Trying to figure out how to make the most of a Saint Petersburg day trip? Whether you’re there on a layover, in transit or it’s a stop along your Trans-Siberian journey, the city is magic and has so much to cover in one day.
Everything mentioned here can be done on your own, or if you prefer to book tickets in advance or book guides, there are links to do that too (for example, this tour will give you the best of St. Petersburg and includes a boat tour)!
To make things easy for you, everywhere mentioned in this post is ALREADY PINNED in the embedded Google Map below!
A St. Petersburg day trip
Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and considered to be one of the most attractive cities in the world. It was built for Tsar Peter the Great, who hired the best architects from Western Europe to design the city. Nowadays, millions visit the city every year to admire its stunning architecture.
One day in Saint Petersburg is not enough time to see everything, but if you don’t have any other choice and your schedule is tight, this article will allow you to make the most of your limited time. If you have more time, check out this guide to will help you plan a longer stay in Saint Petersburg. And if you can find general Russia travel tips here.
Getting to Saint Petersburg
If you arrive to Saint Petersburg by plane you can get to the city from Pulkovo airport by bus number 39 or 39E. You can also take a marshrutka number 39 (What is a marshrutka and how to use it?). All of them take you to Moskovskaya metro station on the blue line. You can check details on the airport’s website here.
What to do in Saint Petersburg in one day
To make things easy for you, everywhere mentioned in this post is ALREADY PINNED in this Google Map!
Church of Savior on Blood
For me, it is the most beautiful building in Saint Petersburg. The church was built by tsar Alexander III to commemorate his father who died in a bombing attack in this very spot. Alexander wanted the church to stand out in the baroque and neoclassical architecture dominating the city. That’ why the church is inspired by medieval Russian style.
Just across the street from Church of Savior on Blood you will see Kazan Cathedral. The impressive building was inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Inside you can see an icon Our Lady of Kazan, a special symbol for the Russian Orthodox church. After the huge fire in Kazan in XVIth century, the Virgin Mary appeared to a little girl and showed her where the icon was, under a destroyed house. Even though it is not known if the icon displayed in Kazan Cathedral is an original or a copy – people truly worship it and it is worth seeing.
An impressive, huge square, heart of the city, one of the most popular touristic places in Russia and in the whole world. In the square you will see the Winter Palace. Currently the Hermitage museum is located in the palace. It’s an important place in the history of Petersburg and Russia – let’s only mention that the first person to live in the palace was Catherine the Great and it was the first building taken by the Bolsheviks at the beginning of October revolution.
At the other side of the square you will see the building of the General Staff. In the center of the square there is a monumental Alexander Column raised after Russia won over Napoleon’s France.
If you’re really concerned about time, you can book skip the line tickets for the Hermitage Museum to make the most of your hours.
Spit of Vasilyevsky Island
The eastern end of Vasilyevsky Island is a perfect viewpoint for the Peter and Paul Fortress, Neva River, Winter Palace and the dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
The Bronze Horseman
The Bronze Horseman is a monument offered to Peter I by Catherine II. It stands on a so-called Thunder Stone, believed to be the biggest stone ever moved by humans. The legend says that while the Bronze Horseman stands in the city, no enemy will conquer it.
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
The biggest cathedral in Saint Petersburg and the fourth biggest dome building in the world. The dome is covered with a thin layer of pure gold. At the colonnade under the dome you will find the best viewpoint in the city.
Peter and Paul Fortress
Peter and Paul Fortress is the first building built in Saint Petersburg on the last upstream island of the Neva delta – Hare Island. Initially built as a fort to protect the city from the attack of the Swedish, it never really served its purpose. Currently, it serves as home to many museums and points of interest.
Inside Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, there are tombs of Russian tsars that you can see. You can also climb up the fortress walls, visit the museum of history of Saint Petersburg and many more, or opt to relax on the beach right outside the fortress.
Make sure to throw a coin on the hare standing on a log in the water as you cross the bridge to get to the island. If you manage to get the coin to land between the rabbit’s legs, you will have a lot of luck in your life. I never managed.
What to taste
You can taste a huge variety of Russian cuisine in Saint Petersburg. The most famous dishes are borscht (beetroot soup), ukha (fish soup), pelmeni (small dumplings), bliny (pancakes) and many others.
A good place to eat if you are on a budget is Stolovaya No 1 (Столовая No1) – a chain of milk bars. Here’s a list of all Stolovayas in St. Petersburg. The decorations are very basic, you can’t pay by card, there’s self-service and the staff rarely speaks English, but it is cheap and tasty. A true local experience 🙂
If you look for something more fancy I recommend Katyusha restaurant. The place is cozy and the food is amazing, they have a huge variety of local cuisine in the menu.
Where to stay
It’s best to stay close to a blue or red line metro station (up to 15 minutes on foot). Apartments far from metro are cheaper, but not worth the time. Living in the city center is the most convenient, however, it might be expensive. Casa Leto is a cute option, near Saint Isaac’s Square, with breakfast included for under $100.
Other options to stay in Saint Petersburg:
- AirBnb: Saint Petersburg has a ton of AirBnb options, from apartments to rooms on a boat! Save $40 on your first booking with this link.
- Booking: There are literal thousands of options on Booking; save $20 on your first booking with this link.
Saint Petersburg day tours
If you prefer to do any of the above with guides, or book in advance, here are some great options.
- Viator offers Saint Petersburg tours starting at $10, and also have a range from short options, transfers to full day tours.
- GetYourGuide lets you book anything in St. Petersburg from buses and boat tours, cathedral entrances, to full day guided tours.
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