Things to Know Before You Go to St. Petersburg: Tsarist Opulence and Arts

Make the most of your port city adventures by discovering crucial things to know before you go to St. Petersburg.

Visitors enjoy a boat tour through St. Petersburg's canals, with historic buildings lining the waterways.
Visitors enjoy a boat tour through St. Petersburg’s canals, with historic buildings lining the waterways.

Let’s dive in with a quick heads-up: 

While we share our insights and experiences on the world’s premier travel destinations, it’s always crucial to prioritize your local government’s guidance on current travel advisories.

Even if you whisper its name to someone, St. Petersburg might just be the world’s open secret when it comes to cities drenched in opulence and artistry. Here’s a fun fact to get us rolling: Did you know that the city’s lavish Hermitage Museum is so sprawling, visiting each of its rooms would take you about 11 years? 

Now that you’re armed with such tantalizing tidbits, more interesting things to know before you go to St. Petersburg are about to unfold as we guide you through a maze of tsarist grandeur and unmatched cultural experiences. 

Let us usher you into the regal heart of Russia!

Planning Your Visit to St. Petersburg

When contemplating a holiday to the city of tsars and canvases, you’ll first have to equip yourself with essential things to know before you go to St. Petersburg. This way, you can transform your trip from a mere visit into an actual cultural experience.

When to Go in St. Petersburg and How to Budget Your Trip

For most travelers, the most ideal times to visit St. Petersburg are late spring through early summer (May to July) when the days are longest and the “white nights” enchant visitors with nearly round-the-clock daylight. These months are certainly perfect for witnessing the city in its full splendor, hosting vibrant festivals and outdoor events. 

Meanwhile, autumn (September to October) offers a cooler, yet equally charming alternative with fewer crowds and golden foliage. 

Budget-wise, St. Petersburg can accommodate a range of travelers. Dining and lodging costs can vary significantly, with options ranging from luxurious hotels such as Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg to more budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses like the Ingresso Capsule Hostel. Planning in advance can help secure better rates, especially during peak seasons. With that, consider setting aside approximately $50-100 per day for moderate spending, though this can increase if you favor more upscale accommodations or dining experiences.


Deciding where to nest in St. Petersburg largely depends on your preferences and budget. For those seeking to be at the center of it all, staying near the Nevsky Prospect offers proximity to major sites like the Hermitage and the Kazan Cathedral

For a more serene experience, the Vasilyevsky Island presents a quieter, yet culturally rich option. Boutique hotels such as Trezzini Palace Boutique Hotel and other historic B&Bs dot the city landscape, offering guests a taste of local charm. 

For more social travelers, you might find a conducive solace in one of St. Petersburg’s local homestays, where you’re closer to being provided an immersive experience into Russian daily life.

How to Get Around

Navigating St. Petersburg can be quite a breeze, thanks to its comprehensive public transport system. The city’s metro, buses, and trams make it easy to explore far and wide. 

For sights along the Neva River, consider taking a boat tour for a different perspective of the city’s majestic architecture. Taxis and ride-sharing apps are readily available, offering a convenient, if pricier, alternative. 

However, walking remains one of the best ways to soak in the city’s grandeur, with many of the main attractions comfortably accessible on foot. Just remember, embracing the local rhythm of St. Petersburg is not just about moving from point A to B, but truly savoring the scenes and stories along the way.

Twilight view over the Neva River featuring the silhouette of the Peter and Paul Fortress under a dusky sky.
Twilight view over the Neva River featuring the silhouette of the Peter and Paul Fortress under a dusky sky.

Culture & Interaction

Diving into the cultural tapestry of St. Petersburg not only enriches your journey but also forges deeper connections with its people and traditions. Pondering on these things to know before you go to St. Petersburg can turn simple encounters into memorable exchanges.

Local Customs and Etiquette

St. Petersburg, with its imperial past and artistic heritage, prides itself on decorum and respect for tradition. When meeting locals, a firm handshake and direct eye contact usually signifies respect. 

Dressing conservatively when visiting sacred sites, such as the city’s opulent cathedrals, and always removing your shoes when entering a Russian home are other fine examples of local courtesy. 

