St. Petersburg is busy with foreign and Russian tourists throughout the summer months, especially from June to August. The temperature during these months tends to sit around a mild, but comfortable 19 degrees Celsius. Visitors tend to flock on flights to St Petersburg to enjoy the sights and arts and to experience the White Nights. By far the best time to visit St Petersburg is late May-early June, during the White Nights. As St. Petersburg is the most northern city in the world, the sun does not descend below the horizon enough for the sky to grow dark.
Late spring and early autumn are good times to search for cheap flights to St. Petersburg. The weather is typically mild, around 5-9 degrees Celsius, although still unpredictable. Winter has fewer crowds and hotels are easier to come by, but be prepared for the bitter cold as temperatures will drop below freezing from November through March and are marked by freezing winds and heavy snowfall.
At the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland, on the Baltic Sea, stands the city of St Petersburg. In the 18th century, Peter the Great transformed the swampy banks of the Neva River into a fine European-style city, his “window on Europe”. Known as Petrograd and then Leningrad, many Russians refer to it as “Piter”.
Its attractions are numerous. There are 539 bridges, more than anywhere else in the world. Apart from Peter the Great’s modest wooden cabin, and the Winter Palace, main residence of the Tsars and the Hermitage Museum’s main building, there are St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, a St. Basil-esque building, a swirl of colourful onion domes, red brick and mosaics.
Head out on foot to best experience St Petersburg’s sights and architecture. There are plenty of public transport options for those who don’t feel like walking. You can still get great views of the city by taking a cruise on the Neva River. The metro is a very popular option for both residents and tourists. It’s cheap and fast, but can get very crowded during the day. Buy your tokens or multiple-trip tickets at the station. You can also ride a bus, tram or trolley car.
Buses cover the areas the subway doesn’t. Trolleys are the slowest option. Purchase tickets for any of these from the drivers or at kiosks beforehand. Make sure you validate them when boarding. Marshrutky are minibus shuttles that you can flag down on the bus route. Pay the driver and request a stop when you get to your destination. There are also plenty of taxis, which are inexpensive as well.
Private cars often act as non-metered taxis, so negotiate a fare before you get in. Avoid driving yourself if you can. Roads are often in disrepair, traffic is congested and street signs are in Cyrillic.
Flights to St Petersburg arrive at Pulkovo International Airport (LED). The public bus leaves for Moskovskaya Metro Station from outside the terminal, from where metros go to the city centre. Taxis are also available from the terminals; pre-booking a taxi is far cheaper. Passengers who are staying in a major hotel can arrange to be picked up.