Moscow may be the capital of Russia, but if you’re a culture vulture, then St. Petersburg is the city for you. A port city on the Baltic Sea, it offers everything you could want from a city break and more.
Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, it is home to some of the most impressive architecture and art in the whole of Russia. There’s so much to do here, it can be hard putting together your Saint Petersburg itinerary. That’s where I come in!
The city is chock full of palaces, parks, cathedrals, and theatres, and there are far too many to fit into one visit, so only my favourites have made the list of the best places to visit in St. Petersburg.
I’ve also thrown in a few off the beaten track and unusual places to make sure you get to see all the best attractions in Saint Petersburg, as well as some hidden gems that only the locals know about!
So, when you’re ready, let’s take a look at the best places to visit in St. Petersburg.
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in St. Petersburg:
The Tsentralny District is the beating heart of St Petersburg. It sits at the centre of the action and is home to some of the cities most famous and fascinating landmarks, including the Winter Palace and St Isaac’s Cathedral.
- Browse the State Rooms of the Stroganov Palace.
- Climb to the top of St Isaac’s Cathedral and enjoy the views.
- Delve deep into the history of Russia’s royal family at the spectacular Winter Palace.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in St. Petersburg!
Visiting the BEST places in any city should be accompanied by the BEST accommodation, but that requires knowledge of the BEST areas of the city and where to find it.
I’ve got you covered! Be sure to check out where to stay in St. Petersburg and then you may enter the palace below!
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#1 – State Hermitage Museum – Possibly one of the most important places to visit in St. Petersburg
Why it’s awesome: No St. Petersburg itinerary is complete without a visit to the State Hermitage Museum. Not only is it one of the most astounding hermitage museums in Russia, but the entire world!
I’d recommend setting aside a whole day for visiting St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum. Incredibly, there are over 3 million works from around the world here! If you are short of time, you can marvel at the incredible outside facade from the palace square, as the building itself is just as beautiful as the exhibits inside.
The main building is the Winter Palace, which houses Greek and Roman antiquities, centuries of European art, and the staterooms of the Russian Imperial family from the 18th and 19th centuries! The whole palace is full of russian art and historic pieces that are truly special to this museum.
If you liked the Winter Palace, Catherine Palace is another marble palace worth checking out. It’s the summer residence of the Russian tsars and is a World Heritage Site. The building itself is stunning as the stucco details are drowned in gold. The north-side carriage courtyard is particularly stunning. But, it is a bit of a distance out of the city center so if you are running low on time and can only see one, go to the State Hermitage Museum.
What to do there: If you aren’t blessed with a lot of time for the museum, take a guided tour to see the highlights. One of the most curious things you won’t want to miss is the peacock clock.
The mechanical 18th century automated clock still sings today. It’s the largest example of 18th-century robotics that has survived to the present day without any alterations!
Some housekeeping – since the museum is so big it’s a great idea to get a map which covers the 6 buildings. That way, you can choose the things you’re most interested in.
It’s absolutely impossible to see everything! Also, the museum can get very popular in summer, so consider purchasing skip the line tickets!
#2 – Mariinsky Theatre
Why it’s awesome: This huge theatre is one of the most famous in the world. Built-in the 19th century, for over 150 years it has hosted some of the best actors, performers, and dancers in the world.
Although you can see operas and plays at the Mariinsky, it’s best known for ballet. In fact, this used to be known as the Imperial Ballet of Russia, so that should give you some idea of how revered it was (and still is)! Recently, the theatre has expanded.
In 2006, it added the concert hall and a second stage for opera and ballet in 2013!
What to do there: If you’re limited on a budget or time, you may not be able to extend to a show at the Mariisnky Theatre.
Although that’s a shame, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out completely. We’d definitely recommend taking a tour around the grand auditorium, one of the most beautiful and richly decorated in the world.
If your budget does cover it, don’t miss a show at this incredible place off your St. Petersburg itinerary. It’s also a great place to admire from the outside. Make sure you get pictures of the colourful buildings from Theatre Square!
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#3 – Saviour on the Spilled Blood – One of the best religious places to see in St. Petersburg
Why it’s awesome: This incredible church known as Savior on Spilled Blood, was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was killed in an attack, which explains its macabre and graphic name of “spilled blood”.
Although St. Petersburg is filled with churches, this is arguably the most beautiful, and the reason it’s made it onto our list! The colourful church is just as bright and gaudy on the inside, where you’ll find one of the world’s biggest collection of mosaics.
Most people compare this to St Basil’s Cathedral in Russia, another of the country’s most famous landmarks!
