St Petersburg in winter: to visit or not to visit? In this short post I will share some thoughts on whether it is worth going to St Petersburg for «white Christmas» or in winter in general. First of all, let’s discuss the weather.
1. In spite of the fact that calendar winter in St Petersburg lasts from December to February like everywhere, generally it starts snowing in mid-November and the snow starts melting in April. You have the best chances to see the city covered in white from mid or sometimes end of December to February (in my opinion winters in St Petersburg are becoming milder and even December can be quite slushy. I would recommend to go to the suburbs like Pavlovsk or Pushkin to fully admire the nature and glittering white snow. But back to the point. The average temperature in St Petersburg in December is -3C, in January -4,3 and in Fedruary -5C, but of course it can fall as low as -20 or even lower, but this is very rare. I would say that in winter you should expect something from -5C to -12C in St Petersburg. The winter weather in St Petersburg varies greatly year to year, but my personal opinion is that in general weather in December can be quite unstable with sudden changes from cold to thaws. January and February are somewhat colder but more sunny.
It goes without saying that you need to bring warm clothes and shoes with nonskid sole as snow can be very poorly removed from pavements. Another thing to consider is that salt is often used as a means to make the pavements not slippery and when snow melts it leaves unpleasant white traces on your boots, so to bring some sort of protective shoe cream and not to step with 1000 $ suede shoes in melting snow may be a good idea 🙂
2. Do consider short day length – it’s on average 6.5 hours in St Petersburg in winter. For example, in December in sun rises around 10:00 and sets around 16:00.
3. Some attractions, like fountains in Peterhof won’t be functioning (you can go to the palace though), the same is true for boat trips in St Petersburg as the Neva river freezes over in winter. But 99% of attractions are open all year round.
4. In winter we have New Year vacations which last for approximately 10 days in the beginning of January, it’s the time when people normally don’t go to work and celebrate. Most probably everything will be closed on January 1st, but later on you can go to shops, museums or restaurants without any problems. You may check sites of the major museums to be 100% sure about their schedule for vacations, but everything shoud be fine. In 2012-2013 New Year celebrations last from December 30 to January 8th.
5. Good news: there will be no lines in the museums and you won’t have to wait for hours to get to The Hermitage or other popular places. And hotel rates are significantly lower than during the high season.
And again, to fully enjoy winter in St Petersburg I recommend you to save one day for a trip to the suburbs.