Don’t know yet what to do in St Petersburg in winter? Be sure, you will not be bored! Even if you fall for a week at -20 (which is increasingly rare), you will always find cool things to do. Discovering in Saint Petersburg in December, January or February is great and you will see why. So, what to do in St. Petersburg in winter? Let’s go!
A week in Moscow and St Petersburg. If after Moscow you also go to St. Petersburg, then discover the post: What to do in Moscow in winter.
Before we begin, here is a 3-minute video that shows St. Petersburg in winter from a drone. Just fantastically beautiful!
Now that we have tasted the Saint Petersburg winter, here is a little idea of what to do in St Petersburg in winter.
Ice skating, a fun activity to do in St Petersburg in winter
What to do in St Petersburg in winter? And why not ice skating? You then have the choice between open or closed ice rink. The ice rinks operate rather from November, so it is possible to skate in Saint Petersburg in December, January and February. Here are the skating rinks in downtown Saint Petersburg that we know:
- Outdoor skating rink on the island of New Holland. Surface: 2000m². It is a good opportunity to discover this island, but also to skate with the locals. To give you an idea, the ice rink is open from mid-November to mid-March, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 10:30 p.m. – weekends. Tickets are sold in one hour sessions. Skating is an activity to do in Saint Petersburg in winter: here are the photos!
Walking on the Neva and the frozen Saint Petersburg canals?
It is forbidden, but everyone does, despite reminders from the town hall. Some even go for walks on the canals or slide games. On the other hand, of course, to avoid if it is barely negative. Falling into freezing water is not the most pleasant and especially dangerous for health. A walk on the frozen canals is really a must-do in St Petersburg in winter!
Take a dog sled ride in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg in winter
Indeed, it is a superb activity to do in Saint Petersburg in winter, especially with the family! Sled dogs are husky dogs, they have very beautiful eyes.
Watch a hockey game, a popular winter activity for locals in St Petersburg
Even though soccer is a dominant sport in Russia, ice hockey is very popular, especially since the Saint Petersburg team, SKA, is known for its titles. The Saint-Pétersbourgeois are rather proud of their team. Seeing a hockey game is therefore an interesting activity to do in Saint Petersburg in winter!
The ambiance is good. We attended several games, including one with the Helsinki team. Many Finnish people came to support their team. During the breaks, the supporters discussed among themselves and commented on the game. At the end, the Finns sang in Russian! A very good memory!
Ice Palace. SKA matches are played here. The nearest metro is Prospekt Bolshevikov (Проспект Большевиков) on the orange line. You will then see the stadium at the exit of the metro on your left.
To buy tickets without commission, go to the official SKA website. But recently, the SKA website has asked for a phone number to register.
Second solution to buy the hockey tickets is to go through the city cash desks, but there will be a commission on the purchase. 1 / Choose the date and your places on the official SKA website. 2 / Go to one of the link addresses. 3 / Show this message in Russian “Мы хотим купить билеты на хоккей с участием команды СКА” (in Italian: we want to buy tickets for a hockey match with the SKA team). 4 / You therefore show your date, the number of seats and the location. 5 / It is possible to pay by card or cash and say a Spasibo (thank you in Russian). Here is the link to locate the cash desks where you can buy the tickets: https://spb.kassir.ru/biletnye-kassy
Drinking mulled wine in a Saint Petersburg Christmas market
They are called New Year’s Day markets or simply fairs (ярмарки). There are several fairs organized in the city center. For mulled wine, we say “glintwein” (глинтвейн). They can also be found in cafes or restaurants.
See a ballet, an activity to do in winter
Tickets for the Mariinsky Theater leave rather quickly, especially during holidays and vacations. The Nutcracker ballet lends itself more to the festive atmosphere of the end of the year. The first performances of The Nutcracker at the Mariinsky Theater in St Petersburg begin in December. You can also see the programming of other theaters or see performances other than ballet.
