As the winter snow melts and temperatures finally rise above freezing, St Petersburg emerges with newfound energy and optimism each spring. Residents surface from their seasonal hibernations and outdoor venues take down their shutters, casting a celebratory air over the city. Festivals and cultural events take place almost every week, featuring everything from St Petersburg Fashion Week and the International Ballet Festival to the highly anticipated Festival of Fountains. If you’re visiting the city this season, get in on the action with our guide to the best spring events in St Petersburg.
St Petersburg steps into the new season with a special festival dedicated to its most famous performance art. Established in 2001 as a chance for international aficionados to observe and discuss choreography, Dance Open International Ballet Festival draws major local and international stars to the stage at St Petersburg’s most prestigious theatres. Masterclasses, public talks and award ceremonies complement the programme to make this a rewarding experience.
A pivotal event for trend-conscious locals and visitors, St Petersburg Fashion Week showcases established and up-and-coming designers from across the city, country and beyond. It’s a glamorous affair, with the darlings of the Russian fashion scene descending on the city to see and be seen. Secure a seat on the front row to admire the season’s freshest looks.
One of the city’s quirkier events, May’s annual Festival of Smelt celebrates the arrival of smelt in the river Neva. Why this modest silvery fish has amassed such a following is uncertain, but nonetheless, this is the perfect time to try traditional smelt dishes across the city. The official smelt festival is held at the Lenexpo Exhibition Complex, where chefs and gourmands offer up their favourite regional recipes.
Elagin Park is known for its tulips and each May, these colourful blooms bring rainbows of colour across the island. Visitors to the picturesque grounds can discover over 90,000 tulips of around 90 varieties marking a celebratory start to spring.
The annual Night of Museums sees galleries across the globe open overnight for one evening only. A great opportunity to see some of your favourite museums in a different light (and away from the crowds), St Petersburg’s major venues participate, with special evening programmes, one-day exhibitions, historic re-enactments and all-night tours.
The elaborate fountains of Peterhof are amongst St Petersburg’s most celebrated attractions. When they’re officially re-opened in May, there’s an opening ceremony called Festival of Fountains where hundreds of people gather to watch each go ‘live’ to timed music and special effects.
The International Stars of the White Nights Festival is one of Russia’s premier classical music, ballet and cultural events, taking place at the Mariinsky Theatre and other major stages across the city. Over a 10-week period, visitors can enjoy a programme of performances by many of the world’s best classical performers, some set against a backdrop of the never-setting Arctic sun. If you’re passionate about music, this is one of the best spring events in St Petersburg to attend.
An annual tradition since 1986, City Day celebrates the foundation of Russia’s cultural capital by Peter the Great over three centuries ago. Soak up the atmosphere at concerts across the city, the most prominent being the vibrant, classical event on Palace Square, or join the crowds lining the streets to watch the colourful carnival.
On 9th May every year, St Petersburg bursts into rainbows of colour for Victory Day, with parades and events celebrating the end of the Second World War and the Siege of Leningrad. Head to Nevsky Prospect to be at the heart of the action, and follow the parade to Palace Square for a military drill. The excitement culminates with a crescendo of fireworks glittering across the skies above the Neva.
A blockbuster in the Russian Orthodox calendar, Easter is one of the best spring events in St Petersburg. The city’s many chapels, churches and cathedrals are resplendent with flowers, ribbons and lace, and bells peal throughout the weekend. The immense colonnaded Kazan Cathedral puts on a blessing ceremony from 1pm, making this a popular site to visit on Easter Sunday.
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.