Saint Petersburg like any other big European city has a lot to offer and like in any city with great history one will never have enough time to see and do everything here. Many people when they travel to a new city face the problem of choosing out of hundreds of sights and attractions the best and the most interesting places for them to visit. In this post we tried to make this choice easier and divided all city attractions into different groups according to one’s interests. We really hope our guide will help you in planning a perfect trip to St.Petersburg. By the way I’ve been living in St.Petersburg all my life and know this city very well.
I’m a big art and classical music lover don’t be surprised this guide will contain a lot of information on culture life in St.Petersburg but not only, there are many things to do in the city except theaters and museums. For planning a visit to Saint Petersburg our posts St.Petersburg city guide + 3-day itinerary and 29 Awesome and quirky things to do in St.Petersburg will be quite helpful.
Download for free our checklist Places to see in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Accommodation in St.Petersburg
Bucket list places in St.Petersburg
The State Hermitage
For me it’s definitely the first and the most important place in Saint Petersburg like Louvre in Paris or Vatican museum in Rome. I spent a lot of time here as a visitor and a student of the Hermitage center and still every time I come here I find something new that I haven’t seen before or just never noticed, the collection of the museum is enormous.
The Hermitage is not a single building, the complex Includes Winter Palace, New Hermitage, Old Hermitage, Small Hermitage, the Hermitage theater and the General Staff building on the opposite side of the Palace Square. Its total gallery space is 66 862m2. The museum collection includes about 3 million art pieces, if you stop at everyone for 1 minute you’ll need 8 years to see all of them. These are just impressive numbers but Hermitage is a real treasure box, moving to every next room you think it can’t be more impressive but it can. Besides thousands of masterpieces in the halls the interior itself is absolutely stunning.
Things not to miss in the Hermitage
- The Pavilion Hall and the incredible Peacock clock. The clock gets started every Wednesday at 7pm come here at least 30 minutes before to get a spot.
- The Grand Church of the Winter Palace
- Lodges of Raphael, the exact copy of the Raphael Loggia in the Papal Palace, Vatican.
- Treasure Gallery, it has two rooms Diamond and Gold. Both rooms can be visited only with a tour, in summer it’s better to book it in advance as it can be fully booked.
- St.George’s Hall, one of the biggest rooms in the Hermitage crowned with a red throne.
- The Armorial Hall, a stunning room painted white with golden columns and lamps.
- The Principal or Jordan Staircase
- The Malachite Room
- The Madonna Lita and the Benois Madonna by Da Vinci
- Crouching Boy by Michelangelo
- Madonna and Child by Raphael
- The Rembrandt Room with his famous Return of the Prodigal Son and Danae.
The Hermitage collection of European art of XIX-XX centuries; Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Renoir, Picasso etc. My favorite part of the collection. It was moved to the General Staff Building (white and yellow building opposite to the Winter Palace). There you’ll find paintings of Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso and many others. A ticket is valid for both the Hermitage and the General Staff Building.
Tip! To skip the crowds in summer the best time to visit Hermitage is on Wednesdays and Fridays after 6pm, the museum is open till 9pm on these days. Tuesday is the worst day to come, there are too many people because the museum is closed on Mondays. You can buy tickets online or at the ticket vending machines in the courtyard, it is more expensive. If you want to buy a ticket at the ticket office the best way is to buy it in the General Staff building as the queue there is usually shorter, ticket valid for a day for all buildings of the Hermitage complex.
- Opened; Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun from 10.30am to 8pm. Wed and Fri from 10.30am to 9pm. Monday closed.
- Admission; RUB700/US$11 – adults; children and students – free.
- Getting here; Palace Square, 1, metro Admiralteyskaya
Peter & Paul fortress
The origin of the city and its first official building. There are several museums inside the fortress that you can visit but if you don’t have time or don’t feel like it it’s worth just to walk around inside. Peter and Paul cathedral is a beautiful building, in summer on Sundays at 5pm there is a free carillion concert in front at the Cathedral Square. Don’t be surprised in you see people in swimming costumes around a sandy beach at the fortress is a popular spot for locals who live nearby to come for tanning. Every summer from June to September a sand sculpture festival takes place where you can see some incredible compositions built from sand. Entrance to the fortress is free but you’ll have to pay if you want to walk on the walls or visit museums inside.
