Between late May and early July Saint Petersburg truly turns into a city that never sleeps as its skies take on an all-night luminous purple glow known as White Nights. It's the perfect time to not only witness the unique natural phenomenon, but also experience the exceptional joie de vivre which penetrates the air. Locals and tourists alike make the most of their sun-filled summer days and balmy temperatures with endless celebrations and street parties.
Among Saint Petersburg's numerous world heritage sites, a visit to the fortress of Kronshtadt on Kotlin Island is certainly worth your time. Russia's naval center offers a lot of highlights to explore including The Naval Cathedral, a neo-Byzantine church, multiple forts and the historic center.
For a cultural experience make Hermitage, located inside the Winter Palace of Empress Catherine, your primary destination. The museum has an extraordinary wealth of artwork spanning more than 1,500 rooms. Additionally, the State Russian Museum is a treasure-house of the works of prominent Russian artists. Lastly, step on board the memorial ship Aurora which signaled the start of the October Revolution of 1917, and don't miss Fabergé Museum for its foremost collection of bejeweled Imperial Eggs.
Off the Beaten Path
Tap into the local danger-loving subculture and get a unique view of the city by joining a rooftop tour of Saint Petersburg (tours include protective gear and a safety briefing). If challenging your fear of heights doesn't particularly make your soul tick, then book an exclusive after-hours tour of the Hermitage Museum to have the place completely to yourself.
Most Iconic Place
Among Saint Petersburg's dazzling architecture, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is undeniably the most iconic. Its exuberant onion domes catch the eye from afar, while the intricate mosaics inside leave even the most experienced travelers at awe. The church was erected on the site of the 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II and is currently open to the public as a museum.
With an array of hipster live-music joints, stylish cocktail bars, dance clubs and pubs there is no danger of running out of new nighttime experiences in St. Petersburg. The junction of Dumskaya Street and Lomonosova Streets is known to be the city's drinking quarter with its fair share of dive bars. You'll find more classy options on Vosstaniya Street, at Konushennaya Square and along the banks of Fontanka River.
Visit Peter and Paul Fortress which marks the very spot where Saint Petersburg was founded. Built in 1703 under the watchful eye of Tsar Peter, the mighty fortress offers a lot to see including the bell tower, which is still the highest building in St. Petersburg, and the baroque Peter and Paul Cathedral which is the final resting place of Peter the Great.
Neighborhood to Explore
Petrograd Island, the oldest and one of the most atmospheric neighborhoods of the city, will charm you with its quaint cityscape. Stop by Sytny Market, the oldest farmer's market in Saint Petersburg dating back to 1710 to see old babushkas sell fresh produce and legendary pickles and watch the unadulterated daily life of the neighborhood dwellers.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
No place is more abuzz around the clock than Nevsky Prospect, the main artery of Saint Petersburg and the center of the city's cultural and social life. Alternatively, savor an afternoon on the small island of New Holland. This multi-functional arts and culture space is favorited by locals, especially on the weekends, for its array of great restaurants and seasonal outdoor activities.
Most Iconic Experience
Saint Petersburg continuously wows audiences around the world with its extraordinary opera and ballet productions, whether it's the invaluable classics like Swan Lake or equally impressive contemporary interpretations. Visit the Mariinsky Theater, the finest opera in the country, which opened its ornate doors in 1860 and hosted the premiers of many of the stage masterpieces from Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.