Unless, that is, you plan on getting much sleep.

For these are the White Nights, a midsummer phenomenon that comes of being this far north, which means the sun doesn’t dip far enough below the horizon for it ever to get dark. Which in turn makes for a round-the-clock approach to partying – and remember, these guys aren’t exactly shy of a drink or two at the best of times – with streets buzzing with people throughout the day and night.

Neva say neva
Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great as his ‘window on the West’, this ‘City of 101 Islands’ has water, water everywhere, criss-crossed by the River Neva and its tributaries, plus the numerous canals that incite the inevitable Venice comparisons. During the summer months, when the Neva unfreezes, the bridges across it open up at night to allow ships through – check the schedules if you don’t want to get stranded. Get yourself a Metro map while you’re at it, too – compact and walkable St Petersburg ain’t.

Composers Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, scientists Pavlov and Mendeleyev, writers Dostoyevsky, Gogol and Pushkin – St Petersburg was the birthplace of some of the greatest works of these great men, and reveres them accordingly with museums, memorials and, in the case of Dostoyevsky, walking tours to the site of famous scenes.

For an insight into more recent history, a walking tour of Leningrad, as the city was renamed in Soviet times, reveals the daily reality of life under the regime.

For some pop culture to go with the serious stuff, there are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from (the bomb shelter setting of Griboedov and rockabilly wildness of Money Honey are particularly recommended). Pick up a copy of In Your Pocket for details and up-to-date listings.


The Hermitage
An early precursor of the Roman Abramovich school of thinking, when Catherine the Great decided to catch up with the rest of Europe’s monarchs and get herself an art collection, she didn’t do it by half measures. Partly housed in the Winter Palace, the sheer volume of stuff in the Hermitage is jaw-dropping, featuring room after opulent room of masterpieces from across Europe. You’ll never manage it all so don’t try, but be sure to see the Rembrandts and Picassos.

Mariinsky Theatre
Better-known to some as the Kirov, the world-class ballet is almost as much fun as promenading around the levels, drinking champagne and eating caviar on toast in the interval. Tickets can be hard to come by, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience in an absolutely stunning setting. See www. mariinsky.ru.

St Isaac’s Cathedral
On a sunny day, the vast, burnished dome makes an irresistible photo op, but while it may cost extra to do so, it’s worth the climb up to the Colonnade for the panoramic view over the city.

Bonus points for: Old-school elegance
Loses marks for: Modern pollution levels
Check out: www.inyourpocket.com/russia/st_petersburg/en/