- Opened; daily from 8.30am to 8pm
- Admission fee; free to get inside the fortress
- Getting here; 5 minute walk from metro Gorkovskaya
Probably one of the most impressive city cathedrals and one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Its dome rises above 100m and is entirely plated with pure gold. I’d highly recommend to go inside the interior decoration is stunning; columns, pilasters and floor from composed multi colored granites and marbles, the iconostasis decorated with semiprecious stones like malachite and lazurite, mosaics and frescoes decorate the walls and the ceiling. When inside don’t forget to look up the painting of the dome is very elaborated and just simply beautiful. If you have time go up to the colonnade the view from the top is amazing, the best time to do it is late evening when you can see the sunset and the city in thousands of lights.
- Opened; daily (closed on Wednesdays) from 10.30am to 6pm, in season (from 27th April to 30th September) opened in the evenings as well from 6pm to 10.30pm.
- Admission fee; the cathedral – RUB350/US$ – adults, RUB200/US$ – students, RUB100/US$ – children. Colonnade RUB200/US$ for everybody.
- Getting here; St.Isaac Square 4, metro Admiralteyskaya
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
If you though this church was in Moscow you’re partly right the Savior on Spilled Blood is quite similar to the St.Basil’s cathedral in Red Square though St.Petersburg’s church is much younger it was built in the beginning of the 20th century on the place where Russian Emperor Alexander II was assassinated by a terrorist that belonged to the Anarchist movement. This church is one of the most recognizable city buildings and the most photographed by tourists. The architecture style of the church is very different from other city buildings it’s probably one of the “most Russian” buildings in St.Petersburg. Local tip. If you want to take a photo of the church without hundreds of people around come here very early morning at 6am (in summer there is enough light at this time) and you’ll get it all for yourself.
- Opened; daily (closed on Wednesdays) from 10.30am to 6pm. In high season (from 27th April to 30th September) there are evening excursions from 6pm to 10.30pm.
- Admission fee; RUB350/US$ – adults, RUB100/US$ – children (7 to 18).
- Getting here; Griboedov emb.m 2A, metro Kanal Griboedova/Nevsky Prospect
Peterhof palace and park
In summer season (between mid May and mid September) it’s one of the hottest spots to visit in the city if you’re lucky with the weather the visit will be even more enjoyable. I’ve been to Peterhof many times since I was a child but every time I can’t stop admiring the beauty of the palace and the park. There are more than 150 fountains and 4 big cascades in the park, the most impressive one is the Grand Cascade that includes 75 fountains and 255 bronze sculptures, Samson is the highest fountain in the composition, its jet of water is 20m. Children will enjoy the park there are several trick or joke fountains where they can get soaking wet, make sure to take some extra clothes and towels.
- Opened; fountains in the park are on only in summer season (from 29th April to 14th October) Mon-Fri from 10am to 6pm, Sat from 10am to 8.45pm and Sun from 10am to 7pm.
- Admission fee; park RUB750/US$12 – adults, RUB450/US$7,5 – students; palace RUB700/US$11,5 – adults, RUB400/US$6,5 – students. Children under 16 visit both for free.
- Getting here; the fastest and the funnest way is to take a hydrofoil from the Dvortsovaya emb. to Peterhof, this journey takes 30min. It’s possible to get here by combination of metro and mini bus but it’s quite time consuming, will take between 1h and 1h3min. depending on traffic.
Tsarskoye Selo, Catherine palace and park
Another Russian tsars’ summer residence and my favorite place because I was born here and spent a big part of my life in this town I still come here every summer. Catherine palace and park is one the must see places for every tourist coming to St.Petersburg. It doesn’t have any fountains like Peterhof but the complex is impressive, plus here you can see the famous Amber Room. Catherine park is a good alternative (if you have to choose) for those who visit St.Petersburg off season when the fountains in Peterhof are off.
If you’re short in time and want to visit both Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo the best option is to join a tour, there are several options; . It’s difficult to visit both places in one day using public transport, commuting will take a big part of the day.
