If you’ve visited St Petersburg in winter, returning in the summer months will be like stepping into a new world. The snow has melted, furs have been put to the back of wardrobe, and instead of sheltering indoors, people emerge to embrace the brighter weather. With an action-packed calendar of events putting St Petersburg on the cultural map, there’s no better time to visit. From the globally acclaimed Stars of the White Nights festival to local favourites like The Scarlet Sails and Russian Navy Day, here are our favourite events in St Petersburg this summer.
After a winter in hibernation, the Peterhof Fountains are brought back to life in early summer. Visitors are poised, cameras in hand, ready for the inaugural show at the Grand Cascade. Powerful jets of water burst to life to celebrate the start of a new season in a glittering crescendo. Interspersed with a myriad of gleaming gilded statues, it’s a very photogenic start to the summer in St Petersburg.
Yelagin Island embodies the spirit of summer in St Petersburg. An emerald island in the middle of the Neva, the diminutive island is replete with verdant lawns and leafy trees. Come spring and summer, swathes of Yelagin Island are carpeted with tulips in rainbows of colour. Visit to admire the city in full bloom.
In the world of classical music, summer in St Petersburg means one thing: Stars of the White Nights. The internationally anticipated annual festival comprises 10 weeks of concerts and shows at the Mariinsky Theatre and other stages across the city. Whether your passion lies in opera, ballet or classical music, the Stars of the White Nights is one of the must-see summer events in St Petersburg.
One of quirkiest annual events in St Petersburg, the Yelagin Park International Street Theatre Festival celebrates the art of street theatre. Street artists from around the world gather in the beautiful park to show off their jaw-dropping skills to a captivated audience of locals and visitors.
St Petersburg’s imperial gardens are even more beautiful in the summer than they are when blanketed with glittering snow. Green fingered visitors should make time to attend the annual Imperial Gardens of Russia Festival at the stunning Mikhailovsky Garden, part of the Summer Garden of Peter I.
Celebrating the end of the Russian school year, The Scarlet Sails is a popular local event featuring free entertainment and marine theatrics. Illuminated boats take to the river as part of a large water show, while special events are held across the city over the course of the weekend. At night, when the sky is at its darkest, there’s a dynamic choreographed lights and fireworks display – a key highlight of this annual summer event in St Petersburg.
Usadba Jazz Festival returns to St Petersburg from its tour of Russia to treat music aficionados to an open-air concert featuring performances by international musicians specialising in genres including jazz, funk, world music, blues and jazz-rock. An event for the whole family, the festival also brings together a selection of entertainment and dining options to suit all ages.
St Petersburg is the marine capital of Russia and every July the city celebrates its seafaring heritage with a Navy Day (Dyen Voyenno Morskova Flota) celebration. Ships perform a water procession on the Neva River, while uniform-clad sailors put on a parade on the ground at the navy base.
Bringing rising stars from the Russian and international jazz, soul and R&B circuit to St Petersburg every summer, PetroJazz is a high-octane, multi-cultural celebration of sound. Open-air stages in the centre of the city put on a fantastic programme of world-music performances, lurching giddily from Spanish guitars accompanied by Flamenco dancers to low-key acoustic sets.
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.