St. Petersburg Attractions and Tourist
St. Petersburg Attractions
When you visit the various attractions, you will probably notice that you as a tourist pay a higher entry price than what the Russians do. And you will almost certainly hear a loud and indignant American arguing about this at the ticket booth. But keep in mind that these museums are subsidized by the state, and the Russians have contributed their tax rebates. We do not have foreign tourists, so pay with a smile, it is no use to discuss.
Winter Palace and Hermitage
It is absolutely mandatory to visit the Baroque Winter Palace and the huge Hermitage art collection during your St. Petersburg stay, but be prepared for long queues. Come half an hour before the doors open, at least in the high season in the summer. If the queue extends from the entrance and all the way to the gate, you can calculate with about an hour wait, and if it reaches all the way to the Alexander Column on Dvortsovaya Square, it easily takes two hours. You can fortunately avoid this if you are predictive enough to book and pay on the website and print their own tickets.
- See AbbreviationFinder for commonly used abbreviation of city St. Petersburg, Russia. Also includes meanings of the same acronym.
Don’t forget that this is an extremely large museum, housed in six buildings, with over three million works of art (only a fraction exhibited at the same time) in hundreds of halls. You don’t do this in one day, not even a week. Here is everything from Egyptian mummies and Greek and Roman artifacts to works by DaVinci, Rembrandt and Picasso. Open from 1030 to 1800, but closed on Mondays. The entrance fee costs about 80 kroner, with 25 kroner extra for a photo permit.
Spas Na Krovi Church
The Winter Palace is perhaps the most famous building in St. Petersburg, but Spas Na Krovi Church is still the most recognizable. Even the most blasphemous travelers open their eyes the first time they see what is really a memorial to Tsar Alexander II. In 1881 he was killed in a bombing raid on this site. The church is called in many guides by the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, and can be very similar to the more famous St. Basil’s Cathedral on the Red Square in Moscow, with its colorful loop domes. Amazingly, this amazingly beautiful church was used as a potato warehouse during the Soviet era, and reopened as a museum for the public as late as 1997. Open from 1100 to 1800, closed Wednesdays. Entry about NOK 60, children and students half price. The address is Naberezhnaya Canala Griboedova 26.
This palace of 1770 belonged to the powerful Yusopov family before the revolution in 1917, but today there is not much left of their treasures after the Bolsheviks plundered it. But the facade and the interior are magnificent, and the palace is undoubtedly best known for being the place that the legendary and powerful monk Rasputin was invited to dinner that night in 1916 when he met his violent death. Twice daily, English-language guided tours deal with the killing. Open daily from 1100 to 1700, entrance about 70 NOK. The address is Naberezhnaya Reki Moiki 94.
The Peter & Paul Fortress
St. Petersburg’s first settlement was on the small island of Zayachy, located in the Neva River opposite the Winter Palace. Here is the Peter-and-Paul Fortress, which you can reach via two walkways from the Petrograd side of Neva. Until 1917, the fortress was mainly a prison, where many famous Russians have been seated, including Dostoevsky, Trotsky and Gorki. This was also the place where Peter the Great tortured his own son Alexei to death due to suspicion of conspiracy.
The dominant building of the fortress is also St.Peterburg’s tallest, the 122-meter-high Peter-and-Paul Cathedral with its golden spiers. This is where most of Russia’s czars are buried. Today, this is a popular excursion site with many museums, and below the walls on the south side is a beach with beautiful views of St. Petersburg’s historic center.
Free admission, open from 1000 to 1800.
St Petersburg’s oldest existing building is this log cabin from 1703 where Peter the Great lived while the Peter and Paul Fortress was built. Say what you want about Peter, but he was no snob anyway. He served in his own navy, he rather surrounded himself with city organs than with nobles, and he lived just as easily in simple houses as in lavish palaces. Open from 1000 to 1700 from Wednesday to Sunday.
In St. Petersburg’s oldest park Letny Sad lies the Summer Palace, which was the residence of Peter the Great. If you expect something to leave the Winter Palace, you could hardly be more mistaken, as this is a simple two-story building with “only” 14 rooms. The cottage would have been a more appropriate name, and it is almost incredible to think that the ruler of the world’s largest country chose to live here.
Open during the summer months from 1000 to 1700, closed Tuesdays. Entry about NOK 60, children and students NOK 20.
On the Nevsky Prospect is a cathedral that looks like it belongs in Florence or Rome, and not in the Russian imperial city. The Kazan Cathedral was built around 1810, and on the lawn in front of the cathedral, the townspeople tend to bask in the fountain on hot summer days. Free admission, open from 1100 to 1900.
