top things to do in Saint Petersburg

Top Things to Do in Saint Petersburg Russia

In Destinations, Russia by wanderlost0 Comments

Saint Petersburg is beloved to travellers and Russians alike.  Find out the top things to do in Saint Petersburg and fall in love with a  truly magical city!

top things to do in Saint Petersburg

Horse drawn carriages straight out of a fairy tale in front of The Hermitage.

The Hermitage Museum:

The State Hermitage Museum is one of the most famous art and culture museums on the planet.  One of the largest and oldest museums on earth, the museum boasts over 3 million items within its collection.  While only one third of these items are permanently on display, anyone can spend countless hours here. In fact, if you spent one minute at each item, it would take over 11 years to finish.  Here, you can see the largest collection of paintings in the world, weaponry and artifacts, and international art.  You will find collections by Rembrandt, Da Vinci, and Matisse.  Make sure to check out The Prodigal Son, Kolyvan Vase, and James Cox’s Peacock Clock.

The Hermitage is open daily except Mondays from 10:30 – 18:00.  Wednesdays and Fridays have extended hours until 21:00.  The first Thursday of every month and December 7th are free of charge for everyone. Admission for foreigners costs 600 ruble. 

The Armorial Hall in the Winter Palace.

The Armorial Hall in the Winter Palace.

Winter Palace: 

Serving from 1732 to 1917 as the residence of the Russian Monarchs, this section of the Hermitage is elegant.  From the moment you enter the Ambassador’s staircase, the grandeur and opulence is astounding.  Rooms decorated with precious stones, gold, and elaborate architecture feature throughout.

top things to do in Saint Petersburg

The Malachite Room within the Winter Palace.

The Malachite Room was designed by architect Alexander Briullov and served as the formal reception room for Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna.  This was also where the dressing of Romanov brides took place.  They then proceeded to the Arabian Hall and on to the Grand Church for their weddings.  Columns, a fireplace, and an urn are all made out of gorgeous malachite.  The beautiful green hues compliment the original decoration which is still displayed today.

top things to do in Saint Petersburg

Palace Square on a blue bird day after a light snowfall.

Palace Square:

The Palace Square is the central city square and that of the former Russian Empire.  It is the site of many significant events witnessed by extravagant architecture.  In fact, the 1905 Bloody Sunday and the October Revolution of 1917 both took place here.  The baroque and white azure Winter Palace surrounds the square on one side contrasting the adjacent Neoclassical buildings.  In the centre of the square is the red granite column known as Alexander Column.  A visit here in winter makes the square seem ever more imposing and a blanket of snow makes it that more magical.

top things to do in Saint Petersburg

The Church of the Saviour on Blood under an overcast sky on a cold winter day.

Church of the Saviour on Blood:

Perhaps one of the most iconic sites on a trip to Saint Petersburg, this church must not be missed.  The church is located on the site where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded and prominently overlooking the Griboyedov Canal.  In fact, a magnificent shrine now stands on the exact spot of the emperor’s attack.  The exposed cobblestone flooring contrasts between the topaz and lazurite decorated shrine.  Romantic Russian architecture dominates this cathedral highlighting it among the city’s mostly Baroque architecture.

The church is open daily from 10:30 – 17:30.  Admission is 250 ruble, purchase tickets here.

top things to do in Saint Petersburg

View of the Peter and Paul Fortress across the frozen canal.

Peter and Paul Fortress:

Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, this fortress served as the original citadel of Saint Petersburg.  Here you can visit the first cathedral in Saint Petersburg which is also the burial grounds of the Romanov dynasty.   On the grounds, visit the noonday gun, watch the changing of the guard, and learn the history of the centuries old bell tower.

The fortress is open daily from 9:00 – 20:00, while the island itself is open from 6:00 – 21:00.  Museum and exhibition hours vary, and prices range from 100 to 600 ruble.

top things to do in Saint Petersburg

View of the Kazan Cathedral from the cafe inside the House of Books.

Nevsky Prospect:

Nevsky Prospect is the main thoroughfare in Saint Petersburg.  This street passes several notable buildings as well as shopping districts and great eateries.  Adorned by exquisite architectural buildings and landmarks, take a walk down Saint Petersburg’s main artery and enjoy the sights.  Along the way, you’ll find countless churches, the Russian Museum and the largest department store in the city.

Finally, make sure to stop at the Kazan Cathedral along the way.  Take a stroll along the cathedral and admire its unique curved shape.  In addition, there is a great cafe with excellent food and drinks just across the street where you can enjoy the views.

top things to do in Saint Petersburg

Photo of Peterhof grounds from the official site.

Peterhof:

This region of Saint Petersburg offers opportunities to visit the Grand Palace and see extravagant and beautifully manicured gardens.  Here you’ll find the State Museum Preserve and a 300 year old watch manufacture known as Petrodvorets Watch Factory – Raketa. Recognised as a UNESCO Heritage Site, Peterhof lands in the top things to do in Saint Petersburg.  Moreover, this municipality hosts one of the Saint Petersburg State University campuses.

Peter the Great commissioned the Grand Palace at Peterhof which is often referred to as the “Russian Versaille”.  Jean-Baptiste Le Blond designed the palace and completed it in 1721.

Peterhof is open daily except Mondays from 10:30 – 19:00 with the last admission at 17:45.  Notably, on Thursdays admission is extended until 21:00 with last admission at 20:00.  Admission costs 550 ruble and the optional audio guide is an additional 500 ruble.

top things to do in Saint Petersburg

Photos of the Grand Menshikov Palace from the official website.

Oranienbaum:

Situated on the Gulf of Finland, UNESCO lists the exquisite palace and its grounds as World Heritage Sites.  The gardens feature sculptures depicting seasons and classical elements.  Equally important, this palace is less popular and thus a great place to enjoy the magic of the palace and gardens undisturbed.  Located 12km from Peterhof, you can combine these two sites into a single day visit.

Opening hours and admission prices of the grounds vary.  Find them here.

To emphasise, Saint Petersburg is such a magical city and has so much to offer both first time and repeat visitors.  Start your visit with stops at these top things to do in Saint Petersburg and you’ll fall in love with Russia!

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