With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games just about to start, all eyes are on Russia. A trip to this mammoth country wouldn’t be complete without a stop in its cultural capital, the beautiful city of St. Petersburg.
City Sights and Monuments
St. Petersburg is a beautiful city architecturally which means you can do a lot of sightseeing without spending a single rouble. That being said, sightseeing in winter can be pretty excruciating when temperatures dip below -30°C. Brrr… Luckily there are plenty of cafes to duck into when you start to feel your snot freezing in your nose (the author is speaking from personal experience here)!
Summer or winter, spring or fall, whatever the season you’re in St. Petersburg, here are the top sights to see around the city that are completely free.
Palace Square (Dvortsovaya Ploschad) – Space is no object in Russia but this is one of the most grandiose squares remaining from Russia’s imperial times. It’s located right where Nevsky Prospect meets the Neva River. Enter through the grand arch from Bolshaya Morskaya Street and facing you is part of the Hermitage and Peter the Great’s Winter Palace.
Nevsky Prospect – This is the city’s main drag and has been the subject of countless poems, songs, books and paintings. It is the heart of the city and the main spot for nightlife, shopping and dining.
Bridge of Kisses (Potseluyev Most) – Touring St. Petersburg with your sweetheart in hand? Head to this romantic bridge for a traditional kiss. You can see a lot of just married couples getting their photos taken here and couples catching the chance for a smooch or two.
Alexander Nevsky Monastery – This still functioning monastery in the city centre was founded by Peter the Great. Visitors are welcome to enter the Trinity Cathedral for free and also purchase fresh baked bread from the resident monks.
Peterhof – Called the “Versailles of St. Petersburg” this garden is amazing, particularly in summer. You need to pay an entry fee to visit the surrounding buildings but entry to the royal gardens is free of charge. On a sunny day, it’s easy to spend an entire day here among the beds of roses and fountains.
Chesma Church – Chesma Church is a gem if you’re into architecture. It’s a rare example of pseudo-Gothic style in St. Petersburg and takes back to 1770. It was built by the order of Catherine II and is currently functioning as an Orthodox Church. It’s a must-see.
Free museums and galleries
The State Hermitage Museum – This is a must if you’re in St. Petersburg, whether you’re an art-lover or not. Normally the entry ticket is 400 roubles but if you’re visiting on the first Thursday of the month, it’s free! The museum tends to be a bit more crowded these days but if you’re on a budget, take advantage of the opportunity when you’re booking your flights to St. Petersburg.
Russian National Library – This is the city’s biggest library and has a host of reading rooms where you can tuck into a book from the library’s collection or one of your own. If you need something to do on a rainy day, this is a great solution. It’s free to enter but you’ll need to show your passport.
Speaking of books, a trip to the House of Books on Nevsky Avenue is also a must. It’s the largest book store in the city with a great English section. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa in the bookstore cafe while watching the traffic come and go along Nevsky.
Unfortunately there aren’t too many free museums in St. Petersburg but most all of them are free at least one day a month.
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