What to do there: Any guided tour of the city will take you past the Saviour of the Spilled Blood Cathedral. Probably more than once! That’s because it’s right by the State Russian Museum, and plenty of other attractions are nearby. Also, Alexander II was a very important figure in Russian history.
If you have time, it’s definitely worth getting an hour-long audio tour of the church. It’ll tell you about the church’s history and construction.
Another religious building well worth your time when you travel to St. Petersburg is St Isaac’s Cathedral and Colonnade. It’s easily recognizable by its golden dome!
#4 – Peterhof Palace – A beautiful and scenic place to check out in St. Petersburg
Why it’s awesome: Since it’s located 45 minutes from the city, you’ll need to dedicate at least half a day to visiting Peterhof Palace. However, it’s well worth it!
Situated on the Gulf of Finland, this opulent palace is also known as the “Russian Versailles”. It’s not hard to see why, whether that’s down to the gilded domes, or the fountains throughout the extensive landscaped gardens.
Unbelievably, there are more than 60 fountains and 200 sculptures throughout the gardens at Peterhof. The most famous, The Grand Cascade, is one of the must-see St. Petersburg attractions!
What to do there: Don’t miss going inside the stunning Peterhof Palace. Classic staterooms, the ornate Ceremonial Staircase, and the Grand Ballroom are just some of the highlights of the interior.
Outside, there’s more to the gardens than just the incredible selection of fountains! The Lower Park has a canal that empties straight out into the Gulf of Finland and is a great spot to have a picnic.
Like many other St Petersburg attractions on this list, Peterhof gets very busy in summer. It’s definitely worth booking your ticket in advance, especially if they enable you to skip the queues!
#5 – Tsarskoye Selo and the Amber Room
Why it’s awesome: By now, you’ve probably realized that the palaces in St. Petersburg are pretty extravagant. It’s possible that the 18th century Tsarskoye Selo is the most opulent and lavish of them all, built for Empress Elizabeth by the architect responsible for the Winter Palace, Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
It’s a day trip out of the city, to the town of Pushkin, widely regarded as one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in St. Petersburg. The Amber Room is undoubtedly a highlight. Thought to be lost forever in the Second World War, the painstaking reconstruction of the room is impressive nonetheless!
What to do there: As well as visiting Tsarskoye Selo, while you’re in Pushkin there are a few other cool places to check out.
One of the top attractions in St. Petersburg is Catherine Palace, where you’ll find the Amber Room. Attached to that is also the Catherine garden, which is landscaped with a variety of English, French, and Italian techniques.
If you want to find somewhere a little quieter to escape to, check out Alexander Park. They’re a little more overgrown and spread out, but there are some interesting buildings hidden away in there!
#6 – Museum of Hygiene – Quite the quirky place to visit in St. Petersburg
Why it’s awesome: Yes, St. Petersburg is fascinating. However, if you’re just visiting palaces and cathedrals, it’s definitely not out of the question that you’ll get palace fatigue. You can only take so much of walking around all those long hallways and being astounded by art after all!
For a perfect tonic, head to the unusual Museum of Hygiene. It was established in the early 20th century to educate the city’s locals on good health practices. It’s especially worth a visit if you want to learn about the gruesome medical practices from the turn of the last century!
What to do there: There’s plenty to see in the display cabinets here that you won’t find anywhere else in St. Petersburg! Check out both female and male models with movable internal organs, wax anatomy models, and even some displays explaining the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Perhaps don’t eat before you visit here! One of the coolest displays you’ll see is Pavlov’s taxidermy dog. This may not be one of the most famous places in St. Petersburg, but it’s certainly worth a visit. Especially if you’re into science!
#7 – Grand Maket Rossiya (Grand Model of Russia) – One of the more unique places to visit in St. Petersburg
Why it’s awesome: If you don’t have time to cover all 17 million kilometres of Russia (and let’s face it, who does?), then this is your next best opportunity! The Grand Model of Russia is the second biggest model in the world after Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.
It’s not entirely to scale, but it does mean you can visit Moscow, the Ural Mountains, and Vladivostok all on the same day! There is 2.5km of train tracks which miniature trains run on, and over half a million LED lights, which you’re guaranteed to see as a day only lasts 15 minutes!
What to do there: Russia is so big that it may not even be possible to get around the whole model of it one day! If that’s the case, rent a pair of binoculars so you can take in the whole of this amazing model. If you do have a bit more time, fantastic.
You can have a go at controlling some parts of the model yourself! There are buttons on the side where you can control the speeds of the cars and trains in the model. Sometimes it’s just enough to watch what’s going on though.
Old women feeding their chickens, a tiny UFO, and escaping prisoners are all part of one of the most unusual attractions in St. Petersburg!
