The metro (subway) system is brilliant, beautiful and easy to use – one token for any distance, but avoid rush-hours. Trolley buses and trains a little complicated, metered taxis OK and sightseeing by canal boats – in the summertime – excellent. As to taxis, beware private cabs and especially don’t get in if there are others already in the vehicle. Be especially careful about gypsy cabs waiting near bars and restaurants late at night.
River cruises are an excellent way to appreciate the watery aspect of this grand Russian city; boats big and small are available for hire long or short.
Banyas or Russian bathhouses (saunas) are an interesting cultural experience, particularly if you enjoy being beaten.
Skating in the winter is free on most canals but in the summer you’ll have to pay at one of the ice palaces.
25 Dec- 5 January, Russian Winter celebrates with traditional activities such as music, dance, sleigh rides, folk shows, just outside the city.
late February-early March, Goodbye Russian Winter, as above.
June, the White Nights arts festival is St Pete’s liveliest event.
April/May, St Petersburg Music Spring Festival, classical music.
mid November, Autumn Rhythms is a jazz festival based in St Pete’s clubs.
For some precise dates or more information see: European Festivals or Arts Festivals.
Museums: The incredible Hermitage Museum – with a building as wonderful as its contents, the extensive and beautifully housed Russian Museum, the superb Museum of Decorative Arts, the tasty Russian Vodka Museum and the Kunstammer, housing Peter the Great’s collection of freaks and monsters.
The Hermitage Museum, Russia’s best art collection in the stunning Winter Palace
This massive edifice houses nearly three million artifacts – in an awesome environment that often overshadows the exhibits – which would require nine years to see, so do some research and choose your targets carefully, but do include a visit to the amazing state rooms of the Winter Palace.
Avoiding huge Hermitage queues: buy a two-day voucher (discounted and the museum certainly justifies a couple of days) a few days in advance from the Hermitage online. Print the voucher and then exchange it for an entry ticket on arrival at the groups/disabled entrance. To see the most popular section of the museum, the Treasure Gallery, book a guided tour as soon as you arrive.
Classical Music: St Pete has two first-class Philharmonic orchestras. Book through Maximilian Ticket Agency.
Dance/Opera: at Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov) Theatre, Mikhailovsky Theater, or the cheaper and more intimate St Petersburg Opera.
Choral Music: fabulous churches offer sensational sounds, mostly free. e. g. Preobrazhenski Church 10am and 6pm, or Alexander Nevsky Monastery at 6pm – with a spooky bonus cemetery hosting Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov and Dostoyevsky.
Live Music & Clubs: The city has endless night action of all sorts in varied styles, constantly morphing into something new, so just take a walk, ask the concierge orcheck the monthly ‘Neva News’, the bi-weekly ‘St Petersburg Times’, or ‘Pulse’ magazine for event info/listings.