Just some of the pretty buildings around the city!

Self-Guided Saint Petersburg Walking Tour

Published: May 3, 2020

Saint Petersburg is an incredibly walkable city. Throughout any season, you will see the streets full of people strolling around, and appreciating the beauty of the city. This makes it great for a pastime of time – planning out scenic walks that highlight some of the city’s loveliest sights.

The tour I describe below will take you to some of the top sights to see in Saint Petersburg, and is about 5.6 kilometers/3.5 miles total.

First up, let’s start at Palace Square. This is the main square of the city, and is probably most well-known for its role in the October Revolution of 1917. In the center of the square is a 156-foot tall red granite column, which is actually not attached to its base, making this column the tallest of its kind. On the north side is the baroque white and light blue Winter Palace, also known as the Hermitage. The palace was the official residence of the Russian Emperors from 1732 to 1917 and is now a massive art museum.

Across from the Winter Palace is the General Staff building, which once held many of the ministries of the imperial government, but is now part of the Hermitage complex and houses impressionist art. The General Staff building, built shortly after the war of 1812, features a double triumphal arch and a Roman horse and chariot statue on top between the two sections of the building.

From the center of the square (facing the Hermitage) head left, and make your way through the little park to the embankment of the Neva. The park was once a private garden for royals, and the little gate on your right was then its only entrance. After the revolution, the fences were torn down, and the park was opened to the public. Reaching the Neva on the other side of the park, take a right, and walk along the river, across which you can see the Peter and Paul Fortress.

If you’re there at night, you will usually be able to see the bridges being raised!

Walk until you reach the next bridge, and take a right, heading toward the Field of Mars, named this in 1805. In the center of the park is Russia’s original eternal flame, established to commemorate the victims of all the wars and revolutions in Saint Petersburg. This is also the largest mass murder burial site in the city.

Keep walking through the park, and cross the street. In front of you will be the Church of the Savior on Blood, also called the Church on Spilled Blood. In March of 1881, Alexander II was fatally wounded at this location, and then the church was constructed in his honor by the imperial family between 1883 and 1907. The inside of the church is quite stunning, with walls completely covered in detailed mosaics. Most are biblical scenes or people, and have patterned borders separating each picture.

Walking south from the church, you will reach Nevsky Prospect, St. Petersburg’s “Main Street.” It commemorates Prince-Saint Alexander Nevsky. Peter the Great planned to have the street run from Saint Petersburg to Novgorod, and then onto Moscow.

Once on Nevsky Prospect, you will immediately see Dom Knigi, housed in a historic building known as Singer House. Built originally for the Russian branch of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, the US Embassy was housed there during WWI. After the revolution, it became a publishing house, and soon the city’s largest bookstore. Today, it is still a bookstore, and also has plenty of really cool souvenirs.

Across the street is the Kazan Cathedral. It is dedicated to Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most beloved icons in Russia. Construction started in 1801 and finished 10 years later. The cathedral is also famous as the place where General Mikhail Kutuzov, after Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, prayed to ask God for help in battle. He then took the icon of Mary from the cathedral and into battle, which Russia won. Today, you can see a statue to Kutuzov in front of the cathedral and a near permanent long line of believers inside waiting to kiss and pray to the storied icon.

Kazan Cathedral

Continue on Nevsky Prospect until you get to Admiralteyski Avenue, and take a left. You will soon reach the golden-topped Saint Isaacs Cathedral. This cathedral is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great. During the Soviet Union it was turned into a museum, and has remained one since then. Not only is the inside majestic, but if you climb to the top of the cupola, the views of the city are incredible.

Overall, this walk takes you on some of the most important points throughout the city, filled with history, beauty, and culture. While this was my favorite walk, anywhere you walk in the city is going to be an adventure!

About the author

Katya Grigerman

Katya Grigerman is an undergraduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is majoring in Political Science, and double minoring in Russian Language and Russian Culture. She is currently spending the year studying in Russia; the summer in Irkutsk, the fall in Saint Petersburg, and the spring in Moscow. After graduating, Katya hopes to work with Russia-US relations.

View all posts by: Katya Grigerman