Visit St Petersburg, city of Russian culture and bohemian people!
Gorgeous city of St Petersburg is beloved by tourists. This is not by accident. Founded by Peter the great in the 18th century it so resembles old Europe with typical for this time buildings, tiny streets, and spirit. Visit St Petersburg tours and discover the second Russian capital!
Many tourists consider St Petersburg to be the most beautiful city not only of Russia but of all Europe. St Petersburg is not only one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but also a city with a fascinating history, filled with great victories and hardest misfortunes.
Holidays in St Petersburg are to inspire you to make own tailor-made tour. ExploRussia team will be happy to customize any tour to suit it for your timing, interests and style of travel. Just send us an inquiry for your tour to St Petersburg! Now travelling to St Petersburg is easier. Citizens of most countries may apply for an electronic visa. Check the info in our Russian e-visa guide!
Good To Know
TRAVEL TO ST PETERSBURG. EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.
What is the history of St Petersburg?
On May 16, 1703, the construction of the Peter and Paul Fortress started at the order of Peter the Great and this is the year when St Petersburg was founded. According to the idea of the Tsar, St Petersburg was to take on the role of the political and cultural capital of the country to become the “new Rome”. The Peter and Paul Fortress was aimed at controlling the Neva River to protect from Sweden. As a result of the war with the Swedes (1700-1721), Russia conquered the Neva Valley from the Swedes. At the end of the war, an empire was born, and thanks to its new capital St Petersburg it gained access to the Baltic Sea.
St Petersburg is the first Russian city built of granite and marble, while the old Russian cities were made of wood. For the construction of new Russian capital, the Tsars invited the most skilled European architects from Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland.
The city had many names. St Petersburg in honor of the holy Apostle Peter; in 1914 Nicholas II announced the change of name to Petrograd because the emperor did not want the emergence of negative associations resembling a foreign sound of the name. Then in 1924 a new name Leningrad in memory of Vladimir Lenin the founder of the Soviet state was given to the city. In 1991 a social survey was conducted, according to its results more than half of the residents voted for the original name of St Petersburg.
Names of the city
The city also has the number of unofficial names: Northern capital; Cultural capital; Northern Venice – these cities are often compared due to similar architecture; City on the Neva; Piter which is one of the oldest unofficial names.
There were sad pages in the history of St Petersburg – the city experienced 3 revolutions and heroically withstood the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad during the World War II, when citizens were dying from hunger, cold and never-ending bombings and many architectural masterpieces were destroyed. The restoration work lasted for decades, which allowed not only to restore the unsurpassed beauty of the city, but also to launch a new round of cultural and art development.
What should I see and do in Saint Petersburg?
St Petersburg is a city of thousand rivers and channels, so taking a boat trip is a must here. As it was the capital of Russian Empire it has enormously beautiful architectural pieces, including famous Winter Palace, Summer Garden and emperor’s residences Catherine Palace and Peterhof where you can feel like a Russian Tsar.
Museum lovers travel to St Petersburg to be amazed by collections of Hermitage and Russian Museum with over three million masterpieces. Inspiring Churches and Cathedrals of St Petersburg worth visiting. The Church of the Savior of the Spilled Blood claims to have the largest collection of mosaics in the world depicting scenes from the Bible.
Those who are fond of modern lifestyle will be impressed by St Petersburg too. Galitsyn Loft project is an art district with local cafes and bars which is situated in the former manory of the 18th century. New Holland Island territory and Tkachi creative center are based in former factories. There are small local shops with brands of young Russian designers, flea-markets and much more. All these will surprise you and make to fall in love with the spirit of this city.
And of course every traveller should follow Nevsky Prospekt which is the main avenue of St Petersburg. Walk down the street and each house may drive you back to some historical event or a famous historical person.
City of St Petersburg paradoxes.
It is the most well-preserved large historical city in Europe and at the same time the youngest of the European capitals. In comparison with Paris or Rome St Petersburg is very young but if on a white night you see the three thousand-year-old Egyptian sphinxes on the University Embankment and look at the palaces reflected in the water you can simply feel a cocktail of epochs. The same feeling can suddenly overwhelm you in a typical St Petersburg courtyard which looks like dark and gloomy well and while walking on blind alleys. It is easy to return to the XXI century when you come to the nearest cafe. They are all very modern and can offer you many tasty things.
How safe is Saint Petersburg for foreign visitors?
St Petersburg is not more dangerous and even lot safer than any other big city in the world. And it is all about behaving sensibly. Take care of your wallet, documents, do not get drunk so that you can hardly stand. Just follow the basic rules. There is a lot of policemen in St Petersburg, and they speak some English, so do not be afraid to ask in case you have any questions.
Russian people do not smile to the strangers but once you break through the feeling of being unknown, you find out that Russians are very warm and hospitable people.
If you travel alone read our guide about Travelling alone in Russia, there are tips that may be helpful.
Do most Russians in St Petersburg speak English?
Being so close to Europe (just one ferry away from Finland) St Petersburg seems to be more liberal, creative and in a way progressive than other Russian cities. For sure it is the most tourists-friendly city in Russia with tourist centers, people speaking English and English signs in the street. Be ready that not all Russians speak English but in case you ask for a help everybody will do their best to help you with body language or those 10 words in English that they remember from school.
What’s the most romantic spot in St Petersburg, Russia?
