St. Petersburg is an absolute gem when it comes to cultural heritage. If you’ve come as far as St. Petersburg, don’t miss out on all this treasure trove and venture outside of the city. Today I’m sharing the best day trips from St Petersburg, Russia that you can’t afford to miss! Short on time? Check out my 3 days in St. Petersburg guide!
The magnificent gardens and museums are waiting just beyond the city where Russian Tsars used to spend their summers. Built at royal command, the ensembles will surprise you with a combination of art, nature, and architecture.
The best part? All these day trip destinations are included in the list of St. Petersburg UNESCO heritage sites. From the Russian Versailles to the Amber Room and the summer residences, prepare to be amazed!
P.S.: I was born in St. Petersburg and spent many years exploring the city as a resident and as a tourist, so believe me when I tell you – these day trips from St Petersburg all deserve to be on your itinerary! Also, since I’ve been living in Amsterdam for a while now I had to resort to beautiful stock photos, I hope you’ll forgive me 🙂 With that out of the way, let’s go!
Here are the contents of today's post:
- 1 Best day trips from St Petersburg
- 1.1 Discover the fountains of Peterhof
- 1.2 How to get to Peterhof for a day trip from St. Petersburg:
- 1.3 Get lost in the royal grounds of Tsarskoye Selo
- 1.4 Discover the romantic park in Pavlovsk
- 1.5 Explore the Constantine Palace in Strelna
- 1.6 Go on a day trip from St Petersburg to marine Kronstadt
- 1.7 Explore the hidden palace tunnel in Gatchina
- 1.8 Explore the legacy of Oranienbaum
- 1.9 Notable mentions of other day trips from St. Petersburg
Best day trips from St Petersburg
Discover the fountains of Peterhof
The Peterhof Gardens are also known as the Russian Versailles. This vast park is famous for its stunning cascade of fountains leading into an enormous tiered garden. The territory is divided into the Upper Park and the Lower Park and merits a whole day of exploration. It’s best to show up early and enjoy the corners before most tourists spread out through the park.
The museum in the Peterhof Palace towers above the park by the entrance. The Palace interiors are a graceful representation of life during the Imperial rule. Among the most famous halls is the Dancing Hall, bedecked in mirrors and golden ornaments. It is a great place to explore during the busier hours to really feel the decadent spirit of times long gone.
The true fun begins as you descend into the park, where various pavilions and fountains are waiting next to the broad canals leading all the way to the coast. There are a couple of mischievous trick fountains ordered by Tsar Peter in order to surprise the unsuspecting visitors. So if the day is warm, you might want to discover them for yourself and pack some spare clothes!
How to get to Peterhof for a day trip from St. Petersburg:
You can get to Peterhof from the center of St. Petersburg by taking the direct Peterhof Express hydrofoil boat departing from the Neva embankment. It costs 1700 rubles for a return ticket, not including park entry.
Alternatively, you can also go by public transport by getting on a minibus, also known as ‘marshrutka’ from metro station Avtovo. Get on any of these minibusses till the “Фонтаны” stop, which means Fountains: K-424, K-224, K-424а.
If you’d rather go with a group tour, these GetYourGuide Tours offer organized transport:
- St. Petersburg: Peterhof Palace Group Tour by Bus
- St. Petersburg: Peterhof Gardens by Hydrofoil
- Private Peterhof Palace Tour with Pick-Up
Opening hours: closed on Mondays and the last Tuesday of the month. Please check the latest times on the website.
Price: 1000 rubles for the Park, free during the off-season.
NB: Fountains work only during the summer season. The fountain system starts operating 29th of April, with the official opening ceremony held on 19 May 2019.
Get lost in the royal grounds of Tsarskoye Selo
Tsarskoye Selo, also known as Pushkin is another royal summer residence you shouldn’t miss. The Catherine Palace was erected during Peter The Great’s rule, for his wife, Catherine The First. It’s a great example of Russian Barocco style, executed by the architect Rastrelli who gets credit for the brilliant architecture and ambiance.
Fun fact: Rastrelli created the Hermitage pavilion where a party could dine without the constant interruption of the servers thanks to a unique table lift mechanism. It is basically a canny delivery service for the introverted aristocracy. It’s safe to say that I never felt closer to royalty.
