Travellers' guide: St Petersburg

Travellers' guide: St Petersburg

Wed, 06/04/2011 - 13:39
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Dr Liz's travel weather column appears in the travel section of the Saturday Independent

St Petersburg

St Petersburg is situated along the shores of the Neva Bay in the Gulf of Finland and experiences a continental climate that is moderated somewhat by the Baltic Sea. The city is positioned at latitude 60°N and experiences a huge variation in daylight hours during the year, ranging from six to 19 hours a day. Twilight may last all night in early summer, from mid-May to mid-July, and this celebrated event is known as the white nights.

St Petersburg experiences warm, humid and short summers. The average daily temperature in July is 22°C, while the record sits at 37°C, set during last summer's heatwave. Hot sunny days are not rare, but you never know when it is going to rain. The locals have a good sense of humour about their summers and joke that they may have 'missed summer this year as I was working that day'. July is the hottest month of the year and temperatures start to fall away by the middle of August. It is only frost-free in the city for about four months of the year. Summer tends to be the most popular time to travel to St Petersburg.

The winter in St Petersburg is long and cold, but then the winter is long and cold across most of Russia. Temperatures regularly fall as low as -12ºC but it is not unusual to record –20ºC on the thermometer. The River Neva, which passes through the city, usually freezes up during the winter and it can take until April before its starts to thaw. Biting Arctic winds and snowfall make it a harsh climate outside but the heating inside buildings can make it hard to know what to wear – the best advice to take lots of layers. And an umbrella. It rains or snows on average 190 days each year. Part of the city is no higher than 4m above sea level, and has suffered from numerous floods. The St Petersburg Dam, which has been under construction since 1979, was built to prevent flooding in the city.

The weather during spring and autumn are quite variable and very dependent on the wind direction. From early April, temperatures start to rise above 0ºC and the snow and ice starts to disappear. It can remain chilly until the middle of May when the strength of the sun becomes more noticeable. The start of autumn remains reasonably warm with the average temperature for September being 12ºC but by mid-October it begins to feel chilly as temperature creep back down towards freezing.