- Opened; the park opened daily from 9am to 10pm (11pm May – June), after 7pm entrance is free.
- Admission fee; Catherine park RUB120/US$2 – adults, children under 16 years free; Catherine palace RUB1000/US$16,5 – adults, RUB350/US$5,8 – students, children under 16 years free.
- Getting here; the best is to take a mini bus from metro Moskovskaya, buses stop 300m from the main park entrance and the palace.
For detailed guide on royal suburbs, working hours, transport options, prices etc. go to Best day trips from St.Petersburg post.
The Palace Bridge
I’m quite sure the bridge itself you’ll see anyway walking around the city but the must see part of it is at night when the bridge gets opened for big ships to go through the city. It’s not the only drawing bridge all bridges over the Neva river get opened at night in summer season (between April and October) but the Palace bridge opening is the most impressive with music and lights, there are usually hundreds of people watching it especially in June and July make sure to come here earlier to get a good spot. The best place to watch the opening is in front of the Admiralty building. Tip! There are several wooden piers at the embankment from where you can take a famous photo with the Peter and Paul fortress framed between two parts of the opened Palace bridge.
City rivers and channels
For me this and walking are the best ways to see the city. There are several route options you can take a boat on the Neva River (the biggest river in the city) I’d recommend to do this tour at night to see the bridges. For a day tour rather take a boat on a smaller river e.g. Griboedov Kanal (channel), Fontanka or Moika rivers, you’ll get to see more of the city center including some hidden gems. My favorite route is on the Moika River the boat goes under one very wide and quite low bridge (the Blue Bridge) which is quite exciting.
Stroll along this crazy busy street at any time of the day or night, in summer you’ll be surprised how many people there are on the street at night time especially on weekends. This street like a magnet attracts people day and night it looks like everybody is heading somewhere but in fact many people just wander around. Many places in the main part of the Nevsky prospect, between Palace Square and Vosstaniya Square are opened 24 hours or at least till very late if in the middle of the night you feel like eating sushi, pizza or cake it won’t be difficult to find a place where you can get it.
Definitely one of the most beautiful metros in the world, decoration of some stations looks like interior of palaces; marble and glass columns, mosaic, wall painting, sculpture, lamps etc. The most beautiful stations are; Avtovo (the most beautiful one), Kirovsky Zavod, Admiralteyskaya, Pushkinskaya, Mezhdunarodnaya, Zvenigorodskaya, Bukharestskaya, Obvodny Kanal, Spasskaya and a brand new station opened in 2018 Begovaya.
- Opened; daily from 5.30am to midnight.
- Cost; you buy a token to enter the metro at any station (RUB45/US$0,8) and can stay underground as long as you wish without any time or stations limit.
There are several unofficial symbols of St.Petersburg, the four main are; thee Rostral columns, the Angel on the top of the Alexander Column, the Golden Ship – a weather vane in the form of a ship on the spire of the Admiralty building and The Bronze Horseman. To see the first two you’ll need a binocular both are located quite high up. All four symbols are located very close to each other, you’ll need about an hour to do a loop and see all of them.
Best places to visit in St.Petersburg with children
At the first sight it might seem that there are not that many places focused on travelers with children in St.Petersburg but in fact there are more than enough kiddies places to keep the whole family busy for a couple of days or even longer.
The Grand Maket Rossiya (the layout of Russia in miniature)
It’s not a secret that Russia is a massive country and to see even a small part of it as a tourist requires a lot of time and involves difficult logistics and many hours on trains, plains and buses. In the Grand Layout you and your children get a unique chance to see all the cultural, geographical and regional differences of Russia in just a couple of hours. The layout scale is 1:87, it occupies 800m² and represents the main regions and cities of Russia, it’s the second biggest layout in the world after Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. The best part of the layout is that it’s very interactive cars and buses run on the roads, stop at the traffic lights, ships sail in the lakes and rivers, trains run on the rails, day and night switch every 13 minutes and many other things happen around all the time. Never mind children but even adults can spend hours here discovering new features and noticing small details. We absolutely loved this place and highly recommend it for tourists with children.
