Winter in St. Petersburg is a very special time that can give you an unforgettable vacation in the snowy capital of the former Russian Empire or completely ruin your trip. In this article, we will tell you what you need to know while planning your winter trip to St. Petersburg and how to avoid troubles.
Why visit St. Petersburg in winter
We believe that it is worth going to St. Petersburg at least twice. And one of your visitings should be in the winter.
Here are the pros of winter vacation:
- Empty museums: no summer crowds and lines.
- The beauty of snowy St. Petersburg
- Lower hotel prices and services
- Theatre season is open. All theatres of the city go on vacation in the summer.
- Open ice rinks on the New Holland island and in the Tauride Garden
- A special New Year’s atmosphere. Nevsky Prospect is decorated with New Year’s illumination in December and January. A bus with Santa Clauses goes around the city.
Cons of winter St. Petersburg:
- Drawbridges aren’t raised
- You won’t see the White Nights
- It is cold and humid especially in January and February
- You can not ride boats on rivers and canals
- Peterhof fountains do not work. Although the snow-covered park is beautiful in its way.
- It is difficult to predict the weather – you need to get tickets a week, a month or a half a year before the trip. But no one can say whether there will be snow or mud this weekend.
All precipitation of January and February turns into the mud in March. Therefore, you can see a real spring St. Petersburg only at the end of April.
Thus, if you make your route using the pros and avoiding the cons, you will definitely like St. Petersburg. At the end of the article, we have collected important and useful tips for travelling in St. Petersburg in the winter. Read attentively.
Winter weather in St. Petersburg
The location of St. Petersburg in close to the Baltic Sea makes the region’s winter weather extremely unstable.
The climate in St. Petersburg could be called mild since air temperature in winter rarely drops below -10 ° C. However, there is a feeling that the air is much colder than the thermometer shows due to the almost constant gusts of strong winds.
Heavy snowfall, which covered the city with snow during the day, can be replaced by rain in the evening. The thermometer, in the morning stably showing that the street is freezing around -10 °, can cross the plus mark in the afternoon.
What to bring in winter
You should not expect good weather, going to St. Petersburg in any of the winter months. You should choose clothes that make you feel comfortable.
The waterproof jacket with a hood is perfect for a trip to St. Petersburg in the winter. If you wear such a jacket with a warm sweater and trousers, you can be sure that you can walk around the city in any weather without risking catching a cold.
Your shoes should be waterproof. There is no guarantee that St. Petersburg won’t meet its guests with puddles not only on the roads but also on the sidewalks. The sole should be grooved, not allowing slipping on ice. Yesterday’s thaw can easily become a light frost, quickly turning the streets into a skating rink. A headdress and a scarf are necessary. In addition to fashionable gloves, put warm gloves in your bag.
Such preparation will allow you to go for a city sightseeing private walking tour, feeling comfortable even in windy weather and heavy snowfall. If long walks still cause you discomfort, you can take a break in a cafe or restaurant, many of which are available in St. Petersburg.
What to do in St Petersburg in winter
Winter St. Petersburg offers a wide variety of entertainment. You can choose a traditional tourist program and visit museums and cathedrals. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, go skating or skiing and sledging out of the city.
Here are some ideas of what you can do in St. Petersburg in winter:
- Discover the city centre on foot. The winter cityscape is beautiful. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of strolling through the historic district of St. Petersburg.
- Skating on New Holland Island. A large ice rink opens in mid-November. It has an area of more than 2000 m2 and located on the territory next to the stage, where the winter program of events is held.
- Go to the Christmas performances to the Mariinsky Theatre. Performances and concerts are held in the theatre almost every day. But if you came to St. Petersburg during the winter holidays, be sure to go to the Nutcracker ballet.
- Going sledging in the countryside is a traditional Russian fun for children and adults. Slides can be found in city parks and the suburbs.
- Russian Banya is especially good in winter. Are you ready to jump out of the hot steam room into the snow? And to plunge into the ice-hole?
- Reindeer farm ‘Forest hut’. You can ride a sleigh pulled by a deer harness, admiring the beauties of Russian nature in winter.
Parks in suburbs
The country residences of former Russian monarchs and parks are beautiful at any time of the year. You can visit them in the winter. At this time, there are not as many visitors as in the summer.
