Saint Petersburg is the most beautiful and the most European city in Russia and like any big city, it has tons of things to do. One day is never enough to see a city but luckily if you travel to St.Petersburg in summer during White Nights you’ll literally get a chance to explore the city for 24 hours non stop. To help you make the most of your trip we listed the best places to visit in Saint Petersburg in one day, an itinerary that might leave you tired but in ecstasy.
First, we gonna list the top things to do in Saint Petersburg, places to visit and must see. After that, we gonna organize them in a one day itinerary to enjoy the best of St. Petersburg summer [June, July]. Be part of the White Nights and use the endless sunshine to help you avoid the crowds and visit St. Petersburg top attractions in one day, an unforgettable one.
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Top places to visit in Saint Petersburg
There are several places in Saint Petersburg that you can’t miss even if you have only one day in the city. The State Hermitage/The Winter Palace is the main city and country art museum and the second largest art museum in the World. It hosts thousands of painting, sculptures and some archaeological artifacts spread around its stunning richly decorated halls and rooms.
St.Isaac Cathedral is one of St.Petersburg’s top attractions, the largest Orthodox cathedral and the fourth largest cathedral in the world. Except for these impressive facts the cathedral is absolutely beautiful, its interior is incredible; columns, pilasters, marble statues, mosaic, and paintings.
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is definitely one the most photographed and most visited places in St. Petersburg. Its fairytale look with 9 colorful cupolas always attracts many people. Its interior is as impressive as the outside look.
Peter and Paul’s cathedral was the first building in St.Petersburg and the heart of the city. There are several museums inside the complex but if you don’t have much time for exploring them just to walk on the old cobblestone streets, listen to the carillon bells of Peter and Paul’s Cathedral is definitely one of Saint Petersburg must do.
Russian Museum, unlike the Hermitage, contains only Russian art mainly painting and some sculpture. Here you can see a history of Russian art in progress from the first icons to the masterpieces of Malevich and Kandinsky.
Palace bridge – a beautiful drawing bridge over the Neva River, the main place to come in the season [May – October] to watch the opening of the bridges.
24 hours in Saint Petersburg Itinerary
To make sure you get as much as possible from your day stay start your itinerary from early morning. For the start, you can go on a bus tour or boat tour in St. Petersburg. Both go through the city center, the bus tours work as a traditional hop on hop off, when the boats cruise for about 2 hours non stop along the city rivers. You get a very different perspective of the city and its sights from the water. I’d suggest on a nice sunny day take a boat trip and on a cloudy rainy day go on a bus tour.
For those who prefer walking, there is a nice walking/cycling route through the city center. Start your St. Petersburg one day itinerary at Kazan Cathedral, walk along Nevsky Avenue to the Palace Square and the Hermitage. Then head to St.Isaac Cathedral across the Palace Bridge to Peter and Paul’s cathedral. Across the Trinity Bridge to the Summer Garden, past by the Church on Spilled Blood and the Russian Museum back to Kazan Cathedral.
This route will take you about 2 – 3 hours to complete including short photo stops and It covers all the main places to visit in Saint Petersburg and is a great alternative to a bus tour on a sunny day. The most famous places to visit in St. Petersburg are located close to each other and they are easy to access on foot.
After finishing your tour go to the Hermitage, a visit to St.Petersburg won’t be complete without a stop at one of the most famous museums in the world. Hermitage is huge and would take ages to explore every single corner of it. The best you can do is to see the main masterpieces, even this will take you at least 2 hours.
The Hermitage highlights not to miss are the Madonna Litta and the Benois Madonna by Da Vinci, Madonna and a Child by Raphael, Pavilion Hall with an incredible Peacock cloak, The Lodges of Raphael, Crouching Boy by Michelangelo, the Georgian Hall.
