Saint Petersburg was the former capital of the Russian Empire . You can see that in its wide avenues full of luxurious facades and the palaces where the tsars hung out. So you won’t be short of things to do in Saint Petersburg! From enjoying one of the most important museums in the world to dreaming of one of its palaces. We propose 25 things to do in Saint Petersburg , a city steeped in history and beautiful corners.
Also Read: The 15 most beautiful countries in Europe
What do we tell you in this post?
On the map we have marked the location of all the places to see in St. Petersburg to facilitate your visit to the city.
Things To See And Do In Saint Petersburg
If you want to enter several churches and museums, as well as take a boat ride through the canals, we recommend you get the Saint Petersburg CityPass to save money on tourist attractions .
Hermitage Museum , an essential visit to do in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg has the second largest museum in the world, behind the Louvre in Paris . The Hermitage Museum has millions of pieces, from antiquities from Greece and Rome to paintings by the great European painters, including Russian art, of course . Beyond that, the main building of the museum is a true work of art . Observing every detail of its rooms leaves you speechless. It is the former Winter Palace of the Tsars . They were the ones in charge of starting the huge collection of the Hermitage, which became state after the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Tickets at the box office or ticket machines cost 700 rubles (about €10). They can also be purchased through the museum’s website , but they take a lot of advantage and charge them at US$17.95 (almost double the price at the box office!). Access is free for everyone on the third Thursday of each month. On Mondays it is closed .
Feel the weight of history in Palace Square
In front of the Hermitage there is a huge square that can be considered the heart of the city . From there you can see the beautiful blue and white baroque facade of the Hermitage . On the opposite side is a large arch that leads to Nevskiy Prospekt , the main street of Saint Petersburg. In the middle of the square is a huge column dedicated to Tsar Alexander I , who fought against Napoleon’s invading army in 1812.
Key episodes in Russian history have taken place there, such as the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917. Currently, public demonstrations and celebrations continue to take place there.
It is also the starting point for the free walking tour that takes place every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in Spanish . The guide will take you to the most outstanding places in the city and you will set the price of the tour.
Visit the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, the most famous building to see in Saint Petersburg
The most famous church to see in Saint Petersburg has a somewhat complicated name, but surely after seeing it you will remember it perfectly. It is spectacular! It was built in honor of Tsar Alexander II, who was killed by a bomb right on the spot where the church stands. It has a very characteristic Russian style, with reddish brick, very colorful domes and a facade full of mosaics .
You can also visit its interior, very ornate in decoration like all Orthodox churches. Admission costs 350 rubles (approximately €6). On Wednesdays it is closed.
Marvel at the details of the Saint Petersburg Mosque
Going to the mosque is an unusual visit to do in St. Petersburg. But it is well worth it for its beauty. Its dome, minarets and portals are covered with mosaics in shades of blue that seem to be taken from a fairy tale . In addition, it is one of the largest mosques in Europe , with a capacity for more than 5,000 worshipers. In fact, when it opened in 1913 it was the largest on the continent outside of Turkey.
Admire Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, one of the best things to do in Saint Petersburg
In the heart of the city, a huge golden dome draws attention. It is Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, designed by a French architect and inaugurated in 1858. If the façade is already majestic, the interior is even more so . The mosaics, paintings and lapis lazuli columns create a very special atmosphere. It seems to us a must to do in Saint Petersburg, its details will leave you impressed! Admission costs 350 rubles (€6).
Take a boat ride through its canals
Did you know that Saint Petersburg is also known as Venice of the North? Although well, there are many other cities that claim that title such as Bruges , Amsterdam or Hamburg . When Tsar Peter I the Great founded the city, he wanted Saint Petersburg to be a cross between the Venetian canals and the elegant buildings of Milan . To get to know the city from another perspective, you cannot miss a boat ride through the canals .
They cost about 500 rubles (approximately €7) and depart from various piers near tourist spots . For example, just behind the Hermitage or in front of the Peter and Paul fortress.
Enter the historic fortress of San Pedro y San Pablo
When founding Saint Petersburg, Peter I the Great ordered the construction of this fortress to protect the city during a troubled time . It is considered the birthplace of the city because it was the first construction. It was never attacked and in a few years it began to function as a prison until the beginning of the 20th century. It is currently part of the Saint Petersburg History Museum, which organizes exhibitions on the city’s past . But its main attraction is the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul with its huge tower . A large part of the Russian rulers are buried there.
