I was definitely nervous landing in Russia, truly unsure of how passport control, security and everything in between was going to as an American. (You can read more about safety/visa/travel tips to Russia on my Russia travel guide here) However, Saint Petersburg has become one of my top 5 most amazing places I have ever visited. Keep reading to explore the best St Petersburg Russia points of interest.
Note: I visited St Petersburg in the dead of winter so it so cold that the main rivers were frozen (as shown above). Summer is a totally different experience, one that I hope to experience ASAP as I can only imagine how gorgeous it is during their primetime months.
Disclosure: This St Petersburg Russia points of interest guide may contain affiliate links. I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. As always, all opinions are my own and I would never post about something I have not personally used/verified.
For help on packing for St Petersburg Russia, check out all of my travel/packing essentials I bring on any trip compiled together, head to my influencer page on Amazon here for a complete list or my descriptive carry-on packing guide here!
HOW TO GET TO SAINT PETERSBURG RUSSIA
We flew from Sweden, which was a quick 2 hour flight! All major airlines fly here direct from America or Europe so you should not have a problem. You can also take a boat here from Helsinki or a cruise, but there are different visa rules for that. From the airport, we booked a private transfer ahead of time to our hostel just to be safe, considering our Russian speaking is non-existent. We booked through LingoTaxi and I highly recommend – they were on time, waiting for us after baggage claim, spoke perfect English and our drive was super friendly.
ST PETERSBURG RUSSIA POINTS OF INTEREST
A massive, gorgeous cathedral in the middle of the city. This is one of the earliest openings for the tourist spots (830am) so I would go here first. We went right in the morning while they were still praying so it was a pretty real experience.
Duh! The most famous spot in St Petersburg points of interest due to its jaw-dropping architecture. The insane walls are just as insane as the outside. We went here 3+ times because I couldn’t get enough of how stunning the building was from the outside. Must check out inside as well! Open 11am-7pm.
State Hermitage Museum:
One of the most famous museums in the entire world. You could spend three days here and STILL not see everything, it is that massive. The building itself dates back to the 1700s and even if you took our all the artifacts and history, the building itself is beyond gorgeous, inside and out. You can’t miss this massive turquoise building from anywhere and the city and you must make plenty of time for the Hermitage. If you do only have 1 day or less, just do the main complex in the Palace Square, which includes the Winter Palace, the buildings of the Small, Old and New Hermitage, the Hermitage Theatre St Petersburg and the Reserve House.
General Staff Building:
Usually included in the Hermitage tour, we just took pictures of it outside. You can’t miss it as it’s right in the main square and is bright yellow and massive!
St. Isaacs Cathedral:
The most famous Cathedral in St. Petersburg points of interest and a must-go. Make sure to go all the way to the top for panoramic views of the city! The Cathedral is huge and the inside walls are unreal.
Peter The Great Statue (Bronze Horseman):
A famous statue tributing Peter The Great, definitely go and take pictures here. It is right behind St. Isaacs Cathedral and right along the water, in Senate Square.
Russian Ballet & Opera:
Mariinsky Theater is the most famous theater in St. Petersburg (equal to Bolshoi Theater in Moscow) and is a must-see for its stunning decor. While we were visiting the city though, only opera was playing there, and we really wanted to see a Russian ballet. So we went to the second most famous theater in Saint Petersburg, Mikhailovsky Theater. This theater was no worse or uglier than Mariinsky that’s for sure; it was beyond stunning. We sat in the front box here so we had amazing seats where we also got to overlook the amazing orchestra…and Swan Lake was AMAZING. I highly, highly recommend. I never was into ballet but Swan Lake was truly stellar. We went to Mariinsky on the second night to see an opera in the cheapest seats, just so we could see the theater. While i’m glad we went to see the theater (it lived up to the hype), i’m definitely still not an opera girl. I recommend going to both!
Biggest/most famous street right in the center of the city. You will absolutely walk on it while touring the city. All the souvenir shops are naturally here as well.
Pretty gardens to walk around and are directly on the way to the Peter and Paul Cathedral/Fortress. Very pretty when it’s snowing as well as in the summer!
Peter and Paul Cathedral/Fortress:
The former political prison and fortress to the city. It’s a decent walk from the Hermitage and The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, but a good walk nonetheless (and we did it in snow and freezing temps!). Don’t get tickets for the entire complex, the cathedral is the most worth it to see. You definitely can spend a lot of time walking around the island and seeing the old fortress grounds, too. The Peter and Paul Fortress St Petersburg is by far one of the top St Petersburg points of interest that you cannot miss! Don’t forget to check out the views of the Cathedral while walking on the bridge to get there (over the frozen river!)
Trinity Cathedral St Petersburg:
A gorgeous cathedral with amazing roofs. You just need to go take pictures outside for a few minutes, no need to go inside.
St. Nicholas Cathedral St Petersburg:
Another stunning St Petersburg cathedral (seriously why do they have the brightest, prettiest churches in Russia?!). No need to go inside, just take pictures outside and marvel at the blue.
