Moscow vs Saint Petersburg. To be frank with you, I would advise you to visit Moscow ánd Saint Petersburg. Both cities are so diverse and give you a different perspective on Russia. But I get that not everyone has the time nor the money to visit both cities. So if you have limited time, which city should you choose? Moscow or Saint Petersburg? Of course the answer depends on what you like, but maybe some of my tips can be helpful. So let the battle begin!
Travel battle: Moscow vs Saint Petersburg
Round 1: History
Clearly Moscow is the only good answer here. This city exists for more than 800 years and has been burnt down to the ground several times. Moscow is also the only true Russian city. All the signs are in Russian (Cyrillic script), the Muscovites don’t understand any English and the typical onion-dome shapes are practically everywhere. Saint Petersburg on the other hand has a more European look. Its street scene is a mixture of Amsterdam and Vienna with a touch of Scandinavia. As a tourist you’ll probably forget that you’re even in Russia. Fun, but you wanted to visit Russia, right? Then I’ll advise you to go to Moscow.
Moscow vs. Saint Petersburg: on the top Red Square in Moscow, at the right bottom Saint Petersburg.
Round 2: Atmosphere
The first thing I noticed in Moscow is that everyone seems to be in a hurry. The Muscovites walk at a fast pace and have a grumpy stressed-out face. Then again Moscow is a very busy city. Officially the city populates around 11 million people, but you can add a good one million to this due to a lack of registration. So it’s always busy on the street and in traffic. Saint Petersburg on the other hand ‘only’ populates 5 million people, so it’s more relaxed. The people seem happier and everything moves at a slower pace. To relax people sit down at one of the park benches or in the literary cafes for some poetry. I’m a real sucker for wandering around a city, so I pick Saint Petersburg over busy Moscow.
Moscow vs. Saint Petersburg: the calmness of Saint Petersburg vs. the chaos of Moscow.
Round 3: Things to do
An obvious choice, because Moscow has its famous Red Square. That alone is a pretty good reason to visit Moscow. On top of that, the Red Square is surrounded by amazing sights. Take for instance the colorful domes of the Saint Basil’s Cathedral of the dark red towers of the Kremlin. You can easily spend three days exploring the square. For instance visit the Historical Museum or spend an afternoon in the royal warehouse GUM. But also Saint Petersburg has its own pretty highlight: the Hermitage. The mother of all museums. This museum is so incredibly huge, impressive and beautiful. The rooms itself are already a true sight for sore eyes. Still in the end I would choose Moscow, because the Red Square offers more to see.
Moscow vs. Saint Petersburg: on the top left the Hermitage of Saint Petersburg, at the bottom the Red Square in Moscow.
Round 4: Architecture
This is the main difference between Moscow and Saint Petersburg in a nutshell. Moscow may have the most beautiful square, Saint Petersburg is the one who has it all. This city is filled with amazing palaces in all kinds of pastel colors. It has a royal look and used to be the capital for the czars. Czar Peter and Catherine the Great built, shaped and made this city into what it is today: an elegant city. Parks, palaces and a great many of rivers and canals run through the city. Moreover, the bridges are perfect marks to get to know your way throughout the city. Moscow on the other hand can be a pretty difficult place to navigate in. Streets all look alike. Obviously, Saint Petersburg is the winner here.
Moscow vs. Saint Petersburg: do you recognize the Moscow and Saint Petersburg architecture?
Round 5: the Extras
Saint Petersburg has so much more to offer than only the city itself. Go on a day trip to the palaces outside the city. Two famous ones are the summer palace of Peter the Great (Peterhof) and the Pushkin palace of Catherine the Great. Both fairy tale-like structures that the czars mainly used to impress their international guests with. Moscow on the other hand offers less possibilities for easy day trips. There are some amazing old villages who together call themselves the ‘Golden ring‘, but those are just to far away to even call it a day trip (70 – 200 km).
On the top the old villages of the Golden Ring, at the bottom the palaces outside Saint Petersburg.
Moscow vs Saint Petersburg: the winner is?
If you add up the rounds, Saint Petersburg would be the winner with three rounds. But it just depends on what your focus is. Both cities are so diverse and show a different perspective on Russia. If you have limited time, then you should go to Moscow. The Red Square itself is a real hotspot and offers tons of thing to do and see. But if time is no problem and you’d like to wander around, then I’d say go to Saint Petersburg. The excess of palaces, churches and cathedrals makes it a city to discover for days and days. You can easily spend a long weekend here.
Moscow vs. Saint Petersburg: which city would you choose?