Located on the Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg is known as the second largest city in all of Russia. Peter the Great founded the city in 1703, and it was the imperial capital for nearly two centuries. Today St. Petersburg is known as Russia’s cultural center with offerings like the ballet, theater, and the Russian Museum, which houses Russian art. St. Petersburg is filled with rich history and architectural gems that one can’t pass up if you’re thinking of traveling to the city.
Depending on what part of the year you’d like to visit, St. Petersburg is a beautiful place to visit. There are times during the year when you can make the most of your trip. For example, there’s the White Nights, a time when the sun doesn’t set until midnight. These nights happen June of every year and are the perfect time to take in the nightlife.
As the second largest city in Russia, covering every inch of ground within the city is next to impossible if you’re only visiting for a day. The key to taking in all the sights and smells of St. Petersburg is to research ahead of time and find the places you’d like most to see and narrow them down to a handful of your favorite, must-see locations. Some of the best places in St. Petersburg include, but aren’t limited to:
Church on Spilled Blood
Located on the assassination location of where Emperor Alexander II in March of 1881, the Church was built between 1883 and 1907. Officially, the Church is named The Church of Our Savior On Spilled Blood and the funding for the church was provided almost entirely by the imperial family and private donators. Both the exterior and the interior of the church are home to beautifully detailed mosaics that were designed by prominent Russian artists. The church closed its doors for some 30 years after the Bolsheviks began destroying churches across the country. Church on Spilled Blood wouldn’t open its doors again until 1997.
You can’t miss the Church on Spilled Blood from the outside. It’s simply massive. Although you can take in its magnificence from the outside, free of charge, you have to pay for a ticket to view the thousands of mosaics inside of the church.
The Church itself is small, so you can expect to spend no more than an hour inside seeing the mosaics. You can visit the Church on Spilled Blood via the Nevsky Prospekt metro station. The Church is open from 11 am to 7 pm. From Thursday to Tuesday the ticket office closes at 6 pm.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Take into consideration that the tour is somewhat long. The guides expect participants to keep quiet. If your kid is not an avid art, architecture or history buff, you might want to skip this tour.
Considered one of St. Petersburg’s most popular visitor attraction, the Hermitage is one of the world’s largest museums. It houses over 3 million items, so you won’t be able to take them all in during your trip to St. Petersburg, but you’ll leave with a craving to return to see everything you missed. Take a guided tour to catch all of the highlights.
Admission to the Hermitage includes entry to the main museum complex as well as the different branches. You can also visit each section individually, such as the Winter Palace of Peter the Great or Menshikov Palace. Admission is free to preschool aged children, school children, and students. To avoid long lines at the museum, you can purchase tickets online. The address of the Hermitage is 2 Dvortsovaya Ploschad or Palace Square.
For travelers and residents alike, the Hermitage Museum is accessible to those with disabilities. The museum has multi-level floors, and each has electric lifts. They also feature elevators for greater maneuverability.
Autism Travel Tips:
- There is no AC, and the place can become very stuffy.
- It is frequently crowded with people.
- The best times to go are either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the tour groups are gone.
St. Issac’s Cathedral
St Issac’s Cathedral was originally the main church in St. Petersburg. It was also the largest cathedral in Russia, built between 1818 and 1858. The intention behind St. Issac’s was to be one of the most impressive landmarks in the Imperial capital. Now, 180 years later, St. Issac’s still sports the impressive exterior and interior that residents of the capital have admired for years.
Not to be missed are the bullet holes on the side of the building. These were never fixed since the locals wanted, and still want, to remember the Nazi invasion back in WWII.
The Cathedral is closed on Wednesdays but is open to the public daily from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm. Evening openings in the summer are available May 1st through September 30th from 6 pm to 10:30 pm. White night openings start from June 1st to August 20th from 10:30 pm to 4:30 am.
Admissions for the Cathedral is 250 Rubles for adults, 50 for children. Audio Guide is available in Russian, English, German, French, Italian or Spanish and can be purchased for 100 rubles.
The address for St. Issac’s is 4, Isaakievskaya and is accessible via the metro.
Autism Travel Tips:
- Bear in mind that this is a church and inside voices are heavily encouraged. Remind your child at all times to whisper.
- Take a guided tour so that you can benefit from the stories and history involved.
Peterhof Palace is one of St. Petersburg’s most well known and popular attractions. Also known as Petrodvorets, Peterhof Palace has often been referred to as the Russian Versailles due to its grandeur and elegance. In fact, Versailles was the inspiration behind the construction of Peterhof Palace. During the 2nd world war, Peterhof was overtaken by German troops.
The best time to visit Peterhof Palace is during the summer season. In the summer, all of the buildings are open to visitors and the famous fountains housed within the grounds are in full operation. However, summer is also the most crowded time and ticket waits can get lengthy.
When traveling to Peterhof Palace, there are several different modes of travel available. Electric trains are running from Baltiskiy Station to Noviy Peterhof and take about 45 minutes. The station itself is about a 20-minute walk from the gates to the Upper Garden. There are also several buses that can get you where you need to go during your visit. The metro is also available and takes a little over an hour to get to your destination.
There are separate sections for admissions to the different buildings at Peterhof Palace. Each of these sections has different prices, and there are discounts for children and students.
The Lower Park is wheelchair accessible. Admission is free to The Upper Garden, said to have been a formal garden dating back from the reign of Empress Elizabeth. The Grand Palace sits at the very center of the Peterhof estate. There are many other wings of Peterhof to visit during your trip.
Autism Travel Tips:
- When traveling with younger kids, have them watch Anastasia, an animated version of the story of the last Russian princess before the revolution.
- When we visited, they made us put on shoe covers to preserve the old wood floors. Prepare your child accordingly for this.