Some of the highlights of your trip to Pushkin will no doubt include the exhibition “Romanoffs in Tsarskoye Selo”, the opulent collection of Royal Carriages and the beautiful Catherine Park which is filled with many unique pavilions to explore. My favorite is the Grotto, the Hermitage, and the stunning bridges.
If you are a romantic at heart, the park also offers gondola, carriage and sleigh rides. Something for every season!
How to get to Pushkin for a day trip from St. Petersburg:
Take minibus (marshrutka) K-342 or K-545 to the Catherine Palace and Park from metro station Moskovskaya. The stop is right behind the fountains, next to the Lenin monument.
If you’d rather have the transport and tour taken care for you, these GetYourGuide tours offer hotel pickup:
- St. Petersburg: Catherine Palace in Pushkin Small Group Tour
- Tour to Catherine Palace and Amber Room in Pushkin
- St. Petersburg 5-Hour Catherine’s Palace Private Tour
Entry price: 700 rubles for the Catherine Palace plus a separate entry ticket for Catherine Park which costs 150 rubles. Ticketed admission is during the summer season, from April 27th to October 19. Otherwise, park entry is free during the off-season.
Discover the romantic park in Pavlovsk
Pavlovsk was the summer residency during the brief rule of Pavel I. The palace was built in 1780 in a beautiful Palladian style. The Pavlovsk palace has over than 300 rooms, a large collection of antique Greek sculptures, an impressive collection of paintings from famous Italian and Flemish artists, and more.
The Pavlovsk garden and the grounds are more understated and romantic, compared to the other residences. It’s a great place to really connect with nature since the vast park takes up 6 square kilometers. I recommend renting a bike to cover more ground and enjoy the beautiful views. One of the symbols of the park you shouldn’t miss is the Temple of Friendship, as well as the beautiful Colonnade of Apollo shown on the photos above.
How to get to Pavlovsk for a day trip from St. Petersburg:
Take minibus № 299 (‘marshrutka’) from metro station Moskovskaya to the Pavlovsk Palace, or the № 286 and № 521 from metro station Kupchino.
Entry price: 150 rubles for entrance to the park, the entry is free after 17:00. Tickets to the palace are 500 rubles, tours start from 1000 rubles per person. Get Your Guide offers a tour of Catherine and Pavlovsk Palaces in case you don’t want to use public transport and would rather go with an organized group.
Explore the Constantine Palace in Strelna
Originally Strelna was meant to be the fountain park that was built in Peterhof by the order of Peter The Great. Since the swampy ground of Peterhof was more suited for fountain building, the plans changed and Strelna was abandoned for 40 years before the project was picked up again by Constantine, the son of Paul I.
The Constantine Palace didn’t have it easy. It was severely damaged during WWII and wasn’t properly restored till the 2000s. The garden and the palace were refurbished according to the original plans. The Palace now has an artillery museum, as well as a fantastic art collection which includes the works of Roerich, Bryullov, Benois, Repin, and others. It also includes a collection of Imperial Porcelain including the set gifted by Catherine the Great to her favorite Count Orlov. It’s now used as a Congress Palace for many official meetings.
Visitors can only see the palace by going on a tour with a group. Since this palace is used for official meetings, it’s government regulated, which means they’re more thorough with entrance checks, and so on. The palace is definitely worth paying a visit to!
How to get to Strelna for a day trip from St. Petersburg:
The easiest way to get to Strelna is by taking any minibus (marshrutka) which goes to Peterhof, as they all go through Strelna. Travel time is 25-30 minutes, with minibusses leaving every 10 minutes or so.
If you go from metro station Avtovo, get on one of those minibusses: №224К, 300, 404К, 424К.
From metro station Leninsky Prospekt take either bus №103 or 420.
There are 3 buses going from metro station Prospekt Veteranov: №343, 850 and 392.
There’s also a tram №36 from Avtovo that takes about one hour, Strelna is the final stop.
Entry: The Constantine palace is open only with group tours which you can buy tickets for on the day of your arrival. The palace is closed on Wednesdays. It’s better to call ahead and ask whether tours will be conducted on the day because there might be last-minute changes.
