I flew out of Sydney on a pleasantly warm summer’s day, and arrived in Russia 24 hours later – in the middle of a snowstorm.
It was a stark contrast. Winter in Russia was something entirely different to the winter I was accustomed to in Australia. A particularly cold day back in Sydney might require a heavy jumper or light coat, but there’s no way that would have been suitable for Russia’s harsh temperatures. The -5°C (23°F) weather was a shock to the system, especially when the wind picked up.
Still, St Petersburg was a stunning and picturesque city. Wandering along the Venice-like canals while snowflakes fell on my shoulders was like something out of a fairytale. Here are my tips for surviving a winter visit to St Petersburg.
1. Invest in a decent parka
The number one mistake I made when visiting St Petersburg in winter was that my clothing was unsuitable. As a warm-blooded Australian, it was difficult to comprehend how freezing the Russian winter was really going to be. Sure, I’d purchased a coat, scarves, beanies, and thermals, but all of this just wasn’t good enough. I had to wear 3-4 layers of clothing to keep warm, but if I had just one decent parka, I wouldn’t have needed all those layers.
This winter, I’ve invested in a high quality insulated parka to get me through New York’s cold season, and boy, is the investment worth it! Check out my guide to buying the best cruelty-free winter clothing here.
2. Keep active and plan breaks from the cold
You know what happens when you stop moving? Your body temperature drops – which is obviously not what you want to happen as you wander around the exterior of the Winter Palace.
Keep active whenever you’re outdoors to ensure your body stays warm, and plan to retreat inside every hour or so to give your extremities a chance to defrost. Plus, you can use these breaks as an excuse to drink mulled wine or hot tea while partaking in some people watching!
3. Sample the local cuisine
The people of St Petersburg really know how to do winter comfort food. If you needed an excuse to consume large amounts of carb-heavy delicacies, this is it.
You can try Borsch (a starchy beetroot and potato soup) or Pelmeni (Russian dumplings) that are both served with a generous amount of sour cream. St Petersburg is also famous for its bakeries, so if you have a sweet tooth, head into one of them for some tasty pastries.
4. Take a shot
There’s a good reason that the Russians drink a lot of vodka; one shot and your insides are toasty warm. The locals will happily drink it in a variety of flavours (and not the sugary crap the we get back home) at any time of the day, and they claim that certain vodkas should be taken for specific health ailments. The Russian word for cheers is ‘Nastrovje’ which in English means ‘to good health’. Don’t be afraid to join in the tradition!
5. Make full use of daylight hours
St Petersburg sits at nearly 60°N, so during winter the daylight hours are restricted to about 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. If you want to fit in loads of sightseeing, avoid sleeping in until midday.
Of course, St Petersburg is wonderful during the evening as well, and the city features plenty of pretty lights to keep you staring starry-eyed at all of it’s stunning architecture. It truly is a spectacular city at any time of the day.
Visit A Globe Well Travelled for more Europe travel tips. Have you ever been to St Petersburg in winter, or are you heading there sometime soon? Share your tips with us in the comments!
Don’t forget that you can bring a piece of this enchanting city home by placing an order on Grabr! We’ll connect you with a St. Petersburg traveler who can hand-deliver goods to you.
This article was written by Ashlea Wheeler.