Wondering what to see in Moscow and St Petersburg? Well, the best Saint Petersburg attractions are conveniently featured below. Start your visit by learning more about the history of St Petersburg at the Museum of History. Speaking of museums, visiting indoor attractions like the State Hermitage Museum and the Russian Museum are great things to do in St Petersburg, Russia in winter.
As for non-touristy things to do in St Petersburg, why not go on an unconventional metro station tour? Finally, one of the best things to do in St Petersburg, Russia at night is to see a performance at the grand Mariinsky Theatre. Keep reading for more fun things to do in St Petersburg.
Peterhof is a collection of palaces, gardens, museums, and churches created by Peter the Great in the 18th century, in response to France’s overly-opulent Palace of Versailles. Until 1917, the tsars resided in Peterhof, but today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the city’s top tourist attractions. Highlights include the Peterhof Hermitage, the Grand Palace, and the Grand Cascade. Connecting the Grand Palace to the Marine Canal, the Grand Cascade features 64 fountains and more than 200 bronze statues.
2. State Hermitage Museum
Founded in 1764 by Empress Catherine the Great, the State Hermitage Museum is the world’s second-largest art museum. Its main complex features five interconnected buildings, which house the museum’s extensive three-million piece arts and culture collection. Highlights include the imperial family’s personal effects in the Malachite Room and the 18th-century Italian art display with masterpieces by Da Vinci and Michelangelo. There are also guided tours available of the Treasure Gallery’s Golden and Diamond Rooms. Book your spot on the museum’s official website.
3. Winter Palace
The State Hermitage Museum is actually housed inside the Winter Palace and its interconnected buildings. Historically, the Winter Palace was the Russian tsars’ official residence from 1732 to 1917. Dominating the city’s Palace Square, the Winter Palace’s extravagant baroque-style exterior features a combination of white, teal, and gold accents. Its interior is just as opulent, which you can see for yourself when you visit the State Hermitage Museum to see its collection of antiquities and European artworks.
4. Savior on the Spilled Blood
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (also called the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ) is one of the city’s most famous sights. The imperial family erected the church where Emperor Alexander II was fatally wounded in 1881. Resembling Moscow’s St Basil’s Cathedral, it’s built from red brick and crowned with five multicolored and enameled domes. Today, it operates as a museum and not a church, so book a ticket to see the 600 interior mosaic images, which took 10 years to complete.
5. Peter and Paul Fortress
With construction starting in 1703, the Peter and Paul Fortress was the city’s first structure and is hence considered to be the city’s birthplace. But funnily enough, the star-shaped fortress located on Zayachy Island was never used as a fort. Instead, it was known as the Russian Empire’s most feared prison. Today, the fortress is home to two main attractions: the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, where the imperial family is buried, and the St Petersburg Museum of History.
6. Nevsky Prospekt
One of the top things to do in St Petersburg is to go for a stroll along Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main thoroughfare. The 2.5-mile street runs from the Admiralty to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. Places to visit along Nevsky Prospekt include Stroganov Palace, which today houses the Museum of Fine Arts; the aforementioned Winter Palace and State Hermitage Museum; Kazan Cathedral and Gostiny Dvor, a large department store encompassing an entire city block.
7. Russian Museum
The State Russian Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Russian fine art – 400,000 artworks from the early icons of the 11th century to present-day contemporary artists. Although its main collection is housed inside the Mikhailovsky Palace, the Russian Museum also hosts temporary and permanent exhibitions inside the Marble Palace, Mikhailovsky Castle, and Stroganov Palace. Inside the Russian Museum, you will find antique paintings and sculptures, a large display of decorative folk art, and contemporary art in all forms.
8. St Petersburg Metro
Established in 1955, the St Petersburg Metro is the city’s underground rapid transit system. You may not think a visit to the metro is one of the top things to do in St Petersburg, but the city’s metro stations are one of a kind. For example, Kirovskiy Zavod has grey marble columns and Avtovo features marble walls and chandeliers alongside grand columns made of marble or decorated with glass. Meanwhile, Sportivnaya has murals that depict Olympic athletes and Greek gods.
9. Summer Garden
Named in honor of the adjacent Summer Palace (Peter the Great’s first Summer Palace), the Summer Garden is the city’s most famous garden. Established in 1704, it’s actually located on an island that’s bordered by the Fontanka, Moika, and Swan Canals. Inside the symmetrical Summer Garden, you will find 79 17th and 18-century Italian sculptures lining the Main Alley, the Summer Garden History Museum, several cafes, and the Summer Palace, which is now a museum.
10. Mariinsky Theater
Opening in 1860, the neoclassical Mariinsky Theatre is a historic opera and ballet theater. Many renowned artists have graced the stage at Mariinsky Theatre, including prima ballerina Anna Pavlova; Feodor Chaliapin, Russia’s most famous opera singer; and Petr Chaikovsky, one of the world’s greatest music composers. Today, you can see a range of performances at the Mariinsky Theatre, including opera, ballet, plays, and classical music concerts. With a grand interior, seeing a show at Mariinsky Theater is one of the best things to do in St Petersburg.
11. Canal Tour
St Petersburg is built on the water. Its main river is the Neka River, which runs through the city’s middle from Lake Ladoga to the Gulf of Finland. There’s also over a hundred rivers and canals and 800 bridges crossing them. Hence, hopping on a river and canal tour is one of the best ways to see the city. Choose from several tour companies, including Astra Marine, which has options like a city sightseeing cruise along the Neka River and a Faberge Canal cruise.
12. Catherine Palace
The 18th-century Catherine Palace was the Russian tsars’ summer residence. Built in the Rococo architecture style, the blue and white Catherine Palace is the definition of grand, at 1066 feet long. 220 pounds of gold was also used on the exterior facade and statues alone. Today, Catherine Palace is one of the city’s most-visited attractions. Inside, visitors can see the legendary Amber Room, The Great Hall with its monumental ceiling fresco, the luxurious White Dining Room, and the overflowing Picture Gallery.
13. Divo Ostrov
If you’re looking for fun things to do in St Petersburg this summer, head to the family-friendly Divo Ostrov. Located amongst the greenery of Primorskiy Park Pobedy on Krestovsky Island, Divo Ostrov is one of the country’s largest amusement parks. With 46 attractions, there’s a ride for everyone – from toddlers to thrill-seekers. This includes the Ferris Wheel for unbeatable city views, multiple roller coasters, the adrenaline-pumping Catapult and Free Fall, and catamarans on the lake.
14. Grand Maket Rossiya
Grand Makey Rossiya is an award-winning private museum housing the country’s largest model layout. On a scale of 1:87 and covering an 8600 sq ft area, it represents nearly the entirety of the Russian Federation. From the Ural Mountains to rural villages to Moscow, it aims to present an image of everyday life in Russia. To make it as life-like as possible, it also gradually changes from day to night every 15 minutes, thanks to 500,000 LED lights.