Summer in St Petersburg feels almost like a reward for enduring the dark nights of winter. In the weeks surrounding the summer solstice, the sun never fully sets and the city is bathed in a seemingly endless twilight. Every day, St Petersburg’s beautiful parks and gardens are filled with people relaxing and basking in the sun ahead of another midsummer’s eve party. We’ve selected some of the best green spaces in the city to explore on a summer’s day, from the grand Maritime Victory Park and the popular Catherine Garden, to the fascinating St Petersburg Botanical Garden and the ancient Summer Garden.
Summer Garden is not only the oldest park in St Petersburg, it’s also one of the most beautiful. Built as a private sun trap for Peter the Great in the early 18th century, the imperial garden resembles the Dutch baroque style with a geometric pattern dotted with fountains, picturesque pavilions and statues by acclaimed Italian sculptors such as Boratta and Bozzazza. Now accessible to the public, the popular riverside park is a lovely spot in which to take a break from sightseeing. If the summer heat gets too much, pop into the museum and discover archaeological treasures uncovered during the garden’s restoration.
Located just in front of the iconic Alexandrinsky Theatre, Catherine Garden is a small but striking public space. A beautiful spot in which to await your theatre call, the garden is dedicated to former Russian leader Catherine the Great, of whom a giant statue stands proudly at its centre. During summer in St Petersburg, the park is lined with artists selling artworks and portraits, which make for creative souvenirs.
Once an 18th century apothecary, St Petersburg Botanical Garden has evolved beyond medicinal plants to become one of the largest gardens of its kind in the country. It contains 25 greenhouses filled with rare, tropical and sub-tropical plants and flowers from across globe, along with endless gardens of native Russian plant life. Seasonal highlights include giant waterlilies that can grow up to two metres in diameter and a captivating flowering cactus, which blossoms for one night per year each summer. Whether you’re a botanist or not, the Botanical Garden is a fascinating place to explore.
With a sports stadium, a lake, a beach, an amusement park, restaurants and much more, it’s easy to spend a day getting lost at Maritime Victory Park. The huge 243-hectare site on Krestovsky Island was opened in 1945 to celebrate the country’s WWII victory. While it’s predominantly a leisure district with loads of open spaces to ramble, cycle or relax, hints of the garden’s heritage can be seen through statues and sculptures lining the main avenues. If you’re interested in global history, keep an eye out for the avenue of friendship, where delegates from countries around the world have planted trees – each of which is marked with a plaque.
A serene escape from the bustle of the city, Kirov Central Culture and Leisure Park on Yelagin Island is a captivating place to visit during summer in St Petersburg. Accessible via car (just 30 minutes from Nevsky Prospect) or boat, the huge park takes over the majority of the island. A great spot to take the whole family, the park is home to attractions including a boat house from which boat trips set sail, a fairground with rides, an open-air theatre where concerts are held, badminton courts, and much more. If in need of some shade, step inside the former imperial residence of Elagin Palace, which is now a museum dedicated to art from the 18th – 20th centuries.
Murder, intrigue, crime and punishment… St Petersburg has it all. Those fascinated by the more ghoulish side of history will love these significant spots from fiction, and real life.