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  • Peterhof-Palace-and-Grand-Cascade-St-Petersburg - Grand Peterhof Palace and the Grand Cascade in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Royal-Caribbean-Grand-Cascade-Peterhof-Palace - Visit the Grand Cascade at the magnificent 18th-century Peterhof Palace when your cruise ship calls on St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Hermitage-Museum-in-St-Petersburg - A view from the Neva River of the magnificent Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Uniworld-River-Victoria-Catherine-Palace - Guests of the River Victoria will discover the grand Catherine Palace on a shore excursion of St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Russia-St-Petersburg-Palace-Sculpture - Book passage to St. Petersburg, Russia, on Norwegian Star and  explore magnificent Peterhof Palace.
  • Royal-Caribbean-Hermitage-Museum-2 - Royal Caribbean's shore excursions in St.Petersburg, Russia, include tours of the Hermitage Museum, one of the largest and oldest museums in the world.
  • Royal-Caribbean-Hermitage-Museum-4 - Arrange a Royal Caribbean shore excursion in St. Petersburg, Russia, for a tour of the magnificent Hermitage Museum.
  • Uniworld-River-Victoria-Peterhof-Palace - Wander the grand Peterhof Palace and its elaborate interiors and gardens — often called the "Russian Versailles"— during your river cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia, aboard Uniworld's River Victoria.
  • Royal-Caribbean-Moscow - Arrange a Royal Caribbean shore excursion in Moscow and see the historic Red Square and Kremlin.
  • Canova-The-Hermitage-St-Petersburg-Russia - Neoclassical marble sculptures by Antonio Canova at the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Uniworld-River-Victoria-Moscow-Kremlin - Cruise the imperial waterways of Russia, from Moscow to St. Petersburg — including closeup views of the Kremlin — aboard Uniworld's ship the River Victoria.
  • Royal-Caribbean-Hermitage-Museum-3 - The grand Hermitage Museum, included on Royal Caribbean's shore excursions in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • La-Toilette-Degas-Hermitage-St-Petersburg - "La Toilette (Woman Combing Her Hair)" (c. 1884–1886), pastel on paper by Edgar Degas, can be viewed at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • double-golden-eagle-Winter-Palace-St-Petersburg-Russia - A double golden eagle at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Picasso-in-The-Hermitage-St-Petersburg-Russia -  The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, has two entire rooms filled with Picasso paintings.
  • Azamara-Spilled-Blood3-Russia.jpg - The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-Spilled-Blood4-Russia.jpg - The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-St-Isaacs4-Russia.jpg - Sculpture in Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-St-Isaacs1-Russia.jpg - Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-St-Isaacs2-Russia.jpg - View of the ceiling in Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-St-Isaacs3-Russia.jpg - Stained glass window in Saint Isaac's Cathedral in St.Petersburg, Russia.
  • peterhof-palace-russia.jpg - The opulent exterior of Peterhof Palace in Russia, named after Peter the Great.
  • peterhof-palace-from-above.jpg - View of the grounds from the steps of Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • peterhof-palace-chandlelier.jpg - A ceiling detail from Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • peterhof-palace-golden-dome.jpg - The golden dome of Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-Catherine-Palace2-Pushkin-Russia.jpg - Fillagree lights in Catherine Palace in Pushkin, outside of St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Cezanne_Still_Life_with_a_Curtain - "Still Life with a Curtain" (1895), by Paul Cézanne at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • st-petersburg-russia-seadream.jpg - SeaDream I is small enough to dock right in the heart of St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-St-Petersburg-Russia.jpg - The Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia, at daybreak.
  • Azamara-Catherine-Palace1-Pushkin-Russia.jpg - Catherine Palace in Pushkin, just south of St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-Catherine-Palace3-Pushkin-Russia.jpg - Catherine Palace,  near St. Petersburg, was the summer residence of Russian czars.
  • Azamara-Catherine-Palace4-Pushkin-Russia.jpg - A statue outside of Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia.
  • Azamara-Catherine-Palace5-Pushkin-Russia.jpg - The golden domes of Catherine Palace in Pushkin, outside of St.Petersburg, Russian.
  • Azamara-Catherine-Palace6-Pushkin-Russia.jpg - Inside Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia.
  • Azamara-Hermitage1-Russia.jpg - A gallery in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-Hermitage2-Russia.jpg - A statue in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-Hermitage3-Russia.jpg - Cupid and Psyche by Antonio Canova, in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-Hermitage4-Russia.jpg - The Hermitage Museum (or Госуда́рственный Эрмита́ж if you prefer Russian) in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-Spilled-Blood2-Russia.jpg - The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • Azamara-Spilled-Blood5-Russia.jpg - Inside the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia.