The Russian Museum
If the Hermitage becomes too extensive and time-consuming, try the Russian Museum, which naturally only deals with Russian art, from the 13th century until today. The museum is located in the idyllic Mikhailovsky Park, in a magnificent palace from 1825. Open from 1000 to 1800, closed on Tuesdays. The entrance fee costs about 60 NOK + 25 NOK extra if you want to take pictures.
St. Petersburg’s darkest era was undoubtedly the siege of 1942-44, when the Nazis surrounded and bombed the city. Over the 2.5 years the blockade lasted, starved to death over a million civilians. This museum, which unfortunately does not have English subtitles, is naturally gloomy, with pictures and artifacts from the period. You can get an information brochure in English at the entrance. Entrance approx. NOK 45, open from 1000 to 1700, closed Wednesdays. The address is Solyanoy per. 9.
The cruise ship Aurora has a significant place in Russian history, when in October 1917 it fired the cannon shot that triggered the attack on the Winter Palace and the Russian Revolution. Aurora was lowered during World War II, but raised again, and in 1958 turned into a museum. Since then, Aurora has been at the quay on the Petroadside. Free admission, open from 1030 to 1600, but closed Mondays and Fridays.
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is one of the world’s largest and most ornate cathedrals. It was built in the period 1818-1858. The interior is lavishly decorated with mosaics, ceiling paintings, gold and marble. If the weather is clear, you should definitely take the trouble of climbing the 262 steps to the top of the dome, where you have a glorious view of St. Petersburg. The entrance fee costs about NOK 60, and NOK 25 extra for the viewing plateau in the dome. Open from 1100 to 1800, closed on Wednesdays.
Alexander Nevsky Monastery
This monastery, named after St. Petersburg patron saint, was founded in 1710. The monastery is surrounded by a large and beautiful park and a cemetery where, among others, Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky are buried. Here you will also find the lavishly decorated Trinity Cathedral.
You might not have expected an erotic museum in St. Petersburg, but the Russians have never been particularly reluctant about sex and eroticism. In this museum, which is really part of a venereal clinic, you can see various statuettes and drawings of copulating humans and animals, and not least the huge preserved penis of the legendary monk Rasputin. Open daily from 0900 to 2000. Free admission for patients and souvenir buyers! The address is Ul. Furstatskaya 47/11.
The Bronze Rider is a large statue of the city’s founder Peter the Great on horseback, treading on the snake’s treachery. The inscription on the pages says “To Peter I of Catherine II – 1782”, sensational enough with both Latin and Cyrillic letters. This is one of St. Petersburg’s most photographed monuments, where you will almost certainly see one or more bridal couples lined up for photography.
Of course, there is a separate vodka museum in St. Petersburg. Here you can learn about the production of vodka and the history of vodka all the way back to the 400s, see countless bottles and posters, and of course get a taste. Here is also a reasonably priced cafe serving large portions of Russian food, of course accompanied by a glass of vodka. Entrance about 10 NOK, open daily from 1100 to 2200. The address is Konnogvardejsky bulvar 5.
Although St. Petersburg is a huge city with more residents than Norway, the downtown areas are compact enough for a walking person to easily experience most of the sights and attractions on foot. The traffic on the major streets, including the Nevsky Prospect main street, can be infernal. It can be a long way between pedestrian crossings, and look out for yourself even if you cross the street on a green man.
If you want guided transport with information about the sights, consider purchasing a 24-hour ticket on a sightseeing bus. These red double-decker buses have nine regular stops at the major attractions where you can hop off, stay as long as you want, and hop on the next bus again. St. Petersburg is a city with many canals and rivers, so a sightseeing trip by canal boat might be an option? Many companies operate canal boats, such as Anglotourismo, which have boats that depart from the Anichkoy Bridge on the Nevsky Prospectus. Prices from about 100 kroner for one hour trip.
Day 1 in St. Petersburg
For any first-time visitor, it is almost mandatory to visit the huge museum complex and the Hermitage Art Collection, which was started by Catherine the Great in 1764, making it one of the world’s oldest art museums. If you do not live in the center of St. Petersburg, take the subway to Nevsky Prospekt Station and head west. Turn right into Bolshaya Morskaya ulitsa. You then come straight out onto the magnificent Palace Square, or Dvortsovaya ploshchad, with the 48-meter-high Alexander’s Column in front of the Winter Palace. Especially during the high season in the summer, there are thousands of visitors to the Hermitage daily, and the queue in front of the entrance can be several hundred feet long and seemingly stagnant. Two-hour waiting times are not uncommon. However, you can avoid this by booking and paying the tickets in advance on the Hermitage website and thus go straight to the entrance with the coupon you print.
