You made it to the Hermitage and watched a classic ballet. Now what? As travelers do, you may be wondering how to do what the locals do. Here are 10 not-to-miss local experiences in Saint Petersburg, in no particular order.

  1. Cheer on SKA. Ice hockey and Russia are nearly one and the same. SKA, which stands for Sports Club of the Army, is the professional Saint Petersburg ice hockey team. Cheer on the team, slap your noise maker, and watch the cheerleaders for an experience uniquely Russia. Do as the locals do, and the locals get season passes to SKA.
  2. Learn Russian. If you want to have local experiences in Saint Petersburg, it will become necessary at some point to chat with Russians. You will need to learn Russian because many Russians don’t speak English. I have heard anywhere from 8%-30% of Russians are fluent in English. You will not struggle for too long to find an English-speaker in Saint Petersburg, a major tourist city, but knowing Russian will certainly make your life easier.
  3. Victory Day. Also termed “holiday with tears in our eyes,” Victory Day is the most important national holiday in Russia. To begin understanding why, read this. If you do attend, please be extremely respectful. Watch and observe as you witness Russians embrace sorrow and pride. This is their day, not yours.
  4. Maslenitsa. If you like pancakes, then you must try blini while in Russia. What better time to do that then during Maslenitsa, an entire day week dedicated to eating blini? Russia has a pancake week! Equivalent to our Fat Tuesday, Russians celebrate Maslenitsa before lent. The last day of Maslenitsa is when the festivities really kick off. Typically the biggest celebrations are held at Yelagin Island. Of all the local experiences in Saint Petersburg, this is a personal favorite. Remember that Orthodox Christianity utilizes a different calendar from Roman Catholicism!
  5. Banya. Did you really go to Russia if you didn’t experience a traditional banya. I think not! To Russians, banyas (aka, saunas) are a lifestyle. Read up on how to visit a banya here. Yes, no swimsuits are allowed. No, it is not weird.
  6. Easter. To experience the magnitude of Russian Orthodox Christianity, attending an Easter service is absolutely necessary. However, standing for several hours, per tradition, is not necessary; many young and middle-aged Russians attend for an hour or two, make their offerings, and leave. Kazan Cathedral has the the most monumental celebrations and offers the biggest service.
  7. Doomskaya. Are you young and ready to experience some of the craziest nightlife in the world? Head to Doomskaya.
  8. Hang out at Palace Square. No better place to meet a friend, loved one, or business partner than Palace Square in the summer. Do as the locals do and leisurely stroll around Palace Square, bring food for a picnic, or skateboard on the cobblestone. Or take your time snapping beautiful photos when the square is covered in snow!
  9. Watch for handsome soldiers. Young soldiers seem to wander the streets in uniform 24/7, but the best spotting are near the Admiralty. Noticeable by its golden spiral, the Admiralty hosts a naval college. A lovely park is conveniently located next door since public access in not allowed with the Admiralty.
  10. Celebrate City Day. Unfortunately my departure did not allow me to celebrate city day, but the celebrations on May 27th are massive. Celebrate Saint Petersburg’s birthday amongst locals, bands, folk dancing, and — in true Russian style — public drunkenness.
Which local experiences in Saint Petersburg interest you?Local experiences in Saint Petersburg, Russia
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