White nights: Summer in St. Petersburg
- Posted by: Enjoy Russian
- Category: Matryoshka’s diary
Welcome to the weekly edition of Matryoshka’s Diary. This week our author Elena will take you on a trip to one of her favorite Russian cities – St. Petersburg. This is a very special time of the year for locals and visitors. For a few brief weeks, starting from May until late June, enjoy those luminous northern midsummer eves when the high latitudes are bathed in an all-night glow! What to do during this season?
Discover your inner polar bear
Take a short train ride to Lake Ladoga, one of the favourite summer destinations for locals. It is a great spot for picnics, canoe paddles and (icy cold) swims. Take dips in the Baltic and breathe deep on the sea breeze. It’s really not that cold.
Stay up all night
There’s a kind of euphoria when you can stroll the historic streets of the city at midnight and feel like it’s still long before bedtime. Start you evening with dinner (of course, outdoors!), then go dancing at one of the local nightclubs. Or if you’re up for a pub-crawl, just head to Dumskaya street, where four of St Petersburg’s hottest drinking and music spots are located.
Watch the Neva bridges open
The signature tradition of the White Nights is watching the spectacle of the massive Neva River bridges heaving apart to let boats through at night. The best spot to watch them is from the riverside embankments or, alternatively, from a boat or a cruise ship. Useful tip: make sure you are on the right side of the river to get back to your accommodation. Metro closes at midnight and, with the bridges open until 5am, there’s no other way to cross the river. If you do get stuck on the wrong side of the river, you will experience something that happened to nearly every local at least once!
See the Stars of the White Nights
Midsummer traditionally used to be the season when performing artists in Russia took holidays or went on tour. St Petersburg was no exception – its stages were always quiet during this season. That was until 1993, when the Mariinsky Theatre’s Valery Gergiev founded the incredibly popular Stars of the White Nights Festival. Between the end of May and mid-July, enjoy opera, ballet and classical music at the Mariinsky, featuring top Russian and international stars. There are also outdoor concerts all over the city.
Like a Royal
Russian royalty built summer palaces to have some quite time away from the capital (which St Petersburg had been for over 200 years). That’s why the city is surrounded by gorgeous little towns that grew around their summer palaces.
- In Pavlovsk, a vast woodland park leads straight to the palace gates;
- Pushkin is where Catherine the Great kept her famous Amber Room;
- Oranienbaum features landscaped parks, lakes and historic buildings;
- the crown jewel, Peterhof, has spectacular fountains and ornate gardens.
Enjoy the brightest event of the season
The Scarlet Sails that takes place in late June is the biggest and brightest event held annually in St Petersburg. Enjoy the pirate battle on the Neva River, followed by the fireworks. At the end of the show, you will see a ship with blood-red sails. The event attracts more than a million attendees each year.
Stroll the gardens and sunbathe by the Neva River: the Summer Garden
Walking along its shady avenues, decorated with classical white marble statues and beautiful fountains, is an experience that is unique to St Petersburg. Mikhailovsky Garden, right behind the Russian Museum, is another great option; blossoming lilacs on the Mars field provide wonderful shade. The riverside walls of the Peter & Paul Fortress are the favourite spot for sun-lovers’.
Have some fun on New Holland Island
New Holland Island is the city’s stunning new green space and a creative hub that has quickly become a haven for artists, locals and tourists alike. There is lots going on: outdoor concerts, creative cuisine, yoga sessions on the grass, sketching classes, art installations on the grounds or temporary exhibitions in the Pavilion, occasional film screenings and lectures, ping pong to mention just a few activities.
Would you like to enjoy the white nights somewhere outside St. Petersburg? Come to Enjoy Russian language School in Karelia, it’s just in 4 hours ride from St. Petersburg 🙂