- Mariinsky Theater. Here is our blog post on the history, programming and buying tickets.
- Aleksandrinsky Theater. It is located in the heart of the city center. A square with a statue of Catherine II separates it from Nevsky Avenue. The theater’s official website is English. You can find the program there and buy your tickets, for example for Mariinsky.
- Mihaïlovsky Theater or French theater. In the 19th century, the plays were performed in French for the French community living in Saint Petersburg, as well as for the Russian nobility. French was a language commonly used at the time by wealthy families, as well as Russian poets or writers. This theater is smaller compared to the others. It is located on the same square as the Russian museum.
Bania in St Petersburg in winter
A bania is the happy medium between the Finnish sauna (very hot and very dry) and the Turkish hammam (moderately hot and very humid). In Russia, it is an activity very appreciated by the locals! Many Russians also have a private bania in their companion house, the dacha. It is not compulsory to throw yourself into the snow after the session, but it is still advisable.
Stroll through the parks of Saint Petersburg
It is in the parks of Saint Petersburg in December, January or February that we get the most out of the snow. I can advise you on several city parks:
- The Mihailovsky Garden. This garden is located behind the Russian museum. One of the entrances is right in front of Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood.
- The Tauride Garden. It is rather here that you will find more premises. There is a lake in the middle where we play hockey.
- The Summer Garden is open, but all the statues are closed in wooden boxes.
- Outside the center, the parks are much larger. Examples include the Podedy Park or the 300th anniversary park in St. Petersburg. Animations are also organized on the Yelagine Island of Saint Petersburg in December, January and February each year.
Eat typical donuts, an activity to do St Petersburg in winter and summer
I understand that for the question “What to do in St Petersburg in winter?” eating donuts may seem out of place. But if you are cold and want to take a break, you will think of this solution! And then there’s never a bad time to go eat donuts. Especially those on Bolchaya Konnuyuchennaya Street. In my opinion, these are the best.
It’s a little cafe stuck in Soviet times. And the prices, it seems to me too. The towels are cut paper. There is often a queue. It even happens that people wait outside. Most don’t spend much time indoors.
- Pychetchnaya on Rue Konnyuchennaya, 25. It is in the city center and then not far from Nevsky. A nice break in a stroll. Price of a donut: 13 rubles. A cup of coffee with milk: 35 rubles.
What to do in St. Petersburg in winter outside the city?
You can also leave town to enjoy winter!
- Visit the Catherine Palace. The Catherine Palace is one of the most interesting palaces to visit in St Petersburg. In winter, this palace is very beautiful. I recommend you to visit Catherine Palace instead of Peterhof Palace.
- Visit the Pavlovsk Palace. Pavlovsk Park then looks more like a forest with alleys. Wilder than that of Catherine palace, it is more popular in winter than in summer.
- Go skiing. Cross-country skiing is king in St. Petersburg. Everything is flat, but there are also some downhill trails. The brand new center is where you can ski in St. Petersburg in December, January or February is Okha Park. Another, older, is located in Zelenogorsk.
Visit Saint Petersburg in winter
In winter, you will avoid the big tourist flow, especially if you come to Saint Petersburg in February or from mid-January. Indeed, there is a wait in the museums and much lower hotel rates. The exception is therefore the week from December 31 to January 7 (week when many Russians do not work). To learn more about Saint Petersburg in December and January, you can read the blog post: Christmas and New Year in Saint Petersburg.
What to do in Saint Petersburg in winter in summary
So there are special activities to do in St Petersburg in winter, such as Christmas markets or ice skating rinks. To make the most of the outdoors, you have to go to the parks. Saint Petersburg is a city where walking tours are very pleasant. In December, January or February in Saint Petersburg, do like the locals, take short breaks in the cafes to warm up. On the other hand, be aware that visiting Saint Petersburg in February will certainly cost you the least. Indeed, this is the low season in Saint Petersburg.
Hope your trip to St. Petersburg in winter will leave you with great memories!