The entrance to visit the church and other spaces inside the fortress costs 750 rubles (about €10). If you don’t want to lose any detail of the place, you can book a guided tour in Spanish .
Stroll through the gardens of the Peterhof Palace , an essential visit to do in Saint Petersburg
A trip to Saint Petersburg is not complete without visiting some of the most impressive imperial palaces . The most famous is Peterhof, which was the residence of the tsars until 1917. Later it became a museum where authentic works of art of the time are kept. Its gardens are as or more beautiful than the palace itself. They are decorated with precious sculptures and fountains that light up every day at 11am.
Peterhof is about 30 kilometers from the center of St. Petersburg. Getting there by public transport is somewhat complicated, so the most practical thing is to take a taxi for approximately €15 . We use the Gett app to move around Russian cities.
If you want to discover all the secrets of Peterhof, we recommend booking an excursion with a guide in Spanish that includes access to the palace and gardens . Without a doubt, an essential visit to do in Saint Petersburg.
Entrance to the gardens costs 900 rubles (€12) and access to the palace costs an additional 1,000 rubles (€13.50).
Feel inside a story in the Catherine Palace, one of the best excursions to do in Saint Petersburg
As if Peterhof or the Winter Palace weren’t enough, the Tsars had an enviable summer residence . The Catherine Palace has a beautiful blue and white facade. Its exterior is enough to leave you with your mouth open, but inside it has even more luxurious rooms. Unfortunately, it cannot be seen in its full glory because German soldiers destroyed much of the interior during World War II and restoration work is still pending.
Entrance to the gardens costs 150 rubles (€2). To enter the palace it is mandatory to take a guided group tour that costs 1,200 rubles (€20.60). It is in English and there are usually long queues.
To get to the Catherine Palace on your own, the most practical thing is to use a taxi. It costs about €15. You can also go by public transport, but you have to make several bus/train changes and it takes more than an hour.
See an opera or ballet at the Mariinsky Theater
Attending a performance at the impressive Mariinksy Theater is a unique experience to do in Saint Petersburg. It opened in 1860 and has been one of the best venues in the world ever since. In fact, several works by Tchaikovsky and other big names were premiered there.
Its ballet, orchestra and opera singers are outstanding. So if you like these shows, you can’t pass them up. In addition, its neoclassical facade in blue and white is beautiful.
Visit the Kazan Cathedral, one of the best things to do in Saint Petersburg
Another majestic building to see in Saint Petersburg is the Kazan Cathedral. It is in the middle of Nevsky avenue and its facade is grandiose, so it is impossible to miss it. Its columns draw a lot of attention, and it’s not even the front! Inside there is an icon of the Virgin of Kazan , one of the most revered by Russians.
So it is usual to find a huge queue to kiss this icon. Inside there are also sculptures and paintings by prominent Russian artists. Admission is free.
Learn about the history of the St. Petersburg Admiralty
Next to the Winter Palace there is another very characteristic building to see in Saint Petersburg . The Admiralty was built as a fortress that served as a shipyard where several ships were built. It is currently the Escuela de la Armada and you cannot enter.
But only its façade with its large golden spire is an icon of the city that deserves to be visited. Three main avenues of the city begin there: Nevsky Prospekt, Gorokhovaya Ulitsa and Voznesenskiy Prospekt.
Photograph Smolny Cathedral
The same Italian architect of the Winter Palace, Peterhof or the Catherine Palace created a convent where the daughter of Peter the Great wanted to be a nun . She never got to be because she ascended the throne. But the central church of the convent has remained one of the most beautiful buildings to see in Saint Petersburg due to its striking blue color. You can get there from the center with bus lines 5, 7 and 11.
See life in pink at the Chesme Church, one of the most beautiful things to see in St. Petersburg
If you liked the Smolny Cathedral, you cannot miss this church with the pink facade. It is cute! It can be easily reached by metro despite being far from the center. Get off at the Moskovskaya stop and walk for about 10 minutes.
Enter the old warship Aurora, one of the most curious things to do in Saint Petersburg
On the riverbank you will see many boats moored, but none are as impressive as the museum ship Aurora. She served in the Russo-Japanese War and during World War II . But it is better known because, between those two wars, it was of vital importance during the communist revolution of 1917. One of its cannons signaled the start of the assault on the Winter Palace (now home to the Hermitage), in which the crew of the Aurora participated. .