St Petersburg is a city that seems to be created for lovers. White nights, drawbridges, Neva breeze and even in the rain Peter is magnificent, everything seems vague, hazy, unreal, mysterious. We present you our top 3 romantic places but there are plenty of them in St Petersburg.
The Summer garden. From different sides this green quiet island is surrounded by the water. It is fenced with the famous forged iron grill which is work of art itself. The summer garden can be called an open-air museum, there are 90 marble sculptures on its territory. It is a very romantic place, and the number of tourists does not destroy the atmosphere because all of them come here full of positive vibes and love.
If you travel to St Peterburg you will never miss its Embankments. In St Petersburg there are many embankments, but there is one on Vasilyevsky Island which is called Makarov Embankment where you can not only have a romantic walk, but also roller-skate.
After a walk, you can take a break near the Rostral columns where you can enjoy a perfect view of the Winter Palace and the Peter and Paul Fortress.
Colonnade of St. Isaac’s Cathedral. St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest church in St Petersburg. It has been being built for 40 years by hundreds of thousands of workers. If you climb its colonnade you can feel kind of euphoria from the opened perspective of the city from a bird’s-eye view. From here in the morning mist or by the night lights you can see the smooth lines of city streets and enjoy the magnificent and stunning architecture of St Petersburg.
Join our Romantic Getaway Tour to enjoy the beauty of Moscow and St Petersburg in one tour!
How to travel between Moscow and St Petersburg?
It is about 700 km from Moscow to St Petersburg and the exact travel time depends on the chosen method of transportation.
There are flights from Moscow to St Petersburg and vice-versa daily, the flight usually takes about 1,5 h. You can fly from Domodedovo, Vnukovo, Sheremetyevo airports. The one-way ticket price is about 3000 rubles. The total time spent on the trip (airport transfer, check-in for the flight) is about 5 hours.
There are two types of trains travelling between St Petersburg and Moscow. Regular trains and High Speed trains. Trains are the most popular and comfortable type of travel.
A trip on a regular train takes 9-11 hours and the price of a ticket depends on the class and type of the train (new, old). The price for 3 class starts from 1000 Rub, 2 class coupe – from 1500 Rub, 1 class (SV) – from 6000 Rub.
As for high speed trains, Sapsan is the fastest and the most convenient way to get to St Petersburg from Moscow. It takes about 4 hours and costs from 3000 rubles.
It is a comfortable electric train with clean carriages, excellent sound insulation, smoothness, modern design. And it departs and arrives at a very convenient time, the travellers are mostly business.
You can buy tickets for a train on the Railway station or via https://pass.rzd.ru/main-pass/public/en
We never travel to St Petersburg by plane because we support the concept of Responsible tourism and all in all we find trains more convenient as you depart from the city and arrive in the city center, no need to come to the airport for 2 hours and spend money on the way there, and yes, we are train fans:)
To learn more about Russian trains jump here.
How is St Petersburg in winter?
Visit St Petersburg in winter and you will find yourself in a different city.
The Peter and Paul Fortress and St. Isaac’s Cathedral covered with snow look even more attractive. Peterhof is waiting for guests at any time of the year. Fountains are closed, but park roads are cleared, the absence of the usual crowds of tourists, the silence, the sculptures hidden in the shelters, covered with a layer of white snow all these make Peterhof tour very special in winter. In winter you can feel the white and frosty beauty of Russia full of its own traditions and activities that you can experience only if you come to Russia in winter. It is a long story, so you may read our article about the reasons here.
Here are some facts about the weather in St Petersburg. The location of St Petersburg close to the Baltic Sea makes the region’s winter weather extremely unstable. The climate in St Petersburg could be called mild, since the air temperature in winter rarely drops below -10 ° C. However, due to the almost constant gusts of strong wind, there is a feeling that the air is much colder than the thermometer shows.
The average temperature in January and February is in the range of minus 8-10 ° C . The beginning of February is the most favorable time for a trip to St Petersburg in the winter. There is a lot of snow and some sunny days may appear.
What is the signature food dish of St Petersburg, Russia?
You can find any dish of any cuisine in St Petersburg as it is in other cities of Russia. But there are dishes that one must try while travelling in St Petersburg. Read our article about St Petersburg restaurants and bars.
Pyshki in Petersburg is a traditional dessert. Round hot buns with a hole in the middle are usually sprinkled with powdered sugar and go well with coffee. Locals like and even honor their pyshkis so much that there are more than one Pyshechnaya in the city.
Fried koryushka (smelt)
Smelt is a true culinary symbol of St Petersburg. It is a local small but very tasty fish. Spring is the smelt season. The aroma of fried fish can be heard from almost every restaurant in St Petersburg in spring.
Rassolnik is a traditional soup of Russian cuisine. This soup with a pleasant sour-salty taste is always cooked with pickled cucumbers. In Soviet time the recipe contained barley and meat and was called Leningradskiy (the name of the city till 1993). It is still popular nowadays.
Beef Stroganoff is one of the most popular dishes of Russian cuisine. Count Alexander Stroganov from St Petersburg was a man who invented the recipe. According to one legend, the cook prepared finely chopped beef in a creamy sauce for an old count who had problems with teeth to chew big slices of meat.
Anyway, Russian cuisine is very rich and diverse to learn more about the dishes to try read our article here.