A Quick Guide to St Petersburg, Russia

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St Petersburg is a city rich in regal history. Home to the famed summer and winter residence of Peter the Great, there is a lot to appreciate in the once Russian capital, from impressive royal architecture to one of the world’s best museums (even rivalling that of the Louvre!) While the weather in St Petersburg gets a bad wrap, each season offers a distinctly different take on this exquisite city, so be sure to put it on your list for Eastern European adventures!


Population: 4.9 million +
Known for: Museums, Royal History, White Nights
Climate: Maritime climate with warm summers and cold winters… Bring a raincoat!

A quick guide to St Petersburg

Prior to Arrival 

Russia has one of the most painfully frustrating visa processes, so be sure to look into your requirements sooner rather than later (it will require sending your passport off to an embassy or taking it in in person). Unless you’re willing to pay the fast processing fee, you’ll be needing 1-10 days (more likely to be on the double digit side) to wait for your passport and visa to be returned. Also be sure to take your time when filling in your visa application, as any small mistakes will require handing it over again. Read here to find out more about the Russian visa process.

On Arrival 

If arriving by plane, the easiest way to the airport is by taxi. Train travel is popular within Russia and from Finland, and the most efficient way to the city is again by taxi. Bus travel into St Petersburg is the cheapest way to arrive, however is much slower. Most visitors to the city arrive by boat/ferry. If you join a cruise (i.e. departing Helsinki, Finland), then you will not require a Russian visa. You will however not be permitted to depart from the group.

Getting Around 

It is important to know that whilst taxi travel is the next best mode of transport after walking, there are many illegal operators who can really tarnish your trip experience by ripping you off. Public transport in St Petersburg is good, but it can be very overwhelming for visitors who do not speak Russian or understand cyrillic. Walking is for certain the best way to get around the city as nothing is too far to walk to!

Brooke Saward at Peterhof

Getting By 

The language spoken in St Petersburg is of course Russian, a difficult language to learn for English speakers but reasonably easy to pick up when learning a few key words and phrases:

Hello: Zdravstvuyte

Excuse me: Izvinite

Thank You: Spasibo

You’re welcome: Dobro pozhalovat’

Bye: Poka

peterhof palace Peterhof Fountains

What to See 

St Petersburg is one of those cities that you don’t really need to know where to go in order to get there. If staying centrally in St Petersburg, everything is within walking distance (bar a couple of exceptions) and one should take the time to wander aimlessly between one sight and the next. Don’t miss:

Peterhof Palace

Often referred to as the “Versailles of Russia”, Peterhof Palace and gardens are an impressive sight to see and a great insight into Russian royal history. See this post for a more detailed review of a day trip to Peterhof Palace.

Hermitage Museum

Inside the city, this is the most popular tourist attraction… and with good reason! This is for certain one of the world’s most impressive museums with a collection of over 3 million pieces from all around the world.

Church of the Saviour on Blood

This impressive Church is another one of the must sees in St Petersburg – with an impressive eye to detail.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

Saint Isaac’s is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city and is equally beautiful inside and out.

Catherine Palace

Built in 1717, this Palace is another great insight into Russian royal history. It is known as Catherine Palace as it was commissioned by Catherine the Great to be her Summer Palace and has impressive grounds surrounding the Palace.

Peterhof gardens

What to Eat & Drink 

Although it often gets a bad wrap, Russian cuisine has some fantastic flavours and textures on offer. Be sure to try:

Pelmeni (dumplings, typically with meat inside); Borscht (meat, beetroot and cabbage stew); Blini (thin pancakes – great option for vegetarians!); Pirog (sweet Russian pie); and Solyanka (stew that comes both as a meaty option or mushroom).

If you have (quickly) tired of Russian cuisine, try “Leafy Green Cafe”, a hotspot for vegetarians and vegans. Alternatively for the meat eaters, the Burg Bar & Grill is a great option for a burger!

Moscow Cathedral

Get Out 

If you’re interested in seeing more of Russia beyond St Petersburg, this country offers fascinating cities and countryside to explore! While it is still one of the more difficult countries to travel throughout in Europe, it is slowly becoming more and more accessible. For example, the Sapsan fast train will take you from St Petersburg to Moscow in under 4 hours.


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    Nathaniel Hunt
    March 6, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    This is a great article! Might be worth noting that “You’re welcome” is more accurately rendered as pazhal’sta (пожалуйста) though!

    February 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I’m wondering if it’s safe to go to St. Peterburg. I am afraid of the crime aimed at foreign tourists, and I’m talking not only about stealing purses and wallets, but more serious and violent offences. We live in Canada. We are originally from Ukraine, and I know that back home people think foreigners are just money-bags and I think the criminals may be targeting foreigners particularly.

