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Destination Information Series

Things to Do in Saint Petersburg, Russia

The City of the White Nights

By Sara Tiffany

Saint Petersburg is a world-class city with a history that is both magnificent and horrific. From the long grandiose rule of the Tsars and their dramatic fall less than a century ago, to the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War, St. Petersburg has seem extreme wealth and extreme hardship. Today it is a booming and beautiful city that is rich in culture and class, and filled with evidence of its illustrious past.

The list of worthwhile things to do in St. Petersburg is endless, and if you are traveling with Berg Adventures to climb Mount Elbrus, you will have the opportunity to spend an action-packed day visiting many of the highlights. These sites include:

The Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace – Most Russians consider the Hermitage to be one of the cultural gems of the country and it is easy to see why. Considered to be one of the greatest collections of art in the world, the Hermitage is impressive to the untrained eye and a dream-come-true for art enthusiasts. But what really makes this museum special is that it is housed in the former Winter Palace of the Russian Tsars.

The Winter Palace, home to the Hermitage Museum

The Winter Palace, home to the Hermitage Museum

The Church of Spilled Blood – This beautifully gold-leafed, onion-domed church is as impressive inside as it is outside. It is home to nearly 7,000 square meters of intricate mosaics!

Left: The stunning onion domes of the Church of Spilled Blood; Right: The beautiful ceiling of the Church of Spilled Blood

Left: The stunning onion domes of the Church of Spilled Blood

Right: The beautiful ceiling of the Church of Spilled Blood

St. Isaac’s Cathedral – St. Isaac’s was commissioned by Tsar Alexander I and construction took forty years. It will be obvious to you when you walk in the doors that no expense was spared. Outside the cathedral we will be able to see the famous Bronze Horseman statue of Peter the Great.

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

Saint Isaac’s Cathedral

Peter and Paul Fortress – As the original citadel of St. Petersburg, this site is rich in history. Within the garrison walls, you will find the burial site of nearly all of the tsars from Peter I to Alexander III, as well as an old prison, the city museum, the Peter and Paul Cathedral and a functioning mint.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan – During communist rule, this cathedral was repurposed as the “Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism”. Religious services resumed in 1992.

Nevksy Prospect – This one will be easy for us to explore since our hotel is located along this bustling street that is the “Main Street” of St. Petersburg and was designed that way by Peter the Great during the city’s founding. The avenue runs through the heart of the city and is home to many fine dining and shopping options as well as posh apartments.

A Canal Cruise – What better way to end the day than with a relaxing boat cruise along the canals?

If you have some extra time, you may want to consider extending your trip to the city by arriving a day or two early. We are happy to arrange a tour guide for you, assist you with finding a hotel, or provide you with performance schedules should you want to see a famous Russian ballet or other show. While the sites listed here are mostly limited to museums, palaces and parks, the city also has a lot to offer in the way of dining, shopping and culture.

Peterhoff Palace and Garden – Recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site and often referred to as the “Russian Versailles”, Peterhof is an architectural marvel commissioned and designed (in part) by Peter the Great in 1714. Many people take an entire day to explore the three palaces, impeccable gardens and dramatic fountains of Peterhof. Though the area was badly damaged during the German occupation of WWII, restoration of the site began shortly after the war and improvements are still being made to this day.

The Fountains at Peterhof

The Fountains at Peterhof

The fastest and most pleasant way to reach the palace is by hydrofoil from the city. It takes about 45 minutes to travel from the city to Peterhof by boat and slightly longer by train.

Mariinsky Theater – Opened in 1860, the Mariinsky Theater has been a hub for Russian culture and performance ever since. New extensions have been in progress for years, but the original building and theater remain. To truly experience the grandeur of the theater, take in a ballet or opera, you won’t regret it!

Catherine Palace and Park – Roam around this manicured 1400 acre park and marvel at the huge gold and blue palace. If you are feeling inspired, tour the inside of the palace and see an impressive amount of gold leaf!

Blockade of Leningrad Museum – The museum offers visitors a taste of what life was like during the 900 day siege of the city (then called Leningrad) from 1941 to 1944. City residents who survived the siege faced unimaginable hardships and this museum pays a tribute to them.

Smonly Cathedral – When walking past the unfinished architectural marvel of Bartolomeo Rastrelli, it is hard not to stare. The intricate detail of this white and blue domed cathedral is one of a kind.

Museum of Russian Vodka – Russia has been exporting vodka since the 16th century and the product has had a huge effect on Russian social and economic history ever since. This museum provides a fun break from the usual museum experience. Stop by the museum restaurant to see the biggest spread of vodkas you will likely ever encounter.