The 10 things you should do in Saint Petersburg in summer

Like many cities, Saint Petersburg is an entirely different place during the summer. Many people leave the city during summertime. They chose to go into the countryside or to go abroad. On the other hand, summer is the absolute high season for tourism. Hotels in Saint Petersburg are trying not to lose money 8 months a year, while only 4 months a year they are actually making a profit.

Whereas many people might actually prefer the city during the winter time when temperatures are lower and you feel the authentic Russian vibes, I personally love both seasons. During summer, the parks are open and everybody wants to enjoy being outside as much as possible. So what should you be doing in Saint Petersburg during the summer season? Here is a list with 10 fun things to do.

1 Visit Yelagin Island

Yes, Yelagin is also open during the other seasons, but during summer it is a lot nicer.

Saint Petersburg is a busy city- that’s why during the weekend you have to pay an entrance fee of 70 rubles (a bit less than 1 euro) for Yelagin. During the weekdays it is free. I find it a bit strange that you have to pay to enter a park, but you shouldn’t allow that to spoil your fun. During the summer time Yelagin is open from 6 am until 12 pm. The gates are closed at midnight.

Nearly the whole island is covered by  Kirov Park, which is inhabited by sweet little squirrels that are so tame that they eat from your hand if you try to feed them. Yelagin is also a popular place for people to come lay in the sun and enjoy a nice picnic. Just in front of Yelagin, you’ll find Krestovsky Island which is one of the city’s most elite neighborhoods. You might even catch a glimpse of one the richest people of Saint Petersburg.

Yelagin used to belong to Peter Pavlovich Shavirov, a high placed state official who was close to Peter the Great. In 1826 the park became accessible to the public.

If it suddenly starts raining when you’re on Yelagin Island, you could consider visiting the Yelagin Palace Museum on the island, which contains a variety of interesting historical objects. I haven’t yet been there myself yet,though. I was in luck with the weather when visiting Yelagin.

Saint Petersburg is a busy city, that’s why during weekend you have to pay an entrance fee of 70 rubles (a bit less than 1 euro) for Yelagin. During week days it is free. I find it a bit strange that you should pay to enter a park, but you shouldn’t allow that to spoil your fun. During summer time Yelagin is open from 6 am until 12 pm. At midnight they close the gates.

2 Take a cruise on the city’s canals and the Neva river

I know that summertime is not the only time that you can take a small boat trip, but it’s by far the nicest time. Moreover,  it’s a great way to cool off when it’s too hot in the city. From the water you see the city from another perspective.

When you walk down Nevsky Prospekt passing the Moyka River, the Griboyedov Canal, and the Fontanka River, it will be hard to avoid the people  trying to sell you tickets for a boat trip. They often use megaphones, which make their voices take on a metallic sound. They repeat the same phrase over and over again:” Trips by boat on the canals and rivers!” (прогулки по рекам и каналам)I often feel kind of sorry for these people, as it must be mind numbing to repeat the the same message over and over, but some  use a cassette, I believe. Anyway, the boat trip is just a must do. Just make one.

If you have a lot of time, you could even consider visiting Peterhof by boat from Saint Petersburg.  At the Palace Embankment ( Дворцовая Набережная) there is a high speed boat with the alluring name Meteor, which will take you to Peterhof in just 35 minutes.

3 Have a look at the opening and the closing of the bridges

The best way for young people to have a look at this is best combined with point 2. You get on one of the disco boats and while the speakers blast out loud and obnoxious music, you will be surrounded by an entire fleet of boats. They all want have a look at the bridges. You can drink, dance, and have a good view of  the spectacle.

If the thought of  alcohol and partying on a disco boat is not for you, I understand. In that case you might prefer to watch the opening and closing of the bridges from the shore. A popular place to watch this is at the Trinity Bridge (троицкий мост) which connects Suvorovskaya Square which  is very close to the Field of Mars (Ма́рсово по́ле), with Kamennoostrovsky Prospekt on Petrogradka.

I recommend  this bridge in particular, because it is considered to be one of the most beautiful bridges in the city. As a Dutchman, I find it hard to get excited about a bridge being lifted up, as in my home country we have many of those. Trinity Bridge, however, is truly very beautiful.

