St Petersburg in winter Colin Bailey

| June 25, 2013

Colin Bailey is leading Cox & Kings’ St Petersburg: Pictures & Palaces Royal Academy art tours later this year and next year (18 – 23 August 2013, 21 – 26 February 2014). Here is an interview about the highlights of visiting St Petersburg in the winter.

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What are the benefits of visiting St Petersburg in the winter months?
One of the joys of visiting St Petersburg during the winter months is the absence of crowds of tourists disgorged from the countless cruise ships that dock during the summer. In winter, the Gulf of Finland freezes over, so there are no cruise ships, no crowds and no queues.
This is of inestimable value when visiting the Hermitage and the most popular of the summer palaces at Pushkin and Pavlovsk. It means there are no delays entering these sites and no waiting around before seeing such Hermitage highlights as the two Leonardos, the Rembrandt and Van Dyck rooms, or the Caravaggio. At Catherine’s Palace and Pavlovsk, there is no urgency to move from one room to another, so there is the opportunity to linger longer along the way, including in the Amber Room and the Picture Galleries.
Also, in winter there are no mosquitoes.

What are the effects of the snow on the landscape?
For anyone like me, whose first impression of Russia was formed by seeing David Lean’s wonderful production of Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago, there is nothing more spellbinding than the Russian landscape under snow, when the countryside looks scintillating, and the sun glistens on the ice-blue facades and gilded domes of the cathedrals.

Is the cold not a problem?
It is, of course, very cold. But you only notice the cold when you are outdoors (in the park at Catherine’s Palace, for example). Fortunately, the hotels, restaurants, museums, palaces and coaches are all comfortingly warm. Also, at this time of year, you go expecting the cold, so your luggage automatically contains gloves, scarves, hats, thick socks and overcoats. For some, this is the only time when fur coats that granny passed down can be worn in public without fear of reproach.

View all of Cox & Kings’ art tours.

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