Saint Petersburg is the second-largest city in Russia that should be on the top of your must-see list. Not because it’s big, but surely for a once in a lifetime experience, for its amazingly historic world-class architecture, culture, and ancient historical places that recognized them as the UNESCO cultural heritage.
Most of the sightseeing places such as Palace Square, Winter Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress, Summer Garden, Kazan Cathedral, and Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and many others are easily walkable. No doubt it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. 

Things You Need To Know

Best Time To Visit

It will always be an excellent time to visit St. Petersburg, even in winter, depending on your interest. If you are adventurous, then visiting Russia in Winter can be rewarding, particularly once you leave the big cities. But in my opinion, Summer between June to August is the best time to visit St. Petersburg when the temperature crawls into the 70s and 80s, and the daylight is much longer. Perfect weather for outdoor activities such as sightseeing, hiking, etc. 

Without a doubt, the peak travel season is summer, and schools are closed for summer vacations. However, during summer months, places of interest will be crowded and sometimes need to spend more time waiting in line. You need to pay more for Airline, transportation, accommodation as the demands skyrocket into the peak.

Getting There

There are direct flights to St. Petersburg from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. You can find bargains air fairs depending on the seasons. Summer is the most expensive season to fly to St. Petersburg. Off seasons like August, November and March would be the cheapest to travel to Moscow. But you will always find some exciting deals if your dates are flexible may try

Getting To/From Pulkovo Airport

Pulkovo Airport (LED) is about 14 miles (23 km) south of St. Petersburg city center. The third busiest airport in Russia after Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo airport in Moscow. There is two convenient way to get to the City Center from the airport. 

The most cost-effective way is to take a bus that gets you to Moskovskaya, where Metro lines start, the outskirts of St. Petersburg, from where you need to transfer to a metro. The other option is to hire a taxi. For ground transportation and other information, you may visit the Airport Website.

Getting Around

Most of the historical attractions in Saint Petersburg are concentrated around the winter palace area, therefore, very much walkable with a little effort.

City traffic condition in St. Petersburg is not as terrible as Moscow, but still Metro is the best option getting around the city and suburb. Additionally there are public buses, trolleys, trams, and taxis available.

St. Petersburg Metro

Saint Petersburg metro service consists of 5 different lines, and they are easily identifiable by the color-coded sign, particularly making it easy for tourists like me with difficulties in reading Cyrillic scripts. Services run between 5:30 am – 1:00 am, and during peak hours, the services run as frequently as every 90 seconds.

There are different metro ticket types; for tourists, the most suitable ones are the single ride for 55 RUB, one-day unlimited rides for 185 RUB, and 7 days 10 rides for 370 RUB. Tickets can be purchased from the vending machine or the ticket window.

Taxi / UBER

In St Petersburg, UBER and Yandex Taxi are available, and they are a safer convenient way to go from place to place. Meter taxies are also available, but they are usually reluctant to go by the meter, so you need to have negotiation skills to settle the fare before getting in.

Russian Tourist Visa

Russia is well known for its extensive and costly visa application process, but that should not discourage travelers from visiting this incredible country. 

Things you need to know for Russian Visa.

  1. Your original passport (valid for at least 6 months after intended departure from Russia, and at least two blank visa pages.)
  2. Completed and signed two copies of the Russian visa application form.
  3. Two copies of passport size photos (signed on the back)
  4. Hotel confirmation for individual travelers, and letter from tour company or cruise line confirming itinerary and including a copy of the confirmation letter.
  5. Russian Visa Support Authorization (invitation letter) 

In the USA we have two choices to apply for a visa.

Like me you can apply it by yourself by filling out an online application and making a trip to the consulate with all your supporting documents, for me it costed me less but had to make two trips (drop off and pick up) to the NYC consulate.

Breakdown of consulate fee (direct application)

Consulate Fee                                     $160.00

Alternatively, you can apply through Russian Visa Center ILS (Washington DC. New York, Houston, San Francisco) for an extra fee. You can apply in person or via mail. The advantage is no need to go anywhere, just give them your passport and they will do everything on your behalf.

