Fly to St Petersburg for:
- the annual White Nights festival
- mind blowing architecture, including the Hermitage and numerous palaces
- an unforgettable river cruise along the River Neva
For most Russians it is the city simply called Питер (Piter), the dream of Tsar Peter the Great who in 1703 declared that Imperial Russia should have a city built upon the marshes and facing out into Europe. St. Petersburg glows under the White Nights from June to early July, when the midnight sun never seems to set and the city is alive with festivals and the glow of the midnight sun that cuts through the weak twilight. The most European of Russia's cities, the city was created as a testament to the power and determination of the people of the empire. Built on the Baltic Shore where the Neva River flows through to the Gulf of Finland, St. Petersburg includes more than 100 islands and 60 canals and rivers within its area, earning it its second name "Venice of the North." With airBaltic you can purchase cheap flights to St. Petersburg Pulkovo Airport, some 17 kilometres from the centre of the city and with two terminals serving airlines for both domestic and international destinations.
Dobryj den' (Good afternoon!) St. Petersburg is a city where Russian is the only language and it is spoken with an accent as authentic as any other aspect of the city. English is not commonly spoken outside of hotels and tourist areas, so travel prep should include learning some basics in Russian or, at the very least, investing in a good phrasebook to get you through.
See and Do
A city where ballet was born under the genius of Petipa and the Russian Revolution kicked off, St. Petersburg can seem too much for even a lifelong city-break. It is home to a collection of stunning baroque and neoclassical architecture, a host of palaces, awe-inspiring churches, and perhaps the world’s most revered collection of art, the Hermitage. Here is where a serious visit should begin, at the city’s most magnificent and important sight, the Hermitage Museum at the Winter Palace, once home to the Romanov Tsars. Inside this enormous treasury of art are over 3 million pieces from around the world, including works by international masters. If that isn’t enough, there is also a storage Hermitage, for all of the works that didn’t make it to the forefront.
For work exclusively Russian, head to the Russian Museum, housed principally in the Mikhailovskiy Palace, with its other exhibits found in the Stroganov Palace, Marble Palace and Mikhailovskiy Castle. Take a canal boat tour for an exceptional way to the see the city from the Neva, stopping by the Peter and Paul Fortress to stand beside the resting place of most of the Tsars of Russia. Then join a tour to climb the 122.5m Bell Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city. Along the Strelka, admire the Rostral Columns, symbolizing the mighty Russian Baltic Fleet where the lamps are lit during festivals. Continue exploring and feeling overwhelmed by the majesty of St. Petersburg at Rumyantsevsky Park with its Obelisk and the statues of Russian painters Repin and Surikov.
To explore some of St. Petersburg’s rich literary history, find your way to the Dostoevsky Houses, three houses located on one street alone and the setting for some events in Crime and Punishment. Or head to the Dostoevsky Museum, located in the author’s last residence, where he composed The Brother’s Karamazov. For opera and ballet in a city that is nearly synonymous with both, the most reputable venue is the Mariinsky Theater, once known as the Kirov, so get tickets to a stellar performance.