It is quite hard to give a precise definition of what climate in Russia is like. So we will give you just a general info about the country’s weather conditions and give you a more detailed description of the climate in St. Petersburg.
Russia’s climate is almost universally continental, although it increases from west to east as the Atlantic Ocean’s influence decreases. The climate of East Siberia is severely continental while the northern areas have an arctic climate. In the southern areas of the Far East, the climate is influenced by the Pacific Ocean resulting in moderately warm and rainy summer conditions while winter is cold with little snow. Throughout Russia, winters are cold while summers are hot in the south and relatively warm elsewhere. Snow cover lasts from 60 to 80 days in the south and from 260 to 280 days in the Far North. Rainfall is highest in the westerly mountain regions while on the East European Plain it is quite low.
Many people believe the weather in St. Petersburg to be one of the unpleasant moments here. It has even inspired a series of jokes like the following: “Have you had a summer in Saint Petersburg this year?” “Yes, we have, but I was working that day.” Still, things are not so bad. All the seasons, from frosty winters to sunny summers, in Saint Petersburg have their own charm.
Saint Petersburg lies in the temperate continental climatic zone. The weather fluctuates so much that in a single day the temperature may vary from –20ºC to +5ºC in winter and from +15ºC to +30ºC in summer. The average in January is –10ºC and in June is +18ºC. If you measure temperature in Farenheit, click here for temperature conversion tool (link opens in new window). But the numbers are useless because the seasonal temperature is so changeable that winters, for example, may range from harsh ones, with the temperature reaching –30ºC, to extremely warm periods, when the temperature does not fall beyond +1ºC. The same with the summer. The truly poor feature of the Saint-Petersburg climate is its high clouds. The average total amount of sunny days is only 75 days per year, most of which fall within summer. Still, the location at low latitude makes Saint Petersburg a place of many magnificent phenomena. Daylight hours during the year fluctuate amazingly: from 5 hours and 52 minutes in winter to 18 hours and 53 minutes in summer, when the twilight merges with the dawn. This mystic thing, poetically called the White Nights, makes Saint Petersburg the only city in the world with bright sleepless summer nights when people walk across the city enjoying its captivating beauty.
Winter in Saint Petersburg is long like in most of Russia. Temperatures as low as –12ºC are normal, and –20ºC is not unusual. The average winter temperature is -8ºC. The Neva Riva freezes between November 25 and December 5, and the ice is gone only by mid-April.
Spring can be quite long. From early April, temperatures are above 0ºC, and by April 15 all the snow has normally melted. One should be prepared for some chilly rainy days, but it can get quite warm from mid-May and on.
Summer varies from year to year, but generally temperatures are somewhere near +20-25ºC. You ought to have some clear days to enjoy the White Nights. Hot sunny days are not rare, but you never know when it is going to rain. July is the hottest month of the year. Then it usually starts getting a bit cooler in mid-August. The highest temperature ever recorded in the city was +33.6ºC.
Autumn (feel free to call it Fall) starts with reasonably warm days in mid-September, but by mid-October it is often quite chilly. The average September temperature is 11.8ºC, and the average October temperature is 4.9ºC. In November it might start to snow, but sometimes it does not snow until mid-December.
Clothes. What should I take with me to be prepared for any weather?
Whatever the season, it is wise to bring your umbrella and a windproof raincoat or jacket. You will do a lot of walking in St. Petersburg, so think carefully about footwear. Depending on the time of year, you will need warm boots with a non-slip sole, waterproof boots/shoes, comfortable sandals. In Winter it can get very cold outside, but hotels and homes are reasonably well heated, which makes it a good idea to dress in layers. In Spring it might be chilly at times, but in mid-May it gets warmer. You can wear shorts in Summer, though shorts might prevent you from entering churches. Bring a sweater or light jacket for those chilly evenings. It is in Autumn that you are most likely to use your umbrella and waterproof boots, though a Russian version of an Indian Summer (around mid-September) can be mild and fairly dry.