The weather has taken an icy turn, the heating has come on, and the days are getting shorter. But have no fear – St Petersburg is equally (if not more!) beautiful during the autumn months. If you’ve enjoyed walking around the city during the summer, then read on to discover where you can best appreciate the gorgeous autumn colours and get some fresh air. Make sure to take advantage while you can – the Russian autumn is notoriously short, and soon the leaves will disappear altogether and the real cold weather will start.
There are a number of lovely gardens in St Petersburg city centre which are perfect for when you’ve got a couple of hours free.
Take a trip to Yusupovskiy Sad, the garden of the Yusupov Palace. This tranquil spot lies just off busy Sadovaya Street and Sennaya Square, and backs onto the Fontanka River. In summer, you’ll find plenty of people sunbathing by the lake and cooling off under the shady trees. This time of year, the golden trees frame the palace and the garden is less busy. Take a walk around the lake, cross the little bridge onto one of the islands and sit on a bench overlooking the palace. Afterwards, treat yourself to a hot chocolate at one of Sennaya’s many cafes.
Where to find it: Sadovaya Ulitsa, 54
How to get there: Go to metro Sadovaya/Sennaya/Spasskaya
For something a little more central, head to Mikhailovskiy Garden. This palace garden is located within the grounds of the Russian Museum and flanked by the Church on Spilled Blood, Fields of Mars and the Mikhailovskiy Castle. If you’ve been doing some sightseeing and wanted some time away from the crowds in these tourist hotspots, I’d recommend a stroll here. It is a beautiful garden regardless of the season, a mix of French and English landscaping styles designed in part by Rossi and Rastrelli, with a panoramic view of the Russian Museum. In autumn, the alley of chestnut trees fringing the main lawn and lake have burst into colour. You can also catch a glorious view of the Mikhailovskiy Sad from inside the Russian Museum.
Where to find it: Sadovaya Ulitsa, 1
How to get there: Get a bus/metro to station Nevskii Prospekt
This garden borders the intricate Nikolskiy Naval Cathedral, and are strikingly beautiful this time of year as the golden leaves contrast the sky-blue cathedral. I spent time here with my friend in October 2017, and was looking forward to visiting again this autumn to see the enchanting colours adorning the garden. It is a very peaceful place to sit as usually there are very few people in the garden.
If you walk around the west side of the cathedral past the intricate bell tower, you’ll reach Semimostye, a place where seven different bridges can be seen. Allegedly, any wish made from this spot will come true. From this bridge, you have a beautiful view of the Griboedov Canal and the tree-lined boulevard of Nikolskaia Square.
Where to find it: Prospekt Rimskogo-Korsakova, 37
How to get there: Bus no.3/27/181
If you have a bit more time and fancy taking a trip on the weekend, why not head to one of these beautiful parks to enjoy the autumn weather?
If you want some peace, quiet and fresh air, but don’t want to head too far out of the city, then I would recommend the Kirov Central Park on Elagin Island. Elagin initially served as a woodland hideaway for St Petersburg’s wealthy citizens. Nowadays, the palace and its gardens, designed by Carlo Rossi, are open to the public. You can take a stroll through the tree-lined avenues running the length of the park and around Elagin’s many ponds and canals. There is the opportunity to rent bicycles or boats in the park, so take advantage of this before the weather gets too cold!
Where to find it: Elagin Ostrov
How to get there: Metro to Krestovskii Ostrov metro station
Another one of St Petersburg’s islands is Kamenniy Ostrov, on which you will find two large parks. Despite its proximity to the city centre, Kamenniy Ostrov feels like a village. The streets are intertwined with small streams and ponds, and the island is completely covered with trees and walking paths, perfect for an autumn stroll. Fans of architecture would love it here even more – take a peek at imperial dachas, mansions, and remarkable wooden architecture rarely seen in the city.
How to get there: Bus no.46/1 , or metro to Chernaia Rechka metro station
The imperial gardens of Peterhof have been nicknamed the ‘Russian Versailles’, and are the ideal place to relax in the autumn. There are significantly less tourists than during the summer season, so you won’t have to worry about queues or crowds of people in your pictures! Although the fountains have been turned off for the approaching winter, there is still plenty to see. The palaces and sculptures look exceptionally beautiful surrounded by golden trees. The wide sea channel leads to an expansive view of Peterhof Palace and the Grand Cascade, made even more beautiful by the autumn colours lining the channel. It is still warm enough to walk along the shore of the Finnish Gulf and explore the Lower Gardens, in which lies a labyrinth, orchards, and sweeping tree-lined boulevards.
Where to find it: Razvodnaia Ulitsa 2, Peterhof
How to get there: Train or minibus from Baltiskii Vokzal. Or why not take the ‘Meteor’ hydrofoil from outside the Hermitage – it runs for another couple of weeks.
The country residence of the Romanovs is another ideal spot to catch the autumn glow. I would recommend a walk around the Great Pond, the central point of Tsarskoe Selo’s landscaped gardens. Just as with many of St Petersburg’s imperial gardens, Tsarskoe Selo’s grounds are a combination of English and French influences. For the best view of the sky-blue Catherine Palace and the Hermitage Pavilion, have a wander around the French gardens. Or alternatively, follow the meandering paths through the enormous grounds and check out the ornate little buildings nestled between the trees. The marble used to construct many of the monuments in the English-style gardens beautifully complements the autumn colours.
Where to find it: Sadovaya Ulitsa 7, Pushkin
How to get there: Train or minibus from Kupchino, or train from Vitebskii Vokzal
A poem about autumn: Пушкин – Осень
Autumn was Pushkin’s favourite season, and he preferred to work during this time of year. You can find his poem ‘Осень’ (Autumn) here, in which he sums up his feelings towards the season as well as perfectly capturing the essence of Russian autumn – the fiery colours, the melancholy loss of summer, but the starting of a new period and cherishing the short amount of time that autumn is here.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post, and that you find the time to explore St Petersburg during this beautiful time of year. Just remember to bring your gloves and umbrella! До встречи, Rachel.
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