St. Petersburg: visit Russia without a visa

Visa-free travel in Russia – the delights of St Petersburg can be yours!

Russia is one of the most alluring countries in the world with two truly magnificent cities and loads more besides. Unfortunately a UK passport alone isn’t normally enough for a holiday in Russia but there is one big exception to this rule.

How to travel visa-free

Everyone is free to travel to Saint Petersburg when going via a St. Peter Line ferry from Helsinki. Passengers will be allowed to stay in Russia for 72 hours under this special visa-free arrangement. You will need to have evidence you have booked accommodation for the duration of your stay as well as the return ferry journey sorted but aside from this, there is nothing you else need aside from your passport. Helsinki itself is very easy to get to by plane and the ferry port is centrally located.

What to do

Saint Petersburg is a giant place and with so many exceptional places to visit, you won’t really need to consider venturing too far out during your time there. It almost goes without saying that the State Hermitage Museum is one of the must-see places, even if you aren’t the biggest art fan.

The available collection is simply stunning and the building itself is equally as impressive. It is situated by the Palace Square which is a placed steeped in history having been involved in both the Bloody Sunday massacre and October Revolution of 1917.

What Saint Petersburg does incredibly well is huge, majestic buildings fit for any royalty. The Grand Palace (Peterhof), a short boat ride away from the heart of the city, was commissioned and partly designed by Peter the Great. Its level of grandeur is almost unmatched and it is a truly stunning sight inside and out.

Another breath-taking piece of architecture can be seen courtesy of the Church of the Savior on Blood. With strong parallels to the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, it’s something that immediately makes you think of Russia.
No visit to Saint Petersburg would be complete without a trip to the St. Isaac’s Cathedral State Museum-Memorial. The huge structure marks the heart of Russia’s second biggest city and the level of detail inside is magnificent. Visitors can even climb the stairs to the top where they can have a wonderful view looking over St. Isaac’s Square.

When to visit

Winters in Saint Petersburg can be bitterly cold and anyone accustomed to the mild British conditions may find things uncomfortable. Visiting around May or June time will allow you to enjoy some pleasantly warm temperatures and extra-long nights. In fact, starting from around mid-June there is usually a three week period where night doesn’t fall. To mark the occasion, the White Night Festival takes place in the Mariinsky Theatre, hosting some special ballet, opera and orchestral performances.

Where to stay

Two nights of your trip will be spent on the ferry and double rooms can often be booked for around £70 each way. Booking as early as possible is advisable to get the best possible price. When in Saint Petersburg you will find that there is accommodation to suit every budget.

Anywhere on or just off Nevsky Avenue is a very safe bet as this is one of the main and best connected roads in the city. You will find many of the biggest attractions are within walking distance and there are abundance of very highly rated hotels and hostels. Although you can’t go wrong with many options, one we can personally recommend for a budget option is the Admiralteyskiy hostel with double rooms available from around £20 a night. It’s wonderfully located and the English speaking staff will help you in any way they can.