Ways to Beat the Crowds in St. Petersburg
With more than six million annual visitors, St. Petersburg is no stranger to crowds, and wait times for top attractions can be long, especially in summer and early fall. From skip-the-line tickets and early access tours, to off-the-beaten-track attractions—here are our top tips to help you beat the crowds in St. Petersburg.
Ticket queues can take more than an hour for attractions such as the Hermitage Museum, Peterhof Palace, and State Russian Museum. Prebooking skip-the-line tickets helps you avoid the crowds, while early access tours grant entrance before anyone else. Plan which day you visit to avoid the crowds—for example, the Hermitage offers free entrance on the first Thursday of each month, but it’s by far the busiest time to visit.
Explore the City by Night
St. Petersburg is a 24-hour city with many shops staying open until 10pm and most restaurants and bars staying open much later. An evening sightseeing tour offers the best chance to enjoy an unobstructed view of the Winter Palace or the St. Peter and Paul Fortress. This is also the time to see St. Petersburg’s famous bridges rising—join a boat cruise or stroll around Neva Lake for the best views.
Despite its large size, St. Petersburg is pedestrian friendly, and all the central sights can be reached on foot. A half-day walking tour takes you from Nevsky Prospect to Palace Square, over to Vasilievsky Island and the Peter and Paul Fortress, before continuing to the Field of Mars. If you take the metro, avoid the main rush hours between 7 and 9am, and 5 and 7pm, when it can be unbearably crowded.
Visit Out of Season
St. Petersburg can be bitterly cold in winter, but landmarks such as the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and St. Isaac’s Cathedral are even more enchanting beneath a dusting of snow. Winter visitors benefit from far fewer crowds at the main attractions, plus you can enjoy seasonal activities such as a troika (horse-drawn carriage) ride through the snow. Just don’t forget your winter woollies.
Hire a Local Guide
First-time visitors to St. Petersburg won’t want to miss a tour of the Hermitage or a photo stop on Palace Square, but if you want to escape the throngs of travelers, take the time to discover some of the city’s less well-known sites. See the city from a different perspective on a rooftop tour; hire a local guide and uncover hidden gems; or visit quirky museums such as the Museum of Bread or the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games.