On the other hand, tipping is customary, with 10% to 15% being the norm in most restaurants. However, the practice is less expected in taxis. 

Lastly, be mindful of the city’s love for theater and ballet by dressing appropriately for such events— think smart casual as the bare minimum.

Language Tips

While younger residents and those in the tourism industry often speak English, don’t take it for granted. Learning a few key Russian phrases not only opens doors but also hearts. Phrases like “spasibo” (thank you), “pozhaluysta” (please), and “dobroye utro” (good morning) can go a long way. 

But while you’re at it, carrying a handy translation app or phrasebook to navigate menus, signs, and interactions is always a good idea for more efficient communication and other things to know before you go to St. Petersburg. 

Exploring & Experiencing the heart of Russia

In St. Petersburg, every corner you turn and every street you wander into holds a story waiting to be discovered. 

Must-Visit Attractions in St. Petersburg

The Hermitage Museum, with its vast collection of art and artifacts, is a “non-negotiable” must-visit for any tourist. Equally, the grandeur of the Winter Palace and the colorful spires of the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood demand attention. 

But for something off the beaten path, the Yusupov Palace will offer you a glimpse into the life of Russia’s noble families with a side of intriguing history related to the infamous Rasputin.

Culinary Adventures

St. Petersburg’s culinary scene is a reflection of its history and geographic position. From traditional Russian dishes like borsch (beet soup) and pelmeni (dumplings) to the modern twists of New Russian cuisine, there’s much to explore. 

Be sure to dine at one of the city’s historic restaurants like Palkin for an authentic experience. Vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions will find several options, but it’s wise to research restaurants in advance.

A warm and inviting café in St. Petersburg, where guests savor coffee and pastries.
A warm and inviting café in St. Petersburg, where guests savor coffee and pastries.

Local Experiences

For an unforgettable local experience, attend a ballet or opera performance at the Mariinsky Theatre. Booking in advance is often crucial, with tickets varying greatly in price depending on the show and seating. 

For those interested in the literary side of St. Petersburg, a guided tour of Dostoevsky’s haunts also offers an intriguing perspective on the city that inspired much of his work.

Staying Safe & Healthy

As you wrap yourself in the wonders of St. Petersburg, staying alert and informed ensures your visit remains as smooth as the city’s famed Neva River.

While St. Petersburg is largely safe for tourists, it’s wise to stay vigilant in crowded places against pickpocketing and to avoid poorly lit areas at night. In terms of health, no specific vaccinations are required for Russia, but staying up-to-date with routine vaccines is always recommended. 

Tap water in the city is technically safe to drink but carrying a reusable water bottle with a filter can add an extra layer of precaution. For any health concerns, the city also boasts several high-quality medical facilities, though travel insurance is strongly advised to cover any unexpected medical expenses. 

Remember, preparation is key to ensuring your health and safety, allowing you to enjoy all the opulence and artistry that St. Petersburg has to offer.

Unveil the Splendor of St. Petersburg With This City Knows

As our journey through tsarist grandeur and the vibrant arts scene of St. Petersburg comes to a close, we reflect on a city that seamlessly blends opulent history with a rich cultural tapestry. This guide has escorted you through things to know before you go to St. Petersburg, from the majesty of its architecture and the depth of its art to the warmth of its people and the richness of its cuisine. St. Petersburg is not just a destination; it’s an experience that stays with you long after you’ve returned home.

Now, we invite you to weave your own tapestry of memories in this historic city with the help of This City Knows. From planning your visit to exploring the depths of local culture, and ensuring your safety and enjoyment, we’re here to guide you every step of the way. 

Share your St. Petersburg stories or tips in the comments below and you might just get featured on one of our articles soon! We believe traveler insights could definitely light the way for fellow adventurers on their journey to discover this magnificent city!

Author: Nine

Nine delves into cities with a thirst for the untold and the overlooked, weaving narratives that bring destinations alive. They spotlight the heartbeat of places—through the lens of locals and the whispers of streets less traveled. With Nine, every story is an invitation to see the world through eyes wide with wonder.

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