Winter Peterhof is no less beautiful than in the summer season. You can walk around Lower Park for free. In the winter months, it is very quiet. Moreover, you shouldn’t stand in a long line to get tickets to the Peterhof Palace. However, don’t count on a long walk. The palace and park complex is located on the shores of the Gulf of Finland, in winter it is very cold and windy here.
Catherine Park in Tsarskoye Selo is another place that cannot be missed. You can spend 4 hours in line at the entrance to the Catherine Palace in summer, but there are not so many visitors here in winter. From September to April, the park is open to visitors from 7:00 to 21:00
A unique monument of landscape art of the late XVIII-early XIX centuries is a great place for winter photo shoots. You can ride a horse carriage or go cross-country skiing. The park also has an ice rink and a place for sledging. Ice sculptures are installed on the parade ground of the Pavlovsk Palace in winter.
It is a rocky landscape park on the shore of a bay in the northern part of Vyborg. In winter, the entrance to the park is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. The historical part of the park organically passes into a forest with unique granite ridges of the ice age.
There are many restaurants and cafes in St. Petersburg offering Russian dishes. The winter menu includes a wide variety of meat dishes, fish, snacks and traditional Russian spirits. The New Year is an important holiday in Russia; therefore, on holidays locals traditionally invite each other for dinner parties. If you don’t have friends in St. Petersburg, be sure to visit one of the restaurants listed below.
Palace Square is the place where the main city events take place. Here they celebrate the New Year, listen to classical music and give memory to the participant of the Blockade of Leningrad. In winter, a Christmas tree is set up on the Square, and on New Year’s Eve, an LED show is organized.
The residence of Father Frost will open on Pioneer Square, and also there will be a festive fair for children and adults all New Year’s holidays.
Concerts and musical festivals
- Mariinsky International Piano Festival is a platform for outstanding unique musicians from various generations and different schools. The festival takes place every year in the second half of December.
- ‘Christmas organ’ of Amadeus Concerts – The Lutheran church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The concert will on the 20th and 27th of December.
New Year Fairs
Fairs are organized on the squares and streets of St. Petersburg on the New Year Eve. You can find unusual gifts, as well as try traditional New Year’s treats.
- Big Christmas Fair on the Pionerskaya Square. The largest city fair with a large open skating rink, a variety of souvenirs, food, hot drinks, as well as an entertainment program.
- New Year Fair on the Malaya Konushennaya. A large Christmas book fair where you can find a large number of gift albums and cards with views of St. Petersburg.
- New Year’s Bazaar on the New Holland Island. An eight-meter Christmas tree and kiosks with gifts will appear in the park.
Winter programmes of the museums
In St. Petersburg, there are over 200 museums in St. Petersburg and most of them preparing something special. During the New Year holidays, thematic exhibitions are held here. Many of them are designed for young visitors. Therefore, if you are planning a vacation with your children, be sure to check out the museum.
- ‘Rembrandt’s Picture in the Mirror of Time’ – exhibition on observance the year of Rembrandt in Hermitage. 2019 is declared the year of Rembrandt, marks 350 years since the death of the artist. For this event, the museum will exhibit Rembrandt’s restored works. You can see them until January 19.
- On Christmas Day, December 25, an exhibition ‘An Alliance of the Arts’ will open in the Hermitage. A large-scale retrospective exposition tells about the products of the famous Imperial Porcelain Manufactory Company from its foundation to the present. The exhibition will run until April 2020.
Useful tips and recommendations
- Utilities do not cope with precipitation – spring usually does it. Therefore, be careful when you walk along the sidewalks – look above your head. Snow and icicles can fall from sloping roofs. This is deadly.
- You should wear shoes with non-slip soles. Winter ice in St. Petersburg is a common feature.
- Don’t walk on the ice of rivers and canals, even if the locals do it. This is unsafe, especially closer to spring.
- When choosing a sightseeing tour of the city, pay attention to the private sightseeing tour-by-car. Considering that the snow that has fallen is cleaned poorly, and icicles or snow are constantly falling from the roofs, walking at least will be tiring. You won’t be able to see all the sights of the city that are in different parts of the city.
- All the restaurants in the city centre are crowded on the New Year Eve. You won’t be able to go to any café and restaurant for eating or celebration. If you plan to meet midnight of December 31st to January 1st in a bar you will have to pay a table reservation in advance.
- New Year’s week is very popular in St. Petersburg and it is better to book a private excursion in advance.