Today you can visit inside to learn about its history in the first person. It is restored, so it preserves few original corners, but the visit is interesting. Admission costs 600 rubles (about €10)
Take the metro and enjoy its most beautiful stations
Saint Petersburg is a large city, with more than 5 million inhabitants. So it is almost unavoidable to have to use public transport to reach some of the places far from the center. Although not as famous as the one in Moscow, the Saint Petersburg metro also has some very nice stations . For example Kirovsky Zavod, Avtovo, Pushkinskaya or Admiralteyskaya .
See how the bridges are raised during the sailing season
Something special to do in St. Petersburg when night falls is to see how the bridges over the Neva River are raised to make way for large ships. That only happens from mid-April to October , since the rest of the months the river is not navigable because it is frozen. It is worth getting a little cold and going out at midnight to see the show. Not all bridges are raised every day, so you should check the forecasts.
Discover the disturbing history of the Yusupov Palace
There are hundreds of former aristocratic residences in St. Petersburg, but very few retain the original interiors. The Yusupov Palace is quite a gem in that sense . It is impressive to see the number of works of art in its rooms and how ostentatious the place is.
But not all of the mountain is oregano, since a terrible crime was committed there: the murder of the mystic and healer Rasputin . He had a lot of affinity with the tsars, coming to influence the country’s political decisions. The nobility did not like it at all and took matters into their own hands by orchestrating his assassination. They invited him to the palace of the Yusupov family to end his life.
To get to know this chilling story in depth, you can take a guided tour of the palace in Spanish . Admission costs 700 rubles (approximately €10).
Eat a donut at Pyshechnaya, an essential thing to do in St. Petersburg
It is not a palace, but it is one of the busiest places in St. Petersburg. If you fancy something sweet, this donut shop is a must stop in St. Petersburg . It is the oldest establishment of this type in the city and it shows, when you enter it seems that you are going back in time. The fried donuts are very tasty and ridiculously cheap: 15 rubles each (approximately €0.20).
Visit the State Russian Museum
The State Russian Museum is an interesting stop to make in Saint Petersburg to discover Russian art of all time. It has a collection of thousands of works , ranging from the 11th century to current artists creating art in video format including traditional costumes from various eras, for example. Much of the collection is in the imposing Mikhailovsky Palace, although they have other locations in the city.
Admission to the main building costs 500 rubles (about €9) and you have to pay 1,000 rubles (about €17) to see all the museum’s exhibits.
Stroll through the Summer Garden, a relaxing thing to do in St. Petersburg
The first summer residence of Peter the Great was in the very center of the city. It does not stand out for his palace, but for gardens meticulously designed by himself . The pathways are completely symmetrical and adorned with fountains and Italian sculptures. It is a pleasure to walk there. Without a doubt, it is one of the most beautiful places to see in Saint Petersburg.
Go shopping at Passage
Nevsky Prospect is the main street of Saint Petersburg. It is an ideal place to go shopping , there you will find everything. One of the most special places on the avenue is hidden away. We are talking about the Passage shopping gallery , which cannot be seen with the naked eye from the street. It is the little sister of the GUM gallery in Moscow, with a beautiful design from the 19th century.
See some very special works of art at the Fabergé Museum
The Fabergé Museum focuses its collection on eggs made especially for the tsars and the nobility with metals, precious stones and diamonds. The artist Carl Fabergé made them in a very limited way. In fact, only about fifty eggs are known today.
They can be opened and inside there are surprises such as family photos or figures. It is an interesting visit to do in Saint Petersburg if you are interested in art and want to see the interior of the Shuvalov Palace, where the museum is. Admission costs 450 rubles (about €8).
Try the national drink at the Vodka Museum , a fun thing to do in St. Petersburg
When thinking of Russia, vodka surely comes to mind for many. This alcoholic drink is typical of the country and a museum has been dedicated to it. There you can learn about its production and see hundreds of different bottles.
Admission costs 170 rubles (about €3) . If you want to take a guided tour with vodka tasting included, the price is 500 rubles (about €8).
Go on a trip to Kronstadt
To end our list of things to do in Saint Petersburg , we suggest an excursion. Kronstadt is a port city that served as a base for the Russian Navy . There you can visit a beautiful naval cathedral dedicated to all those who lost their lives at sea. There is also a museum about the history of the place.
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