5 Beautiful Places to Visit in St Petersburg

XcelTrip|3 min read|Sep 24, 2019

St. Petersburg has a true wealth of attractions and experiences to offer travellers, from spectacular Imperial palaces to quirky and absorbing museums, from boat trips along the city’s majestic rivers and canals to walks in the footsteps of St. Petersburg’s literary and artistic greats. In fact, there’s more than enough to see and do in St. Petersburg to keep visitors entertained for weeks or even months.

5 Beautiful Places to Visit in St Petersburg

One of the biggest challenges for independent travellers is to work out what they will actually have time to fit in to their itinerary, particularly as St. Petersburg is one of Europe’s largest cities, with the historical centre alone covering several square kilometres and some of the most famous attractions located far out in the suburbs. To help you get the most out of your time in St. Petersburg, our travel writers have drawn on their own expertise and years of feedback from travellers to compile this Top 20 list of attractions and experiences.

The Hermitage (The Winter Palace)

The Hermitage Museum now spans several sites, but for most visitors it is the main collection in the Winter Palace that is an essential component of any St. Petersburg itinerary. Here you’ll find not only centuries of European fine art and a rich collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, but also the astonishingly opulent 18th and 19th century state rooms of Russia’s imperial family.

Since the summer of 2014, much of the Hermitage’s renowned collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art (in terms of artistic quality, undoubtedly the highpoint of the collection) has been transferred across Palace Square to the General Staff Building, so if your main reason for visiting the Hermitage is to see the art, then you have to consider making time for the second location, possibly with a break for refreshments between the two.

The Mariinsky Theatre

Renowned for the impeccable discipline and devotion to tradition of its ballet company, and blessed in Valery Gergiev with one of contemporary classical music’s most exciting and exacting conductors, as well as international stars of ballet and opera including Ulyana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva and Anna Netrebko, the Mariinsky Theatre is a world-class venue for ballet, opera and orchestral music.

Recent years have seen the Mariinsky spread beyond its historic home, the wedding-cake late-19th century opera house on Teatralnaya Ploshchad (“Theatre Square”), with the addition in 2006 of the Mariinsky Concert Hall, and in 2013 the long-awaited opening of the second opera and ballet stage, Mariinsky II. While most visitors will want to enjoy the rich atmosphere and ornate interiors of the main theatre, both new venues are beautifully designed inside, with state-of-the-art acoustics and stage technology, making them well worth exploring for music enthusiasts.


It took Peter the Great over a decade and a few false starts before he found the right site for his summer residence. Modelled partly on Versailles, but with many features that reflected Peter’s specific tastes and interests, the park was expanded under Peter’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, to greatly surpass its French antecedent in scope and grandeur. While the Grand Palace at Peterhof is less spectacular than the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof excels in the diversity and range of its attractions, from the charming baroque buildings of the Petrine era to the extraordinary gilded extravagance of the Grand Cascade to the catalog of gardening styles encompassed in the Upper and Lower Parks to the ever-growing number of museums housed in the various buildings on the estate.

St. Isaac’s Cathedral & Colonnade

Completed in 1858, St. Isaac’s took over forty years to build and decorate. Its strictly European Empire-style facades and colonnades are made unique by the employment of red Karelian granite, while the interiors also meld Orthodox tradition with Catholic influence and extraordinary extravagance in the choice of materials. Different types of semiprecious stone from all over Russia form the interior walls and columns, while an abundance of original art and sculpture goes only a little way to filling the vast hall of the cathedral, designed to accommodate 14 000 standing worshipers. As well as visiting the Cathedral interiors, travelers can buy an extra ticket to climb the 300 steps up to the colonnade. From here, you can enjoy some of the best views of St. Petersburg available.

The Peter & Paul Fortress

The place where the city of St. Petersburg began, the Peter and Paul Fortress never actually saw military action, but has fulfilled a variety of functions over its three-century history, from burial place for nearly all of the Romanov Emperors and Empresses to notorious political prison to the site of key experiments in the development of Soviet rocket technology. All of these aspects of the fortresses history are celebrated in diverse exhibitions across various buildings, and it is the ramshackle charms of these various museums and collections as much as the grandeur of the spectacular Ss. Petersburg and Paul Cathedral that make the fortress an essential visitor attraction.

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