Picture perfect St. Petersburg is the jewel in the Baltic's crown. Often called the Venice of the north, rivers and canals intermingle with spectacular architecture, magnificent museums and ornate palaces. A cruise to St. Petersburg is a truly enriching experience; enjoy an evening at the ballet, marvel at one of the city’s many museums or immerse yourself in rich history. Whatever you choose to do, there’s lots awaiting you in this phenomenal city.
Spend the afternoon at a museum
Known as the “city-museum,” St. Petersburg has over 200 museums with each offering something entirely unique. Located in the Shuvalov Palace, the famous Fabergé Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of works by Peter Carl Fabergé. Born in St. Petersburg in 1846, Fabergé was a jeweller best known for his unique style and use of precious metals and gemstones. The museum, which was founded to preserve, study and promote Russia’s cultural heritage, includes nine of the famous Imperial Easter Eggs which are regarded as both the finest jeweled works and unique historical artefacts.
One of the oldest and most famous museums in the world, the vast Hermitage Museum is a must-see when visiting St. Petersburg. Established in 1764 when Catherine The Great acquired art from a German trader, the museum is situated within the stunning Winter Palace of Empress Catherine. It houses over 3 million pieces of art and even features the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Monet and Van Gogh. We’d highly recommend allocating a whole day (or even more!) to visit the museum, due to its size and huge collection it would be impossible for you to see everything in just a few hours - rumour has it that if you spent 1 minute admiring each piece of art, it would take you 9 years to complete the museum.
Set within the magnificent Mikhailovsky Palace, The State Russian Museum houses many, many years of fascinating Russian history. The collection contains over 400,000 exhibits covering all major periods and trends in the history of Russian art with highlights including medieval icons, atmospheric late-10th century genre paintings and several modernist masterpieces.
Watch the ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre
For more than two centuries, the Mariinsky Theatre has been presenting the world with a plethora of incredible artists including the likes of Ulyana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneve and Anna Nerebko. It is renowned for the impeccable discipline and devotion to its ballet company as well as the orchestral music and opera it presents.
Many visit the theatre for its rich atmosphere and ornate interiors and come away wowed by the state-of-the-art acoustics and stage technology. It is well worth exploring if you are a music enthusiast! The theatre’s season runs from September to June and you can find a full playbill and book tickets, here.
Marvel at the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
One of St. Petersburg’s most recognisable landmarks, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood stands on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. His son, Alexander III, started the construction to celebrate his father who was instrumental following the defeat of Russia in the Crimean War.
Following many years of neglect, the church reopened in 1997 after it was restored to its former glory and like many churches in Russia, it is now a museum. Known also as the Church of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, its riotously colourful Russian Revival architecture provides a stark contrast to the elegant neoclassicism of its neighbour, The State Russian Museum. Quite extraordinary that a monument to mark such a tragic event is so exuberantly colourful, something that is mirrored internally.
Witness the drawbridges of St. Petersburg raise
The aptly nicknamed ‘city of bridges,’ St. Petersburg has more than 342 bridges over canals and rivers of various sizes. What better way to appreciate the beautiful baroque buildings and neoclassical style architecture that lines the city than on the water? There are many boat tours available so you can step off one vessel and onto another to explore this charming city via the Neva River.
Want to witness the famous drawbridges of St. Petersburg rise at night? There are many nighttime boat tours to choose from which enable you to watch this spectacle unravel. The tour begins at midnight and the first bridge opens at 1:25am to allow for the large cargo ships to pass through. Each bridge then raises one by one.
If you’re visiting St. Petersburg between May and mid-July then you’re likely to witness the White Nights: an atmospheric phenomenon where the sun never fully sets and the city is left illuminated by a brightly lit sky. A signatured tradition at this time of year is watching the drawbridges open from the water - a phenomenal way to immerse yourself in the experience.
Wander around Peterhof Palace
Part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, Peterhof Palace is an unmissable landmark. Located approximately 30 kilometres outside of the city centre, the palace was designed to be the centrepiece of Peter the Great’s “Russian Versaille.” Set within 200 acres of stunning scenery, the palace features over 500 statues and 144 fountains. The fountains are in operation only in summer, making it a great time to visit.
As part of a guided tour, visitors are allowed to walk a designated route around Peterhof Palace through its open rooms. Each room is guarded by Babushkas (meaning an old woman or grandmother), who guide you from one room to another.