Have you ever driven for two days just to spend 4 days in a new city? I have! We drove full two days from Slovenia to St. Petersburg and another two days to get back. But it was 100% worth it! St. Petersburg is magical, elegant, picturesque, and endlessly charming.
The reason I got to go to St. Petersburg with my friends was European Cheerleading Championship. We won the nationals and got an automatic ticket to Europeans! And I have never been to Russia before. Exciting, right?!
The championship took place during the weekend, but we had the other two days to explore the gorgeous center of Saint Petersburg. And let me tell you that two days isn’t nearly enough! Here are some highlights that you should definitely see if planning to travel to St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg is a city of opulence, museums, canals, and palaces. The historic center of St. Petersburg is inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is essentially a grand Russian port on the Baltic Sea, built across the wetlands of the Neva River delta.
Pay a visit to the Winter Palace, Summer Gardens, see Trinity Bridge, Hermitage Museum, and iconic churches, such as St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Savior on Spilled Blood. Nevsky Prospect is the main street of the city, connected to the Palace Square, Kazan Cathedral, House of the Books, and the Vasilievsky Island.
The list of attractions to see and things to do while visiting the cultural capital of Russia could be endless. However, if you only have a limited number of days available, this guide will be useful to you.
1. Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is one of St. Petersburg main city sights. This church is where the Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. Notice the gorgeous intricate details, mosaics covering the ceilings and walls, and the impressive medieval Russian Revival architecture.
I would advise you to pay a small fee to see the magnificent and opulent church interior.
If you want to take a photo in front of the church, come here early in the morning before the crowds arrive.
2. The State Hermitage Museum
The Hermitage Museum is the second largest in the world and possesses the largest collection of paintings in the world. It was founded in 1764 and today, the Hermitage boasts a collection of over three million items, many of them only on a temporary display.
The Hermitage collection includes works of Leonardo da Vinci, Monet, Raphael, Picasso, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo in six grand buildings that make up the Hermitage.
The main building of the Hermitage Museum is the beautiful Winter Palace, which is one of the greatest royal residences of the world. It was constructed in mid 18th century and was home to the Romanov Emperors. It was intended to reflect the power and wealthiness of Imperial Russia, and the magnificence can still be observed today.
3. St Petersburg Palace Square
The Palace Square by the Winter Palace is grand, elegant, and an absolute must-see when you roam the streets of St Petersburg. It is considered the heart of the former Russian empire and is at present the city’s main and most famous plaza.
If you want to witness the military parade, visit early in the morning. Palace Square is surrounded by flamboyant buildings that were designed to impress. This includes the General Staff Building, the Admiralty, and the (before mentioned) Rastrelli’s Winter Palace. The Square connects to Nevsky Prospekt with Palace Bridge and Vasilienvsky Island.
In the center of the square, there is a red Alexander Column made from granite. It is dedicated to the Russian victory in the war with Napoleon’s France.
4. Kazan Cathedral
The Kazan Cathedral was built in 19th century as a cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church. It was inspired by the St. Peters Basilica in Rome. The cathedral today is open and you may enter free of charge.
The Cathedral is located on the Nevsky Prospekt and is dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most revered icons in Russia. The Cathedral was built in a neoclassical style and also contains the burial site of officer Mikhail Kutuzov, who defeated Emperor Napoleon.
5. Singer House
Dom Knigi or the House of the Book is St. Petersburg’s largest and most famous bookshop. It is situated in one of the most beautiful buildings on the city’s main avenue on Nevsky Prospekt directly opposite the Kazan Cathedral.
The Singer House was renowned as a historical landmark and is today an important part of Russian cultural heritage.
6. St Isaac’s Cathedral
St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the fourth largest cathedral in the world. It is also the largest Russian orthodox basilica with its charming Neoclassical and Byzantine architecture.
Buy a ticket to see the interior of St Isaac’s Cathedral, to observe the ceiling paintings in the Chapel and notice the biblical scenes over the doors.
You can also climb to the dome to get a wonderful 360-degree views of St. Petersburg. In order to get to the top you have to climb up 200 steps but they are numbered at every tenth step for you to keep track of your progress.
7. Visit a Babushka shop
Babushka boutiques and shops are an integral part of the Russian culture and the perfect souvenir to bring home! There are endless sizes and colors of Babushka so that you can choose one that will fit the colors in your home perfectly!
8. The Peter and Paul Fortress
Originally a fortified area, Peter and Paul Fortress was meant to protect the state from foreign attacks. It was constructed in 1703 and it served as a prison and execution quarters during the Bolshevik revolution in the early 20th century.
The fortress is surrounded by wonderful gardens and stone paths. The Peter and Paul Cathedral is the final resting place of Russian czars. Today, the fortress is part of the State Museum of History of St. Petersburg.
9. Walk by the rivers and canals
The canals in St. Petersburg were originally designed to prevent floods but today they are mainly used for transportation and to enjoy beautiful cruises down River Neva. The canal system stretches for over 400 kilometers with countless of bridges crossing over them.
A walk by the canals will fill you with peace and let you enjoy the beauty and calm of St. Petersburg.
10. Hare Island
St. Petersburg has many islands but the Hare Island may be the prettiest of them all. It definitely offers the most gorgeous views of the city center – the Winter Palace and St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
Stroll around the island and enjoy St. Petersburg from afar. Don’t forget to walk to the Peter and Paul Cathedral that’s one of the most famous sights on the small island.
Hopefully this list of things to see and do in St. Petersburg has got you daydreaming. I am excited for borders to open again so that we can soon start traveling! What is your next destination?