Hi guys, planning a trip to St. Petersburg in winter? You’re in the right place! In this post, I will tell you about the best things to do in St. Petersburg in winter (December, January or February ) and technically during any month that is off-season like November and March, so you can enjoy Russia in winter. Yes, the weather could be tough, but on the other hand, you can experience something new and unique and try some amazing winter activities that involve snow (a lot of it!).
If you’re new to this blog, hi, I’m Liza. I was born and raised in St. Petersburg. Even though I call London my home now, I still try to visit St. Petersburg at least 5 times per year and all my family and most of my friends are still living there. I enjoy writing about my hometown and helping people, who would like to visit St. Petersburg and Russia in general. So in case you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments or message me on Instagram @lizatripsget.
I have a lot of posts about Russia on Tripsget. You can check the entire Russia blog posts category here.
Now when most people can visit St. Petersburg visa-free (read my post about the new free e-visa to St. Petersburg), it’s very easy and cheap to travel to St. Petersburg. Check the prices and availability of the flights to St. Petersburg here >>>
Have you already booked a place to stay in St. Petersburg? These hotels are great, pretty affordable and include breakfast: Le Diaghilev Boutique Hotel, Tuchkov Hotel at the Palace Square and Kaleidoscope on Rubinshteina. Otherwise, check my post about the best areas to stay in Saint Petersburg >>>
Before we start with the best things to do in St. Petersburg in winter, let’s talk about the weather and what to pack for St. Petersburg when it’s cold outside.
What to pack for St. Petersburg in winter. Weather in St. Petersburg in winter
While some people are scared to go to Russia in winter, the others feel challenged and want to experience the coldest weather in their life. The truth is, the weather in St. Petersburg in winter varies a lot. It can be VERY cold or it can be the European average. There is no guarantee that you’ll see white Christmas in St. Petersburg and everything will be covered by white snow and will look like Winter Wonderland.
If you want to see snow in St. Petersburg for sure, come at the beginning of February or at least mid-January. February is also the coldest month in Russia. The average weather in Saint Petersburg in December can be very cold or mild. Check the temperature a couple of days before your trip, however, you can expect anything from +3 to -27 degrees Celcius.
Check the weather forecast 2-3 days in advance and prepare accordingly. If it’s really cold (below -10 degrees Celsius), a heated jacket like this one would be a great idea. Alternatively, a long parka like this one would be great.
Now when you know what to pack for St. Petersburg in winter, let’s start with the great things to do in St. Petersburg in winter!
Wonderful things to do in St. Petersburg in winter
1. Visit a banya
When it’s extremely cold outside, you can hide from the negative temperatures in a very hot place – a Russian traditional sauna called banya. Russian banya experience is pretty unique.
I recommend visiting the banya on Degtyarnaya street – it’s been refurbished and it looks great. People also speak English there, so you won’t feel lost.
Read my ultimate guide to St. Petersburg >>>
2. Eat traditional food in Banshiki restaurant
After you visited traditional Russian banya, you can have a traditional meal with vodka tasting. There is an amazing restaurant in the same building as the banya and it’s called Banshiki. I visited it a couple of weeks ago and was genuinely impressed by the quality and presentation of the food. It’s also not expensive, so it’s a perfect place to try Russian food in Russia.
Read my post about prices in Russia – how much does it cost to travel in Russia >>>
3. Visit the Hermitage Museum
When it’s very cold and miserable outside, you won’t feel bad for spending the entire day at a museum. The Hermitage Museum is one of the biggest museums in the world and you can easily spend an entire day exploring the permanent and temporary exhibitions. Hermitage is not just a museum, it is a former palace, so some of the rooms are quite opulent and very impressive.
Even in winter, the queues to enter the Hermitage can be quite long. However, you can buy a skip-the-line ticket with a tour, that lets you enter the museum without spending time queueing.
4. Go skiing to a countryside club
If you’re seeing snow outside in St. Petersburg, you can go skiing! Even though St. Petersburg doesn’t have mountains, it does have a couple of hills and does have a couple of artificial slopes. There are about three or four skiing resorts in the countryside of St Petersburg. However, they are outside the city so if you need to grab a taxi or hire a car or go there by public transport. I recommend checking Igora, Okhta Park or Tuutari Park.
Igora and Okhta park also have proper hotels, where you can stay overnight and use a spa, swimming pool and a sauna.
5. Learn how to ice skate in one of the skating rinks of St. Petersburg
One of the fun activities to do in St. Petersburg in winter is going ice skating. In winter, there are plenty of outdoor skating rinks and there are also all year long indoor skating rinks in St. Petersburg. If you’re new to ice skating, I would probably recommend going to the indoor skating rink, just because the ice quality is better. If you’ve tried ice skating before then you can go to the outdoor skating rink. There is a fun outdoor ice skating rink at the St. Petersburg Christmas Market in front of the TUZ theatre near Pushkinskaya metro station.
If you want, you can also visit St Petersburg Christmas market. Although, I must admit, that Saint Petersburg Christmas market is not as impressive and beautiful as the one in Moscow. If you also planning to visit Moscow you should check out my blog post about the Moscow Christmas market because it’s one of the best Christmas markets that I have ever seen in the entire world.
6. Visit a traditional Russian village Shuvalovka
Another fun activity in St. Petersburg in winter is to visit a traditional Russian village Shuvalovka located between Strelna and Peterhof. If you’re planning to visit Peterhof Palace anyway (you can check out my post about how to get to Peterhof St Petersburg using public transport). So the village is located close to it.
