Last Updated on April 20, 2020 by Irena Domingo
St. Petersburg is a city of bridges. The opening and closing of the city’s drawbridges is a magnificent spectacle, especially during the White Nights season. In this article I’ll explain how to organize the visit to the bridges of St. Petersburg, both drawbridges and pedestrian bridges: schedules, night cruises, recommendations, etc.
I'm going to talk about ...
- 1. St. Petersburg, the city of bridges, rivers and canals
- 2. Drawbridges over the Neva River
- 2.1. Why do some St. Petersburg bridges open over the Neva River?
- 2.2. Opening schedule for the drawbridges of St. Petersburg
- 2.3. How to get a close up view of the opening of the drawbridges?
- 2.4. What are the drawbridges of St. Petersburg?
- 3. Bridges (non-drawbridge) over canals and tributaries
1. St. Petersburg, the city of bridges, rivers and canals
Known as the “Venice of the North”, St. Petersburg stands out because of its islands, canals and bridges that cross the Neva River with its tributaries and branches. Only a few are drawbridges for practical navigation requirements.
The figures are impressive: there are 342 bridges within the city limits, 5 in Kronstadt, 54 in Tsarskoye Selo, 51 in Peterhof, 16 in Pavlovsk and 7 in Oranienbaum.
The total length of these bridges, if we were to join them, would be about 16 kilometers.
Many of them are true works of art. The opening of some of them at dawn makes them even more impressive.
Each bridge has its own decorative motifs and artistic details, as well as its own functionalities, its history and its legends.
In this article I’ll tell you everything about the drawbridges of Saint Petersburg, as well as the opening schedules and recommendations for viewing them. I’ll also let you know which pedestrian bridges you should not miss.
2. Drawbridges over the Neva River
The drawbridges of St. Petersburg are probably the most spectacular, so much so that their opening at dawn has become a real tourist attraction of the city, with many night cruises sailing the Neva River to get a close up view of them opening.
2.1. Why do some St. Petersburg bridges open over the Neva River?
Many people think that drawbridges open for tourists. But the truth is that the bridges of St. Petersburg open at night to make way for the large tonnage vessels coming from the Volga heading towards the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea (or ships making the reverse journey).
So the Neva River is the last section of the Volga-Baltic canal built during the Soviet era for the passage of river boats from inland Russia to European ports.
Bear in mind that the Volga is navigable for most of its course, due to the enormous engineering work done to condition it during the Soviet era. A series of canals connect the river with the Baltic Sea, the Azov Sea, the Black Sea and Moscow. There are even river cruises that make the trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
While the drawbridges open at night, the rest of the day they remain closed to allow the passage of cars, trains, trams, cyclists and pedestrians. In short, the bridges are raised at night to hinder as little as possible the car traffic, which is very high during the day.
2.2. Opening schedule for the drawbridges of St. Petersburg
If you go out at night in the city it is important to know the bridge opening schedule because you might find one of these bridges open and you won’t be able to cross it. In that case, you will have to look for alternative routes on other bridges that are still open.
To find out the bridge opening schedules, it is best to check the website of Mostotrest, the government agency that manages the maintenance of the city’s bridges and other public infrastructure, such as tunnels or pedestrian crossings.
On Mostotrest you can see the opening and closing schedules of the bridges. Just access the main page of this website to see the bridge schedules one by one for each day. For example, in this screenshot you can see the opening schedule of the Palace Bridge:
Regarding the opening schedules, it is important to bear in mind the following:
- While some bridges open and close only once at night (for example, from 1:20 to 4:50), other bridges (such as the Palace Bridge) open and close twice during the night, so that after the first opening (for example, at 1:10), there is a closing (at 2:50) to let cars cross the bridge, and then there is the second opening (3:10) and closing (4:55).
- Since the bridges are opened for ships to pass through, some bridges may close earlier than expected if the last ship has already passed through. For this same reason, it is also possible that there might not be a second opening.
- There are days when bridges may not open. For example, I am writing this article on May 1, and as you can see in the screenshot above, the bridges do not open because it is a public holiday and no ships pass through. This may also happen on other important days such as St. Petersburg Day (May 27) or the night of the Scarlet Sails Festival.
- Since the Neva River is frozen in winter, ships sail only from the end of April to November.
- There are 12 drawbridges in St. Petersburg; however, there are only 9 of them that open regularly while the remaining three only do so upon request.
