During the major holiday periods - the first week in January (between New Year's Day and Orthodox Christmas) and the first week or two of May (around May Day and Victory Day) - St Petersburg empties out as many residents retreat from the city for much-needed vacations. Transport is often difficult to book around these periods, but accommodation is usually not a problem. Although many residents leave, the city is a festive place over New Year's and during the May holidays, usually hosting parades, concerts and other events in honour of the holidays. The downside is that many museums and other institutions have shortened hours or are closed altogether during these holiday periods.

By contrast, the Stars of White Nights Festival was designed with tourists in mind: theatres, museums and other institutions often host special events between late May and early July to appeal to the massive influx of visitors during this period. If you are visiting St Petersburg at this time, book your travel and accommodation in advance and expect to pay top rates. In August there are still plenty of tourists around, but residents tend to retreat from the city to recover. Many theatres close for the month of August, as do some of the smaller museums and galleries.

See p16 for an extensive list of special events in the city.

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