#8 – Nevsky Prospekt
Why it’s awesome: One of the most bustling streets you’ll find anywhere, the central avenue Nevsky Prospekt is considered one of the greatest streets in the world.
As well as the Hermitage and the Mariinsky theatre, you’ll find some places that didn’t make our list of the best places to visit in St. Petersburg but are still worth your time!
These include Kazan Cathedral, the House of Books, and the Eliseyev Emporium. Just be careful when you’re crossing – much of the street is 4 lanes on each side!
What to do there: If you’re visiting St. Petersburg, you’re bound to end up on this thoroughfare at some point. It was originally planned as one of the roads to Moscow but is now one of the central points of restaurants for tourists!
If you want to walk the whole length of Nevsky Prospekt, you’ll need at least two hours, and possibly a little more if you’re to take in its major sights.
As well as historical and cultural sites, make sure to stop off to window shop at some of the city’s most exclusive boutiques, or sample Russian delicacies at the best places to eat in St. Petersburg.
#9 – St. Petersburg Metro – A great place to see in St. Petersburg if you love architecture
Why it’s awesome: St. Petersburg’s rapid transit system is about more than just getting from A to B. The stations here are opulent and rival the palaces and cathedrals above ground for their intricate architecture.
Although walking is often the best way to see a city, don’t miss out on taking the metro – even if it’s just to be astounded by the beauty of the stations!
What to do there: Moscow’s subway was the first built in Russia and St. Petersburg’s system was designed to mimic its beautiful architecture.
All 8 lines on the first line built-in 1955 are considered places of cultural significance. Check out the grand marble and glass columns of Avtovo Station and the sport-themed Sportivnaya. Spending a day on the metro may seem boring, but not here in St. Petersburg!
#10 – Slam City – A great place to visit in St. Petersburg at night!
Why it’s awesome: Saint-Brooklynsburg is a cassette-focused Russian record label, but what on earth is that? Well, it’s responsible for one of the coolest additions to the city’s nightlife scene.
The music mixes American-style garage rock with old-school cassettes to give a very distinctive sound. The club has super cool décor, and it’s the perfect place to spend a party at night after a day visiting the museums and palaces of the city!
What to do there: Don’t miss a live performance from one of the coolest bands on the city’s music scene! The dress code is pretty extravagant, so make sure you pick out your brightest colours to fit in!
Slam City is at its most vibrant and raucous on a weekend, so go then if you can. It’s a St. Petersburg must-do if you want to experience the city’s alternative music scene!
#11 – Peter and Paul Fortress – The city’s historic citadel
Why it’s awesome: The Peter and Paul fortress is the original citadel of the city found on a small island facing the Neva River. It was built in 1703 by Peter the Great when the Russian empire was the strongest empire in Eastern Europe. For a long time, it served as a prison for political criminals, from the early 1700s until the early 1920s.
It was designed by Domenico Trezzini, Peter’s court architect and the pioneer of the Petrine Baroque style that was introduced by the Russian Empire. The complex has six bastions (each named after close associates of Peter) with intertwining stone curtain walls. The structures have been adapted and embellished over the years, and while it is beautiful, whether it was actually a good defensive structure has been up for debate.
Within the fortress is the Peter and Paul Cathedral, which was one of the first buildings to have been made. Originally it was made of wood and consecrated on 1 April 1704, but it was eventually replaced with stone a decade or so later.
What to do here: You can wander around the entirety of the Peter and Paul Fortress and visit the cathedral inside. The whole complex isn’t huge, it’s like a village inside a high wall, but it has a lot of intricate detailing that you might like to stop and marvel at.
It’s located right in the heart of the city center so it’s one of the best Saint Petersburg attractions to visit for a short stop-over. Across the river you will find the Palace Bridge, leading to Palace Square and the State Russian Museum.
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Final Thoughts on Places to Visit in Saint Petersburg
So, that concludes my list of the best places to visit in St. Petersburg. I hope that you’ve found it useful and helpful in planning your trip!
I think the 11 places we’ve chosen are just enough places to visit in Saint Petersburg in 3 days. However, if you’re planning on staying longer, you’ll certainly find that there’s more to do.
I hope that my list has not only showed you how to visit Saint Petersburg, but how to live like a local too. As well as seeing all the most famous attractions the city has to offer, you’ll get off the beaten track too. Who knows, you may even make Russian friends and practice your language skills?!
Just make sure that whatever you do on your trip, you’re armed with our list of the best places to visit in Saint Petersburg. It’ll help you plan out your holiday and really help you to make the most of your vacation!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!