You must be aware that Hermitage has one of the world’s largest collections of art, with hundreds of thousands of objects on display in hundreds of rooms in six buildings. If you ran everything you could through the halls, you wouldn’t have everything in a day. We recommend that you choose which departments you want to study in advance. If you just walk around randomly, you could almost run into the halls of Russian medieval art, while you might rather see the Egyptian, Roman or Venetian department.
You can hire an audio guide at the entrance for about 50 NOK extra, and with it get information in English (or German, French or Italian) about some of the departments. Inside the museum there are several gift shops and souvenir stalls, but most of the products are considerably more expensive here than elsewhere in St. Petersburg. If you plan to stay in Hermitage until closing time, there is a small café on the ground floor where you can get food and refreshments.
But maybe you feel that you have had enough impressions after a few hours and would rather have lunch somewhere else? Strolling down Nevsky Prospect, you will have many options, from large and juicy baguettes at Subway or hamburgers at McDonalds, to more upscale restaurants where you can actually get a good price for a lunch buffet. Or you can turn into Konyushennaya ulitsa side street, a quiet pedestrian street with several pleasant sidewalk restaurants.
Back on the Nevsky Prospectus, you can’t help but notice the magnificent Kazan Cathedral, which, with its many pillars, looks more like it belongs in Florence or Rome. The cathedral is inspired by St. Peter’s Church in Rome, and finished in 1811 with an 80-meter high vault. It doesn’t cost to take a look, but photography is forbidden.
The long Griboedova canal passes by the cathedral, and if you follow it north, you will quickly spot the most striking building in all of St. Petersburg; the mighty Spas Na Krovi Church with its many golden and colorful loop domes. The church is actually a memorial to Tsar Alexander II, who in 1881 was killed in a bomb attack on this site. The church is called in many guides for the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, and can be very similar to the more famous St. Basil’s Cathedral on the Red Square in Moscow, with its colorful loop domes.
Incredibly, this incredibly beautiful church was used as a potato warehouse during the Soviet era, and reopened as a museum for the public as late as 1997. The entrance fee is relatively expensive, around £ 60, but it’s worth the price, not least because of the over 7,000 square feet of mosaic-decorated walls. Here is also a bust of Tsar Alexander in the exact spot where he was hit by the bomb, although he died from the injuries in the Winter Palace later in the day.
Continuing east from the church, you enter the large and well-kept Mikhailovsky Park. The central building here houses the Russian Museum, which mainly focuses on Russian art throughout the centuries. You will then come to the so-called Engineering Castle, also called the Mikhailovsky Castle, where another tsar, Pavel I, was murdered in his own bedroom in 1801. Dostoevsky has been a student, but is now Russia’s National Portrait Gallery and part of the Russian Museum.
Cross the bridge over the Moyka River, just north of the Engineering Palace, and as you do, take a look around you and ask yourself if this was really the way you expected central St. Petersburg to look like. Tidy canals with sightseeing boats and well-maintained parks now surround you on all sides. Walk into St. Petersburg’s oldest park, Letny Sad or Sommerhagen, which was built by Peter the Great in the early 18th century. At the north end of the park lies the Summer Palace, which was Peter’s residence. If you expect something to leave the Winter Palace, you could hardly be more mistaken, for this is a simple two-story building with “only” 14 rooms, which would hardly have raised if it had been in Oslo once. The “cottage” would have been a more appropriate name, and it is almost incredible to think that the ruler of the world’s largest country chose to live here.
Dinner and nightlife
If you are in Russia, you must eat Russian food for at least one evening, and the restaurant Chekhov is a great place to experience this from its best. The place is named after the Russian author Anton Chekhov and tried to keep in his spirit, with live piano music, handmade tablecloths, candles, singing birds in the cage on the wall and female waitresses in long dresses. Almost like going back to the early 1900s, with its own specially brewed beer and delicious Russian dishes at the most acceptable prices. The address is ulitsa Petropavlovskaya 4, not far from Petrogradskaya metro station. Reservations on the phone +7 (812) 234-45-11 is a good idea.
If you intend to test out St. Petersburg’s nightlife, make sure you are on the same side of Neva as your hotel before 01:30. Because during that time, the bridges are raised across the river so that the boats can get up or down. If you are on the wrong side then it can take hours before you get home!