Breakdown of the visa center fee

Number of Entries – Single/Double (Rush 1-2 weeks)

Consulate Fee                                    $198.00
Visa Center Processing Fee             $100.00

Invitation Letter (Letter of Support)

In addition to all other documents, you will also need a letter of support (invitation letter) to obtain a Russian visa that will add cost. The fee varies from company to company between $50 and up. I recommend shopping online. I have used one of the companies here is the link you can try and compare with others.

Local Currency

The Russian currency is called “Rubel” at the time of this writing the value was 1 US$ = 75.75 RUB

ATM and Money Exchange

There are Money Exchange places and ATMs at the border crossing, at the  Airports as well as all over in the city. 

SIM Card for Cell Phone

Getting a local SIM card in a foreign country makes your travel more convenient. It gives you the ability to be online, check direction, places of interest, book your ride, and much more. 

You can buy a SIM card at St Petersburg airports as long as you arrive at the airport during service hours. They are affordable, cost should be about 400 RUB a month for 5GB of data. 

Safety in St Petersburg

Like many other big cities, Saint Petersburg is no exception when it comes to safety concerns when traveling on public transportation. Pickpocketer loves crowded places like metros, buses, stations, and elevators/escalators so, be extra alert in those places. I suggest to carry your backpack on your front and not to carry valuable in your pockets. Avoid gathering like street music; ignore people approaching you to keep you occupied. Keep your belongings close to you at all times, especially at the airports, bus stations, and train stations.

Staying Healthy

First of all travel insurance is recommended for Russia. Bring water purifier, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, mosquito repellant if you are traveling remote places, and medication for stomach upsets.

Saint Petersburg Best Attractions Map

Here is the map of all the attractions in Saint Petersburg that I have visited.

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Top Things To Do In Moscow

Visit Palace Square

Undoubtedly, St Petersburg Palace Square is one of the most beautiful places in Russia. The vast square is in the center of most of the historic sites and the most favorite tourist attraction similar to Moscow Red Square. It is located right across the Hermitage Museum and a 47.5m tall Alexander Column right in the center of the square, hard to miss it. This huge open space is a meeting place for locals and tourists alike, surrounded by most of the historical sites St. Petersburg has to offer. A trip to St Petersburg is incomplete without visiting this most famous landmark in Russia. 

The Palace Square, St. Petersburg

Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg

Kazan Cathedral is a cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church on one of the famous street call Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg.

Kazan Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia

Saint Isaac Cathedral in St Petersburg

The iconic landmark St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest in the city that currently operates as a museum. It was built between 1818 and 1858 still dominates the St. Petersburg skyline. It worth a visit not only for it’s impressive inside and outside beauty but also for a gorgeous view of the city once you climb up the tower leading to the balcony.

Saint Isaac Cathedral in St Petersburg

Visit Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

This colorful Russian style church is one of the iconic landmarks of St. Petersburg. It is located right next to the beautiful Griboyedov Canal, built to the honor of Czar Alexander II, who was assassinated at the same place.

Church of The Savior on Spilled Blood, St Petersburg
Church of The Savior on Spilled Blood, St Petersburg
Church of The Savior on Spilled Blood, St Petersburg
Church of The Savior on Spilled Blood, St Petersburg

Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace)

Hermitage Museum is the second-largest art museum in the world. It is located in Palace Square in the center of St Petersburg. It usually gets crowded in the first half of the day due to cruise ship passengers, therefore plan a visit later in the day. You can buy the online ticket to skip the long lines at the ticket counter.

Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace), St Petersburg
Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace), St Petersburg

Summer garden in Saint Petersburg

The Summer Garden is the oldest in Saint Petersburg, located on an island between the Moika, Fontanka, and the Swan Canal. Once it was the summer residence of Peter the Great in the new Russian capital was founded in 1704. A great place to visit when the weather is nice.

Summer garden in Saint Petersburg
Summer garden in Saint Petersburg

River Cruise in St Petersburg

Saint Petersburg is often called Venice of the North due to the widespread network of canals and rivers crossing through the city. And the best way to explore the city is by taking a cruise through the canals and rivers.
If you wanted to do something different and capture once in a lifetime experience, then I would suggest taking the midnight cruise to enjoy the marvelous night views of this romantic city, and its bridges. Taking the boat journey past midnight and watching the bridges opening up one by one is an everlasting memory.

