more snow and more changes between streets full of snow – and plus temperatures
The struggle is real or how to communicate in Russia
We, Russians (Yes, I’m originally from Russia), aren’t famous for speaking multiple languages. That means that asking questions in English on the street will be hard, but not impossible. In case you are completely lost and need help, try to ask some young people (20-30-year-olds), as, most probably, they know at least a couple of words in English.
Don’t worry about metro, though – everything is written in 2 languages, Russian and English, so you can easily get around (in Moscow it’s not like that, for example). Also, in most of the restaurants in the city centre, you will find an English menu and the waiters will be able to speak a bit of English.
However, it makes sense to try to learn Cyrillic letters at least a little bit in order to be able to read. And, of course, learn some phrases in Russian. In this guide to St. Petersburg, I will list some of the most useful phrases in Russian and their translation to English, so here they are:
Good Morning/Good Afternoon – Dobroje Utro /Dobri Den
Please – Pozhalujsta
Thank you – Spasibo
Goodbye – Do svidanija
Sorry, Excuse me – Izvinite
Where is – Gde
Where is the subway? – Gde metro?
I am lost – Ya zabludilsja
1 Coffee, please – Odin kofe, pozhalujsta
They might seem a bit complicated, but once you learn them, your visit to Russia won’t be so painful in terms of communication.
Where to stay in Saint Petersburg
One of the most important parts of this guide to St. Petersburg, is probably the accommodation part. It’s fine to stay everywhere in the city centre (well, beyond the city centre too, but the city outside the city centre gets quite ugly). In case you’re looking for a very budget accommodation, it makes sense to rent a flat on Airbnb, for example, but the cheapest options will be outside the city centre, and well, you can stay there, but it’s not so nice. The outskirts of St. Petersburg are pretty safe, but they just don’t look nice, unless you’re staying in the suburbs like Pushkin or Peterhof (with huge palaces and full of tourists).
I would recommend you to stay in accommodation near following tube stations:
– Nevsky Prospekt
– Plotschad Vosstaniya
– Plotschad Aleksandra Nevskogo
Or just check the St. Petersburg hotel page!
Things to see in St. Petersburg:
There are so many places you can visit in St. Petersburg. I will name a few here, but if you want to know more about it, please head to this post: top 10 things to do in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Hermitage Museum
The Peterhof Palace and the fountain park
The Peter and Paul Fortress
The Saviour of the Spilt Blood Church
The Marble Palace
the Mikhailovsky Castle
The Isaac’s Cathedral
The Kazan cathedral
The Catherine Palace
the Gatchina Palace
The Pavlovsk Palace
In case you want to watch a traditional Russian ballet, head to either Mikhailovsky or Mariinsky Theater or check out my post about ballet in Russia for more information!
Where & what to eat in St. Petersburg, Russia
One of the last parts of this guide to St. Petersburg is about the food. This might sound surprising to you, but food in St. Petersburg is really tasty. The city has plenty of restaurants, cafes and gastropubs for any budget.
I have a post about 5 best budget restaurants in St. Petersburg
However, there are more not really expensive places with exquisite food.
In case you’re in the mood for a burger, check:
Ketch Up Burgers
Something quick and tasty like shawarma or burrito:
Best Italian food & pizza
22 centimeters (22 сантиметра)
Best panoramic restaurants:
Best Russian food:
ARKA Bar & Grill
Best cocktail bars:
or just head to Rubinshteina street – it’s full of awesome places
Best southern food (worth trying, e.g. Georgian cuisine)
Best Asian restaurants:
Jack & Chan
Wong Kar Wine
Which dishes you have to try if you’re visiting Russia:
Pirogi (pies with various fillings)
In case you’re interested in tailored cost based on your own travel habits, don’t forget to check our free travel App Tripsget out.
However, these are the typical costs in St. Petersburg
Metro ride – 45 rub ($0.8)
Bus ride – 35 rub ($0.6)
Coffee – 210 rub ($4)
Lunch in a budget place – 250 rub
Dinner in a nice restaurant – 1200 rub pp
Entry to a museum/palace – 400-700 rub
River cruise – 600-800 rub
Getting to St. Petersburg from the Airport
In case you’re on budget, there is a public bus, which goes directly to the metro station Moskovskaya (just a few stops away from the city centre)
In case, your budget allows you to take a taxi, don’t hesitate and do it. However, it’s always better to ask the price before getting in the car (to avoid getting ripped off), the price of getting to the city centre shouldn’t be more than 800-1000 rub.
St. Petersburg is quite a safe city, but avoid walking in the outskirts alone at night.
Hopefully, this guide to St. Petersburg, Russia was useful for you! Please, don’t hesitate to ask any questions in the comments (or by messaging us directly) and please, spread the word and save this pin about the ultimate guide to St. Petersburg, Russia on Pinterest!