Saint Petersburg travel guide

Saint Petersburg Tourism | Saint Petersburg Guide

You're Going to Love Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg is the second-largest city in Russia and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe. With a population of more than 5 million, it has a huge historic city center, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a city of architecture and culture but the nightlife is pretty great, too.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Saint Petersburg

1. The Hermitage Museum/The Winter Palace

This is one of the world's greatest museums, with more than 3 million exhibits. It has countless priceless artworks by the great masters and the building itself is fabulous.

2. Opera and Ballet

Seeing an opera or ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre is one of the city's great treats.

3. Rooftop Tours and Restaurants

There are no towers in Saint Petersburg, so for the best views you need to take a rooftop tour or eat in one of the rooftop restaurants.

4. Canal Tours

This is a more leisurely way to see the best of the city and enjoy its beautiful network of canals.

5. Architecture

The city contains some astonishing architecture and just walking in the historic center allows you to enjoy some of the most splendid buildings.

What to do in Saint Petersburg

1. Hermitage Museum: Great Art, Great Architecture

The State Hermitage Museum housed in the Winter Palace is the most popular tourist attraction in Saint Petersburg. The museum has more than three million exhibits and it is said that it would take 11 years to view every single one of them, so you couldn't ask for a better excuse to plan many return visits to the city. The Winter Palace itself is perhaps the most famous building in this world-renowned city. It has its origins in a wooden house built for Peter the Great in 1708 but was not completed until the reign of Catherine the Great in 1762. The vast structure on Palace Square is simply breathtaking and the ornate facade makes for a great souvenir photograph.

2. Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood: Monument to a Fallen Tsar

The Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood was built to mark the site where the Tsar Alexander II was killed in 1881 by an anarchist's grenade. A shrine inside the church marks the exact spot on the road where the Tsar fell, with elaborate decoration contrasting the simple cobblestones of the original road on the floor of the shrine. The church cost an estimated 4.5 million roubles at the time of its construction, and was paid for by the Tsar's son, Alexander III, and other wealthy donors. You will immediately notice that the architecture is different from other buildings in the city, recalling the medieval Russian style of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

3. Petrodvorets: The Russian Versailles

Petrodvorets, also known as Peterhof, is a complex of palaces built on the orders of Peter the Great. The palaces and gardens are often called the "Russian Versailles" and are part of Saint Petersburg's UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fountains are particularly impressive and use gravity rather than pumps to power the jets of water. The beautiful palace interiors and ornate formal gardens provide a wonderful backdrop to one of the most inspiring areas in the city.

4. Summer Garden: Peter the Great's First Palace

Peter the Great founded the Summer Garden in 1704. The Tsar was also involved in the planning of the garden along geometric principles. There are lots of statues imported from Europe, along with fountains and rare imported plants. It was the site of lots of courtly activities for the Russian aristocracy at the time, serving at the location for many balls and parties. This is also the site of the Summer Palace, a relatively modest building which was the first palace built by Peter the Great in the city. It remains almost unaltered and provides visitors with a glimpse of what imperial life was like in Russian 300 years ago.

5. St. Isaac's Cathedral: A Dome of Pure Gold

St. Isaac's Cathedral is the largest Orthodox basilica in the world and the fourth-largest cathedral. It was built from 1818 to 1858 and one of its most striking features is the dome, plated in pure gold and rising 333 feet into the Saint Petersburg skyline. The interior features a host of intricate mosaics and ornate masonry. Once inside you can climb the 300 steps to the colonnade for some wonderful views across the city.

Hermitage MuseumHermitage Museum
Church of the Savior on the Spilled BloodChurch of the Savior on the Spilled Blood
PetrodvoretsPetrodvorets
Summer GardenSummer Garden

1. Hermitage Museum: Great Art, Great Architecture

The State Hermitage Museum housed in the Winter Palace is the most popular tourist attraction in Saint Petersburg. The museum has more than three million exhibits and it is said that it would take 11 years to view every single one of them, so you couldn't ask for a better excuse to plan many return visits to the city. The Winter Palace itself is perhaps the most famous building in this world-renowned city. It has its origins in a wooden house built for Peter the Great in 1708 but was not completed until the reign of Catherine the Great in 1762. The vast structure on Palace Square is simply breathtaking and the ornate facade makes for a great souvenir photograph.

2. Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood: Monument to a Fallen Tsar

The Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood was built to mark the site where the Tsar Alexander II was killed in 1881 by an anarchist's grenade. A shrine inside the church marks the exact spot on the road where the Tsar fell, with elaborate decoration contrasting the simple cobblestones of the original road on the floor of the shrine. The church cost an estimated 4.5 million roubles at the time of its construction, and was paid for by the Tsar's son, Alexander III, and other wealthy donors. You will immediately notice that the architecture is different from other buildings in the city, recalling the medieval Russian style of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

3. Petrodvorets: The Russian Versailles

Petrodvorets, also known as Peterhof, is a complex of palaces built on the orders of Peter the Great. The palaces and gardens are often called the "Russian Versailles" and are part of Saint Petersburg's UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fountains are particularly impressive and use gravity rather than pumps to power the jets of water. The beautiful palace interiors and ornate formal gardens provide a wonderful backdrop to one of the most inspiring areas in the city.