The only downside is that this village is not a real Russian village. It is an artificial village built as an attraction mostly for kids and young adults for them to know about Russian village life in the past and how Russia used to look like before the Revolution and in the 19th century. I visited this village a couple of times and I found it fun. If you have kids, they can participate in a couple of workshops such as painting clay figures or building some figures from clay. Overall,l it’s a fun thing to do for a couple of hours. If you have some time and you are planning to visit something usual in Saint Petersburg, check out this village.
7. Explore the gorgeous Catherine Palace
If you ever watched the cartoon “Anastasia” you must’ve seen the Catherine Palace featured in the cartoon. Yes, it is this opulent palace with a gorgeous ballroom hall full of gold. Well, the palace with the golden hall is still there. You can visit it and even walk around taking photos. Catherine Palace also has a famous Amber room (it’s sometimes referred to as the 8th wonder of the world). If you can only visit one palace in Russia, I recommend going to the Catherine Palace in winter. Usually, if you visit St. Petersburg in summer I recommend going to Peterhof to see the palace and the fountains. But in winter, when the fountains are off in Peterhof, I recommend going to the Catherine Palace because the palace itself is (in my opinion) more impressive.
You can go there using public transport however if it suits you more you can buy a tour like this one, for example.
8. Explore various books in the Dom Knigi (House of books)
If you’re wondering where to buy books and souvenirs in St Petersburg in winter, I recommend going to the shop called Dom Knigi or House of Books (Address: Nevsky Ave, 28).
It’s a three-storey bookshop located in the heart of the city in the Zinger building in front of the Kazan cathedral. It’s also a great place to hide from the cold even if you don’t I’ll plan on buying a lot of souvenirs or books. They also sell plenty of books in English and many guidebooks about Saint Petersburg in all the languages so if you would like to buy one, head there.
9. Try traditional Russian pies in Pirogovy Dvorik
If it’s really cold in St Petersburg in January or February, you will need some calories that will keep you warm! Head to the chain of traditional pies called Pirogovy Dvorik, where you can try really tasty and affordable Russian food. The pies in Russia can be sweet or savoury. I recommend trying a piece of a savoury pie and a piece of a sweet one. An example of a savoury pie is, for example, potato and mushroom or a cabbage pie. An example of a sweet pie could be a pie with apples and jam or a sweet pie with condensed milk.
Read my post about the best restaurants in St Petersburg Russia, where you can try Russian food >>>
10. Explore the best Russian desserts
In winter, when it’s cold and snowy outside, there is no excuse not to try amazing Russian deserts. You might have heard of Pavlova, however, Pavlova is not the only Russian desert. There are, actually, quite a few! If you want to find out about more you can check my post about the 12+ best Russian desserts.
In case you can only try one dessert in Russia, I recommend trying the honey cake Medovik. If you only can buy something from a shop I recommend buying the Russian marshmallow called Zefir.
11. Play a traditional Soviet Arcade
One of the most unusual things in St Petersburg is the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines located in the heart of the city just next to the Saviour on the Spilled blood church. Technically, it’s not a museum, but a working arcade. It has plenty of arcade machines and you can play there! You need to pay about 450 RUB as an entry fee and then you get 15 or 20 tokens which you can use to play. I recommend visiting the Soviet Arcade Machine Museum is on a weekday in the first half of the day because on the weekend, it gets very crowded. When we were there on Saturday evening, we had to queue for every single machine.
12. Take a bus tour around St. Petersburg in winter
If it’s really cold outside in St Petersburg, I recommend taking a bus tour of the city, so you can avoid being outside. Bus tours are useful because they tell you a lot about the history of the city and they bring you to the most popular landmarks, so you don’t need to research them yourself beforehand. If you’re wondering, which tour to take, here are two of the best-rated bus tours of Saint Petersburg.
If you want to check out more tours in St Petersburg, I have a blog post about the best tours to take in St Petersburg, so feel free to check it out.
13. Visit the Russian Museum
Another place to visit in St Petersburg in January is the Russian museum. The Russian Museum is located on the Arts Square in the city centre next to the Mikhailovsky theatre. The Russian Museum is one of the most important museums in St Petersburg, however, unlike Hermitage, is only holds a collection of the most famous Russian art. If you haven’t heard about Russian art and Russian painters before, it’s a great place to go and explore Russian art. They hold some of the best masterpieces like the 9th Wave or the Last day of Pompeii. You can buy the tickets online to skip the queue.
Apart from the Hermitage and the Russian Museum, there are plenty of other museums you can visit in St. Petersburg. Read my blog post about 15+ amazing museums to visit in St Petersburg Russia >>>
14. Watch opera or ballet in Russia
One of my favourite things to do in St Petersburg would be watching an opera or a ballet performance in one of the best theatres in St. Petersburg. Russia is famous for its ballet and its opulent theatres. The ONLY two theatres I would recommend visiting would be Mikhailovsky and Mariinsky. The obvious thing would be watching either the Swan lake or the Nutcracker, however, most of the good theatres don’t run this plays all year long. In this case, check out my post about ballet and opera in St Petersburg in Russia for suggestions on how to buy tickets and the best performances to see.
15. Explore the most beautiful St. Petersburg metro stations
Saint Petersburg metro is very impressive! And it’s also pretty warm in winter. You can take one of the guided metro tours or check out my post about the most beautiful metro stations in Saint Petersburg and go exploring the metro systems on your own.
So this was it with the best things to do in St Petersburg in December January or February or broadly in winter. if you like this post check out my other content about St Petersburg such as: