St. Petersburg is a spectacular sight any time of year and any time of day, but this Russian city is stunning when the sun sets and the lights illuminate the city. See a different side to the exquisite architecture of St. Petersburg after the sun goes down and the glimmering city lights come on. Visit the Imperial City under the cover of darkness with our guide below.
Tour the twinkling city
The architecturally beautiful buildings, monuments and squares of St. Petersburg are impressive sights during the day, but nothing compares to the views of the city when it’s lit up. Private excursions, such as the Illuminations Tour, offer pick-up services from your hotel and guided drives through the twinkling city. Visit statues such as the monument to Catherine the Great and the Bronze Horseman, or catch sights like the Roman-inspired Kazan Cathedral and the classical architecture showcased in Arts Square, illuminated by spotlights.
Cruising the river Neva
Take in the city’s glittering lights aboard a riverboat cruise on the famous Neva River. During most of the 18th century, the river was used as a main street of the city and instead of using bridges, pedestrians were ferried across it. Today, a cruise on the Neva is an excellent way to view the major attractions along its banks.
One of the most impressive views is that of the Winter Palace, now part of the Hermitage Museum, whose blue-green baroque facade gives way to gentle amber light when the sun goes down. The Peter and Paul Fortress, and the Smolny Cathedral are also worth a visit. The view of the city’s seven bridges brilliantly lit and opening to let ships pass is particularly memorable. If you have time, make sure to step off the boat and visit the most spectacular cathedrals of St. Petersburg.
The majestic Mariinsky Theater
Built in 1859, the Mariinsky Theater is a St. Petersburg institution that's well worth visiting by night, both for its outer visual appeal and for the caliber of performances that take place there. The grand neoclassical building, located just a 10-minute drive from our Radisson Royal Hotel, St. Petersburg, stands out during the day with its distinct mint green and white color scheme, while at night its lights give it an almost ethereal glow.
When the Imperial Circus burned down, Tsar Alexander II instructed that this iteration of the theater should be built to echo the opulence of the circus, which explains the building's impressive frontage. The theater’s painted ceiling and striking fringed chandelier were also part of the original structure. Today, the theater hosts world-renowned ballet, opera, and orchestral performances.
Sailing with Scarlet Sails
While the city’s lights offer a romantic view, St. Petersburg also comes alive during the summer when the sun barely sets. During this time, the darkness of night is replaced by soft twilight that blends sunset and sunrise with spectacular colors. The white night phenomenon is most remarkable during the longest days of the year, typically from June 11th to July 2nd.
Don’t miss the Scarlet Sails celebration, which features a tall ship with red sails float down the Neva accompanied by a dazzling light show. The event has been held since just after World War II and is a tribute to the popular children’s story Scarlet Sails by Russian author Alexander Grin. The romantic light somewhere between the glare of daylight and the soft glow of a sunset is perfect for taking in a concert or simply admiring the scenery.