- Opened; daily from 10am to 8pm.
- Admission; RUB480/US$7 – adults, RUB280/US$4 – children.
- Getting here; Tsvetochnaya st., 16, nearest metro station Moskovskie Vorota, 10min. walk.
Petrovskaya Aquatoria scale model
If your kids enjoyed the previous museum they might like this one as well unlike in the Russia layout where you can travel around the country Petrovskaya Aquatoria represents only St.Petersburg and its suburbs, here you can travel back in time and see how the city looked in the early 18th century and in different seasons. The scale is 1:87, total area of the layout is 500m². The model is interactive as well; day and night change, people dance, ships navigate on the Neva river, carriages pull by horses move along the roads, lights go on and off and many other small surprises and details that you might even not notice.
- Opened; daily from 10am to 10pm.
- Admission; RUB450/US$6,5 – adults, RUB250/US$3,5 – children.
- Getting here; very central location, Malaya Morskaya st., 4/1, metro Admiralteyskaya
The first museum in Russia established by Peter the Great and opened in 1727. Some rooms contain quite shocking things like Siamese twin skeleton or unborn babies with deformities floating in formaldehyde. Kunstkamera collection includes ethnographic, anthropological and archaeological artefacts, basically anything from minerals to stuffed animals, from traditional dresses to biological rarities. Here you can find things from all over the world from South America to Indo China and Africa. A curious thing not to miss here is The Globe of Gottorf a massive 17th-century globe of the earth with the study room inside. It measures 3 meters in diameter. On the outside on the globe there is a detailed map of the earth’s surface, on the inside a map of constellations with astrological and mythological symbols.
- Opened; Tue – Sun from 11am to 6pm.
- Admission fee; RUB300/US$5 – adults, RUB100/US$1,5 – students and children.
- Getting here; University Embankment, 3, metro Admiralteyskaya
If you and your children are a bit tired from traditional museums a visit to the Oceanarium might be a good alternative especially on a rainy day when going to the parks or playgrounds is not an option. The Oceanarium is quite big, there are 48 aquariums that occupies about 5000m², combined volume of the aquariums is more than 1,5 million liters. As for different species of animals here you can see fish from both fresh and salt waters, inhabitants of tropical coral reefs, as well as seals, sharks, otters, eagle rays and others. Children’s favorite part is the tunnel that runs under the biggest aquarium where you are surrounded by water and fish all colors and sizes. Don’t miss daily (except Mondays) shows with sharks (at 7pm) and with seals (11.30am and 4pm) as well as fish and mammals’ feeding.
- Opened; daily from 10am to 8pm, closed every third Monday of the month.
- Admission; RUB750/US$11 – adults, RUB550/US$8 – children (from 7 years old) and students, RUB250/US$3,5 – children (under 7 yo).
- Getting here; Marata st., 86, metro Pushkinskaya, Zvenigorodskaya
The Zoological museum
It was my favorite museum when I was a child I think the main reason was a huge skeleton of a blue whale that is located in the main hall, it’s enormous, difficult to believe the animal this size is actually exists. There are several skeletons of the mammoth including a baby one and many other animals, birds, insects and amphibians. The scariest part for me is the section with all sort of worms and parasites it’s just disgusting. There are no alive animals or creatures here only skeletons, mounted or preserved in formalin animals that occupy three store museum building.
- Opened; daily from 11am to 6pm, closed on Tuesdays and second Wednesday of every month.
- Admission; RUB250/US$4 – adults, RUB150/US$2 – children and students.
- Getting here; Universitetskaya emb.,1, metro Admiralteyskaya
The Railway museum
This museum is more for boys and dads though girls might enjoy it too. The museum is very new it was opened in 2017, the covered area of the museum 16 000m, the outside area is 39 000 m which is bigger than 5 football fields so make sure you wear comfortable shoes there will be a lot of walking involved. The collection is quite impressive from old steam locomotives and wooden train carts to modern high speed electric trains and even a mobile missile system.
- Opened; Wed-Sun, from 10.30am to 6pm.
- Admission; RUB300/US$4,5 – adults, RUB100/US$1,5 – children and students.
- Getting here; Bibliotechny Pereulok 4/2, metro Baltiyskaya
Museum of electric transport
Looks like we got another museum for boys and dads, girls might like it old trams look very cozy inside. There are 22 trams and 7 trolleybuses in the museum that represent the history of the city transport from the beginning till the end of the 20th century. Visitors can get inside the trams, learn how they work, sit on the driver’s seat and even take a ride on an old tram through the city (only on weekends, from April to October).
- Opened; Wed-Sun, from 10.00am to 6pm.
- Admission; RUB300/US$4,5 – adults, RUB100/US$1,5 – children and students, ride in the old tram (only weekends) RUB200/US$3, children shorter than 1m ride for free as per old St.Petersburg tradition.
- Getting here; Sredny Prospect, 77, metro Vasileostrovskaya
Mariinsky Theater concerts for children
If your children are somehow interested in music you can take them to the afternoon concerts in Mariinsky theater, concerts usually start at 12pm or 1pm, most of them are fairy tale based performances for children but adults will enjoy it too. Tickets are usually between RUB700 and RUB3000.
Midday cannon shot at the Peter and Paul fortress
You don’t have to be at the fortress itself but somewhere in the vicinity to hear it but if you want to see the process head to the Naryshkin Bastion in the fortress. The tradition of the midday blank shot goes back to Peter’s the Great time when the cannons in the fortress were used to announce the beginning and the end of working days, important events, fires, floods etc.
Spot the smallest sculptures in the city
Among hundreds of sculptures and statues in the parks and streets of St.Petersburg there are some that children love the most. Ask your kids to spot some of them, it’ll make walking around the city a little bit more exciting and entertaining for the whole family. Children’s favorite sculptures are; little soldier under the bridge of the Mikhailovsky Castle. Chizhik-Pyzhik (a little bronze bird, the smallest sculpture in the city) near the Mikhailovsky Castle, at the First Engineer Bridge; the Hare on the log near the Ioanovsky bridge at the entrance to Peter and Paul fortress. The last one is Cat Elisey at Malaya Sadovaya street, at the corner of Eliseyevsky Shop. Be aware all these monuments require a lot of coins as per local tradition people try their luck throwing coins and making wishes.
Saint Petersburg in miniature
Here you can see bronze replicas of the main city sights like the Hermitage, St.Isaac cathedral, Peter and Paul fortress, Kazan cathedral, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and more and all are the size of a child. The replicas are located inside a small park you can walk around and take photos.
- Opened; daily from 9am to 10pm. Wed-Sun, from 10.00am to 6pm.
- Admission; free
- Getting here; Aleksandrovsky Sad, metro Gorkovskaya.
The Russian Lefthander Microminiature Museum
Continue with small things in between doing sightseeing in the city center you can take your kids to a museum where art works are so tiny that you need a magnifying glass or a microscope to be able to see them. The museum is quite small so are the exhibited items you won’t need a lot of time to visit it but it’s just something different that you might not find in other places. Among the most impressive works are; a caravan of camels in the needle eye, a rose inside the hair, a Christmas tree and a snowman on a horsehair, slices of poppy seeds with cartoon characters and famous (in Russian literature) flea clad in golden horseshoes – all these are less than 1mm height. In addition to the micro miniatures here you can see some beautiful and unique scrap metal works. I know many tourists (even grown ups) that loved this place.
- Opened; daily from 11am to 7pm.
- Admission; RUB350(RUB400 on weekends)/US$5-6 – adults, RUB250/US$3,5 – children.
- Getting here; Italyanskaya st,. 35, metro Nevsky Prospect, Gostiny Dvor.
Hydrofoil ride to Peterhof
If you go to Peterhof (it’s a must see don’t forget) I’d suggest to take a hydrofoil to or back from the park (or both ways), I used to love it when I was a child and still do love it a lot, it’s much more pleasant than taking public transport in order to get to Peterhof. Hydrofoil has several advantages; It’s an exciting trip, it’s the easiest way of getting to Peterhof from the center and it’s quick 30min. compared to 1h30min. by bus and metro.
