St. Petersburg – A Russian Jewel
A cruise of northern Europe includes many must-see ports, such as the Scandinavian capitals of Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki. You may also want the itinerary you choose to include St. Petersburg – to see this Russian city on the far eastern edge of the Baltic Sea is truly an extraordinary experience.
St. Petersburg is the city of the tsars, founded by Peter the Great. It was the capital of imperial Russia from 1712 until 1914 and still contains many of Russia’s greatest cultural treasures.
The most famous of St. Petersburg’s many attractions is The Hermitage, one of the world’s top art museums, featuring more than three million works of art and artifacts. The museum’s incredible collection includes Botticellis, Michelangelos, El Grecos, Rembrandts, Renoirs and much, much more. One of the four buildings that make up The Hermitage is the stunning Winter Palace, the former state residence of the Russian emperors.
Other landmarks of St. Petersburg are St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Peter & Paul Fortress, the Russian Museum, and a number of spectacular imperial palaces surrounded by parks and gardens.
Because there is so much to see, many visiting cruise ships spend one or two nights docked in St. Petersburg. You can use the evening hours to see some legendary Russian ballet, visit a nightclub, or even take a boat ride along the city’s canals. There’s a reason the city is sometimes referred to as the Venice of the North! It lies across the delta of the Neva River and the city is actually built on over one hundred islands.
During the summer, you’ll have plenty of daylight to take photos. In fact, during the legendary White Nights, which run from the end of May through mid-July, the sun dips below the horizon for little more than an hour just after midnight. The streets are alive with people all hours of the day (and night). Festivals and events seem to be everywhere during this celebration of light. Make sure to plan extra time to visit top attractions during this time, as lines may be long.
When visiting St. Petersburg, it’s important to book shore excursions through your cruise travel agent, which will assure that you are dealing with the best operators. Exploring St. Petersburg on your own can be difficult, and you will most likely need a Russian visa, which you would have to obtain well in advance of your cruise.
When you visit St. Petersburg, be sure to dress for the weather – most of the museums and attractions are not air-conditioned, so wear lightweight clothing on warm days.
A cultural note: even during summer, most locals do not wear shorts. You will often see women wearing high-heels. Russians also get quite dressed up to attend the ballet.
Take a bottle of water with you, as local water supplies may cause a case of "traveler’s tummy.” Stay with your tour guide – if you wander on your own, it may be difficult to find someone who speaks English to assist you.
St. Petersburg – one of the world’s most northernmost cosmopolitan gems. Your personal cruise expert can provide more information about visiting the city of the tsars.