How many islands does St.Petersburg stand on?

By on August 20, 2013
St.Petersburg Islands

Exploring the banks of the Neva River, which empties into the Gulf of Finland, Tsar Peter the Great was more passionate about Russia having access to the sea than good land to build a city upon.

This area in the river’s delta was sparsely populated and swamped, with lots of islands and channels. The first city building – the Peter and Paul Fortress – was laid by Peter I on the Zayachy island. During the construction, the quantity of islands decreased three times; lots of channels were filled up.

Nowadays St. Petersburg is still partially situated on islands; their total area is about 80 km ², which is 6% of the whole city area. More than 700,000 people live on the islands.

150 years ago there were more than 100 islands in Saint Petersburg. Today it is not easy to claim the exact number. Commonly, about 33 islands and Kronstadt Archipelago in the Gulf of Finland are mentioned. Others say there are 42. Most of the islands are located in the west and northwest part of the city. Vasilyevsky Island is the most significant and together with Dekabristov island, it makes up the entire Vasileostrovsky administrative district of St. Petersburg.

There are other big islands in the city too: Kotlin (hosts Kronstadt), Bezymianny, Petrogradsky and Aptekarsky. Infrastructure of these islands is highly developed. Gutuevsky Island is occupied by the St. Petersburg Seaport.

Krestovsky, Elagin and Kamenny Islands in St.Petersburg are almost entirely kept for the leisure of tourists and citizens, which is quite uncommon for other Russian cities. Krestovsky is a popular place for outdoor activities and extreme sports. Elagin island is for culture lovers and those who prefer relaxing walks. Petrovsky is a “sporty” one: there you can find the city’s main Petrovsky Stadium, Yubileyny Sports Palace, water sports and the like. The Summer Garden (Letny Sad) is an island as well!

A lot of St. Petersburg islands face the Baltic sea on the west. So walking in a park, you can suddenly find yourself at an island beach, on a pier or boarding a river taxi.

Sometimes tourists forget they might get stuck on an island for the whole night because of drawbridges. The drawbridge schedule is changing every year. It’s a good idea to print it out and have it with you every time you are out for a walk, to avoid being trapped on an island at 2 a.m.

The islands, abundance of water, access to the sea and strong western wind have created a unique portrait of St.Petersburg: a cold, sometimes dreary, but still very romantic city.

An unhealthy wet climate and difficult natural conditions have long been part of local legends and have provided the basis for literary and musical works.

Like no other Russian city, St Petersburg gave to the world geniuses of music, painting and literature. Authors often chose the city as a scene for their novels and glorified it in poems. Everything new in art emerges here on the banks of the cold Neva River, while treasures of the past are safely kept in the city’s museums.

Some statistics:

  • Inland waters occupy about 10% of the city
  • Number of rivers and streams – 40, their total length – 217.5 km
  • Number of bridges – more than 580, including drawbridges – 20 (7 across the Neva)
  • Length of the Neva within the city – 32 km

Number of floods in 300 years – 288; maximum water level in the city – 4.2 m

View on Vassily island from Neva River

City on Islands

bridge over Neva River

Translation by Ekaterina Klenkina
Edited by Erin Swanson

About Ekaterina Rezanova

I was born and live in this city, I breathe its moist air, cursing its climate and feeling immensely proud of the fact that I'm from St. Petersburg.


  1. Ann

    April 20, 2016 at 12:07 am

    Hi Ekaterina! When itvwould be the best time to see open bridges?

    • Polina Polyakova

      April 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      Is you mean season, I would recommend summer months. Though navigation starts from April and lasts till October. But if you want to see it from a excursion boat, better do it in summer when water and air is not so cold, It seemply feels more comfortable. Bridge opening times see hee

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