4 Visit a beach

There are very nice beaches that aren’t that far from Saint Petersburg. Personally, I really like the Laskovy Beach (ласковый пляж) at Solnechnoye (Солнечное). Laskovy means ‘tender’ in Russian, so the English name would be ‘Tender Beach’, which I believe is  an incredible name, that by itself should be reason to visit this place. Solnechnoye is located at 40 kilometers from the center of Saint Petersburg and you can get there by train, or by bus. Actually it is quite interesting to go there by train, because the train stops in the middle of nowhere, almost 2 kilometers from the shore. On your way from the train to the beach you can enjoy a walk through the beautiful environment there, featuring pine trees and very expensive villas surrounded by high fences with cameras on them. You’re really outside of the big city here.

Laskovy Beach is located of the Gulf of Finland.  Now, you might not want to swim in the Gulf of Finland. According to many inhabitants of Saint Petersburg this water is dirty and unsuitable for swimming. Just as many, however, do swim in this water regularly and believe the other half is just being paranoid for no reason. I’d rather be safe than sorry, but you can decide for yourself.


Enjoying a nice beer at “tender beach” in Solnechnoye

Besides the beaches on the Gulf of Finland- the province surrounding Saint Petersburg-, the Leningradskaya Oblast has over 1800 lakes in which  people go to swim and chill for the weekend. Whether the water in these lakes is of better quality than that in the Gulf of Finland is a subject of heated debate among the citizens of Saint Petersburg.

If you’d rather not leave the city, you could also go to the most central beach, which is the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress, on the other side of the River Neva in front of the Hermitage. This beach is surprisingly nice, especially when you take into account that it is located almost in the center of a huge city. Some people do actually swim here but this is prohibited and I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

5 Forget about the bridges and get stuck on an island until 5 in the morning

And wonder how come,in a city with over 5 million inhabitants, there is no regular ferry that can take you to the other city of the river. There are boats -plenty of them- and you might even be able to convince one to take you to the other side, but this is all improvisation. It would make more sense  if there was a regular ferry with a well known schedule. I digress…

Actually, you won’t be completely stuck. Not all bridges in Saint Petersburg are pulled up or in some other way to make way for shipping at night. One of the main bridges that stays open for traffic at all times is the cable-stayed bridge Bolshoy Obukhovsky (Большой Обуховский мост). So you have this possibility, but this is quite a detour in most cases. You see, the Bolshoy Obukhovsky bridge is located in the Southeast of the city, connecting the city’s Nevsky neighborhood with the Vsevolozhsky rayon, which is already part of the Leningradskaya Oblast.

The situation with the bridges has tremendously improved now that the Western High-Speed Diameter ( Западный скоростной диаметр) has been taken into use. But this is a toll road. It was proposed to make access to the Western High Speed Diameter from the islands free during navigation season, but this hasn’t been set into motion. You are  less stuck on the island than you used to be though.

Anyway, you should take into account that navigation season has given rise to many romances in this city. So it’s not always a bad thing-it’s part of the city and some people like it.

6 Visit one of the many many rooftop bars or club

Now this is just really cool. The skyline of Saint Petersburg is amazing and you can enjoy a great view of it while sipping a nice but overpriced cocktail on a rooftop terrace. Or, you can show off your special dance moves to the beat of some of the city’s best DJs.

Then you have the posh restaurants with  rooftop views in the center. Especially the restaurant that belongs to the infamous Ginza group of restaurants, which occupies many great rooftop locations. In the city center, for example, Terrassa has a really nice view.  Mansarda restaurant offers a view that alone b should justify a visit (provided that it fits in your budget). What I don’t like about Ginza restaurants is that they are all similar and many of them try to be everything at once. Sure, the food is fine, but it doesn’t really have a soul. Like I said, though, you can go there to enjoy the view.

If we’re talking about real dance venues on rooftops, I really enjoy club Hi Hat on Petrogradka (Aptekarskiy Prospekt, 4). They usually have a good lineup of DJs and the place has a great atmosphere.  It’s kind of a techno/electronic music venue though, so if you’re not into that kind of thing, this is not the place for you.

7 Visit an open air concert or a festival

There are many great concerts in Piter all year round, but in the summer, of course, the best is that you can be outside in the sunshine which makes it all the more more pleasurable.