4. Summer Garden: Peter the Great's First Palace

Peter the Great founded the Summer Garden in 1704. The Tsar was also involved in the planning of the garden along geometric principles. There are lots of statues imported from Europe, along with fountains and rare imported plants. It was the site of lots of courtly activities for the Russian aristocracy at the time, serving at the location for many balls and parties. This is also the site of the Summer Palace, a relatively modest building which was the first palace built by Peter the Great in the city. It remains almost unaltered and provides visitors with a glimpse of what imperial life was like in Russian 300 years ago.

5. St. Isaac's Cathedral: A Dome of Pure Gold

St. Isaac's Cathedral is the largest Orthodox basilica in the world and the fourth-largest cathedral. It was built from 1818 to 1858 and one of its most striking features is the dome, plated in pure gold and rising 333 feet into the Saint Petersburg skyline. The interior features a host of intricate mosaics and ornate masonry. Once inside you can climb the 300 steps to the colonnade for some wonderful views across the city.

Hermitage MuseumHermitage Museum
Church of the Savior on the Spilled BloodChurch of the Savior on the Spilled Blood
PetrodvoretsPetrodvorets
Summer GardenSummer Garden

Top activities & attractions in Saint Petersburg

Where to Eat in Saint Petersburg

Pirogi on Nab. reki Fontanki offers dishes of traditional Russian pies and salad for around ₽200. Austeria on Iohann Alley, by the Peter and Paul Fortress, has high-quality Russian cuisine for around ₽1,150.

When to visit Saint Petersburg

Saint Petersburg in November
Estimated hotel price
$82
1 night at 3-star hotel
Saint Petersburg in November
Estimated hotel price
$82
1 night at 3-star hotel

Saint Petersburg can get very cold in the winter. Daylight is also short, at less than six hours. Summers are wet and warm but spring is perhaps the best balance of dry and cool.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Fahrenheit (°F)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Saint Petersburg

Plane

Saint Petersburg is served by Pulkovo Airport (LED), which has many international connections. It is 12 miles south of the city center and the number 39 bus will take you there for ₽40 in about 30 minutes. A taxi into the center will cost around ₽1,000.

Train

Saint Petersburg has no fewer than five main train stations. There are many domestic and international connections and the high-speed service will take you to Moscow in five hours for ₽2,000.

Car

Driving in Russia can be challenging, with Cyrillic road signs and some poor road surfaces. The main M10 motorway runs from the Finnish border to Saint Petersburg and Moscow and is a little better than most.

Bus

Saint Petersburg's main bus station is Avtovokzal, which has extensive connections to the Baltic States and major European cities.

Airports near Saint Petersburg

Airlines serving Saint Petersburg

KLM
Good (348 reviews)
Air France
Good (399 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,324 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,208 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (958 reviews)
Korean Air
Excellent (245 reviews)
Pegasus Airlines
Good (224 reviews)
Oman Air
Excellent (5 reviews)
Air Serbia
Good (36 reviews)
Kenya Airways
Good (39 reviews)
EL AL
Excellent (110 reviews)
Uzbekistan Airways
Good (9 reviews)
Azerbaijan Airlines
Excellent (3 reviews)
Nouvelair
Okay (5 reviews)
FLYONE
Mediocre (1 reviews)
SCAT Airlines
Excellent (3 reviews)
S7 Airlines
Okay (8 reviews)
AZIMUTH
Excellent (1 reviews)
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Where to stay in Saint Petersburg

Palace Square - this is Saint Petersburg's historical and cultural center and is home to the beautiful Winter Palace.

Popular Neighborhoods in Saint Petersburg

Nevsky Prospekt - this neighborhood has some of the best hotels and shopping in the city and also some good bars.

Vasilievsky Island - Vasilievsky Island is an artsy district with lots of theaters and is home to the Saint Petersburg State University and Menshikov Palace.

Most popular hotel in Saint Petersburg by neighborhood

Where to stay in popular areas of Saint Petersburg

Most booked hotels in Saint Petersburg

Hotel Saint Petersburg
Excellent (9.1, 48 reviews)
$58+
Tsar Palace Luxury Hotel & Spa
Excellent (9.7, 5 reviews)
$87+
Park Inn by Radisson Pulkovskaya Hotel & Conferenc
Excellent (9.8, 2 reviews)
$51+
Solo Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge
Excellent (8, 8 reviews)
$147+
Azimut Hotel Saint-Petersburg
Excellent (8.5, 3 reviews)
$76+
Shouyuan Hotel
Excellent (8.4, 2 reviews)
$45+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Saint Petersburg

Public Transportation

Saint Petersburg has a huge subway system with frequent trains and a flat fare of ₽35. Buses and trolley buses cost from ₽30.

Taxi

Taxis are plentiful but watch out for scams. The initial fare is ₽200 and then ₽30 per mile.

Car

Driving in Saint Petersburg is relatively trouble-free within the city and car rental is widely available from around ₽3,000. Hertz and Avis outlets can be found in town.

The Cost of Living in Saint Petersburg

Shopping Streets

The area around Nevsky Prospekt is home to most of the big stores. Here you will find fashion, leather goods, jewelry, and technology stores.

Groceries and Other

24-hour supermarkets are common around the city. Milk is around ₽60 per quart and a loaf of bread is ₽44.

Cheap meal
$8.68
A pair of jeans
$88.75
Single public transport ticket
$0.61
Cappuccino
$2.34