6 ways to see St. Petersburg by boat

Legion Media
Russia’s northern capital is beautiful from any angle, but it is at its most grandiose from the water. It is built over 42 islands and interlaced with a huge web of rivers and canals that seem to bind the city together. No visit to St. Petersburg would be complete without a nice boat tour. There are all kinds of tours and routes, you can choose one or try them all.

1. Classic experience

There are a lot of companies that offer boat tours and while walking through the city center you will see many promoters offering “best of the best” and “the most interesting” routes. We recommend avoiding companies that use such street promoters and buy tickets at one of the official piers.

The Lions at the Dvortsovaya pier (Admiralteyskaya nab. 2) or the Faberge Museum pier (Fontanka nab. 21) offer regular water trips every hour along the Neva River, the Gulf of Finland, the city’s canals and even as far as the fountains of Peterhof.

Another great option is a hop-on hop-off cruise in the city. Their boats offer a frequent and regular service with 6 stops. The stops are located near the museums and tourist attractions. The first one is the Hermitage, then Peter-and-Paul's Fortress, The Summer Garden, The Anichkov Bridge (Nevsky Prospect), the Spit of Vasilievsky Island and St. Isaac's Cathedral).

The biggest boat companies in St. Petersburg are Neva Trip and Astra Marine. You can always buy tickets in advance online and they are usually cheaper than at the pier. The price for the classic “Rivers and canals of St. Petersburg” tour starts from 700-750 rubles ($11-12), depending on the duration. A round trip to Peterhof costs 900 rubles ($14). A hop-on hop-off tour costs 950 rubles ($15) for one day. Before buying or booking a tour make sure they have an English (or your language of preference) audioguide.

2. Private tours

If you want your experience in St. Petersburg to be really unforgettable you can pass on the traditional excursion routes and rent a private boat. This is for explorers and adventurous people who don’t like to travel in big groups and be in crowds. Private boat tours offer independence and opportunity to go wherever you want. They usually allow you to bring your own drinks with you, so don’t forget to buy a bottle of champagne and some glasses.

You can find such private tour companies on instagram using hashtags as #арендакатераспб. Usually, it is not companies but people who own boats and yachts and rent them to tourists and locals. We can recommend @rustam_katera. On his instagram page you can send a message to the owner and discuss your trip with him. There are also different kinds of boats. The bigger the boat, the more you pay.  The prices start from 6,000 rubles ($92) an hour for a boat fitting up to 6 people.

If that is too glamorous for you, there are some companies that offer boats without a captain (for example, Na Katere). You don't need a special boating license (hello Russia!) to operate a boat, you just have to adhere to the instructions very carefully and follow them. You can stop whenever and wherever you want and plan your route the way you like. The prices start from 4,990 rubles ($76) an hour for a boat fitting up to 4 people.

3. Departing from Sevkabel

The Sevkabel Port on Vasilyevsky Island is a place not to miss. An abandoned former ship-cable factory which is now a creative public space, Sevkabel offers great sunsets that you can enjoy from their famous embankment, endless hip eateries, food, art and music festivals almost every weekend, and from now on – the boat tours.

The boats depart from their own pier and go to the historical center. The boat makes a small stop at the Senatskaya nab. pier near the Bronze Horseman and at the Dvortsovaya nab. pier near the Winter Palace. You can step out there or stay on the boat that will bring you back to Sevkabel. The whole trip to the center and back lasts two hours and costs 700 rubles ($11). The one-way trip to the city center costs 450 roubles ($7). They depart twice a day at 13:00 and 15:15, but the schedule is subject to change, so better check online first. 

4. Fine dining on water

If you plan to go on a boat tour and want to combine it with a fine dining experience you can check the famous Ginza-group restaurant, Volga-Volga. This is a unique first-class restaurant and ship in one.

They have an outdoor deck and daily cruises along the Neva river, providing breathtaking views and a literally dynamic atmosphere. You will sail under the most beautiful bridges of the city: Palace bridge, Birzhevoy, Tuchkov, Blagoveshchensky, Sampsonievsky; along magnificent embankments: Admiralteyskaya, Universitetskaya and Dvortsovaya.

The restaurant's menu combines culinary traditions of the finest world cuisines: Italian, European, Thai, Japanese and Russian. The menu mainly relies on seafood and fish specialties. The dinner will cost you 5,000-6,000 roubles ($76-92), which is quite expensive, but is definitely worth it. Don’t forget to book a table, as this place is extremely popular. The ship departs at 13:00, 15:00, 19:00, 22:00 and 01:00.

5. Night boat tours under the drawbridges

Almost all boat tour companies offer the famous “drawbridges boat tours”. This is something that should be on everyone's bucket list. This is what makes St. Petersburg a unique city. This tour gives a great opportunity to watch bridges raising their “wings” from up close. It is much more comfortable and overwhelming than watching them from the river bank, where it’s always overcrowded.

Hundreds of boats are racing together at night and it makes the atmosphere unbelievable. The best time to do this tour is of course in June and July, during the famous White Nights, but any other time from April till the end of October is also fine. Don’t forget to take a jacket, because even if it is a warm summer night on the water it can be chilly. The price for a night tour starts from 900 roubles ($14).

6. Party like a Russian

For partygoers there are also special party boats. There you can not only admire the city’s beauties, but also dance, drink cocktails and meet new friends. There are two good companies that organize fun party tours. The famous “Purga” boat departs every Friday and Saturday from the Fontanka 15 pier at 22:00. The party lasts four hours and costs 1,500 roubles ($23) if you buy a ticket online and 2,000 roubles ($31) if you buy a ticket right at the pier.

The second company is “Gidrovoyage”. To avoid queues before the departure they don’t give an exact location of their pier until you buy a ticket online, but it is known that the pier is often located not far away from Chernyshevskaya metro station. The boat departs at 23:50 every Friday and Saturday. The party lasts two hours and costs 1,300 roubles ($20). The ticket includes unlimited drinks and a professional photographer will be on board. 

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