Known as the ‘City of the Czars’, St Petersburg offers a fascinating glimpse into Russia’s historical relics. It’s also one of the most ornate and prettiest cities that’s on the fringes of Western Russian. Not only that, but there’s also a heap of the best things to do in St Petersburg that are dotted all over the city.
It’s the kind of city that’s totally stunning to explore by foot, or with an official guide that can take you around all the incredible places and palaces that this city is so well known for.
Plus, with it being the second-largest city in Russia, St Petersburg is also fondly known as the cultural capital of Russia, too. This is especially true with all the ballet and operatic performances that are held in the city every month. It’s totally incredible and one of the best things to do in St Petersburg if you’re there.
With that in mind, take a look at some of the best things to do in St Petersburg. It’s such an iconic Russian city and one that’s totally beautiful, too.
1) Explore the Grand Peterhof Palace and Grand Cascade
One of the great things about Grand Peterhof Palace is that it’s pretty darn fun to get there. Firstly, you’ll need to take one of the city’s bumpy hydrofoil boat across the pond that’s as fun as it sounds. It’s a great way to get across and totally kitsch, too.
Built within the 18th century (and similar in design to Versailles in France), the palace is also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best things to do in St Petersburg.
Just make sure to secure your tickets in advance and be prepared for crowds on busy days. It’s one of the highlights of exploring the city and a place that every new visitor tends to go.
2) Visit the Hermitage Museum
First commissioned by Catherine the Great, the Hermitage Museum features an impressive 3 million pieces. Now, in my eyes, this makes Catherine a little bit of a hoarder, no? 😉
Hoarder or not, it’s a totally stunning museum to visit that will actually take ages to fully explore. Inside, the rooms are filled with all types of specimens and historical pieces that date back centuries. Plus, it’s especially special if you’re looking to learn more about Russian art and culture.
Also, it’s one of the best things to do in St Petersburg if you’re visiting in the winter months as it’s all inside. Nice and toasty!
The whole Winter palace complex is just stunning.
3) Find the old Rostral Column
Once a former lighthouse that shooed away ships, this column still stands proud overlooking the city today. Designed in a Roman style, it’s a pretty immersive sight that you literally can’t miss, especially if you love history.
Oh, and don’t forget, if you look closely you will spot some of the carvings of ancients gods upon it. To be honest, you can really miss it when exploring the city and any tour guide worth their salt can easily include this on a tour.
4) See the Bronze Horseman of the city
Created in 1782, the statue of the Bronze Horseman is known as one of the national symbols of the city and one that local residents are pretty proud of.
The statue is modelled on Peter the Great and is said to symbolise the strength of the city and the people who live there. Now, you’ll likely only spend 5-minutes, or so, here but it’s still one of the best things to do in St Petersburg if you want to see a national symbol.
Afterwards, head over to see the Mariinsky Theatre and make sure to see an operatic and ballet performance that’s world-renowned. It’s incredible and something that St Petersburg is totally known for.
5) Explore St. Issacs Cathedral
You will probably spot St. Issacs Cathedral from afar, thanks to its dome which is made of over 100 kilos of gold.
Built back in 1858, come here for the opulent and over-the-top architecture that’s incredible to see. It really is magnificent and totally incredible inside. The whole place is just beautiful.
As you can imagine, 100 kg of gold makes this place a pretty special place and one of the best things to do in St Petersburg.
6) Wander through the Cathedral at the Peter and Paul Fortress
The final resting place of many of the Romanov rulers, you can now tour the intricately carved sarcophagi that line this the walls of this special place.
Now, although a rather macabre sight, this also offers a unique insight into some of Russia’s history that’s well-known across the country.
7) Ride the canals and River Neva
St Petersburg is covered with canals and bisected by the River Neva.
One of the best ways to see the city (and relax at the same time) is to take a boat trip on the mighty river to take in the majestic architecture along the way. It’s perfect at sunset and you’ll get some lovely views across the city.
That being said, it’s one of the best things to do in St Petersburg if you also just feel like seeing the city from a totally different perspective.
8) See the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
The rather alarming name for this church comes from the fact that it stands on the site where Alexander II was assassinated. *gulp*
For years the church was ruined but has now been opened since 1997 after it was restored to its former glory. Nowadays, it’s relatively easy to see and one pretty epic spot to visit whilst exploring all the best things to do in St Petersburg.
9) Discover St Nicholas Naval Cathedral
Dedicated to all things related to the Russian navy, this is an interesting place and quirky attraction in the city.
The interior will take you through Russian naval history but be warned, you might find it as dull as dishwater if you’re not interested in the navy.
Afterwards, take a wander towards Nevsky Avenue which is one of the busiest streets in all of the city.