Life on and around the spectacular Neva River

Neva River in St. Petersburg with drawbridge and SMolny Cathedral

The Neva River is the lifeblood of St Petersburg, a city nicknamed 'the Venice of the North' in recognition of its enchanting waterways. The banks, boats and bridges of the Neva provide the setting for some of the city's most fascinating sights, making a trip along the river an essential part of your stay.

Pleasure cruises

The majority of St. Petersburg’s most celebrated tourist attractions can be seen from the water. On a boat cruise or Aquabus water taxi, you’ll spy the Winter Palace, Summer Garden, Marble Palace, and Peter and Paul Fortress. Several companies operate river tours, including Neptun and Astra Marine. You should be able to hop aboard a boat simply by turning up at one of the city’s central moorings, such as the Palace Embankment, but if you want an English-language guide, you’ll need to book your tour in advance.

Embankments and bridges

Neva River in St. Petersburg with embankments and Church of our Saviour in the background

The city’s embankments are within walking distance of our Radisson Royal Hotel, St. Petersburg. They're a hub of activity, particularly during the White Nights of June and July when the sun hardly sets. Constructed from sturdy granite, the embankments provide the ideal backdrop for a leisurely stroll in any weather making them popular with locals and tourists alike. You can expect to come across countless street vendors hawking food and souvenirs, creating a festive atmosphere and filling the air with delicious scents. There are more than 300 bridges within St Petersburg's city limits, with three of the most notable being the Troitsky, Bolshoy Okhtinskiy and Dvortsovy drawbridges. From your perch on the embankments, you can watch these mighty bridges lift up, making way for large ships to pass throughout the night.

Riverside dining and bars

Casual cafés and fine dining establishments dot the banks of the Neva, offering you the chance to enjoy a meal with a view. Adjacent to the stadium on Petrovsky Island, Yunost, or 'Youth,' is a lively riverside restaurant and bar. Tuck into a plate of homemade meat dumplings with sour cream next to a roaring fireplace in winter, or sit out on the sunny terrace with a chilled cocktail during summer. For upscale, creative dining, visit Volna, or 'Wave,' where you can enjoy fresh sushi and an extensive wine list. It’s popular with the St Petersburg elite, who flock to the mezzanine lounge for craft cocktails and river views.

Winter life on the Neva

Neva River in St. Petersburg frozen over during winter Rostral Columns and Spit of Vasilyevsky Island

When the temperature plunges in St. Petersburg, the Neva freezes over and opens up a whole new world of activities. The turn of the 20th century saw electric trams glide over the frozen water’s surface, and skating has long been a popular pastime. Walking along the river’s banks, you might see fishermen huddled under a sheet of plastic for protection as they go ice fishing. Once there’s a thick sheet of ice in place, a quintessential St. Petersburg experience is walking across the frozen Neva all the way from the Hermitage to the Peter and Paul Fortress.

An equally classic but slightly less universally tempting St. Petersburg winter tradition involves swimming in the frozen Neva, dodging chunks of ice to enjoy a refreshing dip. For most visitors, however, sticking to 'on' and 'around' the River Neva will be enchanting enough to resist adding 'in' to the list.

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