  • Reading January 2016 Part 2 – Non Travel With Me
    January 27, 2016 at 2:29 am

    […] World of Wanderlust: A quick guide to St Petersburg, Russia […]

    November 30, 2015 at 2:12 am

    I still remember my visit to Peterhof! It was so lovely, the gardens are soo lush and green and beautiful, it’s impressive.
    I remember being shown a bench where Peter the Great would always hide, awaiting for ambassadors to come by, and when they finally did, he would cold pour water at them from the pipe and laugh like a maniac 😀

    Milana I The Backpackers
    November 25, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Just stunning!
    Russia is one of my favorite countries when it comes to traveling. I was in Moscow about 3 years ago and I didn’t want to leave, ever. As someone already said about St. Petersburg, the best way, if it’s possible, to know the city and get to all the sights you want is a metro. I used the metro in Moscow, which was an attraction itself, and slowly managed to get to know the city like a real local.

    My next trip to Russia will be next year, this time it’s this wonderful city. I can’t wait to get there and enjoy the St.Petersburg fairytale!

    angelica lara
    November 25, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Katya. How is the weather the late days of march? do you know if in this month is a ferry from finland to St Pete available? Im traveling from Mexico, so any recomendation would pretty much appreciated.

    November 25, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    What is the best month to travel?

    November 24, 2015 at 4:34 am

    very bloges

    November 21, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Since the signs within the metro are actually in both alphabets, I found that the metro was a great way to get round St Petersburg, especially if you want to visit some of the attractions which aren’t in the very centre. The metro is also a tourist attraction in itself, with beautiful and individual decorations in each station.

    Alex (
    November 21, 2015 at 4:36 am

    Great article and pics. St. Petersburg is without a doubt one of the most historic European cities. I would suggest, whenever possible, avoiding traveling there in high season (June – August) when the most popular sights like the Hermitage Museum, Catherine Palace, and Peterhof are virtually overrun by tourists and cruise ship passengers and lines to get in can be horrendous. May and September are still very pleasant but less crowded.

    November 21, 2015 at 12:46 am

    Amazing city with just so amazing people.

    November 20, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Ochen kracivaya!
    Can’t wait visit both St Petersburg and Moscow and hopefully a lot more!
    I studied Russian at uni and have been dying to get over and visit. Cyrillics are easy to learn…the easiest thing in Russian, it only gets harder from there!! Hope you’ve inspired more people to make the trip, love a blogger who goes to the less popular spots! If I recall these photos are from the earlier days of WOW.Any plans to visit Russia again? Would love to see WOW take Moskva! xo

    November 20, 2015 at 4:22 am

    That’s my home city and I love it so much!

    I’m glad to know that people all around the world want to visit it, it’s really a nice destination.

    P.S. Happy to answer any questions about St.Pete.


    Anca | Globaloud
    November 19, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    I would like to visit Russia, especially St Petersburg, but only in May-October period cause I’m really afraid of the Russian winter. In fact, I can’t stand anything below -5 Celsius.

    November 19, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    It’s great that you love it.
    fyi: pirog may be also with a cabbage, with a meat or whatever)

    November 19, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Wow! The architecture in St Petersburg looks like something out of a Disney movie!

    November 19, 2015 at 3:17 am

    St. Petersburg is amazing! I was blown away by its beauty when I was there a few years ago. It is definitely the one place in Russia I would return to (and hope to do so soon!)

    Jessica (ourgloballove)
    November 18, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Your pictures are absolutely amazing!!!! St.Petersburg is definitely being added to my list of places to visit! 🙂

    Cherry Jam Street
    November 18, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    This place is definitely on my list! What lovely pics!

    Ashleigh Osborn
    November 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    Ahhh amazing… I’m definitely putting St Petersburg on my list!

    November 18, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Great post but You’re welcome: Dobro pozhalovat’ is not actually correct. Dobro pozhalovat’ is Welcome as ‘Welcome to St Peterburg’ but You’re welcome is Pozhaluista 🙂

    November 18, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    I just got back from St. Petersburg a couple of weeks ago and must say it was definitely worth the Visa process! 🙂 Such a gorgeous city!

    November 18, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    The last photo us actually from Moscow.

    • Brooke Saward
      November 18, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      Hi Tanya, Indeed it is – as it is showing the places to go outside of St Petersburg in the “Get out” section 🙂

    Patricia Perez
    November 18, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    I’m learning Russian and I would love to go to St. Petersburg one day. It looks beautiful!


    November 18, 2015 at 7:12 am

    I hope to visit St Petersburg without a visa May 2016. To get there I wish to take the St Peter Ferry Line from Helsini. It will hopefully allow 2 nights in Russia. Last month I went to Belarus and loved it.