Saint Petersburg is sometimes named “the Venice of Eastern Europe” and rightly so! The city is made up of rivers and canals with bridges to walk over them. In the summer the canals are flowing and it is busy at night. In the winter, the canals are totally frozen, but just as gorgeous. Anichkov is just one of the main bridges that you should walk over.
Other Must-See Places of Interest in St Petersburg:
- Catherine Palace – Gorgeous palace outside of town for the summertime
- Peterhof Palace – Another gorgeous palace outside of town, it surpasses the Palace of Versailles. There are famous fountains here that you must see (which are only on during the summer). Can also see the Gulf of Finland from here. In the winter it is not as crucial to visit since the fountains are the best part, so I would save this and check out other great things to do during a summertime St. Petersburg visit.
- Kunstkamera Museum – First museum in Russia, an anthropology/ethnography museum. A slightly freaky museum.
- Moika (Yusupov) Palace: Another palace in the middle of the city, we walked by it and decided not to do the tour of the inside because of timing, but if you have enough time you definitely should!
TIP: Don’t forget your Student ID when visiting St Petersburg – half of the tourist places of interest are free!
WHAT TO EAT IN ST. PETERSBURG
Food in Russia is GOOD and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Here are some awesome restaurant suggestions we went to or heard about that I highly recommend.
- BGL Cafe & Market: trendy good brunch/bagels place.
- Wood Bar: a bar with really good brunch staples.
- Cake & Breakfast: good local spot, breakfast all day, opens early.
- Candies by Coffee Room: Cafe/restaurant with awesome vibes. Kind of mix between a hipster-y and trendy little American cafe. We had really good lunch and drinks here, so good that the person I was traveling with got his chicken entree twice during the same meal.
- Any of the Ginza Restaurants: This is a group of very well-known restaurants around the city and country. Specifically, I highly suggest the below in Saint Petersburg, but all of them are definitely recommended.
- Gastronomika – trendy international cuisine
- Baklazhan – a must-try themed restaurant
- Terrassa – views of city and great food/bar too. This place is massive and trendy, and has outdoor seating during the summer. However, we sat inside and had an amazing view of the Church on Spilled Blood so it was just as fantastic.
- Tip: They are very pushy here. The owner of the restaurant came over to our table (and was so nice, with perfect English) and tried to get us to get the most expensive items on the menu. He also somehow coerced us to get a massive bottle of still water ($10!) and bread ($8!). Just watch out.
- This restaurant is also pricey compared to others in St. Petersburg, but very delicious real authentic Russian food!
- Zoom Café: famous casual lunch/dinner spot, very popular
- L’Europe: a must, Russia’s oldest restaurant
- Stroganoff: meat-centric, good steakhouse
- Gogol: various cuisines, loved by everyone
- Percorso: recommended by friend, trendy, in Four Seasons Hotel
- I’m Thankful For Today: Hipster lunch place highly recommended
- Idiot Cafe: famous expat restaurant. Get the borscht!
- Clean Plates Society: good restaurant for dinner and drinks
WHERE TO PARTY
Touring all day for two days straight really got to the best of us, especially since we saw a performance both nights we were there, so we didn’t go out too hard in Saint Petersburg, plus we stayed at an awesome hostel that had Russian Vodka gatherings there.
These are some bars/clubs I’d recommend for a rowdy night out, though- Russians definitely know how to have a good time.
- Bar 812: in historical city center, great cocktails
- Pif Par Bar: a must-visit bar spot
- Daiquiri Bar: most fashionable spot at night
- Arka Bar & Grill: innovative mixology, historical city center
- The Hat Bar: high quality jazz bar
- Tipplers Bar: bizarre cocktails, dark basement, very cool & must go
- Mishka Bar: reasonably cheap and popular nightclub
- Dead Poets Bar: hangout spot/super famous, must go
- Mod: Trendy club in canal-side warehouse
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at Baby Lemonade Hostel in St. Petersburg and this was my favorite hostel I have ever stayed at. Beats most of the nice hotels I have stayed at too. And the best part? It was $10 USD per night per person. This was for a PRIVATE room for two people, which could actually have slept 4 people as there was a queen bed and 2 twins. The room was huge and facilities were very clean. Another plus was that the hostel owners were fantastic; they spoke perfect English, helped us with where to go and even bought our ballet tickets for us online before we arrived since the website wouldn’t accept our American credit card. It was in an awesome location, we were able to walk everywhere. They also had drinking nights in the common room providing Russian vodka. Everyone there was young, fun travelers and it was a great atmosphere. Each of the rooms were also themed after different decades! I couldn’t recommend Baby Lemonade enough if you are traveling to Saint Petersburg with friends and on a budget.
If you’re not traveling on a super budget, awesome! There are a ton of nice hotels in the city and more gaining traction as the city becomes more popular. You can search for St Petersburg Russia hotels here.
AIRBNB St. Petersburg: There are also so many apartments in St. Petersburg. They are generally cheaper than hotels so if you like the Airbnb route instead of hotels I definitely recommend it. Also, if you use my Airbnb link you get $40 off your first stay!
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Did I miss any St Petersburg Russia points of interest that you loved? Let me know in the comments for my next visit! See the rest of my Russia travel guide here!