The only problem with being in St. Petersburg for a quick visit is the fact that you’ll very likely want to come back, thanks to the sheer number of awe-inspiring sights. But a satisfying visit is still very much possible on a short visit. Our local city tour guides know exactly what you should focus your time on for an unforgettable 24 hour visit to St. Petersburg.
The morning is the best time to have a cup of coffee in a cute place somewhere in the city centre. The main prospect in St. Petersburg is Nevsky, and there are lots of cafés and restaurants to choose from. Two of our favourites are Singer Café, where you can order coffee and breakfast and enjoy the views of Kazan Cathedral; and Du Nord, a charming French café open 24 hours a day.
Once you’re fuelled up for the day, we suggest visiting the main museum in St. Petersburg: The Hermitage. Morning is a good choice because this place isn’t overcrowded yet and you will have three hours to enjoy it. This is one of the most interesting and popular museums in the world, and also one of the largest. The collection at the State Hermitage includes more than three million works of art and artifacts representing the best in world culture. Here you’ll find some impressive pieces including two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and a sculpture by Michelangelo, as well as the largest collection of Rembrandt’s paintings outside Netherlands. Don’t forget to put on comfortable shoes since the Hermitage is very big.
If you’re looking for a good place for a lunch break, we strongly recommend Dachniki, a traditional Russian café and great place for a local meal. It’s also located near Palace Square, so it will be easy to get there from the Hermitage. After lunch make your way to St. Isaac’s Cathedral and climb the 300 steps up to the cathedral’s colonnade for magnificent views over the city.
The afternoon is a great time to make your way to Peterhof Palace, an unmissable site just outside of St. Petersburg. The stunning collection of elaborate palaces, fountains and gardens are often referred to as the ‘Russian Versailles’ and were founded by Peter the Great. It takes about an hour to get here from central St. Petersburg so factoring in travel time, you should have about two hours to explore the vast complex, snapping pictures as you go. To get here, there are marshrutka minibuses running from Baltiskiy, Avtovo and Leninskiy Prospekt metro stations directly to the park gates in Peterhof. You won’t be able to tackle every building here, but two hours will give you a good sense of the magnitude of Peterhof.
Following your visit to Peterhof Palace, make your way back to Nevsky Prospekt via metro for the rest of your stay in St. Petersburg. There’s a large variety of bars and restaurants to choose from here so you have your pick when it comes to where to eat and drink. A few good choices for dinner include Gogol, which serves up traditional Russian fare like pelmeni (Russian dumplings) in an elegant 19th-century building; Biblioteka, a sleek, multi-purpose space featuring a café, restaurant, bar and even a flower shop; or Yat, a cosy spot with a menu filled with Russian favourites. For drinks afterwards, make your way to Russian Vodka Room Number 1 for – you guessed it – a taste of some Russian vodka. This place has one of the largest selections of traditional Russian vodkas in the world.
For travellers on a short visit, we recommend having a layover that will allow you to spend two hours in the city centre, and another hour for travelling to and from the airport.
The best way to get from the airport to the sites is by taking bus 39 or mini-bus (marshrutka) 39 to Moskovskaya Metro Station, and then taking the metro into town. The whole trip should take around 40 to 45 minutes.
If you want to see St. Petersburg in the morning or afternoon, knock some city must-sees off your list, like Palace Square, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, and Kazan Cathedral.
If you’re in St. Petersburg for an evening or nighttime layover, hang out on Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main thoroughfare. Here you’ll get the chance to gaze at Instagram-worthy architecture and be close to numerous bars, cafés and restaurants.