St. Petersburg port guide: What to see in Russia's most beautiful city

our guide

The vibe

Fashioned by Peter the Great as Russia’s window on the West, St. Petersburg recalls the heyday of the tsars, yet is cosmopolitan and up-to-the-minute. Whether you're visiting for just a few hours on a cruise stopover or spending a couple days in St. Petersburg, this Russian port on the Baltic Sea has turned into a major European cultural center.

Perched on the banks of the Neva, the city is crisscrossed by canals. In the course of a single day, a visitor will come across Imperial palaces, superb art museums, historic churches and inspiring architecture. Russia's second largest city awaits visitors with a breathtaking cityscape that you'll long remember. This is Russia's most beautiful and Western city, and even when crazy stuff is happening elsewhere, business and art go on as usual in St. Petersburg, the longtime cultural soul of Russia. 

Cruise ships that call on St. Petersburg, Russia

River cruise ships that call on St. Petersburg

Top reasons to go

  • Fabulous art museums, including the world-famous Hermitage, with its collections from Imperial Russia.
  • A stunning cityscape of bridges and canals, lined with magnificent churches and palaces with gilded domes and golden spires.
  • The White Nights, midsummer evenings where the sun never seems to set.
Take a tour of the magnificent Hermitage Museum during your shore excursion in St. Petersburg.
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean InternationalTake a tour of the magnificent Hermitage Museum during your shore excursion in St. Petersburg.

Top things to do & see in St. Petersburg

The Hermitage

After the Louvre, The Hermitage is the second largest art museum in the world and is a treasure trove with whole rooms of works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, El Greco, Goya, the Impressionists and many more. It’s also the former winter palace of the tsars, so the rooms themselves are sights to behold. Among them is the Malachite Room, with its personal items from the Romanov family.

St. Issac's Cathedral

The huge gold dome of the immense 19th-century St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the largest in the city, is a landmark that took over 40 years to build. Inside, you’ll see magnificent mosaics and splendid city views form the top of the colonnade.

Church of the Resurrection of the Christ

Church of the Resurrection of the Christ was modeled after St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and is a marvel of onion-shaped domes, mosaics and an altar studded with semi-precious gems.

Peter and Paul Fortress

Many of the Russian czars are buried in the Peter and Paul Fortress, built in 1703 by Peter the Great to protect the city against Sweden and other Western powers. It served as a prison up until 1917, with inmates that included Peter the Great’s son, Alexei, who was charged with treason. The complex includes the Baroque-style Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.

 The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, has two entire rooms filled with Picasso paintings.
My Past / Creative Commons BY The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, has two entire rooms filled with Picasso paintings.

Russian Museum

Great artworks, religious icons and other artifacts pertaining to the history of Russia from the 12th century onward are displayed in the Russian Museum. It is housed in a former palace with lovely adjacent gardens to stroll around in.

Peterhof and Pushkin Palaces

Both of the Peterhof and Pushkin Palaces are located outside of the city and can be toured together or separately. Peterhof, built by Peter the Great, is often called the Russian Versailles because of its magnificent interiors, including the tsar’s original Oak Study Room and gardens. Catherine the Great’s palace in Pushkin is equally sumptuous, especially notable for its Amber Room, which took 20 years to recreate after it was plundered by the Nazis during World War II.

Shopping

Brightly colored nesting dolls, which come in designs from traditional to contemporary, and lacquer boxes are among the most popular local souvenirs. St. Petersburg is also a good place to find amber jewelry and religious icons. The Hermitage gift shop is an especially good place to browse for quality items. The many street vendors throughout the city, most prevalent along Nevsky Prospekt, the main commercial thoroughfare, are good sources for inexpensive souvenirs. The Galeria is the city’s main shopping mall, offering 290 shops as well as cafes and restaurants.

