Travellers to Petersburg were well-warned to study the customs of the city before arriving. In the mid 1870's John Murray published the following advice in his "Handbook for Travellers in Russia, Poland and Finland". Most of this was still true in 1900:
"Winter is the season for gaieties in Russia. Travellers with letters of introduction will find the salons of St. Petersburg as brilliant as those of Paris, but they are unfortunately not many. There is no dancing during the forty days that precede Easter. Christmas and the Carnival are the gayest periods. Two or three court balls are then given, and 'distinguished strangers' who have been presented at home will sometimes receive invitations after having been presented to H.I.M. through their own Embassy or Legation.
It is necessary to wear a uniform at court. French is the language spoken in society, but English is generally understood. Strangers are expected to make the first call, which is returned either in person or by card. In leaving cards on persons who are not at home, one of the edges of the card should be turned up. It is necessary to leave a card next day on any person to whom the stranger may have been introduced at a party. Those who are introduced to the stranger will observe the same politeness. Great punctuality is exacted at St. Petersburg in the matter of leaving cards and entertainments and introductions. Visiting on New Year's Day may be avoided by giving a small contribution to the charitable institutions of the city, which will be duly acknowledged in the newspapers.
No presents are given to servants, except at New Year and Easter, when the porters of much-frequented houses will offer their congratulations in anticipation of a donation of 1 to 5 rubles, according to the number of visits paid. The hours for calling are 3 to 5 P.M.; dinner parties are generally convened for 6 or 6:30 P.M.; and receptions commence at about 10 P.M., and last very late. Guests are expected to be punctual where members of the Imperial Family are invited. Ladies wishing to pass a 'season' at St. Petersburg should recollect that Russian ladies dress very richly and in great taste. The charges of dressmakers at St. Petersburg being exorbitant, it is advisable to come provided with all the necessary toilettes. At balls, the only dance in which the stranger will not at first be able to join is the Mazurka, a kind of cotillon imported from Poland. It is also necessary to observe the partners are not engaged for the whole of a waltz or polka, but only for a turn.
In summer there are generally two or three salons out of town open for evening receptions. Ladies can in summer wear robes montants, and gentlemen light trousers and white waistcoats, with dress coats. The same costume is worn at dinner parties in summer.
Travellers should not forget that a Russian invariably takes off his hat whenever he enters an apartment, however humble, or a shop; and an omission to pay this respect to the holy image suspended in the corner of every room will immediately be noticed and will hurt the feelings of the host or hostess. Topcoats must always be removed on entering Russian houses, as a point of etiquette and politeness. It is scarcely necessary to add that galoshes should likewise be removed on entering a house.