Go on a day trip from St Petersburg to marine Kronstadt
Take a trip to Kronstadt to discover the fortress city founded by Peter the Great to maintain control over the strait leading to St. Petersburg. The island city is only 30 km from St. Petersburg, so it’s perfect for a short day trip. The city itself is quite small, so you will not need any public transport or to stay overnight.
Here you can take a tour of the various forts, visit the beautiful Naval Cathedral and walk in the park. There are over a dozen different forts, many of which are currently abandoned or partially destroyed. However, many companies still offer tours that circle the forts and allow you to explore some of them. Fort “Emperor Alexander I” is probably the most impressive of the bunch. In the 19th century, it was used as a scientific laboratory dedicated to curing the plague.
How to get to Kronstadt for a day trip from St. Petersburg:
You can take a minibus (marshrutka) from St. Petersburg to Kronstadt. From the metro station “Staraya Derevnya” you can take minibus К-510. Alternatively, you can leave from metro station “Chornaya Rechka” with minibus К405 to “Ploschad Roshalya” stop. GetYourGuide also offers a private city trip to Kronstadt if you’d like to go with a guide, with hotel pickup.
The residence of Gatchina is full of surprises, starting with the general design of the palace itself which was created to resemble an English-style castle, inspired by the hunting setting in Europe. The park was created with that design in mind, and during the 18th century, a whole section of the park was used for keeping a menagerie for the hunting party.
The Gatchina palace is filled with tapestries and art, but one of the highlights of the tours is the secret tunnel leading into the “Echo” grotto. If you stand just in the right spot, your cries will be answered by the amazing acoustics of the place, by the witty design of the architect Rinaldi.
Other unmissable spots in Gatchina are the Priory Palace which was built on the brink of the 19th century and the birch house and Masque portal construction. The Roman portal conceals an outwardly simple birch house, but if you go inside, you will uncover a stunning interior. This kind of pavilion was designed for the relaxation of park guests.
How to get to Gatchina for a day trip from St. Petersburg:
Take the minibus К-18 or K-100 from metro station Moskovskaya to Gatchina.
Entry prices: The Gatchina Palace ticket is 400 rubles, The Priory Palace is 200 rubles and the Birch House is 80 rubles. You can get a combo ticket to the Gatchina Palace and the Priory Palace or the Garden for 550 rubles. A guided tour of both the Gatchina Palace and the park will cost you 2000 rubles.
Explore the legacy of Oranienbaum
The palace and grounds of Oranienbaum are in the city Lomonosov just 40 km away from St. Petersburg. The grounds were first gifted to Tsar Peter’s right hand, Menshikov. Afterward, it became the summer residence of Catherine The Great. The Oranienbaum palace boasts frescoes painted by the great Giambattista Pittoni.
Don’t miss the beautiful park as it has an amazing variety, from pergolas and water features to the serene Chinese Palace, to the Sliding Hill pavilion where Catherine The Great has commissioned her own attraction: a winter slide that was the prototype of the first roller coasters. While the slide has been gone for over a century, the pavilion still stands. I personally think that Catherine’s thrill-seeking nature makes her that much more of a relatable figure, don’t you think?
How to get to Oranienbaum for a day trip from St. Petersburg:
Get the minibus from metro station Avtovo: K-300, K-424a, K-404. The minibus stops at the train station square in Oranienbaum, which is a 5-minute walk to the park.
Entry prices: the park entry is free during the off-season from 15 October to 26 April. The Menshikovsky Palace is closed on Tuesdays and the last Wednesday of the month. A ticket costs 500 rubles, with separate tickets required for the pavilions you’d like to visit. The tickets range between 250 and 500 per pavilion.
Notable mentions of other day trips from St. Petersburg
The town of Vyborg is a lovely place to explore, however it is located very close to the Finnish border, making it into a good stop on your way to or from Helsinki, but otherwise probably not the best use of your time if your Russian trip has time-constraints.
This is the very spot where Tsar Peter took the fortress in 1702 only a year before laying down the foundations of St. Petersburg. While this spot has a strong historical meaning, it is a nice extra to visit, but definitely, one that you can bump down the list in favor of the other day trips on this list.