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Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, Visit St Petersburg

The Saviour on Spilled Blood, © Can Stock / sborisov

Cruise Ship Visa-Free Option

Cruise ship passengers who visit St Petersburg should always choose the visa-free option. Everyone else who visits Russia must obtain a visa, which is complicated and expensive too. Cruise ships shore excursions qualify for visa-free tours, but independent tours can also offer an excellent Visa-Free 2 day Tour of St Petersburg.

Winter Palace, St Petersburg

Winter Palace, © Can Stock / Artzzz

Visit St Petersburg – Hermitage

When you visit St Petersburg, make your own Old Town St Petersburg Walking Tour, but remember you will need a visa to visit Russia on your own. Cruise ship passengers can purchase Visa Free tours, but the tour operator actually obtains a visa and assumes responsibility for your visit. Start at the Winter Palace, which is part of the State Hermitage Museum. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. Buildings include the  Catherine the Great founded the State Hermitage Museum in 1764. The museum sections open to the public are the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Menshikov Palace. The Hermitage Theater is a great place to take in the famous Swan Lake Ballet. The Winter Palace is closed Mondays, so plan accordingly. Don’t miss the Jordan Staircase in the Winter Palace.

The Palace Bridge is on the Neva River at the Winter Garden. The Palace Square, with the Alexander Column at its center, is on the opposite side of the State Hermitage Museum from the Neva River.

St Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg

St Isaac’s Cathedral, © Can Stock / Paha_L

St Isaac’s Cathedral

After visiting the Winter Palace, walk to the Admiralty, which is the former naval headquarters. On the grounds along the Neva River you will find the Peter the Great Bronze Horseman statue. Then wander through the gardens of the Admiralty to St Isaac’s Cathedral. The cathedral dominates the skyline of Old Town St Petersburg. You can pay extra to climb the stairs to the cupola for views of the city. From St Isaac’s Cathedral, pass through St Isaac’s Square and see the Monument to Nicholas I. Then cross the Blue Bridge over the Moyka River to see the Mariinsky Palace. The Blue Bridge is so wide and low that you likely won’t even notice that it’s a bridge.

To the west of Mariinsky Palace you will find the Yusupov Palace, the Mariinsky Theater and then south to St Nicholas Naval Cathedral and the blue domes of Trinity Cathedral. Heading east instead of west will quickly lead you to the Nevsky Prospect, which is a very popular area.

Kazan Cathedral, Visit St Petersburg

Kazan Cathedral, © Can Stock / garmashovsa

Visit St Petersburg – Nevsky Prospect

From the Mariinsky Palace follow the Moyka River to the pink Stroganov Palace and the beginning of the Nevsky Prospect. The name Stroganov Palace is related to beef Stroganoff, because the dish was invented by one of the cooks at the palace in the 1700s.

The Nevsky Prospect (Prospekt) is the best known street in St Petersburg. Along the street you will find Kazan Cathedral.  Across the street from the cathedral is the Singer House with its distinctive art nouveau architecture. Finish off your visit to the Nevsky Prospect at the Elyseyev Emporium, which is a shopping center and a great place to grab a bite to eat on your St Petersburg walking tour. Then head to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, also called the Church on Blood. The church was built over the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated at this spot in March 1881.

Cabin of Peter the Great, Visit St Petersburg

Cabin of Peter the Great, © Can Stock / Eillen1981

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood

For the last part of your St Petersburg Walking Tour, visit the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, the Russian Museum and St Michael’s Castle which all surround the Mikhailovsky Garden. The Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood is one of the highlights when you visit St Petersburg. The church was built in memory of Tsar Alexander II,  who was assassinated at this location. The Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood is closed on Wednesdays.

Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

Russian Museum, © Can Stock / SimFan

Visit St Petersburg – Russian Museum

The Russian Museum faces Arts Square, while the Mikhailovsky Garden is behind the Russian Museum. Arts Square gets its name from the large number of museums, theaters and concert halls that share this area with the Russian Museum. The Russian Museum includes nearby St Michael’s Castle, which was the residence of Emperor Paul I in the late 1700s.

Alexander Column, Palace Square, St Petersburg

Alexander Column, © Can Stock / Ursula1964

Visit St Petersburg – Summer Garden

Extend your St Petersburg walking tour from the Russian Museum by strolling through the Field of Mars and Peter the Great’s Summer Garden. From the Summer Garden you can see the Peter & Paul Fortress and the Cabin of Peter the Great on the opposite bank of the Neva River.

White Nights

During the summer months, the glow of sunlight lingers after sunset all night long and many late night events are scheduled. This period is called the White Nights Festival of St Petersburg. Boat tours run at midnight and it’s common for people to stroll the canals until late into the night. Lighted draw bridges are raised at midnight, which tourists love, but locals don’t appreciate.

Peterhof Palace Grounds, St Petersburg

Fountain, Peterhof Palace, © Can Stock / JackF

Peterhof Palace

Peterhof Palace is one of the top tourist attractions for people who visit St Petersburg. Take a 50 minute hydrofoil ride from the Winter Garden to get to Peterhof Palace estate and gardens. Another option is an organized half day tour to Peterhof from downtown hotels. This palace was the home of Peter the Great on the Baltic Sea. The Peterhof Palace includes the Grand Cascade, Samson Fountain, Lower Gardens and the Grand Palace. Peterhof Palace is closed on Mondays. Pay attention to which type of tour you book, as many shore excursion tours only visit the grounds and not the palace interior. A trip to Peterhof Palace will seem very similar to a trip to Versailles.