At this link you also have a table with the opening hours of the bridges (in Russian): https://mostotrest-spb.ru/razvodka-mostov.
In any case, here are the opening schedules of the drawbridges of St. Petersburg:
2.3. How to get a close up view of the opening of the drawbridges?
I assure you that it’s worth going to bed a little later than usual in order to enjoy the amazing spectacle of the opening of the gates on the bridges of the city.
Although the bridges usually open more or less from April to November, to enjoy them with all their magic in perfect harmony with White Nights will only be possible from the end of May to the first half of July.
You can see the opening of the city’s two main bridges in two ways: on foot or on a night cruise.
To enjoy the experience to the maximum it is important to take clothes to wrap up (even if it is summer) and some food and drink, just in case. You also need to be careful with pirate taxis that offer their services after the opening of bridges has ended that may charge abusive fares. Beware of pickpockets too, especially in crowded places.
The two most central and popular drawbridges are the Palace Bridge (Dvortsoviy Most) and the Trinity Bridge (Troitsky Most).
The majority of visitors crowd the Palace Embankment (Dvortsovaya Embankment) or the Admiralty Embankment (Admiralteyskaya Embankment) to get a close up view of the raising of the Palace Bridge at 1:10. After the opening of this bridge, many people run quickly to see the opening of the Trinity Bridge close up (at 1:20), although most of them do not get there because the distance between one bridge and the other is more than 1 kilometer.
A better option for avoiding crowds is to see the opening of the two bridges from a place equidistant from both (around Palace Embankment 28).
On a cruise
But if you want to get a very close view of the opening of these two bridges, the best and most comfortable option is to do so on a night cruise.
In addition, on the boat cruise it is very nice to see the night lights of the city’s monuments and cathedrals: the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Hermitage or St. Michael’s Castle, surrounded by canals.
A night cruise to see the bridges of the city being raised can cost from about 800 rubles. Here are some cruises that you can book directly at the following links:
- Petersburg: night-time boat tour under the drawbridges
- 2-hour drawbridges tour
- Drawbridges night cruise
2.4. What are the drawbridges of St. Petersburg?
In St. Petersburg there are 13 mobile bridges. Below, I’ll tell you about the 9 that open on a regular basis, although the two bridges that stand out above all are the two already mentioned: the Palace Bridge and the Trinity Bridge.
This map shows the location of the 9 drawbridges that open on a regular basis:
A very central and famous bridge by which you can access Vassilievsky Island, very close to St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Hermitage Museum. It has a lot of traffic, but its great views of the surrounding areas more than make up for this.
250 meters long, it dates back to 1916 and has seen renovation and important additions, the last one in 1977. It is an unavoidable space that has to be crossed to access some of the city’s most important attractions.
Its two wings rise at a 45º angle, letting through the merchant fleet, with views of the S.S. Peter and Paul Cathedral in the background. Technically, its opening is one of the most perfect.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/dvorczovyj
- Opening schedule: 1:10 – 2:20 / 3:10 – 4:55
Constructed by French builders between 1897 and 1903 at the time of Nicholas II, it is a symbol of a military alliance between Russia and France during that period. The initial intention was for it to be built by the renowned Gustave Eiffel (yes, the one who built the famous Paris tower), who won a contest for that purpose, but in the end his design was not implemented.
The year of its inauguration, 1903, coincided with the city’s 200th anniversary. It was renovated between 1965 and 1967.
It is a wide and really long bridge, measuring 582 meters, which had incorporated decorative elements of the Art Nouveau style. The Peter and Paul Fortress is very close by.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/troiczkij
- Opening schedule: 1:20 – 4:50
Annunciation or Blagoveshchenskiy Bridge
St. Petersburg’s first big permanent bridge over the Neva River (not over a canal). It dates back to 1850 and stands out for its ornate wrought- iron work.
As a point of interest, it’s worth noting that it became the longest bridge in Europe.
