When you’re holidaying at St. Petersburg during the White Nights Festival, your wish comes true!
The White Nights Festival is one of the most anticipated festivals among Petersburgers. Why? Because this Russian city is so far up North, the summer sun never dips far beneath the horizon even at night, and a continuous, glorious sunlight immerses its citizens and visitors.
Regarded as one of the most popular festivals in the world, it gives the citizens to be outdoors and join in the festivities after a rough, cold winter. The annual affair begins from late May and ends around late July.
What to do
Mariinsky Theatre This is where the much talked about Stars of the White Nights performances are held. It’s a theater with the most spectacular facility, far ahead of any other theatrical venue in Russia.
You will also see the country’s premier classical singers, ballet dancers, and opera singers enthralling the public for six long days. Austrian violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and British pianist Christian Blackshaw will be performing this year.
Big name acts such as Paul McCartney, Sting, Ricky Martin, Julio Iglesias, Joss Stone and Sheryl Crow have also performed here.
Neva River Cruise along Neva River and see the city’s magnificent panorama, the islands of the Neva delta, Smolny Cathedral, and Peter and Paul’s fortress. Learn a thing or two about the city history and its legends connected with the waterways of St. Petersburg from the guide.
If you want to add a little more adventure to your trip, take the Neva night cruise and watch the celebrated sights of the raised bridges across the Neva, while pink, peach and violet clouds streak over the horizon. The bridges you should look out for – the Palace Bridge, the Trinity Bridge and the Bridge of Peter The Great.
Scarlet sails Scarlet Sails is the most romantic night of the summer! The carnival, complete with period costume dress celebrations, will take you back in time.
Think high school graduation celebration, except it’s attended by all ages. The first one dates back to post-World War II and draws its inspiration from the 1922 children’s book Scarlet Sails by Alexander Grin.
Stick around for the mock pirate battle and you might just catch a glimpse of Captain Jack Sparrow! The night culminates with fantastic fireworks display against the glowing scarlet sails on the river.
Something Different To feel a million miles away from the festivities (if that’s what you are looking for) go to Komarova beach. Take icy dips under the glowing sky.
Another way to enjoy Petersburg is to pedal around the city, but only if you are cautious enough, as the city doesn’t have separate lanes for bikers. If you want to ride around with a group, check up with Peter’s Walking Tour, you’ll have a Russian-speaking guide, an English-speaking guide, and a mechanical engineer (along with fellow bikers) for company.
If you are a Dostoevsky fan go take a tour around Dostoevsky’s apartment—this is where he wrote The Bothers Karamazov. Check out Peter’s cabin too- the very first house of Peter the Great. He lived here for 5 years and the house still has his belongings.
What to eat
Four Seasons Summer The menu here is based on dishes made to original recipe using fresh fish and seafood. You must have the oyster tartare and scallops with vermouth spindrift, smoked freshwater eel with a piquant sesame cream. If you are the adventurous kind have the stewed octopus with some noodles, orange and fennel sauce.
Zoom This small literary café is where the young intellectuals and the fashionable gather.
Food is cheap – you’ll get salmon, meat-nased and vegetarian salads for around 2USD, with jazz, soul and funk music played around you.
It’s not a place to grab an instant lunch; it’s the kind where you hang around, just having a good time. Believe it or not, people have received hugs from staffs here. And that’s saying something for Russia!
And if you stick around until 8pm there is a good chance, you will see a show or readings from a new author or a poet.
Podvorye For an authentic Russian cuisine go to Podvorye- a restaurant designed with the northern Russian architecture of the 16th and 17th century. It’s a charming traditional wooden restaurant, popular among tourist. If you don’t mind it being sunny out, take the table on the terrace and finish your meal with a piece of napoleon cake.
And if you feel like spoiling yourself, go to the caviar bar. They serve a variety of caviar from different fish served with blini!
(If you absolutely must eat Indian food, go to Tandoor or Jai Hind)
Where to stay
Corinthia Hotel Petersburg For a luxurious experience, stay at the Corinthia Hotel. If you pick one of the executive suites, your room will overlook the back of the hotel towards the domes of Vladimirsky cathedral! This is also an environment-friendly hotels where you have the option not to change your towels and sheets everyday.
For a mid range budget, stay at Pushkar Inn. This rustic Inn is along the picturesque Moyka River, and is housed in a historic 18th century building.
The medley of events is sure to make you dizzy so book your hotels before you go, research and shortlist places to see, concerts to attend, restaurants to eat, etc. And do take The Brothers Kamaraza with you as an essential Russian read.
There might be other places in the world that’ll provide this phenomenon but nowhere else will you find the atmosphere, the poetic charm and the literary and cultural extravagance that St Petersburg offers.