River Cruise in St Petersburg
Cruise in The Rivers and Canals in St Petersburg

Guided Tour in Saint Petersburg

There are guided tours available in Saint Petersburg, they usually combine sightseeing, lunch and a few sightseeing stops on the way. Get Your Guide is the one I recommend.

Visit Peterhof Palace, St Petersburg, Russia

Another great place you should not miss visiting is the magnificent Peterhof imperial palace. It is located on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg, about 19 miles (30 km) from the city center. The majestic palaces surrounded by beautiful water fountains and gardens illustrate how powerful the Tsar once was.

It’s easy to get there, and the scenic one is a 35 minutes cruise from the city, cost about RUB 750 (US$ 11.00 approx.). The second option is to take the minivan (marshrutka) from Leninskiy Prospect or Avtovo metro station, which takes about an hour, and the cost is about RUB 50. 

Otherwise, if you book your trip through, then you can skip the long lines for the Grand Palace of Peterhof, and discover the former residence of the Russian royals on a 5-hour tour from St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg Russia. Peterhof Palace
St. Petersburg Russia. Peterhof Palace

Go To Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Kronstadt

Cathedral of Saint Nicholas is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located in Kronstadt. It was built between 1903 to 1913 and dedicated to the fallen seamen of the Russian navy. It is located on Kotlin Island, about 19 miles (30 km) from Saint Petersburg city center.

You can take a 5 hours day trip to explore the city of Kronstad with a stop at Vladimir Cathedral, the Italian Palace, and the Cathedral of St. Nicholas by boat from St. Petersburg.

Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas
Naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in Kronstadt

Explore Peter and Paul Fortress

The Peter and Paul Fortress is locating on Zayachy island by the Neva River in St. Petersburg. Peter, the great first built it in 1703 to protect the territories that were captured by Russia in Sweden. It’s great to walk around the island, visit the historical fortress, Petropavlovsk Cathedral, and get into the museums if you are interested.

Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg
View of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg

Where To Stay In St Petersburg

3 MostA Hotel, Moyka emb. 3, Saint Petersburg

3 MostA, is a boutique hotel ideally located near to the world-famous Hermitage Museum and close to bridges over Griboedova Canal and Moyka River. From the 5th. Floor restaurant, you will get the best panoramic view of the church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. Moreover, they have free parking for hotel guests. Should you require Russian visa support, they do issue invitation letters visit the hotel website for more information.

Nomera na Nevskom 111, Nevsky prospect 111, Tsentralny

Located in the heart of Saint Petersburg, Nomera na Nevskom 111 hotel, just 7 to 8 minutes walking distance from Moscowvisky train station. Historical places such as the State Russian Museum, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is also within a mile and a half. If you are interested, ask for a room with a kitchenette with a microwave, stovetop, and fridge.

Recommended Restaurants in St. Petersburg

Mr. Bo, Manezhny Ln., 2, St. Petersburg

This beautiful cozy restaurant is located close to Summar Garden in St. Petersburg. They serve delicious Seafood, International, and Fusion, and Vegetarian-friendly food. Click here to make a reservation.

Skazki Shakherezady, Moskovskiy Ave., 193, St. Petersburg

Skazki Shakherezady is a stylish modern restaurant of authentic cuisines of Middle Eastern, Georgian, European, and Eastern Europen. It is located close to Moskovskaya Square. All meals are reasonably priced. Click here to make a reservation.

Troika, Zagorodny Ave., 27, St. Petersburg

Troika is a popular restaurant among locals and tourists alike. Based on carefully refined cuisine and only high-quality products, the kitchen offers authentic Russian, European, Eastern, and Central European cuisines. Click here to make a reservation.

A few of the local dishes I recommend to try:

Borsh (red beetroot soup with sour cream), Pelmeni (Russian dumplings), Piorgi (with different fillings), Blini (Russian Pancakes), Solyanka (mixed soup), Russian Salad, Golubtsy (stuffed cabbage with meat and rice), Amul Soup, Smoked Amul, etc.

My Opinion and Last Word

Have you been to St. Petersburg, Russia? Any cool tips to share?

I loved being to this country down under and want to go back again. Hope my story has motivated you to visit. 

Please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you to improve my knowledge. 

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Hasan Mahmud

Traveler, Blogger, and Travel Photographer!

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