Peterhof Palace, Visit St Petersburg

Peterhof Palace, © Can Stock / airn

Catherine Palace

Catherine Palace was a summer home for Russian royalty. The palace has extensive architecture and grounds. Catherine Palace is about 45 minutes south of St Petersburg in Pushkin. The main attraction at the Catherine Palace is the Amber Room, but expect to spend several hours viewing the interior and the ground of this palace. Organized tours and shore excursions that visit Catherine Place require a substantial portion of your day, so expect that you will need at least two full touring days to cover major attractions in St Petersburg.

Peter and Paul Fortress, St Petersburg

Peter and Paul Fortress, © Can Stock / Meoita

Visit St Petersburg – More to See

  • Peter and Paul Fortress & Cathedral – Fortress and Russian Orthodox church built in 1712 on Zayachy Island along the Neva River near the Old Town. The last Csars of Russia are buried in the cathedral. The interior of the Peter and Paul Cathedral is a highlight. When you visit the Peter and Paul Fortress, stop at the nearby Cabin of Peter the Great. The Cabin of Peter the Great is the first residential building in St Petersburg.
  • Smolny Cathedral – a traditional blue and white Russian church fairly close to central St Petersburg.
  • Alexandr Nevsky MonasteryTchaikovsky and Dostoevsky are buried here.
  • Dostoyevsky Museum – tribute to the famous Russian author.
  • Edmond J Safra Grand Choral Synagogue – second largest synagogue in Europe.
Neva River Cruise, Winter Palace, St Petersburg

Neva River Cruise, © Can Stock / toshket

Canal Boat Tours

Take a boat tour of the canals of St Petersburg, also known as the Venice of the North. Most visitors take the one hour version to see the architecture of central St Petersburg on the Neva, Moyka and Fontanka Rivers. The longer 1.5 hour canal tour goes up the smaller Griboyedov Canal, which larger tour boats can’t navigate. You will find several companies eager for your business with each company having their own docking locations.

State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

State Hermitage Museum

Get to St Petersburg

You can get to St Petersburg by flying to Pulkovo International Airport (LED). St Petersburg also has good rail connections. Helsinki, Finland is about 3.5 hours away via Finliandskiy Station, while Moscow can be reached in just over 4 hours by high speed train from Moskovskiy Station. Both these high speed train stations also have St Peterburg metro station connections. St Petersburg is a very popular ocean cruise line port and a Neva River cruise port too.

Smolny Cathedral, St Petersburg

Smolny Cathedral, © Can Stock / tupungato

Get Around St Petersburg

Trains from Moscow and Helsinki arrive at the Moscow Rail Station and the Finland Rail Station, respectively. Both are not far from central St Petersburg and connect with the St Petersburg metro. Cruise ship passengers are better off to visit St Petersburg on a visa-free tour. Otherwise you will need a Russian visa to visit town on your own and Russian visas are notoriously difficult to obtain. If you arrive at the airport, the #39 bus takes you to Moskovskaya Metro Station where you can join the metro lines. A taxi from the airport will take about 45 minutes, but the heavy traffic congestion in central St Petersburg makes the metro a better option almost any time of day.

The St Petersburg Metro is a great way to get around St Petersburg. St Petersburg has 5 metro lines (M1 – M5) with each having a distinct color coding. The metro stations are a cultural experience too, just like they are in Moscow. Plus they are among the deepest subway stations in the world, as they were built to withstand German bombers during World War II. Some think the Avtovo Station is the most attraction station, but the most common visit is to the Zvenigorodskaya and Pushkinskaya intersection. Start near the Hermitage Museums on the purple line at the Admiralteyskaya Metro Station, which is 335 feet below ground. Then Zvenigorodskaya is two stops away and it’s a few minutes on foot to the adjoining Pushkinskaya Metro junction. The Avtovo Station will take about 45 minutes to reach from the tourist center of St Petersburg.

St Petersburg Weather

St Petersburg weather is warm and humid in summer. June through August are the best months for temperatures, but these are also the busiest months for tourism. Expect average summer highs of 72 F (22 C) and average lows of 54 F (12 C). St Petersburg has a reputation for rainy, gray weather.

Winter weather is cold and snowy. St Petersburg is slightly warmer than Moscow though, because it’s on the Baltic Sea. Visiting in January, when the crowds are gone and the city is blanketed in snow, can be a special time to see the city.

Visit St Petersburg – Hotels

  • Grand Hotel Europe
  • The State Hermitage Museum Official Hotel
  • Lotte Hotel

Visit St Petersburg – Background

St Petersburg is on the Neva River where it enters the Baltic Sea. The city is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North, because of its canals. St Petersburg used to be known as Petrograd and Leningrad in the past. Tsar Peter the Great founded St Petersburg in 1703.  It was the capital of Russia until 1918 when Moscow took over this role. The old town of St Petersburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Plan the timing of your trip carefully as many attractions are not open on Mondays.

Visit Russia – Plan Your Trip