White nights – enough said. The white nights may not be a unique phenomenon to St Petersburg, but there is no other city where are they so romantic and poetic. From late May to early June, night never falls on the city, and it stays alive all day. It is the season for late walks, open-air music shows and evenings that gradually transform into mornings.
Or more like the absence of people. Even though St Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia (after Moscow), the population difference is staggering. Moscow is home to over 11 million people, whilst St Petersburg has just under five million. Naturally, St Petersburg hasn’t expanded as much as Moscow and is a much more comfortable place to be, but it also means that the crowds on the streets and the different modes of transportation won’t be too much of a bother.
The city centre of St Petersburg is very walkable. Most attractions sit within easy reach of each other. If the weather gets bad, the buses and subway will take you wherever you need to go, and it’s fairly easy to navigate. The only time a car would be necessary is when taking day trips to the environs, but even then, the traffic shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, avoid rush hours as in any city, but in St Petersburg, they are not so much of an issue.
Both St Petersburg and Moscow were capital cities of Russia throughout history, with Moscow being the capital now. St Petersburg, though, was the capital during the flourishing times of the Russian Empire. Many noble families and, naturally, the royal families relocated to St Petersburg, building palaces and other luxurious homes for themselves.
St Petersburg holds the title of ‘Venice of the North’ for its numerous rivers and canals. The city was first founded on a group of islands, with travel between them intended only by boat. Later in the 18th century, the first bridges were constructed. Now, St Petersburg has 342 bridges around the rivers and canals of the cities, with the most famous ones over the main river – the Neva. The Palace Bridge is drawn every night and has become one of the most recognisable symbols of the city.
St Petersburg is known as the cultural capital of Russia and not just for the numerous palaces, museums and churches that you can visit. It is also home to many theatres and concert halls that are regularly hosting various music events. Classical music, church choirs, jazz, blues – you name it. It is also common to see musicians just playing out on the streets, attracting quite a large crowd.
Nightlife in Moscow and St Petersburg is fairly different. Both cities certainly never sleep, but Moscow is oriented more toward elite and posh restaurants and nightclubs, whereas St Petersburg is very low-key and chill. Most bars and clubs are very casual, with no dress codes and no bouncers – just a simple and hip atmosphere.
Like any other capital, Moscow is noticeably more expensive than other cities in Russia. St Petersburg is not necessarily cheap either, but when comparing the cost of entry accommodation, average restaurant bills and transportation costs, there is a pleasant difference.