A boat cruise along the numerous rivers and channels is probably the best way to explore Saint Petersburg in the summer. Just sit back, enjoy the breeze, soak in the views and the information from knowledgeable guides and, unlike a tourist bus, spend no time whatsoever in traffic. Below are our top picks of Saint Petersburg’s river sightseeing tours and tips where to book them.
The circular route around the historic center
This tour is a fantastic summer alternative to a bus sightseeing tour since it will take you through all the key central landmarks and sights. The route goes along the Fontanka and Moika Rivers with its marvelous palaces, moving on past St. Isaac’s Cathedral and then heading towards the two most signature bridges (e.g. the Blue Bridge and the Red Bridge). After that the boat will make its way to the Neva River, with spectacular views over the Vasilevsky Island, the Winter Palace, the Peter and Paul Fortress, and many other landmarks. Finally, you will return to the same spot where you’ve started the journey — the Anichkov Bridge Pier.
THE PLACE TO DEPARTURE:
working days 12 AM – 9 PM; Saturday, Sunday 11 AM – 10 PM
The trip along the Neva embankment
It’s a route along the main water artery of the city, the Neva River. The cruise begins near the Winter Palace and the Palace Bridge, next come the views of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Bronze Horseman, then you will sail up the river past the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Summer Garden, finally arriving at the eastern part of the city center, near the Smolny Cathedral. The boat will then take you back to the Nevsky Prospect.
The night trip
This is one of the things you definitely should do in Saint Petersburg during the so-called ‘White Nights’ season (end of May – early July) — when the sky never turns pitch black and remains grey at most. The tour starts around midnight and features the outstanding panoramas over all the seven Neva bridges: you’ll be able to see their drawing to allow the large cargo ships to pass through. The drawn apart Palace Bridge – is one of the most iconic views of the city. Before taking the cruise we advice to put on warm clothes or take them with you, as the winds might get quite strong.
The boat to Peterhof
If you’ve already explored the attractions in the city, take a one-day trip to Peterhof Palace. It’s located in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg and the easiest way to get there is luckily by water! The route from the Palace Embankment to Peterhof Park takes only 30 minutes by the Meteor hydrofoil, then you will be given 3 hours to take a walk around the astonishing fountains and the luxurious palace of Peter the Great. You will return to the Nevsky Prospect in the afternoon.
The special cruises
The previously mentioned routes are available in every cruise ticket office throughout the day, but there are also special services, such as live jazz night cruises; family cruises with entertainment activities for children; hop-on hop-off boats; the tour along the new landmarks of Saint Petersburg, such as the Lakhta center and the Stadium. For anyone who happens to be in Saint Petersburg end of June we recommend a cruise dedicated to the fabulous water show called “Scarlet Sails”. This is a public event celebrating the end of the school year and graduation from high school culminating with massive fireworks – definitely worth watching from a boat!
How to book
Usually, booking in advance isn’t required, just come to one of the boat piers near the Nevsky prospect or beside the Winter Palace. The boats with English guides depart less frequently than the ones with Russian guides, but still regularly. If you don’t want to wait for an English-speaking guide, just take a tour with the Russians! You can book your journey beforehand if you’ve planned a specific departure time.
Where to book
The Anglo Tourismo Boat and Walking Tours
They provide English-speaking night routes and hop-on-hop-off day routes from three different piers. The guides are informative and knowledgeable. The company also offers a small discount for buying the tickets online.
The company offers a wide range of regular and special cruises. There are cruises with English-speaking guides or audio guides in 7 languages. It’s easy to book your journey via the website. Children under 5 years old travel for free.
Neva Travel Company
A great selection of tours, easy to find and conveniently located piers. They offer unique tours you will not find elsewhere, such as the Family tour and the “Baltic views” tour. Online and offline sales are available.