Winter in Northern Russia is a cold and dark time. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Saint Petersburg, Russia in November under any circumstances, but one. Namely, it’s THE time of the year when otherwise depressing time becomes magical. It’s the countdown to the end of the year and NY party – the biggest and most important Holiday in Russia. A couple of years ago we visited Moscow around the same time and had a blast!
There are numerous advantages to traveling to Saint Petersburg, Russia in November (or any other off season time). Among others, very affordable accommodation, less crowds in museums and other attractions as well as attractive shopping opportunities (Christmas gifts!).
Where to stay while visiting Saint Petersburg Russia in November?
Depending on your plans and budget, there are several options to choose from. I recommend staying anywhere around Nevsky Prospekt or Moscow train station. Most of the museums are located in the city center and ideally you could walk everywhere. In case it gets too cold, you may take advantage of quite an efficient public transport system (e.g. trams running up and down Nevsky every 5 minutes or so).
We stayed at a small private mini-hotel right across the Moscow train station and it was a perfect choice in terms of price-quality ratio. Double room with bathroom ensuite and breakfast cost us only 1900RUB (around 25€)/night. I’m not going to name it, as it might seize to exist by the time you read it. Hotels in Russia tend to change their names quite often.
Once you step outside, you will find tons of cafe’s, restaurants, small grocery stores and a huge shopping center. Look out for such mini-hotels on Booking.com and make sure to read the reviews!
Things to do Saint Petersburg Russia in November
While shopping is probably the number one reason for visiting in particularly that time of the year, it doesn’t have to be your only goal. Saint Petersburg is literally overflowing with fantastic museums and places of interest. Remember, it was the capital of the Russian Empire for over 200 years! Those were the brightest years in Russain history. The city is a huge museum. If you loved Paris, Rome or Venice – you will definately enjoy this city, too.
The best thing about visiting in winter is, of course, lack of crowds. Pick any museum and just go. No need to queue for tickets (except, maybe, Hermitage). We managed to visit two museums without any hassle – Russian Museum and Kunstkamera. Both were amazing and I highly recommend going.
Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III, located on Arts Square in Saint Petersburg, is the world’s largest depository of Russian fine art. We enjoyed taking our time and sitting down, listening to the audio guide that we rented from the museum. Some paintings are truly breathtaking!
The museum is quite big, so plan at least half a day. Entrance is 350RUB (5€) and reaching the museum is quite easy – simply walk from Nevsky Prospekt metro station. It is worthwhile studying a bit Russian history, especially about the imperial age, as most of the paintings are related to that era.
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera)
Established by Peter the Great, this little museum is the first museum built in Russia. Despite its small size, it’s very educational and has well over 2,000,000 items. A bit disturbing is a the collection of human and animal fetuses with anatomical deficiencies. They were collected in an attempt to debunk the superstitious fear of monsters.
One more tiny we managed to visit was Stroganov Palace. Despite its small size, the museum has been recently renovated and is truly beautiful. The walls, wooden floor, ceiling – everything is pretty and detailed. The collection of paintings and furniture is not too big, but you can easily imagine how life was in those times.
The history of this palace is rather sad. Stroganov’s were once the richest family in Russia. They ordered the palace from from Italian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also built Winter Palace. Sadly, the family had to flee from revolution and this once gorgeous townhouse became state property. Today, it is a branch of Russian Museum housing some of its exhibitions.
Where to eat in Saint Petersburg
Sadly, we only stayed for two days this time, which is not enough to try an even small portion of all the great food Saint Petersburg has to offer. So I’m going to give two recommendations this time – one very local and budget option and one tasty and cozy dinner option.
Quick, cheap and good
Right in the middle of all the action, on Nevsky Prospekt, there is a small cellar cafe called „Kura. Gretsha. Sup“. Direct translation for the name is – „Chicken. Buckwheat. Soup“. The cafe is self-service type of place, where you lay all the parts of your lunch on the tray, choose the main dish and pay at the counter before sitting down. Typical canteen, nothing else.
The choice is quite big and you will see lots of locals eating there. We ate everything we could and still didn’t spend more than 10€ for the two of us. If you are looking for a typical meal that locals eat every day, this is your place. Cheap, fast and good.
A place to sit down and enjoy
Now, if you are not in the mood for „quick“ and interested in trying something different, I would recommend Georgian place called Phali Hinkali. As you may have guessed, Georgian hinkali is their main specialty. Like all Georgian restaurants, it is very cozy and homely. Menu is rich in both Georgian and Russian dishes, lots of meat options as well.
Everything about this place is great – the music, atmosphere, attentive waiters, good food. It tends to fill up pretty quickly, so be sure to make a reservation or come early. When all the other places were half empty, here we had to wait for 10 minutes to get seated.
Why we recommend coming to Saint Petersburg Russia in November
- Visiting before Christmas has many great advantages. One of the best things is much less crowds. In any other time of the year, the city is overflowing with tourists. Winter months are usually the quietest time, especially after NY. If you are interested in going to museums without waiting lines, this is the best time to go.
- Accommodation is cheaper than in Summer. You can find private rooms for as low as 20€/night! Aim for the ones that are centrally located or with metro access.
- Many nice shopping opportunities and cool souvenirs! If you’d like some local produce or very good candies, look for large supermarkets like Auchan or O’Key. You can literally spend hours in those stores and find amazing Christmas gifts.
- Short daylight time means more time for cozy cafes and tasty dinners. St Pete’s restaurants are both very cheap and well decorated, perfect for long evenings and good times.
- Chance to see real snow! Yes, if you come here towards the end of November, you have a big chance of seeing snow. Neva river as well as canals are likely to be frozen, too!