Imagine for a moment that you lived in the arctic circle. Winters are cold with long nights and short days (sometimes no days at all), but every summer for several precious weeks the days stretch on for…well, they just stretch on. Depending on conditions, between late May and July, regions located above the 59° 34’ latitude can experience days with constant daylight. And within one of those regions sits what is arguably the cultural capital of eastern europe — St. Petersburg, Russia.
Founded in the 18th century, St. Petersburg welcomed the annual arrival of the “midnight sun” or “white nights” almost from the start, but then came the 20th century with World War II and the Soviet Union (which renamed the town Leningrad). Thankfully, communism fell in Russia, the city reclaimed its original name (along with it’s position as a center for the arts), and for the last ten years white nights have become an international cultural event.
Here’s what you have to do while visiting St. Petersburg during its white nights.
Enjoy A Night Out On The Town…In The Daylight
St. Petersburg is pretty notorious for its nightlife, with posh bars and nightclubs. And what better way to take it all in than late at night with the sun blazing in the sky overhead? The extra hours of light and dose of vitamin C can help give you the energy to keep the party going. And while you’re out hoping from nightspot to nightspot in the sunshine, be sure to take a moment to watch the Neva draw bridges open up to let boat traffic move down the city’s famous Neva river.
Check Out The Summer Garden
With plenty of shady trees, bubbling fountains, and picturesque sculptures, it’s easy to see why this park located at the city’s center was once the private getaway for the Tsars. It’s now one of the most iconic locales you can find in the city, offering up its grounds for anyone to enjoy a stroll, pay a visit to its museum, or enjoy a sunbathing session.
Watch The Stars of The White Nights
Essentially the arts events series that kicks off St. Petersburg’s white night season, “Stars of the White Nights” is a festival organized by the city’s performance arts scene. From late May to the end of July, the city hosts dozens of classical musical concerts, plays, operas, and ballet performances.
See The Scarlet Sails
The culminating event of white nights in St. Petersburg happens on a single night in June (this year it’ll be June 21). It features pyrotechnics, live music performed on stages throughout the city, a sailboat with blood red sails making its way down the Neva, and an average attendance of roughly one million people (which makes it one the most well-attended events in Europe every year)