Bucketlist Travels logo

Bucket list destination:

St Petersburg

  • St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia

Last updated: 04 July, 2023
Expert travel writer: Jennifer Eremeeva

From Matt: despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we’ve left Russian content up on our site. There’s no reason you can’t add Russia to your travel bucket list for future visits. The war, and Putin, won’t last forever, and then we hope you go back. There are many innocent Russian people whose livelihoods depend on tourism, suffering greatly too from the actions of this evil dictator and his cronies.

Peter the Great’s exquisite maritime imperial capital has dazzled visitors since its founding in 1703; the city’s wide boulevards, spectacular churches and glittering palaces forming a backdrop to 400 years of Russia’s turbulent history.

Seismic events have left their mark on St Petersburg, most particularly the revolutions of 1917, which took place in the city’s streets and squares, and World War II, in which the city survived a gruelling 900-day siege, resulting in the deaths of over one million of the inhabitants through starvation.

Originally designed as a ‘Window on the West’, St Petersburg continues to fulfil that role today. This most European of Russian cities has always been characterized by dynamic change and a restless energy that inspired Russian intellectuals and politicians throughout its existence, as it still does today.

Russia’s vibrant cultural capital attracts creative minds of all kinds, and a programme of renovation in the city centre has seen world-class art galleries, restaurants and bars opening up, alongside super-stylish hotels.

Travel advice

When to go

St. Petersburg’s famous White Nights in June and July are an opportunity to see the city en fete during the eponymous cultural festival. There is magical quality to the endless daylight of this northern summer, but the downside is the long lines of tourists, whose ranks swell when large cruise ships are in port.

If you enjoy a more leisurely pace, and don’t mind wind, snow, and cold, consider visiting in winter when the theatrical season is at its height and the palaces and museums empty.

Getting there and away

Arriving by plane to St. Petersburg’s domestic or international airports, (Pulkovo I and II) take the express bus 39 to Moskovskaya Metro Station or a taxi from the official rank outside the airport terminals.

Each of St. Petersburg’s major rail stations is adjacent to a metro station with bus and taxi services. Check with your hotel to see if they provide arrival and departure transfers by private car. Avoid illegal taxis in the city.

Getting around

The two best ways to explore St. Petersburg’s compact centre in warm, dry weather are by foot or canal barge, the latter available at major riverside attractions.

The city’s public transport (Metro, tram, trolley, minibus, and bus) is cheap and efficient, but can be crowded and may overwhelm if you don’t read Cyrillic.

International hop-on-hop-off buses (City Sightseeing) offer affordable 24-hour passes, and can be the most efficient way around, particularly on their extension trips to the suburban palaces.

Where to stay

Time is always of the essence in St. Petersburg, so make the most of it by staying as close to the historic centre as possible, particularly if this is your first visit.