Saint Petersburg vs Moscow — A Duel in Pictures

As two of the most popular tourist destinations in Russia, most travelers end up having the same dilemma. Should you visit Moscow or Saint Petersburg? In which city should you spend more days if you have time to visit both?



During a recent trip to Russia, I had a similar problem deciding. My trip allowed me to visit both cities but I was not sure whether I should stay for more days in Moscow or St. Petersburg. In the end, I allotted the equal amount of time for both and hoped for Saint Petersburg to win. Not only because it's famed as the most romantic and beautiful Russian (or even European) city, but also it's the city where I started off my around the world trip. I hoped and tried hard to find reasons for this personal milestone to win.



But the winner is hands down Moscow. A magnificent, magical, captivating city offering a perfect blend of history and modernity that could keep you busy for two weeks straight.


What are the main differences? Firstly, Saint Petersburg is an easy city, easily navigable on foot. Moscow is a complex city, still walkable with some extra effort and time. To give you an idea: in Saint Petersburg, we walked maximum 13 km a day and never needed the metro, in Moscow the maximum distance we were able to cover on foot was 23 km, plus we had to use metro once or twice a day. Moscow streets are impressively clean and elaborately decorated, and even on ice-cold winter days, it's an uttermost joy to explore the city on foot. Saint Petersburg tries to keep up, though it’s not exactly visually appealing. And unlike the common misperception, Moscow has much longer and much more chaotic architectural history (over five centuries older than Saint Petersburg).

Both Moscow and St. Petersburg have a wealth of attractions, including museums, palaces, churches as well as remarkable culinary and nightlife scenes but Moscow is by far more variegated. It's one of those cities in the world I'd love to visit again and again.

Take a look for yourself at the pictures below to make up your own mind. Remember that the photographer (me) and the time of the year (winter) is the same, and Saint Petersburg had received an extra push to win.

Magnificent Moscow

Moscow's Req Square is what I call a square, loving it!

The red building directly opposite Saint Basil's cathedral is the State Historical Museum

Saint Basil's Cathedral is the major landmark and is the most beautiful church I've ever seen. The legend has it that Ivan the Terrible, who ordered the construction of this church, had the architect 's eyes removed from their sockets so that he wouldn't re-create the design elsewhere. 

The church is not very impressive from inside, and not worth the entrance fee in my opinion. 

Kuranti, Russia's most famous clock on the right

The Novodevichy Monastery surrounded by the Kremlinesque walls, a UNESCO site dating back to 1524, looks as if ripped from the pages of a fairy tale. 

There is actually a pond on the grounds, making for nice reflections shots in summer and skiing/skating rink in winter. A pity the monastery was closed due to renovation, but a walk around its grounds was simply seclusive.

The adjacent cemetery holds the tombs of Russian authors, musicians, playwrights, and poets, as well as famous actors, political leaders, and scientist. Above is the burial site of Boris Yeltsin.

Nâzım Hikmet, a famous Turkish poet, is also sleeping here at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow
GUM department store in Moscow is arguably the most architecturally stunning mall in the world

GUM facing the Red Square was already blossoming in March. 

Moscow by night is truly magical

Can't get enough of this church, well Red Square indeed.



Moscow's lavishly decorated, broad pedestrian streets

The Peter the Great Statue is a 98-meter-high (322 ft) monument to commemorate Tsar Peter the Great & the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy. Located at the western side of the Moskva River, the “Moscow Monster” is passionately hated by most Muscovites and considered to be the ugliest monument.

Isn't it a pretty sight at night, though?

We followed the Moskva, Down to Gorky Park,  Listening to the wind of change... 

Moscow's metro is an attraction in its own right and it's the most reliable and cheapest way to get around the city (if not walking). 

With over 200 metro stations, it's hard to pick a favorite. 

The metro in Saint Petersburg with only 67 stations is somewhat less spectacular, although it is home to the world’s deepest metro station – Admiralteyskaya.


Aspiring Saint Petersburg

Palace Square in St Petersburg - the very first night and the very first sight of my around the world trip
Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood - The interior of St Petersburg's churches was more impressive

St. Petersburg’s canals were completely frozen in March meaning that you could safely walk, skate, and ski for free. In summer you can only navigate on the canals by taking expensive boat tours.

Hello Kitty!
The frozen Neva River in Saint Petersburg

Hermitage Museum as seen from Neva River

Peter and Paul Fortress in the background

The river, whose waters account for 10% of the city's area turns into a playground for kids and adults alike from December to April. For instance, kids sledding, adults ice fishing, Maho doing her daily push-ups :)

The frozen Neva River was the only place I could really appreciate and get a sense for the size of the city. But otherwise, I found St Petersburg not as appealing, a loud, greyish industrial port city. 

Have you been to both cities? Which is your favorite? 


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About Maho

Nature lover, diving and travel enthusiast, Asian looking, Russian sounding, Turkish raised, Munich based stranger on Earth.

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