10 things a foreigner should never do in St. Petersburg

Kira Lisitskaya (Photo: evgenyatamanenko, Maryna Iaroshenko/Getty Images)
Russia's cultural capital with beautiful architecture and many museums and parks is an ideal city for any tourist. But, remember that "cat stomping" is forbidden at night and you should not forget your umbrella when going outside!

10. Leave the house without an umbrella 

St. Petersburg is located on the Gulf of Finland and it rains regularly, so many of the city's residents have an umbrella with them at all times. One of the most popular memes is that it has been raining non-stop in St. Petersburg since 1703, i.e. since the date of its foundation. 

9. Forget about culture

The city, built by the best Russian and European architects of its time, has always attracted talented and ambitious people from all over the country. It has been home to many writers, artists and performers and has the best museums. Even if you consider yourself indifferent to art, it is very easy to join the world of beauty in St. Petersburg. Start with a visit to the Mariinsky Theater or the Hermitage Museum!

8. Be late for the drawing of bridges

If you come to St. Petersburg in the summer, don't forget that, at night, the city's bridges over the Neva River are opened and the city turns into several islands. Walking around St. Petersburg at night is actually a pleasure, especially during the White Nights. But, if your hotel is on the other side of the Neva and the bridges have already been drawn, you will either have to walk until the morning or order a taxi for a lot of money, which has to go all the way round the city.

7. Make noise at night in a residential neighborhood

St. Petersburg has a "cat stomping" law, as the locals call it. From 11 pm until 7 am, shouting, whistling, banging, moving furniture, singing, playing musical instruments and so on are prohibited in the city. On weekends, it is also forbidden to make noise from 7 am to 12 pm. The fine for individuals is up to 5,000 rubles (approx. $55). 

In general, if you want to sing and dance, head to Dumskaya Street, where everything is just beginning at night!

6. Walk slowly along Nevsky Prospekt

The central street of St. Petersburg is the most touristy and very noisy and busy. Do you want to walk quietly through the center? Just turn down any alley and you will find plenty of cozy and quiet places away from the crowds for a stroll in the city.

5. Order a ‘SHAURMA’

Remember that ‘shawarma’ (doner kebab) is called ‘SHAURMA’ in Moscow, but, in St. Petersburg, it is known as ‘SHAWERMA’. Yes, visually there is no difference at all, but each city considers only its own variant correct. Even philologists argue about the correct name for this popular street food!

4. Look for the right entryway

Usually, the entrance to a house is called a ‘PODYEZD’ in Russian (originates from the verb ‘podyekhat’, ‘to drive up’), but St. Petersburgers officially call it ‘PARADNYA’ (‘grand entrance’). And this is taken into account in the addresses. Historically, most of the old houses in the center had both a grand entrance and a back door. 

In general, the inhabitants of St. Petersburg also have other words that seem incomprehensible even to a person who knows Russian well. For example, ‘porebrik’ is a curb, and ‘badlon’ is a turtleneck

3. Refuse a ‘pyshka’ donut

A ‘pyshka’ is also one of those things. It is basically a freshly baked donut sprinkled with powdered sugar. The places where they are sold are called ‘pyshechnya’ and there are quite a lot of them. Perhaps the most "touristy" one is on Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street, but other places are just as good! Of course, ‘pyshkas’ are packed with calories, but they are an important part of the city's gastronomic culture, of which every resident is proud.

2. Walk only in the center

St. Petersburg is a city sitting on 33 islands and you'll miss a lot if you don't visit the remote fort island of Kronstadt or the unique Vasilyevsky Island with its public areas converted from former factory quarters. 

St. Petersburg also includes former imperial residences with gorgeous palaces and parks: Peterhof, Lomonosov (Oranienbaum), Pavlovsk and others. It is worth visiting at least one of them!

1. Admire Moscow

St. Petersburg was the capital of the Russian Empire for over 200 years and it is not customary for locals to praise Moscow. Many people consider traveling to the current capital to be forced, as there are more career opportunities there, but, you can only love St. Petersburg, as it has the most beautiful architecture and the Hermitage. Therefore, you should never tell residents of St. Petersburg that you liked or enjoyed something in Moscow, for example, a new subway station or a museum. Everyone knows that the best subway stations and museums are only in the Northern Capital!

Dear readers,

Our website and social media accounts are under threat of being restricted or banned, due to the current circumstances. So, to keep up with our latest content, simply do the following:

  • Subscribe to our Telegram channel
  • Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter
  • Enable push notifications on our website
  • Install a VPN service on your computer and/or phone to have access to our website, even if it is blocked in your country

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

Read more

This website uses cookies. Click here to find out more.

Accept cookies