Day 2 in St. Petersburg
Also today we start at Slottsplassen in front of the Winter Palace, but this time we go west. You can stop by the tourist information office here and take with you what you want from brochures before continuing past the Admiraltey building, which for centuries was the headquarters of the Russian navy. The park is teeming with fountains and statues, including the famous Bronze Rider. This statue depicts the city’s founder Peter the Great on horseback, treading on the snake’s treachery. This is one of St. Petersburg’s most photographed monuments, where you will almost certainly see one or more bridal couples lined up for photography.
Then turn east and walk along the Neva River on the north side of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage. You will pass, among other things, the Marble Palace Art Museum, in a 1780s building with a controversial statue of Tsar Alexander III outside the main entrance, before reaching the Troitski Bridge. The statue at the bridge represents the Russian general and national hero Alexander Suvorov. Take a detour down into Marsovo Polye or Mars Meadow, the large park just south of the bridge, where it burns an eternal flame in memory of the victims of the revolution. Many of these are also buried in this idyllic area, where you can see the domes of Spas Na Krovi Church just south and the Engineering Palace just to the left of this one.
Then cross the Neva on the left side of the Troitski Bridge, where you have a stunning view of St. Petersburg at its most beautiful, and where you wish you had a wide-angle lens on your camera. You are now in the district of Petrograd. Take the first street on the right, and after a few hundred meters you will come to St. Petersburg’s oldest building, Peter the Store’s log cabin where he lived in 1703 while waiting for the fortifications to be completed. It was built in just three days and has been of great symbolic value to the city’s residents. During World War II, the Soviet soldiers gave allegiance to this place before traveling to the front to fight the Germans.
Back at the Troitski Bridge you can cross a footbridge over to the island of Zayachy, where St. Petersburg’s first and original settlement built the fortress that stands here to this day. Peter-and-Paul Fortress (Petropavlovskaya Krepost) is a popular excursion area with many museums, and below the walls on the south side is a beach with beautiful views of St.Petersburg historic center. Above the entrance portal of the fortress hangs Peter den Store’s easily recognizable coat of arms with a double-headed eagle, which still remains on the Russian coat of arms. Until 1917, the fortress was mainly a prison, where many famous Russians have been seated, including Dostoevsky, Trotsky and Gorki. This was also the place where Tsar Peter tortured his own son Alexei to death because of suspicion of conspiracy. The dominant building on the island is the city’s tallest, the 122-meter-high Peter-and-Paul Cathedral with its golden spiers, where most of Russia’s tsars are buried.
Afterwards, you’ll probably find a nice place to have lunch in Alexandrovsky Park, which surrounds Zayachy Island on the north side, or in the Kronverksky Street prospect that flanks the park. If you continue down this street, you will reach the Birzhevoy Bridge, which will take you to the Vasilevski district. This is an island located in the Neva River, and here are many of St. Petersburg’s museums. You can choose from the Marine Museum, the Geological Museum, the Literary Museum, the Zoological Museum, the Mendeleev Museum, the Academy of Fine Arts Museum, the Menshikov Palace and the old Soviet submarine Narodovolets, which were in use from 1931 to 1956. Here you will also find the sometimes grotesque Anthropological and Ethnographic Museum. known as the Art Camera, founded by Peter the Great in 1714.
If you now cross the Dvortsovy Bridge on the southeastern tip of the island, you return to the Palace Square and the Winter Palace where we started today’s tour. Walk through the park at Admiraltey again, and at the south end you will see St.Petersburg’s largest cathedral, St.Isaks, which was built in the period 1818-1858. The interior is lavishly decorated with mosaics, ceiling paintings, gold and marble. If the weather is clear, you should definitely bother climbing the 262 steps to the top of the dome, where you have a glorious view of St. Petersburg. The entrance fee costs about NOK 60, and NOK 25 extra for the viewing plateau in the dome.
If you have followed this program to the fullest, you have traveled several kilometers during the day. You can always take a look at the Russian Vodka Museum, which is a few hundred meters just west of St.Isaks, before heading home to the hotel and relaxing a bit before it’s time to think about dinner.
Did you eat Russian yesterday, you can try food from one of the other old Soviet states today. The restaurant Karavan located at Fontanka Canal, south of downtown, and serves food from exotic places like Uzbekistan, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. This is significantly influenced by the food culture of neighboring countries such as Iran and Turkey, and thus cannot be compared at all to Russian food. The address is Voznesensky’s prospectus 46.
If you’re still ready for more, you won’t have a long way to Mariinsky district, named after the city’s famous Mariinsky Theater, where ballet stars such as Nureev and Baryshnikov started their careers. Here you will find nightclubs such as the Irish Pub and the sports bar Shamrock, where you will meet both Russians and other tourists in jovial get-together.