The Fontanka river is one of 93 rivers and canals in St. Petersburg with a length of nearly seven kilometers and is located in the city center. The canal is a left side arm of the huge Neva river and functioned as a water-source for the many fountains in the Summer Garden from where it got its name. Even after most fountains got destroyed in 1777 in a flood the river retained its name and currently the canal flows below 15 bridges connecting the city.
In the past the Fontanka river marked the southern border of St. Petersburg and was one of the main routes through the city leading from the Summer Garden to the Gulf of Finland. For this reason many draw bridges were constructed over the canal in order to let ships with high masts pass. Starting from 1780 the canal was straightened as well as an embankment of granite was laid. As the canal is not very deep and reaches only a maximum of 3.5 meters, heavier modern ships can not use it anymore and therefore the draw-mechanisms where removed.
Many people who visit St. Petersburg in summer decide to do a boat trip on the canals of the city to experience the cities grandeur from the water. Travelling on the Fontanka river is especially beautiful as the embankment is filled with architectural masterpieces such as mansions, palaces from the Russian nobility as well as the Church of St. Panteleimon. An alternative to a boat trip would be walking from the Nevsky Prospekt up on the Fontanka river embankments to the summer palace which takes around 15 minutes. On this walk you can see beautiful buildings and monuments such as the Anichkov Palace and Bridge, the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, the Mikhailovsky Castle, the Shuvalov Palace (which houses the famous Fabergé Museum), the Sheremetev Palace, the Ciniselli Circus (first brick-built circus in Russia)
In winter the canals usually freeze over and it is a popular attraction for the locals to have a walk on them in the evening. While walking on a frozen river at night in the midst of grand buildings covered in snow can be quite romantic please be careful while doing so and make sure beforehand that it is safe to go on the river.
You can book a trip on the canals from a variety of providers either online or on the spot at some of the small ports in the city.
There are many bridges over the canals, which are at times pretty low. We would recommend you to stay seated at all times until you reach the Neva river. If you stand make sure to always look into the direction the boat is going. Every year there are reports of visitors who got surprised by a bridge and had to seek a hospital after getting hit.
If you choose to walk along the Fontanka River from Nevsky Prospekt to the Summer Garden you can find the restaurant Pelmenya on your way, which we quite enjoy. It is a lower budget restaurant specialised on delicious Russian Pelmeni as well as different kinds of dumplings. When we go there with a group of friends we usually order the whole menu in order to try everything.
We can organise a private boat tour for you and your group with catering included. Please click here to see more information about this option.