Moscow VS Saint Petersburg: The Biggest Differences

Kamilia Safiulina will tell us what differes Saint Petersburg from Moscow and how she sees this difference.

Moscow VS Saint Petersburg: The Biggest Differences

In Russia there is a “rivalry” between Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. As someone says: Moscow is a heart; Saint-Petersburg is a head. Indeed, two the biggest city in our country are so different, I can confirm this.

I got my bachelor degree in Saint Petersburg State University. I have lived in this city for almost 4 years. And trust me, it became so dear to me, I got many friends, I known almost every corner of Saint Petersburg.

Then, I became student of HSE and moved out in Moscow to get my master degree. I was really impressed how big and different Moscow was.

Residents of both cities like to travel to each other city, for example for weekend or holidays. Including HSE students, especially foreign students, who want to explore and learn more about Russia. So, I write this guide about the difference between two cities, so you can decide, whether you want to visit Moscow or Saint Petersburg and what can you expect. Let’s find out!


Let’s start with the thing that everyone can notice. Saint Petersburg is full of palaces and classical architecture. There are lots of incredible fountains, statues, museums. When you are walking around streets of Saint Petersburg, you can easily feel as a fairytale character. I personally fell in love with this city, when I walked along Nevskiy Prospekt. I decided immediately, that I was going to live there. 
At the same time, Moscow features more Soviet architecture. Almost everywhere you can see skyscrapers, malls, too many cars. Our capital can impress with its magnificence.  

Art and Culture

Saint Petersburg is called one of the most cultural cities not only in Russia, but in the entire world. Of course, all citizen love their city, and all would fiercely defend the benefits of their home over the other, but in general, residents of Petersburg are more in tune with their surroundings and have a deeper appreciation for the art and culture of their city. They visit museums and attend operas and ballets more often. And of course, residents of Saint Petersburg like to call their city the “window to Europe”. No surprise, that it feels more European than the actual capital of Russia. On the other hand, Moscow is closer to the Asian mentality – more competitive spirit, more group psychology.


City layout is different – just look at the map. Moscow is dominated by rings and narrow winding streets. Petersburg has a more grid-like pattern with rivers and canals. Moscow is more open compared to Saint Petersburg with its rows of imperial facades. Moscow is more confusing for newcomers with the feeling of constantly moving in circles, while Petersburg has a simpler, more navigable layout.


For us, students, metro is a daily part of life. And trust me, there is a big difference between metro in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. The layout of metro and the format of signs and maps is completely different.

Metro in Saint Petersburg is deeper than in Moscow. For the record, average depth in Moscow’s metro is about 24 meters; in Saint Petersburg – 57 meters. However, there are more stations in Moscow: 15 lines and about 274 stations. This number is growing. While Saint Petersburg has only 5 lines and 69 stations.
As for me, Petersburg has more stylish and understandable metro, than Moscow. I don’t even talk about good condition of trains (even the old ones) and every station looks like architecture masterpiece in Petersburg. Also, as I say, SPb’s metro is really small: in 4 years that I’ve lived in Petersburg, I remembered every station in every line. I do not yet know the names of Moscow metro stations.


The center of both cities is very tourist friendly and pretty easy to navigate, but Petersburg has more English on signs, more restaurants and shops advertising “We speak English!” and “Menu in English, French, and Spanish”. At peak tourist seasons, Nevsky Prospekt is clogged with merchants selling magnets and ushankas (Russian traditional winter hats), actors dressed in 18th century clothing, and people calling out boat tours and suburban excursions. And all that goes every time. No matter what season it is, there would be many groups of tourists. Every time when I walk around Hermitage or Nevsky Prospekt, I hear speeches of Chinese, Germans, Swedish, and Spanish tourists. I’m pretty sure that thanks to these guys ordinary resident of Saint Petersburg has better English than resident of Moscow.


Both cities are attractive to immigrants from all over the world. A significant portion of inhabitants are not originally from Moscow or Saint Petersburg and thus may have a very different mentality. Being the capital, Moscow has many more opportunities for work in government, certain business sectors, and international companies, so people often come to Moscow for this purpose, whereas in Saint Petersburg most of the residents are there because they choose that city, because they want to be there.

One of the biggest stereotypes about the residents of two cities is that people from Petersburg are more polite and cultural, and people from Moscow are more arrogant. That’s not true. I think, it all depends on people. There can be good people and bad people. And most of the residents of both cities are nice and intelligent.

So, there you are. I wrote about my understanding the difference between the biggest cities of Russia. And no matter, which city you prefer, we can agree, that both are unique and beautiful.

Text by 
Kamilia Safiullina