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A walk through the festive St. Petersburg


Imperial style, historic metaphors, new technologies and surprises – it’s impossible to describe this year’s festive decorations in two words. The glittering silhouette of Saltykovsky Park’s fence by the Hermitage is again the most popular New Year photo spot. Like a miraculous portal to the 19th century. But this year there are more lights in the streets of St. Petersburg. The idea is to expand the pedestrian route through the festive city. The walk at Konnogvardeiskiy Boulevard will be lit now – with thousands of glowing spheres. But probably the biggest surprise is Semimostye – one of the coziest corners of St. Petersburg.


Alexander Govorunov, vice-governor of St. Petersburg: “We traditionally decorate our major bridges. But St. Petersburg is the city of the bridges, and the charm of our bridges has always been special. That is why the “Semimostye” project appeared. Which is all about combining pedestrian routes with the festive spirit”.

You can see 7 of St. Petersburg’s bridges at once and make a wish. Although it’s never been really crowded at the embankment in winter time. This new decoration might turn “Semimostye” into a year-round tourist attraction. And another surprise. The image of Kazan God’s Mother will appear atop the Kazansky Cathedral – as a Christmas installation.

The light projection will be on display in a week, but our viewers can see the project now. And another improvised theatre will adorn the territory of Alexander Nevsky Lavra – since citizens loved this little street play.

In the Soviet years, the main attribute of the New Year festivities at Nevsky was a gigantic figure of Father Frost. Despite today’s beautiful and modern setting, many citizens recall the figure with fondness and nostalgia. Artist Doc Philby even created a special group tasked with bringing the magic character back to its historic spot. He recalls how he came here with his parents in his childhood. And even drew the 1975 Father Frost figure which stood next to the Pioneers’ Palace.

Doc Philby, artist: “To me it represents my childhood, first and foremost. So I always wanted to bring those Father Frosts back, revive this tradition”.

And maybe businesses in St. Petersburg will support this idea. Because traders have always contributed to the festive decorations of the city. Decorator Olga describes what the store windows looked like in the capital before the revolution.

Olga Bolkunova, decorator: “There was a tradition of live store windows – when little theatrical plays were set up in those. Christmas was cherished in the pre-revolutionary time – which is still not the case in our country, while the Catholic world has a strong street theatre tradition even nowadays”.

Olga proudly shows her latest work – a kinetic store window at one of the central streets. It’s hard to impress the audience with simple artificial snow – you have to create a mini-story. Characters of this Georgian tale raise glasses, dance and move their moustaches and eyebrows.

Evgeniya Altfeld, reporter: “A festive St. Petersburg cannot be envisaged without festive markets, which are sometimes held at the most unexpected places. And despite it’s the middle of a work day – it is full of people. Those who seem to have grown tired of faceless mass-market and prefer handmade things as gifts to themselves and their loved ones”.

This Christmas market at the burnt down church of Anne Kirche is a charitable one, with part of the profits would be donated to the restoration of the building. Knitted mittens, home-made jams and ceramic goodies are sold here. Children take pictures with a Santa Claus – the church is Lutheran, after all – while adults bolster their Christmas spirit with nostalgic Christmas toys. Like those came straight from grandma’s Christmas tree.

It might seem unexpected, but many citizens will not decorate their trees this time. Many simply have no time, but they have the money. A popular service this year – rental of designer-made Christmas trees. A team of decorators would come to your home and decorate the tree – in a style of choice. One of the most popular is the Soviet one.

Oksana Zhdanova, owner of decoration studio: “We often make a Soviet Christmas tree – decorate it with paper flags and turn to flea markets to find vintage toys”.

The price of Christmas spirit for rent is somewhere close to the average monthly paycheck. Owners of this apartment are young video bloggers. They don’t like decorating the tree themselves – not good at it, says Roman.

But those who want warmth and nostalgia in the festive season – without spending much – could pay only 40 rubles for a ticket to the legendary tram, decorated with Christmas lights. And take a ride through the beautiful city center. Workers of the tram depot even wrote poems about the nostalgic tram.

With the rhythm of the tram’s wheels by your side, you can endlessly enjoy the views of the festive St. Petersburg and make wishes. For instance – at the seven bridges.