Average daily temperature
and rainfall in Saint
Petersburg during the year
Max tCMin tCmm

Arranging your Trip

When to go and what to bring

St Petersburg lies on the same latitude as the Shetland Islands and Anchorage, Alaska, but its climate is less harsh than you'd imagine, moderated by warm air blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. Summers are hot and while winters may be cold by Western European standards, they rarely compare with the ferocious cold of winter in Moscow, let alone Siberia.

The most popular time to go is summer, lasting from the beginning of June to early September, when the city celebrates the famous "White Nights" (from June 10 to mid-July) with a special festival and weeks of partying. Days are baking hot and nights are sultry, so that the occasional downpour provides a relief from the humidity. In August, everyone who can afford to leaves the city, if only to stay in a cottage in the surrounding countryside. Although St Petersburg is at its liveliest in summer, ballet fans should bear in mind that the Mariinskiy is closed throughout July and August (as are the circus and many theatres).

By mid-September autumn is underway, with cloudy skies and falling temperatures. October sees the first frosts (and sometimes snowfalls), though it's not unknown for there to be warm and sunny days, when the city looks especially beautiful in the soft northern light. Sub-zero temperatures and snow can set in weeks before winter officially begins in December. The canals and rivers soon freeze over and a blanket of snow creates enchanting vistas that almost make you forget the cold. The secular Christmas and New Year festivities are occasions for shopping and merrymaking, much as in the West, though you need to stick around a while longer to catch the traditional Russian Orthodox Church celebrations of both holidays, held in early January. While temperatures rarely fall below -15C, the snow soon loses its charm as it compacts into black ice which lingers on until March, by which time everyone is longing for spring. Like winter, its arrival is somewhat unpredictable, especially in March - the fabulous sight of the Neva ice-floes breaking up and flowing through the heart of the city may not occur until April, or even early May.

It's wise to give some thought as to what to take - and worth packing that bit more to stave off problems later. Expect occasional rain throughout the summer and bring a waterproof jacket or a compact umbrella. Mosquitoes can also be a pest, especially in the Karelian Isthmus, so some form of barrier/treatment cream is advisable, plus an anti-mosquito plug if you want to get some sleep at night. For travel in winter (or late autumn or early spring), take as many layers as you can pack. Gloves, a hat or scarf that cover your face, and thick socks are required items; thermal underwear saves you from cold legs; and a pair of boots with non-slip soles is recommended for the snow and ice.

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