It connects Vasilievsky Island and the city center. It is 24 meters wide and 331 meters long, at a point where the Neva is 280 meters wide.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/blagoveshhenskij
- Opening schedule: 2:00 – 4:55
Foundry or Liteiny Bridge
Completed in 1879, it was rebuilt in 1967 and expanded to accommodate six lanes of traffic. A utility bridge that boasts no decorations.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/litejnyjv
- Opening schedule: 1:40 – 4:45
Exchange (or Birzhevoy) Bridge
What stands out here is the reinforced concrete with several pillars, but there are also interesting decorations such as the cast iron railings that incorporate nautical motifs.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/birzhevoj
- Opening schedule: 2:00 – 4:55
Connects the districts of Petrogradsky and Vasileostrovsky. It was originally a wooden bridge in 1758. It is not an ornamental bridge and the current one was built between 1962 and 1965. However, its opening is also worth it.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/tuchkov
- Opening schedule: 2:00 – 2:55 / 3:35 – 4:55
Away from the city center in the Smolny area and opened in 1911, it has two large arched iron structures. It stands out for its exterior architecture and its beautiful Norman towers shaped like a lighthouse.
Its lifting mechanism allows the central section, measuring 14 meters, to open in just half a minute.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/bolsheohtinskij-most
- Opening schedule: 2:00 – 5:00
This bridge was built at the beginning of the 30s in the last century and is not central, since it is located in the southwest part of the city.
It is quite long, about 325 meters. The lifting device reaches 43 meters. Very functional, it serves to decongest urban traffic.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/volodarskij
- Opening schedule: 2:00 – 3:45 / 4:15 – 5:45
Alexander Nevsky Bridge
It is situated next to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. It is also not central and was completed in 1965.
Absolutely functional design and not noteworthy, except for its length of 906 meters that up until 2004 made it the longest bridge in the city. It was surpassed by the Great Obukhovsky Bridge.
It accommodates six lanes of traffic and has beautiful lighting.
- Website: https://en.mostotrest-spb.ru/bridges/aleksandra-nevskogo
- Opening schedule: 2:20 – 5:10
3. Bridges (non-drawbridge) over canals and tributaries
St. Petersburg is also distinguished by the large number of canals and tributaries that cross it, with many smaller bridges, some of which allow vehicular traffic, while others are footbridges. Some of these bridges are authentic works of art that should not be missed.
These bridges can be visited on a walking tour or, better still, they may be seen up close on one of the numerous cruises that sail on the canals of the city:
- Petersburg: boat tour of the «Venice of the North»
- Imperial St. Petersburg: 1-day boat trip
- Cruise through St. Petersburg with the option of visiting the Fabergé Museum
Be careful on these cruises because on some bridges you have to keep your head down:
Next, I’ve selected the 4 bridges that should not be missed, although during your visit to the city you will cross many other bridges. At this link you have a list of all the bridges with photos: https://mostotrest-spb.ru/bridge-type/peshehodnye-mosty
On this map you can see the location of these 4 bridges:
3.1. Pedestrian bridges over the Griboyedov Canal
This is a lovely little pedestrian bridge over the Griboyedov Canal, located behind the Kazan Cathedral and very close to Nevsky Avenue. Built between 1825 and 1826.
It is decorated with striking and very original griffins (mythological creatures) with golden wings, which have made it famous. The work of Pavel Sokolov, there are two on each side of the bridge. The top half of their body is an eagle, and the bottom half a lion. It’s an architectural gem.
Bridge of Four Lions
Focal point of St. Petersburg’s tourism, also located over the Griboedov Canal. It is a small pedestrian bridge like the one above, so don’t confuse them. Instead of griffins you will find lions, also from the same creator, P. Solokov. It was built in 1826.
Like the Bank Bridge, it is a very popular and valued setting for photographs.
3.2. Bridges over the Fontanka River
This bridge crosses the Fontanka River along Nevsky Avenue, one of the main arteries of the city. It allows the passage of cars and pedestrians.
It contains four incredible statues of horses tamed by a human being, which were installed on the bridge in 1851. These were the work of Pyotr Klodt, who also sculpted the equestrian statue of Nicholas I in St. Isaac’s Square and the amazing quadriga above the portico of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.
In World War II its four statues were buried in lands next to the Anichkov Palace to protect them from the German bombings
Not far from the Anichkov Bridge. The original bridge was built between 1785 and 1787. It is a bridge with Doric-style towers or rustic pavilions which used to be typical in the city during the 18th century. It also allows the passage of cars and pedestrians.
Initially called the Tchernyshov Bridge, in 1948 it was renamed the Mikhail Lomonosov Bridge, after the founder of the first Russian university in 1755, the Moscow State University, which today bears his name.
As you’ve seen in this article, if you visit Saint Petersburg you must get a close up view of its drawbridges and its beautiful pedestrian bridges over the canals.
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