48 hours in St Petersburg

David Pettitt

Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, St Petersburg is, in our opinion, the finest city in Russia. With its grand imperial palaces, picturesque canals and world class museums St Petersburg really does have it all and with a short flying time from the UK can easily be visited as part of a long weekend. The summer months in St Petersburg are the best time to visit with lovely warm weather and a chance to experience the city’s ‘White Nights’ – an endless twilight where the sun never sets! Here are our highlights for 48 hours in the city.

State Hermitage Museum

Forming part of the spectacular Winter Palace, the State Hermitage Museum is located in the centre of the city. The museum houses one of the most magnificent collections of Western European art in the world – there are more than three million items on display in over 365 rooms – and highlights include paintings by Rembrandt, works from Picasso and Matisse and collections of Italian masters.

Entrance to the courtyard of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg

Peterhof

Located to the west of the city, the Imperial palace of Peterhof sits at the heart of a stunning estate. Overlooking the Gulf of Finland, Peterhof was the former summer residence of the tsars and is comparable in scale and grandeur to the Palace of Versailles. Famed for its stunning gravity-powered fountains make sure you visit the sumptuous Grand Palace and Peter the Great’s retreat.

Grand Cascade Fountain at the Peterhof Palace in St Petersburg, Russia

Pushkin

Another day-trip from the city would be to travel the 15 miles south to the town of Pushkin, site of the grand imperial estate of Tsarskoe Selo, which roughly translates as ‘Tsar’s Village’. A vast complex of palaces, parks and lakes, the main sight is the Catherine Palace – a vast baroque home designed by Rastrelli and given by Peter the Great to his wife Catherine in the mid-18th century.

Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo at Pushkin close to St Petersburg, Russia

Peter and Paul Fortress

The oldest structure in the city, the Peter and Paul Fortress is located on Zayachy Island – a short walk from Saint Petersburg’s modern centre. The fortress is best known for the gilded spire of its cathedral where the Romanov’s are buried and also for the former gaol which once held numerous political prisoners including Dostoyevsky, Lenin’s sibling Alexander and Trotsky.

Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg

St Isaac’s Cathedral

Dominating the skyline of Saint Petersburg, the gold dome of the lavish St Isaac’s Cathedral can be seen throughout the city. Now mostly a museum, the cathedral took close to 40 years to complete and was finally opened in 1858. St Isaac’s also has a wonderful location at the entrance to the canals so after visiting you can explore the nearby grand streets and picturesque waterways.

View of St Petersburg and the Dome of St Isaac's Cathedral