So you've decided to celebrate New Year's Eve in Russia. For many Russian people, New Year's is the most important holiday of all the winter festivities and the celebrations are some of the biggest and best in the world. But where is the best place to welcome the New Year? The huge, crazy metropolis capital city of Moscow? Or the slightly quieter, beautiful, northern St. Petersburg? Both have fantastic New Year's celebrations. To help you decide, here are the pros and cons of both:
Both cities are going to be frigid on New Year's Eve—as you may be aware, Russian winters are notoriously harsh! However, while you will need to bring your warmest coat to Moscow, you might want to bring two, and lots of layers, to St. Petersburg. Winter temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) are normal in St. Petersburg, and 2011 saw the coldest New Year's night in 1000 years. Also, at this time of year, St. Petersburg experiences polar nights—almost 24-hour darkness. Moscow has short days, but you will still see daylight on New Year's Day — something to keep in mind, especially if you are expecting to be jet-lagged.
The Big City Square Celebration
In St. Petersburg's Dvortsovaya Square (right outside the Hermitage), you can experience a big crowd of people watching the President's address on a big screen, fireworks, champagne, and a huge celebration. Then, when you finally manage to get out of there, you can wander along the banks of the river Neva or walk down Nevsky Prospect to see if you can find a bar in which to warm up. Or you can go to the Strelka on Vasilyevski Island to watch the fireworks, then walk into the city afterward to see the celebrations.
In Moscow's Red Square, the celebration is much more epic. On the one hand, the atmosphere you will experience at Red Square is unparalleled. On the other hand, it's going to be extremely crowded—so avoid it if you don't deal well with huge crowds of people, because they're not all going to be polite (since most will be rather inebriated at this point).
Bars & Clubs
In both Moscow and St. Petersburg, the eating and drinking establishments are going to be packed. If you want to go for dinner on New Year's Eve in St. Petersburg, book a restaurant well in advance and if you want to go in Moscow, book EXTREMELY well in advance, especially if you want to go for dinner somewhere central. Also, know that in both cities the metro will be extremely crowded on New Year's Eve—although it will undoubtedly still be better to take the Metro than to brave the traffic in a taxi.
With regards to parties, Moscow will, again, be more crowded. If you want to attend a club party in Moscow, there is almost no chance that you will find tickets still available at the door (in St. Petersburg, you have a small chance.) Moscow clubs will have gigantic, lavish, and extravagant (and expensive!) club parties, whereas St. Petersburg parties will tend to be smaller and more intimate (they have a few huge clubs but less than Moscow). It may also be easier to find a bar with some space left in "Northern Capital of Rusia" than in Moscow.