When Does It Snow in St Petersburg and Ideas on What to Do in St Petersburg in Winter

Winter in St Petersburg

It can snow between early November and early April in St Petersburg.  However, it is possible to see flakes even in early May.

Snow will stay on the ground between December and March.

On average there are 17 snowfall days in the months of December to February in Saint Petersburg.

Fresh snow makes Saint Petersburg look magical.  The canals are frozen in the winter and covered by snow, which gives the city a bit of a fairy-tale look.  

The most beautiful winter days are those with the full sunshine and frost.  The golden-laid church domes are shining and the air is so crispy on such days.  However, also be well-prepared for some overcast, windy and drizzly days.  

What is the Coldest Month in St Petersburg?

January has historically been the coldest month in St Petersburg with average temperatures of -9C to -4C.  

Historical December and February average temperatures are below zero C as well. 

Source: NOAA.

I am writing this post in February.  Temperatures are approximately -15C to – 20C these days.  

People walk on the Fontanka river ice.

What Should I Wear When it Snows in St Petersburg?

Here is my list of essential things to pack for the Russian winter.
  1. A good down coat with a hood.  I would say, the hood is compulsory to protect you from snow, rain, and wind.  Choose a longer parka coat, that covers your hips.
  2. A hat, preferably a lined one, that will cover your ears.  If you haven’t packed one, you may get a Russian-style fur hat shapka ushanka from one of many souvenir shops in Saint Petersburg. They mostly come made of artificial fur, but real rabbit fur can be found as well.
  3. A good scarf.
  4. A good pair of thick gloves.
  5. A pair of waterproof boots with thick soles and a good grip.  Roads and sidewalks are often icy.  Nice leather shoes can be damaged with chemicals used for melting snow.  It is better to choose snow boots.
  6. I like to pack a light down vest and carry it around in my backpack.  It doesn’t take a lot of space, but saves me when it gets extra cold.
  7.  A pair of snow pants.  I find that on a particularly cold day, it is too cold to wear just jeans and snow pants were quite comfortable, especially for your day trips out of St Petersburg.
  8. Thermal underwear.
  9. Warm socks.
  10. Something nice – like a blouse or a shirt or even a winter dress that you can wear to a theater or to a concert.  Russians like to dress up for their nights out.  There is a cloakroom in the theater where you will be able to leave your coat.
  11. Palm and foot warmers. When I plan to be outside for a long time, I stick them to my socks. They do work!
Good winter boots are key.  They need to be warm, water-resistant and slip-resistant.

You may see Russian women wearing high heels which allegedly increase traction with the icy surfaces, however, this is very dangerous and only for trained locals.

What do Russians wear in winter?  My article may be helpful.

Do Russians Like Snow?

Snow is very romantic and it is a part of Russian culture.  Yes, Russians like snow and winter fun – sledding, skiing, skating, banya and troyka in the snow.

Every Russian likes a squeaky sound of the new snow on a cold winter morning.

There are no such things as snow days in Russia.  Everyone continues their routine activities despite the weather. Schools remain open through the winter.

However, snow management in the cities becomes a problem sometimes.

Snow falls over the period of many days and weeks or by a snow storm (metel) snow can accumulate into piles of up to 1 meter (sugrob) which are difficult to remove from roads and walkways.

When snow begins melting, it makes roads icy.  Walking and driving gets quite difficult. Traffic jams and broken limbs are the results.  The first unexpected snowfall day is called the Day of Auto Body Repairs, marked by many collisions since not all drivers would have changed their tires yet.

However, the main problem with the snow is monster icicles (sosulki). Heavy icicles can damage cars and be very dangerous to pedestrians.

In the 20th century, most buildings in the center were equipped with central heating.  This led to higher temperatures in attics.  Snow on roofs would transform into ice and then to sosulki. There have been many efforts to fight dangerous icicles, from removal by laser to  just hitting them off manually.  At this time, the only solution seems to be to keep attics cold. 

What to Do in Saint-Petersburg on a Snow Day?

In the city:
  • enjoy museums or go to a theater to see Russian ballet.  Snow gives me inspiration to see the Nutcracker or Swan Lake.
  •  Go skating at an ice rink.  My favourite ice rink in the center of Saint Petersburg is at the New Holland.  Another nice ice rink with an amazing view is at Port Sevkabel (at Vasilievsky Island).
  • Walk the alleys of the Catherine Park.  In the parks outside the city snow remains clean.
  • Rent cross-country skis or sleds in Pavlovsk.  See the Park and the Palace.  You can rent them near Teatralny or Nikolaevsky gate as well as the entrance near the Pavlovsk train station from 10 am.
  • Husky dog-sledding in a winter forest.
  • Hire a troyka and immerse into the spirit of Russia’s fast horse carriage ride.
To fully appreciate Russian winter, rent a hotel, a winter house or dom otdykha for a couple of nights.  The North of Saint Petersburg along the Bay of Finland is the most picturesque winter destination.