After the museum it’s time for lunch, there are several places to visit in St. Petersburg for good food, keep reading this post and you will find the “Where to eat in Saint Petersburg” section for recommendations. Done with lunch, it’s time to visit at least one of St. Petersburg’s cathedrals; St.Isaac and Church on Spilled Blood are probably the most impressive, both from the outside and inside.
If you like classical music or ballet definitely go to Mariinsky Theater, there are three stages and every evening at least two are busy with performances. It can be opera, ballet or philharmonic orchestra. If it sounds like too much of a cultural experience for you, go to one of the restaurants for dinner and continue the night at one of the many bars in the city. The best bars and restaurants in St. Petersburg are at Rubinstein Street area.
What are the White Nights in Saint Petersburg?
If you think this busy day is finally over you’re mistaking the summer in Saint Petersburg, everything is just starting. The famous White Nights don’t leave you a chance for sleeping! White Nights occur in the Northern hemisphere in summer when the light day may be as long as 22 hours and even in 2 night hours it never gets completely dark. Basically, what happens you just finish watching the sunset and it’s almost time for the sunrise. This period is the best time to visit St.Petersburg.
You’ll be surprised how many people walk at night in the city center, doesn’t matter if it’s weekend or not. The main attraction of the White Nights in St. Petersburg is the opening of the bridges over the Neva River. It happens every night between 1 am and 3 am and some bridges are opened and closed two times during the night. The bridges get opened for ships and ferries, mainly cargo, to go through the city.
The main bridge to watch is the Palace Bridge that is open at 1:20 am with music, lights and hundreds, if not thousands of people watching the show every night. Most restaurants, bar and even coffee shops stay open until early morning. Midnight craving? Don’t worry, you’ll easily find a place to eat 24 hours. To walk at night in the city center is safe, I’ve done it many times since I was at school.
Sunrise these day is very early between 3:30 and 4 am if you feel strong enough you might make it. This time is the best for taking photos of the main attractions in St. Petersburg without crowds, very likely you’ll be alone on the Palace Square or at Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
Where to eat in Saint Petersburg
Depending on your budget and food preferences, in the city center you can find anything from traditional Russian pelmeni (dumplings) to Italian pizza, sushi, and vegetarian/vegan restaurants. Here are our suggestion of the best restaurants in St. Petersburg that you must try:
– Pelmenya – a small and cozy mono cuisine restaurant, its main dish are dumplings, pelmeni, khinkali and momo with different fillings like meat, fish, cheese, vegetables and cottage cheese. It’s a great place to come for a quick lunch while visiting St. Petersburg tourist attractions. They also have a good variety of beer and wine.
– MooMoo Burgers – for burgers, this is the best restaurant in St. Petersburg. Huge homemade patties and buns generously topped with cheeses and sauces. Our favorite is Cheese Blast, a juicy meat patty, fresh buns with three or four different cheeses. Yummy!
– Suliko on Kazanskaya street – one of the locals’ favorite Georgian cuisine restaurant. They have the best Adjarian Khachapuri in St.Petersburg, great lamb kebabs, homemade wines and different shawarmas.
– Ukrop (Eng. Dill) – a good alternative to all the meaty places mentioned above, caters for vegetarians and vegans. Here you can find all sort of vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes, healthy drinks and teas.
Where to stay in Saint Petersburg
After 24 hours visiting the best spots in St. Petersburg you might be tired and desperate for some rest. Before heading to your next destination a good nap is more than welcome, so here are our suggestions of where to stay in St. Petersburg. Hotels and the best places to stay in Saint Petersburg for all type of travelers and budget. Choose the perfect accommodation for you and enjoy the well-deserved rest.
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Stingy Nomads is a South African/Russian couple that met on the road, in the Philippines, four years ago. Since that time they’ve traveled together to over 30 countries following their biggest passions; hiking and diving. The blog is two years old, it started as a hobby writing mainly for friends and family. It focuses on budget travel and adventure activities all over the world; Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Follow their travel adventure on Facebook and Instagram.