St. Petersburg Travel Guide
St. Petersburg stands at the geographic and cultural borders of the west and east. And though the city is inspired by the intricate and ordered architecture of Western Europe, it is still infused with a vibrant and persevering Russian spirit. St. Petersburg largely owes its dualistic nature to its founder, Peter the Great, an unabashed lover of all things European who commissioned the city's streets and architecture to resemble his favorite western cities. And ... continue»
- #1 Hermitage Museum and the Winter Palace
- #2 Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
- #3 St. Isaac's Cathedral
See the Best Hotels in St. Petersburg»
The best time to visit St. Petersburg is from mid-June to September. Although it's expensive, St. Petersburg's near 24 hours of sunshine and White Nights celebrations are not to be missed. Summers are generally cool but pleasant, with temperatures dropping to the lower 50s, so be sure to pack accordingly. Traveling to St. Petersburg in the winter is rare; winter days are short, and temperatures will dip well below freezing.Best Times to Visit St. Petersburg»
St. Petersburg Neighborhoods
Flush with canals and fenced in by water -- the Gulf of Finland empties into the Baltic Sea, and the Neva River runs through the city center -- St. Petersburg is a planned city.
Palace Square, in the heart of St. Petersburg, is the city's main square and home to the Baroque-style Winter Palace that stands at the square's northern end. Built in the 1750s, the Winter Palace currently houses part of the Hermitage Museum, one of the oldest and largest museums in the world and a must-see for art lovers.
Just south of the Hermitage Museum and Palace Square is the Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's main thoroughfare. The street runs from the iconic Admiralty Tower in Palace Square and continues to the Moscow Railway Station, and then further south. Just off the Nevsky Prospekt, near the Vladimirskaya Metro station, is the popular Kuznechii pereulok outdoor market. Nevsky Prospekt finally ends at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, constructed under Peter the Great in 1710 to shelter the relics of the patron saint of St. Petersburg. Main attractions along Nevsky Prospekt include several 18th-century churches, such as the famous semi-circular, domed Kazan Cathedral.
North of Nevsky
Orientation in the city is further divided by sites north and south of Nevsky. To the north you'll find many bars, cafés and restaurants, as well as a host of less frequented sites and museums. Stop by the area's Russian Museum, which has the world's largest collection of Russian art, or the Tauride Palace and Gardens, the original site of the first Russian parliament, the Imperial State Duma. In the area around Taurida, you'll find many reasonably priced hotels.
South of Nevsky
South of Nevsky (an area that is actually south west of the Nevsky Prospekt) is divided by a series of canals that writers say offer glimpses of St. Petersburg's quiet grandeur and allow great opportunities for romantic strolls on the waterfront. Here also you'll find more upscale dining and drinking establishments and a series of cultural attractions, including the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Dostoevsky House Museum and St. Isaac's Cathedral, the city's largest cathedral.
New Holland Island
Southwest of the Nevsky Prospekt is the often overlooked New Holland Island, a series of old warehouses and military buildings, many of which are preserved by the city as historical landmarks.
Across the river, north of the city center is Vasilievsky Island, a formerly quiet and remote part of the city that's now an up-and-coming restaurant and hotel district. The east side of the island is also home to St. Petersburg State University.
If you walk to Vasilievsky -- or any island throughout the city -- be advised that the bridges interconnecting the city are raised at early morning hours (typically between 1 to 3 a.m.) to accommodate transport and cargo ships.
St. Petersburg has a mixed reputation when it comes to safety, but most agree that it has improved from the chaotic time immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. The city has its share of gangs and there have even been incidents of neo-Nazi assaults. According to TripAdvisor, racism is "unfortunately still alive and well in St Petersburg. Please bear this in mind if you are of black or Asian origin." According to many, LGBT travelers should also exercise caution moving around the city.
Be very careful when crossing roads, as drivers don't always yield to pedestrians here. Use crosswalks and only cross when vehicles have come to a complete stop.
- The city's water-system is not ideal because of a number of old pipes and as a result does not provide 100% clean water. Some locals boil or also filter tap water before use; you might want to buy it bottled if water quality affects you." -- Wikitravel
The best way to get around St. Petersburg is public transportation; otherwise, you can walk around Nevsky Prospekt, the main thoroughfare. There's an extensive bus and metro system with lines that run throughout the center and into the city’s outskirts. Tram or trolley is best for short journeys through downtown. For trips to the suburbs, try the metro system. Rental cars are available at the Pulkovo Airport (LED), but acquiring the proper driving documents can be a hassle. Taxis are also a prevalent (though at times, unsafe) way to move around.Getting Around St. Petersburg»