Hearts Through History Romance Writers

White Nights in St. Petersburg

by | June 21, 2012 | 16 comments

It was a lovely night, one of those nights, dear reader, which can only happen when you are young.

~White Nights, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1848~

From June 11th through July 2nd, St. Petersburg experiences White Nights (Beliye Nochi), where there is sunlight 24 hours a day. The phenomenon is caused by St. Petersburg’s northern location, which is roughly the same latitude as Oslo, Norway and the southern tip of Greenland. St. Petersburg is the world’s most northern city with a population over one million, and few other cities can rival the experience and atmosphere on the streets of St. Petersburg during the summer.

Made up of more than one hundred islands and criss-crossed by some 60 canals, St. Petersburg is often referred to as the “Venice of the North.” Some of the city’s great sites include Imperial palaces along the Neva River, the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Hermitage Museum, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Summer Garden, and, of course, the Mariinsky Theater.

In 1993, the first mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, began the tradition of the White Nights Festival, which has become an annual tradition. The festival features “Stars of the White Nights,” a series of classical ballet, opera, and orchestra performances at the world famous Mariinsky Theater from May through July. The festivities also include the Scarlet Sails celebration, which has become the most popular part of the White Nights celebration. The event features spectacular fireworks and a massive show of pirate boats battling on the Neva River to celebrate the end of the school year, a traditional that began after World War II showcasing a popular children’s book, “Scarlet Sails” by Alexander Grin.

A series of carnivals also take place during the White Nights, the most famous of which is held in the Peterhof suburb of St. Petersburg. Actors dressed in period costumes recreate historic events from the times of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great.

For music lovers, St. Petersburg’s Palace Square becomes home to some of the music world’s biggest stars during the festival. The large square has been the site of recent concerts by legendary musicians like Paul McCartney, Sting, and The Rolling Stones.

Watching the bridges on the Neva River lift to let boats through is also a must-see event during the White Nights. You can watch from the riverside embankment or take a boat cruise on the river. While you’re out enjoying the White Nights, make sure you stay on the same side of the river as your hotel. The metro stops running just after midnight, and the bridges stay up until 5:00 a.m. If you get caught on the wrong side, you might find yourself enjoying a bit more of the festivities than you intended.



  1. Sidney Bristol

    Oh man, I remember the White Nights! I came back to America towards the end of the White Night season, and sleeping in the dark freaked me out.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks for stopping by, Sidney. I had the opposite problem of not being able to sleep while I was there. We definitely need to talk at the NTRWA meeting next month.

  2. Callie Hutton

    Great post, Ally. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have 24 hours of sunlight. Here in OK, we get so much of it, I shiver to think of 24 hours straight, lol.

    • Ally Broadfield

      I feel the same way here in Texas, but St. Petersburg is cool and breezy during the summer. It’s fabulous!

  3. Ella Quinn

    What a great post. St. Petersburg is on my husband’s bucket list. It’s now on mine.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Thanks, Marion. It’s definitely worth a slot on the bucket list. I’ve been in the winter and summer. Definitely visit in the summer.

  4. ChristineWarner

    Hi Ally, I enjoyed your post and loved the pictures! Would love the opportunity to travel there and see some of these beautiful sites! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Ally Broadfield

      It’s one of my most favorite places in the world and definitely worth the trip. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Angelyn

    That post was the best escape! The White Nights–sounds so romantic. I had no idea St. Petersburg was so far north. Thanks for bringing Russia to us, Ally.

    • Ally Broadfield

      You’re quite welcome, Angelyn. It’s such an amazing place.

  6. Mirirm Newman

    What a delightful post–and a delightful way to celebrate their 24 hours of sun. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Glad you enjoyed it, Mirium. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Ally Broadfield

      Hi Clover. Glad you liked the pictures.

  7. Sharla Rae

    Delightful blog. I’d love to take trip to Russia and St. Petersberg would be on my list of must sees. This kind of info is great for books too, stuff we don’t always get in the research books. Thanks

    • Ally Broadfield

      Glad you liked the post, Sharla. Thanks for coming by.


  1. White Nights in St. Petersburg | Ally Broadfield - [...] Please stop by if you have a chance. It’s a short post with lots of gorgeous pictures. https://www.heartsthroughhistory.com/white-nights-in-st-petersburg/ This…



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