At the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland, on the Baltic Sea, stands the city of St Petersburg. In the 18th century, Peter the Great transformed the swampy banks of the Neva River into a fine European-style city, his “window on Europe”. Known as Petrograd and then Leningrad, many Russians refer to it as “Piter”.
Increasingly cheap flights to St Petersburg touch down at Pulkovo, to the south of the city. The approach to the airport takes in rather grey suburbs and concrete buildings, in stark contrast to the city.
Its attractions are numerous. There are 539 bridges, more than anywhere else in the world. Apart from Peter the Great’s modest wooden cabin, and the Winter Palace, main residence of the Tsars and the Hermitage Museum’s main building, there are St Isaac’s Cathedral and the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood, a St. Basil-esque building, a swirl of colourful onion domes, red brick and mosaics.
By far the best time to visit Piter is late May-early June, during the White Nights. As St. Petersburg is the most northern city in the world, the sun does not descend below the horizon enough for the sky to grow dark.
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St. Petersburg has bitter cold winters, marked by freezing winds and heavy snowfall. The average winter temperature is around minus 10 (Celsius), but January and February can be colder. Summers are mild with temperatures around 18 degrees. The summer days are long, and June to early July is the time of White Nights, the twilight that replaces the dark of night.
Head out on foot to best experience St Petersburg’s sights and architecture. There are plenty of public transport options for those who don’t feel like walking. You can still get great views of the city by taking a cruise on the Neva River. The metro is a very popular option for both residents and tourists. It’s cheap and fast, but can get very crowded during the day. Buy your tokens or multiple-trip tickets at the station. You can also ride a bus, tram or trolley car.
Buses cover the areas the subway doesn’t. Trolleys are the slowest option. Purchase tickets for any of these from the drivers or at kiosks beforehand. Make sure you validate them when boarding. Marshrutky are minibus shuttles that you can flag down on the bus route. Pay the driver and request a stop when you get to your destination. There are also plenty of taxis, which are inexpensive as well.
Private cars often act as non-metered taxis, so negotiate a fare before you get in. Avoid driving yourself if you can. Roads are often in disrepair, traffic is congested and street signs are in Cyrillic.
Peak Season: St. Petersburg is busy with foreign and Russian tourists June through August. Visitors come for the sights and arts and to experience the White Nights. Off Season: Late spring and early autumn are good times to search for cheap flights to St. Petersburg and visit. The weather is typically mild, although still unpredictable. Winter has fewer crowds and hotels are easier to come by, but be prepared for the bitter cold.
This is defined as Saint Petersburg Pulkovo Airport (LED). Codes like LED are often used to just call airports uniquely.
If you book a flight to St Petersburg, you will be flying into Pulkovo, which is the city’s only airport. Saint Petersburg Pulkovo (LED) is located 14.0 km from the centre of St Petersburg.
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