Mariinsky Ballet Festival, April
Victory Day, May
City Day, May
Scarlet Sails, June
Deep in the Russian winter, the days may be short and dark but the city often looks magical as snow continues to fall regularly.
Russia celebrates Orthodox Christmas (Rozhdestvo) on 6 January. Exclusively a religious holiday, it is not widely celebrated, although services are held at churches and cathedrals around the city.
Intensely cold, with snow and ice everywhere still, February is a great time to see St Petersburg in full winter garb, as long as you don’t mind the short days!
Akin to Mardi Gras, this celebration kicks off Orthodox Lent and involves eating lots of bliny. Exact dates depend on the dates of Orthodox Easter, but it is usually in February or early March.
You can still expect snow on the ground, though in warmer years March can also see the beginning of the thaw.
International Women’s Day
Russia’s favourite holiday – 8 March – was founded to honour the women’s movement. These days, men buy champagne, flowers and chocolates for their better halves – and for all the women in their lives.
Finally the thaw comes, but you might prefer snow to the grey slush that can engulf the city in April. Orthodox Easter and the Mariinsky Ballet Festival brighten the scene.
Easter Sunday kicks off with celebratory midnight services in which Orthodox churches are jam-packed. Afterwards, people eat special dome-shaped cakes known as kulichy and exchange beautifully painted wooden Easter eggs. As with Easter in the West, dates vary year to year, and Orthodox Easter is normally not on the same weekend as Easter elsewhere.
Mariinsky Ballet Festival
The city’s principal dance theatre hosts a week-long international festival, where the cream of Russian ballet dancers showcase their talents.
Every April the JFC Jazz Club holds this spring festival featuring local and international artists playing not just jazz but also bossa nova, blues, ragtime and funk.
Spring is finally here, and with it a slew of holidays in the first two weeks of the month. Late May is a great time to come to St Petersburg before the summer crowds arrive.
Celebrating the end of WWII, 9 May is a day of huge local importance, when residents remember the 900-day Nazi blockade. Crowds assemble at Piskaryovskoe Cemetery to commemorate the victims, and a parade along Nevsky pr culminates in fireworks over the Neva in the evening.
Laying flowers at the Monument to Peter I on Senate Sq is a tradition on 27 May, the city’s official birthday. Mass celebrations are held throughout the city centre including brass bands, folk dancing and mass drunkenness.
This is St Petersburg’s high season, and there’s certainly no shortage of things to do, as the nights are white, spirits are high and the city has an almost surreal atmosphere.
Festival of Festivals
St Petersburg’s annual international film festival is held during the White Nights in late June. Hosted at the Rodina cinema and others, the festival is a non-competitive showcase of the best Russian and world cinema.
Stars of the White Nights Festival
From late May until mid-July, this annual festival showcases world premieres of opera and ballet. Performances are held around the city, especially at the Mariinsky Theatre. The festival culminates in a fabulous ball at Tsarskoe Selo, which draws the event to a close.
The highlight of the White Nights season, this one-night festival includes performing arts staged in Palace Square, and crowds of around a million lining the banks of the Neva for a spectacular fireworks display and to see a magnificent red-sailed Swedish frigate float by.
High summer is hot and bright – a great time to see the city in all its vividly painted, Italianate glory. There are few festivals during this time, but with weather like this, who needs them?
On 25 July St Petersburg celebrates its thousands of naval officers and rich maritime history with a flotilla of boats on the Neva outside the Admiralty and a general party along the banks of the river – great if you like a man in uniform.
Piter, I Love You
Held at the end of July or in early August the Peter & Paul Fortress is turned into a giant outdoor cinema for this free one-night festival where the public get to vote online for the movie to be screened.
Open Look Russian Look
Contemporary dance companies from around the world perform in the prestigious Open Look festival with shows mainly at the Alexandrinksy's New Stage as well as a handful of other venues. It's immediately followed by Russian Look which showcases the home-grown talent.
The musical juggernaut that is Russia's largest open-air festival of jazz and all kinds of other improvised contemporary music makes its way to Yelagin Island.
A great month to visit – September is still usually warm and tourist numbers are dropping off. October is cool, if not yet cold, with even fewer visitors.
Early Music Festival
The Early Music Festival aims to revive forgotten masterpieces from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the baroque era. The festival features a baroque opera, as well as performances by the Catherine the Great Orchestra. Musicians perform at various venues from mid-September until early October.
Dedicated to Sergey Kuryokhin (1954–96), a talented local musician, actor and all round creative, this long-running festival focuses on the experimental and cutting-edge across a range of artistic disciplines including music, art and film.
Winter is already here in November and you can expect to see the first snow on the ground, which gives the city a magical look.
Day of Reconciliation & Accord
The former October Revolution day – 7 November – is still an official holiday, although it is hardly acknowledged. It still is, however, a big day for flag-waving and protesting by old-school Communist Party members, especially in front of Gostiny Dvor.
Christmas isn’t such a big deal in Russia (and it’s in January anyway), but New Year’s Eve is huge. St Petersburg is freezing, snowy and magical.
Arts Square Winter Festival
Maestro Yury Temirkanov presides over this musical highlight, which takes place every year at the Shostakovich Philharmonia. For 10 days in December artists stage both classical and contemporary works, including symphonic music and opera.
Petersburgers see in the New Year (Novy God) by trading gifts, drinking champagne and listening to the Kremlin chimes on the radio or TV. A great time to see Russians at their merry best!