Known for its artistic and literary legacy, St Petersburg will add another string to its bow this summer as a host city for the FIFA World Cup 2018. Along with Moscow and several other Russian cities, St Petersburg will host many important matches. Fortunately for fans, there are a whole host of things to see and do across the city when you’re not cheering on your team, from horse riding and amusement parks to award-winning gastronomy. If you’re visiting St Petersburg for the FIFA World Cup, here’s how to make the most of your trip.
During the FIFA World Cup, the centre of the action will be at the Saint Petersburg Stadium, also known as Krestovsky Stadium due to its location on Krestovsky Island. Designed by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, the stadium is regarded as one of the most technically advanced in the world. It’s the second largest stadium in Russia, with a cleverly constructed sliding roof that can be opened or closed in a matter of minutes. As popular Russian sports commentator and president of the Association of Sports Press of St. Petersburg Gennady Orlov explains, “FIFA World Cup is an event, the scale and grandeur of which we need to witness live. Of course, for me, as for a football man, this is a very special year. In addition to the matches, I’m looking forward to visiting the newly opened ‘Russia – My History’ park, which includes interactive exhibitions that explore the history of Russia and St Petersburg. Our city has a long association with football and I have no doubt that St Petersburg will be the most hospitable hosts of the World Cup!”
In addition to world-class sport, there’s plenty to enjoy off the pitch, too. The stadium on Krestovsky Island backs onto a huge green space, which is a popular local haunt on account of its sporting activities and amusement park. Take a walk in the picturesque parkland, hire a bike and explore, or make use of the tennis and horse riding facilities. Young visitors will also appreciate Divo Ostrov, a Disneyland-style amusement park that’s located on the island. Alongside its wealth of outdoor activities, the island is home to some of St Petersburg’s most respected restaurants. Relax and refuel in between matches at Villa Zimaleto, known for its beautiful terrace, large garden and a menu that includes both European and Japanese dishes. Alternatively, embrace the holiday spirit at SunDay Ginza, a relaxed but chic restaurant that has its own sandy beach as well as an impressive children’s play area. Nearby, Na Rechke has been designed to resemble an elegant country residence and the extensive menu is comprised of breakfast options alongside freshly made salads, barbecued and grilled dishes, traditional Russian cuisine and sushi and sashimi.
Furthermore, visitors in town for the World Cup will also have the chance to witness another key cultural event: Scarlet Sails. The highlight of the White Nights celebration, this extraordinary event takes place on 23rd June 2018. An annual occurrence since the end of WWII, the event involves the procession of a boat with scarlet sails down the Neva River and is traditionally attended by students who are marking the end of the academic year. Today, it’s celebrated on a grand scale with live music, fireworks and entertainment; it’s a lively way to take in some of the history and character of St Petersburg and commemorate what’s sure to be an unforgettable summer in the city. As Vasily Gerello, the famous Russian opera singer and Ambassador of St. Petersburg for FIFA 2018 World Cup explains: “St Petersburg is an extraordinary city where sport and culture are of huge significance and the legacy of the World Cup will be well respected here. I am deeply proud that Russia and St. Petersburg are entrusted with such a momentous, grandiose football tournament and I can’t wait to witness world-class football!”