One of the most famous summer festivals in Saint Petersburg is the VKfest. Here, VK stands for vkontakte, the Russian facebook, founded by the “Russian Mark Zuckerberg”, Pavel Durov, who I have discussed in my blog post about the richest people in Saint Petersburg. Social media doesn’t yet have such a  bad name in Russia, as it does in many Western countries, since the festival attracts large crowds of people. The festival seems to gather young people, as well. Kids are also allowed to come to the festival. The festival is quite an item in the Russian blogosphere. Famous Russian bloggers show their faces there to host meet and greets with their fans, which could  be fun to watch.

8 Lay on the grass at Novaya Gollandiya

I can’t believe that I haven’t talked about New Holland Island yet. It sounds rather silly in English to be honest, so let’s stick to the Russian name: Novaya Gollandiya (Новая Голландия).

Novaya Gollandiya owes its name to the fact that on the islands, people were busy  building ships in the 18th century, just like in Amsterdam, which was a worldwide shipbuilding hub  at the time. The area consists of two man-made islands that were created in 1719 because the Kryukov  and Admiralteysky canals were created.

For a long time Novaya Gollandiya was closed to visitors. Only on August 26th, 2016 was it opened to the public. A lot of money has been spent on its reconstruction- maybe even a bit more than should have been spent, as is often the case in Russia. Nevertheless, the result is beautiful and very charming.

There are many nice little eateries on the territories, some of which are quite affordable, while others are more expensive. If you would like more information about what exactly you can do at Novaya Gollandiya, I suggest you take a look at the island’s well designed English  website.

There are many nice little eateries on the territories, some of them quite affordable, others more expensive. If you would like more information about what exactly you can do at Novaya Gollandiya, I suggest you take a look at the island’s well designed English language website.

9 Come out of bar in the bright light

This is actually super annoying, but also part of the real Saint Petersburg experience. There is something about entering a bar in the dark and  walking out into the bright light of day that makes an impact. But, because of the white nights in Saint Petersburg this situation is hard to avoid in summer. By around 4:30 in the morning the sun is already rising, giving you the feeling that you   missed the entire night. You then have to try to get some sleep once you get home, after being exposed to the daylight.

10 Climb a rooftop (at your own risk)

A young man carefully moves forward on a Saint Petersburg roof in the early morning

No, I am not repeating myself here. This is not a rooftop that has been designed for big crowds, like in point 6. For some reason, people in Saint Petersburg really love to climb rooftops that are not meant to be climbed by civilians.

I am not sure where the Saint Petersburg tradition of climbing a roof to enjoy the view and some drinks came from, but it is quite a popular thing in the city. It is legally not allowed, adding to the excitement. If you decide to do it, you should know that you’re doing it at your own risk. The rooftops are not made to walk on and if you’re  drinking on top of that, well, you can imagine what could happen.

When you walk down Nevsky Prospekt, you’ll probably see some youngsters trying to sell you “a real Saint Petersburg rooftop tour.” I have never done this and it seems rather cheesy to me. They have turned something that you usually  do with your friends into a business but they have no license to do so . When you sit on a rooftop at your friend’s place, you are his guest and to me that feels a lot better than climbing onto the roof of a house where the guide probably doesn’t even live. Do you think the inhabitants of a house are happy when they have a dozen drunk people on their roof? Exactly. They are likely to call the police and rightly, so I think. It can definitely be a cool experience to climb a roof, but I wouldn’t pay to do it and I wouldn’t enjoy doing it with a big group either. Always be very careful.

11 Visit Yusupovsky Sad

Address: Between Fontaka and Sadovaya Street (google maps)

Yusupovsky Sad is an oasis of rest in one of the busiest parts of the city. From the time this small park was first opened to the public, in the early 1860’s, it has been very popular among the population of Saint Petersburg. People used to come here, attracted by different kinds of attractions, among which was a shooting range. That’s hard to imagine when you see the place now. Now it’s a great place to enjoy the good weather, maybe accompanied by a good book.

A view from Yusupovsky Sad, taken from Sadovaya Street

Conclusion

I hope you find the activities I suggested for a summer in Saint Petersburg useful. What is your favorite thing to do in Saint Petersburg in the summer? Is it one of the above or do you think I missed the coolest thing? Leave a comment below.

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