Scarlet Sails, or as it is called in Russian “Alye Parusa”, is one of the most popular European festivals that takes place in Saint Petersburg every June. Initially created as a celebration for Russian school graduates, over the time Scarlet Sails have become a tremendous event awaited by millions of people worldwide. Tourists from all over the world travel to St Petersburg specially to become a part of this occasion.

Wonderful water and light show on Neva during Scarlet Sails
Fascinating water and light show on Neva during the Scarlet Sails

Interesting facts

The well-known symbol of the festival is ship with red sails, just like the one described in the eponymous story “Scarlet Sails” by the Russian novelist Alexander Grin. The tale speaks about a young girl who was told to wait for a ship with scarlet sails that will take her away to the place where dreams come true. Once a young man saw that girl and fell in love with her, so he made the whole story of the ship come true.

Scarlet Sails is a festival that was initiated in June 27th, 1968 as a symbol of a new beginning for school graduates. The romantic atmosphere of the event was full of dreams, hope, expectations and love, and became so popular among its guests that made it a tradition. However, the celebration was paused in 1979 and restarted only in 2005.


Since then, the event takes place every year during the white nights in June. The show consists of two major parts: the concert on the Palace Square and the water show on the Neva river. While to attend the concert you need to have a special invitation, the water show is free for all.

As the number of spectators is enormous (1.5 – 3M people every year), it is necessary to get a great spot early enough. The show takes place for 25-30 minutes and includes all possible elements – fireworks and pyrotechnics, orchestrated music, water, and light. Surely, the culmination of the whole event is the appearance of the gorgeous ship with scarlet sails. The celebration is scheduled up to a minute, thereby, the ship has to move according to the plan.

Not many water vehicles can complete such a task. In 2019 the brig “Rossiya” will go along the Neva river and fascinate the city residents and guests. Whereas the concert on the Palace Square will start at 22:00 (entrance with a ticket), the show on water will begin at 00:40 (free entrance). Scarlet Sails 2019 is organized on the night of June 23rd-24th.

Don’t forget to take some warm clothes with you, as in the evening it’s getting a bit cool at the embankments of Neva. Have a great visit to St Petersburg and enjoy the celebration!

Let me know if you’d like to have a guided tour at any of the dates!