Nightlife

Fans of the opera or ballet will not want to miss the chance to see a performance of the Opera or Kirov Ballet companies at the famous Mariinsky Theater, a green and white confection dating back to the 19th century. Many cruises also offer excursions to see Russian folkloric dance and music performances.

Don’t miss

The Imperial Porcelain Manufactory is not only the best place to shop for the hand-painted cobalt blue china sold throughout the city, but it offers a museum filled with porcelain treasures that are part of the Hermitage collection.

Best bets for dining

  • Casual lunch: For a quick bite, try Russian blini, crepes with various fillings, sold at stands throughout the city. Café Singer, located on the second floor of the Dom Knigi (House of Books) bookstores, is a good place for people watching and for Russian specialties like pelemi (meat dumplings) and borscht. The Idiot Café, named for the Dostoyevsky novel, serves vegetarian fare in a cozy, Bohemian setting.
  • Fine dining: For an elegant Russian evening with caviar and cognac, Taleon, an opulent mansion connected to the Taleon Imperial Hotel, is the place to go. With art nouveau details and private balconies, another splendid choice is L’Europe at the Grand Hotel.
The grand Hermitage Museum, included on Royal Caribbean's shore excursions in St. Petersburg.
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean InternationalThe grand Hermitage Museum, included on Royal Caribbean's shore excursions in St. Petersburg.

Best time to go

High season: June to August

Shoulder seasons: April to May; September to October

Low season: November to March

Fun facts

  • St. Petersburg, including the suburban areas, has more bridges (about 800) than any other city in Europe.
  • The city was commissioned by Tsar Peter the Great (1672–1725) as "a window looking into Europe."
  • St. Petersburg, which has about 4.88 million people, is the world’s northernmost city with the largest population.
  • St. Petersburg hosts more than 100 arts-related festivals each year.

When you arrive

Docking information

Cruise ships dock at the Sea Façade located at the mouth of the Nevis River, about a 15-minute taxi ride to the city center. The terminal offers an information center, café, ATMs and other services.

Getting around

Taxis are available at the major hotels and attractions; it’s a good idea to negotiate the fare beforehand, and do not close the door until it's agreed. Drivers may not speak English, so it’s wise to have the name of the ship’s berth location written down in Russian. You can also sometimes negotiate with a taxi driver at the pier to give you a city tour. St. Petersburg also has an efficient metro system, worth checking out to see the elegant stations with chandeliers and Soviet-era artwork.

Need to know

A double golden eagle at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.
My Past / Creative Commons BYA double golden eagle at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.

Documents: U.S. citizens will need a valid passport. If you are visiting St. Petersburg on a shore excursion through a licensed operator, you will not need a visa. If you are visiting on your own, you will need to apply to a Russian consulate or a visa service for a visa.

Language: Russian is the official language. English is not widely spoken.

Currency: The ruble, but many shops and street vendors accept dollars or euros.

Safety: It is not recommended that you drink the tap water in St. Petersburg; however, bottled water can be purchased cheaply from any store, and there are vending machines with mineral water, but you need to supply your own cup.

Your take

Have you been to St. Petersburg? Please share a story, tip or discovery. And photos, if you have some in sharp focus. What was the highlight for you? Did you bring home a notable souvenir?

See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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Maria Lenhart
I am a veteran travel writer who has enjoyed reporting on destinations far and near for many publications. My favorite way to travel is on board a ship, no matter where it's going. 

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Overheard

“Feel like lounging on the beach with a fruity cocktail, catching some rays or playing some badminton? Then visit Dunes, St. Petersburg’s first beach bar, complete with sand, hammocks and beach chairs. That this outdoor café is located in a crumbling courtyard (with no sea in sight) only adds to the charm.”

Lonely Planet

“The Hermitage is a museum on an impossible scale, much of it housed in the Winter Palace (there are four more buildings along Palace Embankment). This was the formal  home of the Russian czars, the absolute center of power, its physical expression in gold, marble, and malachite.”

Travel + Leisure magazine

“If time allows, attend a concert, opera, or ballet at the Hermitage Theatre. Built in 1783 for Catherine II, this cozy and impressive theater is one of the oldest in Russia.”

Porthole magazine

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