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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 29 May, 2023
Expert travel writer: Jennifer Eremeeva

There’s no better way to appreciate the extraordinary beauty of St Petersburg than from the comfortable seat of one of the city’s canal cruisers. Gliding along the river Neva, past Baroque facades and under elegant bridges, gives you the chance to experience St Petersburg as Peter the Great, founder of the city, meant it to be seen. (His idea was to model the city after Amsterdam; in Peter’s time there were no roads or bridges, only canals).

Canal cruises start at points at major boat stations all over the city. The most reliable, and largest boats, are at the intersections of Nevsky Prospect with the Moika, Griboyedev and Fontanka Rivers. The routes may vary, but a standard 60–90-minute ride will take in the major highlights of the historic centre.

Hiring a private boat is also an option and can be an excellent way to get around the city.

Don't miss

Highlights to look out for en route include the Church of the Spilled Blood, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the elegant mansions of the 18th and 19th centuries along the Moika and Fontanka Rivers, the ‘Bridge of Sighs’, The Hermitage, and the Rostrol Columns of the Spit of the Basil Island.

Price from: £7
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: 1-2 hours

Getting there & doing it

Canal boat stations abound in the city, usually at the intersections of major canals and streets. The Moika River Embankment or Anichkov Bridge are good places to begin and/or end a cruise.

Tickets are on sale at the boat station. Private boat tours can be booked in advance; the company will usually collect you from your hotel and drop you back after the tour (using public transport is included in the price, a private transfer is more). Alternatively, you can book on the spot – private boats go from the same stations as the public boats, although this depends on availability.

When to do it

Navigation begins in May and runs through September. Boats run almost 24 hours during the summer months; late evening and night is very popular during summer and the White Nights, and fares can increase.

The best time for photographers is towards the end of daylight (which in June and July is around 10 pm), when the city is bathed in a magical twilight glow.

Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Hotel Astoria

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[0.1 miles]

One of the city’s oldest and most elegant places to stay in the city, it offers luxury accommodation and an excellent location.

Official star rating:

SO Sofitel

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[0.3 miles]

A hip design hotel opposite St Isaac’s Cathedral, with a basement spa and rooftop bar and restaurant that’s one of the city’s premier party spots.

Official star rating:

Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[0.4 miles]

Incomparable elegance, comfort, and service await at the Four Seasons Lion Palace, just steps from the Hermitage.

Official star rating:

Faces Historical Center

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[0.5 miles]

Enjoy the convenience of a central location, in-room amenities, and friendly staff at a very affordable price.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

St Petersburg

Northwestern Region, Russia

On the shores of the Baltic, Russia’s dazzling cultural capital is a treasure trove of art, music, literature, and history.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

St Isaac’s Cathedral

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[0.3 miles]

Dominating the city’s skyline, St Isaacs is magnificently decorated with Orthodox icons and frescoes, and offers panoramic views from the alfresco colonnade.

Best for ages: 18+ | £3

State Hermitage Museum

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[1 miles]

Vast complex housing a jaw-dropping collection of Egyptian antiquities, European Renaissance Art, treasure galleries and Russian military history. Second largest art museum in the world.

Best for ages: 13+ | £5

Ballet & Opera at the Mariinsky Theatre

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[1 miles]

Enjoy an unforgettable evening of classical ballet or opera at the world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre. It was here that Tchaikovsky’s famous ballets, The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake were first performed.

Best for ages: 18+ | £40 | 2+ hours

Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Yellow painted mansion on canal front

Yusupov Mansion

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[0.7 miles]

Visit the elegant mansion of the wealthy and colorful Yussupov family, the notorious site of the grisly murder of Grigory Rasputin in 1916.

Best for ages: 18+ | £8

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Overview >
Pale yellow building on corner of street

Literary Cafe

St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[0.7 miles]

St. Petersburg’s oldest eatery is a favourite of Russia’s famous writers and an excellent place to sample traditional Russian food.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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St. Petersburg, Northwestern Region, Russia[1.1 miles]

Founded by Peter the Great to house his collection of physical oddities and preserved ‘freaks’, this museum has a ghoulish lure; not for the faint-hearted, or children.

Best for ages: 16+ | £6

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Wide yellow villa

House of Academics

St. Petersburg , Northwestern Region, Russia[1.2 miles]

One of the city’s oldest and most famous apartment blocks, home to scores of Russian Scientists since 1708; the facade of the building has nearly 30 memorial plaques honoring its past residents. You can g inside and visit the house-museum of its most famous resident, the great physiologist Ivan Pavlov.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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