With its focus on art, history and architecture, St Petersburg may not be an obvious place to bring children, but there are actually plenty of activities that children will love, especially during the summer months when the whole city is something of an outdoor playground.
Top museums for children include the Museum of Zoology, with thousands of stuffed animals (including several mammoths) on display; the Railway Museum, where you can see a range of scale locomotives and model railway bridges; the Central Naval Museum with its superb collection of model boats; the ghoulish Kunstkamera, which is not suitable for smaller kids; and the Artillery Museum, which is great for any children who love tanks. Three fascinating old Soviet naval craft on Vasilyevsky Island can be great fun to explore: take a tour of the Krasin, an Arctic icebreaker, or either the People’s Will or the C-189, two Soviet subs now open to the public. Also sure to entrance kids and adults alike are the incredibly detailed scale models of early 18th century St Petersburg at Petrovskaya Akvatoria and the even more epic model village of Russia's greatest sights at Grand Maket.
One of the best parks to take kids in the city to is on New Holland where there's a great kids playground, a wooden model of a frigate to climb around, a giant chess set and free pétanque (a form of boules). Amusement parks, boats and bikes for hire, and lots of open space make the Kirovsky Islands, on the Petrograd Side, another great outdoors option just a short journey from the centre of the city. Kids will love the fountains at Peterhof, as well as the hydrofoil ride to get out there. Alexandrovsky Park, on the Petrograd Side, is a great place for youngsters too – with the zoo, planetarium and plenty of other diversions among the trees. Another fun outdoor activity is taking a boat trip on the beautiful canals of the historic heart. For a fun day at the seashore (and eating snacks at beachside vendors) go to Beach Laskovy in Repino. Take a cruise (with Reeperbahn among other outfits) to visit various nearby islands in the gulf.
There is no shortage of family-friendly restaurants with playrooms, children’s menus and high chairs for toddlers. Some of our favourites include Yat, Teplo, Botanika, Moskva, Khochu Kharcho, Sadko, Zoom Café, Koryushka, Stroganoff Steak House and Pryanosti & Radost.
For child-friendly snacks on the hoof, try ubiquitous bliny outlet Teremok (Теремок), found all over the city, for cheap and delicious sweet or savoury pancakes.
Russia has a proud tradition of both puppetry and circus shows that will appeal to adults and children, and to non-Russian and Russian-speakers alike.
The excellent Bolshoy Puppet Theatre has been producing wonderfully innovative shows since its inception in the dark days of Stalinism, becoming a much-loved local institution. It currently boasts 22 shows for children – including an excellent version of The Little Prince.
The Demmeni Marionette Theatre is also an excellent venue, with a large range of shows, including Gulliver’s Travels and Puppets and Clowns (a lively hour-long circus-style show performed by puppets).