The White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg is celebrated from June 12 to July 2. The holiday name comes from the white nights period. St. Petersburg gets almost 24 hours of sunlight a day between May and July. Locals and tourists throng the festival in their thousands, watching galas, fireworks, and live performances. The Saint Petersburg City Administration organizes all cultural and entertainment events, including ballet, opera, and classical music. The summer event attracts the best of Russia’s, and the world’s entertainers.
History of White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg
The White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, also known as the Star of the White Nights Festival, was started by Anatoly Sobchak in 1993. Sobchak was the first mayor of St. Petersburg, and during his tenure, the city evolved into Russia’s cultural and sporting hub. As part of his initiative to develop the city, he developed the idea of a holiday to celebrate Russian culture, especially art and entertainment. The festival had a series of classical ballet and music, opera, and other events at the Mariinsky Theater and Mariinsky Concert Hall.
The Scarlet Sails celebration is the final and best-attended part of the White Nights Festival. It is the most famous public event in St. Petersburg. The spectacular fireworks displays and elaborate performances bring the city to a standstill. The Scarlet Sails — ‘Alye Parusa’ in Russian — has been around since the 1960s and began after World War II when schools in Russia united to celebrate the end of their academic year. The celebration organized in their honor took place on the Neva banks in St. Petersburg. The practice was stopped in 1979 but was revived decades later on June 24, 2005.
In 1990, the White Nights International Marathon and 10K Run through the streets of St. Petersburg became part of the festivities. Over 5,000 runners participated in these events each year, which helped promote the city’s status as Russia’s sports capital. The White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg has grown in popularity across Europe, with other E.U. nations introducing their versions of the holiday to their citizens.
White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg timeline
After the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the city of Leningrad is renamed, St. Petersburg.
Anatoly Sobchak, the first mayor of St. Petersburg, introduces the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg to Russia.
St. Petersburg celebrates the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding.
The Rolling Stones perform at the Palace Square during the 2007 White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg celebrations.
White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg FAQs
Why are there white nights in St. Petersburg?
St. Petersburg stands at such a high altitude that the sun never descends below the horizon long enough for the sky to get dark.
Does Moscow have white nights?
No, Moscow does not experience any kind of white nights.
Why is the White Nights Festival important?
The festival is famous for its fireworks and the Scarlet Sails, a show that celebrates the end of the school year.
White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg Activities
Read “Scarlet Sails”
Written by Alexander Grin in 1922, “Scarlet Sails” is a Russian classic about adventure and romance at sea. It’s also the inspiration for the Scarlet Sails celebrations during the White Nights Festival.
Raise a toast
Celebrating a Russian holiday without vodka is like having a Thanksgiving dinner with no turkey. Wherever you are, raise a toast to the city of St. Petersburg.
Blini for breakfast
‘Blini’ are Russian pancakes. Unlike American pancakes, blini isn’t sweet, and you can add any filling you like. Traditional Russian pancakes get topped with caviar and salmon.
5 Stunning Facts About St. Petersburg
World’s deepest metro
St. Petersburg’s metro tunnels are the deepest globally, lying at 70 to 80 meters.
Russia’s highest cathedral
The Peter and Paul Cathedral is the highest in Russia, with a bell tower measuring roughly 401 feet.
The city of cats
After World War II, St. Petersburg drafted 5,000 cats to deal with a plague of rodents, and you can still see cats around in places like the Hermitage Museum, where dozens of them reside.
The mysterious monument
A small bird statue locals call Chizhik-Pyzhik got stolen seven times but is always returned to its rightful place; tourists throw coins at the statue hoping their wishes come true.
There are 800 bridges in St. Petersburg, and 12 of them are movable.
Why We Love White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg
Nature’s haunting beauty
The allure of the White Nights Festival is in the stillness of the white skies. The sun never sets, and the city never sleeps. It’s beautiful in an eerie, haunting way.
Russia’s cultural hub
Moscow is Russia’s capital, but St. Petersburg is the nation’s cultural and spiritual axis. The festival promotes the city’s museums, concert halls, and theaters.
Highlighting arts and culture
The White Nights Festival showcases the finest of Russian classical music, ballet, and art. It promotes a positive image of the country through its entertainment and culture.
White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg dates