Alye Parusa - Scarlet Sails

25 June 22:00 - 26 June 01:30 ca.
Palace Square and Neva Embankment.

One of the most emblematic events of the city, Alye Parusa ("The Scarlet Sails") is a St. Petersburg tradition which, with some interruptions, has been repeated since the Fifties at the end of every scholastic year.

  • Alye Parusa - Scarlet sails and silver-coloured fireworks in St. Petersburg, Russia
    Scarlet sails and silver-coloured fireworks
  • Fireworks over Neva River during the Scarlet Sails festival in St. Petersburg, Russia
    Fireworks over Neva River during the Scarlet Sails festival
  • A ship with scarlet sails in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia
    A ship with scarlet sails in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress
  • Spectators on a bridge enjoying Scarlet Sails festivities in St. Petersburg, Russia
    Spectators on a bridge enjoying Scarlet Sails festivities

It is a celebration for students graduating high school, but it is not just school leavers who enjoy the festivities, with hundreds of thousands of revelers of all ages gathering along the embankments of the Neva River to enjoy the spectacle, and continuing the street party into the early hours of the next morning. On the night of 25 June this year, the Swedish brig Tre Kronor will don full scarlet rig and sail along the Neva, accompanied by a grand fireworks display and a host of other entertainments.


The ship with scarlet sails is drawn from a tale by Soviet fantasy author Alexander Grin about a young girl with modest prospects for life who lives in a sleepy fishing village but dreams of seeing the world. One day she is told by a wizard that a ship with red sails will come and take her away; on recounting this prophesy to the people around her, she is scorned and ostracized, but she continues to believe the old man's words. One day, a nobleman's son and merchant ship captain passing through the village, sees her from a distance and falls in love with her; upon inquiring about her with the locals, he hears of her tale, and decides to make it come true, so as to get her to sail away with him.

Thus the ship with scarlet sails floating along the Neva each year represents an allegoric encouragement to young people to believe in their dreams. For most school leavers, however, the symbolism of the event is less important than the opportunity to celebrate their liberation from school rules and restrictions and their entry into adult life. Alongside the central spectacle of a red-rigged tall ship navigating the Neva with accompanying fireworks, the festivities also include a range of free musical and theatrical performances on open-air stages on Palace Square and Nevsky Prospekt, as well as general revelry throughout the area that can go on well in to the next morning. In recent years, estimates for crowd size have regularly topped a million, making Alye Parusa second only to the New Year in terms of public celebrations in St. Petersburg. Consumption of alcohol is also a key element of the party, so expect a fairly rowdy atmosphere, especially as the night progresses.


25 June 2016 22:00 - Theatrical performances on Palace Square.

The theme of this year's performances will revolve around bridges, one of the most important symbols of St. Petersburg.

26 June 00:40 - Fireworks on the Neva (fired from Troitsky Bridge), passing of the ship.


Free / public event.


Given that Alye Parusa is a party night for high school students, the revelries can get a little out of hand, and the crowds are always massive along the Neva embankments; it is therefore advisable to avoid Palace Square and the areas around it, especially further into the night, and instead to watch the ship and fireworks from a safe vantage point, preferably in the comfort of a cafe or restaurant or, best of all, from a private boat on the Neva River.

Where to watch

The Neva Embankment near Palace Square and Troitsky Bridge, as well as the tip of Vasilievsky Island, will certainly be crowded, so it is best to arrive there early to get a good spot. Other good vantage points are the beach in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Hermitage Bridge, and the Birzhevoy Bridge. If, however, you would prefer to avoid jostling through crowds, there are a few restaurants with a good view on the water:

There are many other terrace bars, restaurants and private roofs in Saint Petersburg from where the fireworks can be seen, but these are the ones closest to the happening - and therefore it is also recommended to book a table as far in advance as possible.