Free Things To Do In St. Petersburg
What free activities are available in St. Petersburg?
- The dog shelter “Drug” ("friend") is always happy to have volunteers to walk their dogs.
- A stroll in the Summer Garden is really a lovely thing to do.
- New Holland is full of interesting corners you can discover – or just a great place to lay on the grass and relax.
- Some of St. Petersburg’s backyards, like the Dvor Iskusstv or Mosaichny Dvor, are little open-air museums by themselves.
- The Peter and Paul Fortress is a fascinating historical site where you can walk around or simply enjoy the scenic view across the river.
- If splendor and opulence are your thing, don’t forget to check out the metro.
St. Petersburg is so full of stunning wonders that you don’t even need to go anywhere special to make the most of your time. Nonetheless, it’s great to have some options that don’t eat a big hole into your budget. Here come the top six things you can do in Russia’s cultural capital entirely for free.
Walk a dog
The dog shelter “Drug” (“friend”) invites volunteers to take one of their dogs out for a stroll. Every Saturday between 12.00 and 17.00 you get the chance to breathe some fresh air (the shelter is located outside the city center) and help out. You need to sign up before you go on their website, since the shelter doesn’t provide their location online to prevent fraud.
Stroll in the Summer Garden
The lovely Summer Garden is located in the city center, close to the Field of Mars and next to the Fontanka River. This garden is full of beautiful green plants, trees, hedges and flowers, as well as antique statues and marvelous fountains. You can read the information stands along the path to learn more about the history of the garden or you can simply walk and enjoy the calmness.
Before or after your visit to the Summer Garden, make sure to stop by Chizhik-Pyzhik. This is a little bird statue situated not far from the entrance on the embankment of the Fontanka River. Landing a coin on the bird’s pedestal is supposed to bring you good luck. It is a difficult task, so aim well and don’t spend too much money!
Address: Naberezhnaya Lebyazh'yey Kanavki
Opening Times: During summer – from 10.00 to 22.00, during winter – from 10.00 to 20.00. Closed on Tuesdays and in April.
Lounge on the grass at New Holland
New Holland calls itself a “cultural urbanization center”. You’ll find it on an artificial island enclosed by the Admiralteysky and Kryukov Canals as well as the Moyka River. It’s in close proximity to the Marinsky Theater. Some, but not all of the concerts and lectures that take place in the park or in one of the park’s historical buildings are free. Still, even if there’s nothing going on, it’s always a treat to just hang out on the grass, have a picnic or walk around – there’s lots to explore. Another plus: you don’t have to bring a blanket. The park administration provides comfortable chairs which are scattered all across the area. You can also rent sports equipment like frisbees, balls or shuttlecocks and rackets for badminton at the info center.
Address: New Holland (Naberezhnaya Admiralteyskogo Kanala
Opening Times: Monday – Tuesday, 9.30 – 22.00. Friday – Sunday 9.30 – 23.00
Explore inner courtyards
I know, looking at courtyards within residential buildings sounds boring at first, but you’ll be surprised about how much beauty you can find there - though maybe this is only true for St. Petersburg. In this city, these courtyards – or dvor in Russian - is where everything is happening. Looking for that fancy bar you’ve read about somewhere? It’s in a dvor. Want to check out a museum? Visit a friend? Go to school? Dvor. Dvor. Dvor.
Some of the courtyards, like Dvor Iskusstv (“backyard of art”), focus on classical wall paintings. Others are home to entire gardens, like Sad San-Zherman (“Saint-Germain Garden”). There’s one where you can play chess on a human-sized chess board. Last but not least, a personal favorite: the Mosaichny Dvor (“Mosaic Backyard”), where you can find the most colorful mosaics and sculptures. Since these are all open public spaces, there are no opening times or anything – you can visit the dvors whenever you like!
Dvor Iskusstv: Ulitsa Zhukovskogo, 6
Sad San-Zherman: Liteyniy Prospekt, 46
Shakhmatny Dvor: Zagorodnyi Prospekt, 28
Mosaichny Dvor: Naberezhnaia Reki Fontanki, 4
Experience history at the Peter and Paul Fortress
The Peter and Paul Fortress is where the foundation for the city was laid over 300 years ago. Later on, it played a vital role in the Russian Revolution. It’s located on Zayachy Ostrov (“Hare Island”), which is connected to Petrogradskaya Island. From here, you also have a great view of the Palace Embankment and the Winter Palace.
The fortress is a remarkable piece of history that no one coming to St. Petersburg should miss. Taking a walk inside is completely free. You can marvel at the historical buildings, check out Peter I’s first self-built boat (in the info center across from the entrance of the cathedral) and relax on the beach when you’re tired. However, if you want to visit the church or one of the several museums scattered around the complex, you have to pay.
Address: Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg
Opening Times: Daily from 9.30 to 20.00
Be awed by the metro
It is no secret that St. Petersburg has some of the most gorgeous metro stations on earth (I know, we said the same about Moscow. But it’s true – in both cases!). Yes, this activity is not 100% free – you need to pay the ₽45 (less than $1) for the metro ticket, because most of the wondrous architecture is downstairs. The world’s deepest metro has a lot to offer. Most local guides consider Avtovo the most beautiful station. Certainly, they are not wrong. Most of the stops along the red line, especially in the south, are well worth a visit. The opulent golden ornaments and reliefs, statues and monuments are blinding to the eye. However, stops like Spasskaya with its mosaics and marble or Obvodny Canal with a more modern approach on architecture are still guaranteed to leave you amazed. Here are some tips on using St. Petersbug metro.
Opening Times: 5.45 – 0.15