Palace Square and the magnificent Winter Palace containing one of our top five museums in the world, The Hermitage.
This 'Venice of the North' - once called both Petrograd and Leningrad - Saint Petersburg is a splendid metropolis of grand, baroque buildings laced around with canals and a dynamite joie de vivre.
Colourful, attractive, walkable and cultured - night hardly falls at all around midsummer - so there's plenty of light-time to waft around the streets in a haze of vodka-fuelled goodwill with your new Russian chums...and chums there may be, for St Petersburg people are very, very sociable. More.
Peterhof (Petrodvorets), Peter the Great's Grand Palace is a highly recommended
and popular museum and gardens (genuinely comparable with Paris' Versailles) with spectacular water features.
Peterhof Palace in winter.
Top Saint Petersburg Sights - churches, museums and palaces:
The Hermitage Museum inside the Winter palace. This massive edifice houses nearly three million artifacts - in an awesome environment that often overshadows the exibits - 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.
The Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood home to the Museum of Mosaic, is an amazing 7,500 sq m of breathtaking mosaic religious art but frequently absolutely inundated by tank-top tourists, flashing cameras and milling clusters of paddle-followers, so try to go early or off-season. Photo.
Peterhof Palace and Gardens. Photos and information above.
St. Isaac's Cathedral. Photos and information.
The State Russian Museum, set in Mikhaelovski Palace is a must-see even if you love the Hermitage. It houses countless superb Russian art works from ancient icons to bizarre folk art, specialising in Russian work as opposed to the Hermitage which embraces the world.
Peter and Paul Fortress, built in 1703 by Peter the Great, is St Petersburg's earliest structure, externally plain but picturesquely set on its own island in the city centre, the Fortress houses various museums and the Peter and Paul Cathedral, with gilded needle spire and containing tombs of the Tsars and a stunning gilded wood iconostasis among other unique relics. Also busy in the summer try visiting between 4pm and 6pm closing.
Opera or Ballet performances at Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov) Theatre, Mikhailovsky Theater, or the cheaper and more intimate St Petersburg Opera.
Catherine's Palace is a renovated masterpiece in the baroque style, surrounded by parks. It's in Pushkin, 25km south of Saint Petersburg.
The ballroom inside Catherine's Palace.
Saint Petersburg weather is best in April, May and October when average low temperatures are still above zero (!) and highs reach 8C (46F). It's chilly but with low humidity, low rainfall, low mosquitoes and low tourist numbers. Winters will be incredibly cold, -2C (28F) to -10C (14F) or lower, but beautiful, with lowest rainfall, and offering a different perspective on Russian life!
Summer in St Pete has drawbacks - it's obviously crowded with tourists but also with mosquitoes; it's the wettest and most humid time of the year, though June ushers in the lively White Nights festival. Summer average highs are about 22C (72F) but can go above 30C (86F), lows around 12C (54F).