- Operating hours; from 9.30am till 3pm (some companies run till 4pm)
- Price; RUB800/US$12 one way, RUB1500/US$22 return
- Departure place; Dvortsovaya emb. (in front of the Hermitage), every 30min., travel time 30min.
Trick or joke fountains in Peterhof
If you head to Peterhof make sure to have enough time and some extra clothes, kids love the trick fountains in the park where they can get soaking wet running around and trying to find a trigger that switches water on and off (you’ll find out quite soon that there is no trigger, it’s a person that does it). It’s a great entertainment and a lot of fun for both children and their parents. The main fun fountains are; the Water Road fountain, It is on for 15 seconds every day at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. Located between the Chess cascade and Monplaisir palace, check for small pipes on both sides of the road and billboards. Other trick fountains (Umbrella, Pine Trees, Oak Tree and Couches) work all day, they are located between the Water Road and the Monplaisir palace. There are many squirrels in the park you can buy some nuts and feed them as well.
- Opened; fountains are on Mon-Fri from 10am to 6pm, Sat from 10am to 8.45pm and Sun from 10am to 7pm.
- Admission; park – RUB750/US$12 adults, RUB450/US$7,5 students; palace – RUB700/US$11,5, students RUB400/US$6,5, children under 16 years enter for free (for children 14-15 years we’d recommend to have a document).
Probably the most famous and definitely the most beautiful shop in the city. It used to be a Interior of the shop reminds more of a palace or a theater than a supermarket; big windows and mirrors, a piano and a huge palm tree in the middle and many yummy things in between. The best part of the shop is actually its windows that were decorated by famous Russian artist Shemyakin with bizarre characters inspired by the Nutcracker. The dolls move and turn around, looks the best at night time with the lights on.
The New Holland
It is a great place to take a break from sightseeing for both parents and children, first can chill sitting on the grass with a drink, second will enjoy playing at the Frigata Playground, a huge wooden playground in the shape of a ship. For 2-4 year old children there is another smaller wooden playground where they can play, run and climb. There are usually many events, workshops, bars etc. in New Holland in summer.
- Opened; Mon-Thu from 10.30am to 10pm, Fri-Sun from 10.30am to 11pm.
- Admission; free, visitors are not allowed to bring food or drinks with
- Getting here; Admiralteisky emb., 2, metro Admiralteyskaya
If you’re heading from St.Petersburg to Moscow check out this Things to do in Moscow post it’ll help to plan your visit to the Russian capital.
TO BE CONTINUED SOON… WORK IN PROGRESS
Travel insurance for Russia
Traveling includes different kind of risks from a flight delay or cancellation to medical emergencies and credit card, documents or baggage loss. It’s always advisable to have a travel insurance that will cover you in case if something goes wrong especially if you venture to a far away country like Russia and are planning to move around a lot. Let your insurance company worry about you while you exploring new horizons.
World Nomads insurance company operates all over the world, their travel insurance covers pretty much any emergency that can happen to you on a tip. It doesn’t matter where you live or where you are at the moment, it takes less than 2 minutes to get a quote, you can buy it online even if you are already traveling. Note! Always read the small print and be sure you buy the correct policy.
Handy items to bring with on a trip
Weather in St.Petersburg is unpredictable, it can change from warm and sunny to cold in windy in a day so my advise bring some warmish clothes (hoodie, jeans, trainers) as well as summer clothing.
Umbrella – it can rain any time in this city.
Travel backpack – for hand luggage (to pack your laptop, phone, documents etc.) and to use as a day pack in the city.
Sunglasses – yes, it can be sunny in the city and if you do any water excursion sunglasses will be quite handy.
Recommended books and guidebooks
- Lonely Planet St Petersburg. Kindle & Paperback, 2018
- Lonely Planet Russia. Kindle & Paperback, 2018
- Lonely Planet Russian Phrasebook & Dictionary. Paperback, 6th edition.
- St. Petersburg: Madness, Murder, and Art on the Banks of the Neva by Jonathan Miles. Kindle & Paperback
- St.Petersburg city guide and 3-day itinerary
- 29 Awesome and quirky things to do in St.Petersburg
- Best day trips from St.Petersburg
- Climbing Mt.Elbrus complete guide
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