48 Best Performing Arts Venues in St. Petersburg, Russia

Eifman Ballet Theater St. Petersburg

Fodor's choice

Psychological drama reigns here. Most of the ballets in the repertoire of this internationally acclaimed troupe—one of the only professional contemporary ballet company in St. Petersburg—have been inspired by the biographies of extraordinary Russians with a tragic fate or are based on Russian literature. A must-see is Red Giselle, which tells the story of the great Russian ballerina Olga Spessivtseva, who fled Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and spent 20 years in a psychiatric ward in New York. Also highly recommended are Anna Karenina, Tchaikovsky, and The Russian Hamlet, devoted to the doomed life of Russian tsar Paul I, who was murdered in Mikhailovsky Castle. The troupe, founded in the late 1970s, has no permanent home, and spends most of its time abroad. When here, the company usually performs at the Alexandrinsky Theater, the Mariinsky, or the Mikhailovsky Theater.

Maly Drama Theater

Vladimirskaya Fodor's choice

With a smattering of performances with English, French, and Italian subtitles, the MDT is home to one of the best theater companies in Russia and is well worth seeing. The repertoire includes productions of Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare, and Oscar Wilde. The theater is also one of the few companies in town to continue to stage the finest plays from the Soviet era. Seeing their whole repertoire has been compared to living through the entire 20th-century history of Russia. If you have a whole day to spare and lots of stamina, the nine-hour performance of Dostoyevsky's The Possessed makes for an incredible theatrical experience, although it can be a bit hard on the posterior and comes without translation. It takes two consecutive evenings to sit through the company's veteran show, Fyodor Abramov's Brothers and Sisters, but it's an great experience. Order tickets well in advance, because it's rare that the Maly plays to a less-than-packed house.

Mariinsky Theatre

Admiralteisky Fodor's choice

The names Petipa, Pavlova, Nijinsky, and Nureyev—and countless others associated with the theater and the birth of ballet in St. Petersburg—are enough to lure ballet lovers here from around the globe. The Mariinsky is without a doubt one of the best ballet companies in the world, with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of stars.

The Imperial Ballet School was founded here on May 4, 1738, by the order of Empress Anna Ioannovna, to be run by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Lande. French and Italian masters taught the first class of 12 boys and 12 girls. Works of another Frenchman, Marius Petipa, who arrived at the academy in 1847, still dominate the repertoire of the Mariinsky. Today the school is called the Vaganova Ballet Academy in honor of Agrippina Vaganova, who radically changed the way ballet was taught in Russia. The best students traditionally appear on the venerable Mariinsky stage around Christmas in The Nutcracker and then in May and June in graduation performances.

Between February and March, the company runs the impressive Mariinsky International Ballet Festival, which has at least one premiere and an array of guest performers from other renowned companies, such as London's Royal Ballet, Opera Bastille, and the American Ballet Theater.

The Mariinsky is also at the forefront of the world's opera companies, thanks largely to the achievements of the Mariinsky's artistic director, Valery Gergiev. The company's best operatic repertoire centers on Russian opera: Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, Prokofiev's Semyon Kotko, Shostakovich's The Nose, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, and The Snow Maiden are particularly recommended.

Operas are all sung in their original language; Russian operas are all provided with English subtitles, while Russian subtitles are given for foreign operas. Verdi can be hit-or-miss, but Wagner is one of Gergiev's greatest passions, and the company now feels very much at home with the composer. The orchestra's rapport with the conductor is amazing, and the sound is nuanced and powerful.

Ballet and opera share the calendar throughout the year; the opera and ballet companies both tour, but at any given time one of the companies is performing in St. Petersburg.

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Academic Capella

City Center

One of St. Petersburg's best-kept secrets is its oldest concert hall, dating to the 1780s and presenting choral events as well as symphonic, instrumental, and vocal concerts. Many famous musicians, including Glinka and Rimsky-Korsakov, have performed in this elegant space along the Moika, near the Alexander Pushkin Apartment Museum and the Winter Palace. The main entrance and the surrounding courtyards have been beautifully restored.

Alexandrinsky Theater

City Center

Russia's oldest theater opened in 1756 and is one of the country's most elegant and comfortable. Its repertoire is dominated by 19th-century classics but with prominent Moscow director Valery Fokin at the helm, the company is enjoying a prolonged renaissance and staging new productions that have been critically acclaimed. Fokin's interpretations of Dostoyevsky's The Double and Gogol's The Government Inspector are thought-provoking and engaging. The theater also hosts an international drama festival in the early summer.

Baltiisky Dom Festival Theater

Petrograd Side

An umbrella venue for a dozen experimental companies of various genres holds performances in its large hall and a variety of basements, attics, and backrooms. Once a full-fledged theater, it has turned into a modern art complex, where aspiring directors experiment with material by playwrights like Luigi Pirandello, Ivan Turgenev, and the Presnyakov Brothers. Each October the theater hosts an impressive four-week Baltic Theater Festival, attracting the best talent from the Baltic Sea region.

Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace

City Center

The former home of Prince Beloselsky-Belozersky, a rose-color neobaroque palace, has a large mirrored ballroom that hosts concerts.

Bolshoi Drama Theater

City Center

Known as BDT, this theater is one of the jewels in St. Petersburg's crown and with a repertoire that focuses on classics—from Chekhov and Ostrosky to Shakespeare and Albee—attracts Russia's top acting talent to its boards. With the appointment of one of Russia's most respected directors for the stage, Andrei Moguchi, as artistic director, big things are expected.

65 nab. Reki Fontanki, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191023, Russia

Bolshoi Puppet Theater


One of the oldest continuously operating children's theaters in Russia began at the start of the 20th century. The theater has delighted generations of Soviet and Russian children with its charming renditions of classics like The Ugly Duckling and The Nutcracker.

Children's and Youth Philharmonic

Vyborg Side

The theater is a bit out of the way but the symphony orchestra and puppet theater stage musicals and operas that both kids and adults can enjoy.

79 Bolshoi Sampsonievsky pr., St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 194156, Russia

Cultural Heritage Preservation Board

City Center

Cultural Heritage Preservation Board. If you buy any artwork in St. Petersburg, ask the shop to provide you with the necessary documentation to let you take it out of the country. If you're in any doubt, take the item to the Board for the Preservation of Cultural Valuables for assessment and to receive the relevant certificate. Prices depend on the item and how quickly you need the paperwork to be processed (usually three days) but are generally less than 1000R. 17 ul. Malaya Morskaya, City Center, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 190000. 812/571–0302. Metro: Admiralteyskay.

Early Music Festival

International soloists and ensembles gather for the festival, usually held late September through early October.

Erarta Contemporary Art Museum and Gallery

Vasilievsky Island

With 2,000 works by nearly 150 Russian artists on display, this mammoth five-floor complex is the country's largest contemporary art exhibition space. Conceived by Marina Varvarina, the widow of a powerful local businessman, Erarta is packed with art works dating from the 1940s to the present day. The gallery has a team of enthusiastic curators who busily tour the country for up-and-coming talent. The place always has the name of an exciting new artist up its sleeve. In addition to the halls, where regular exhibitions are held, there is a gallery where artworks are sold.

Gallery Borey

City Center

On display here are changing exhibitions of work by contemporary artists, including paintings, graphics, and decorative art. There is also a shop that sells artists prints and books, as well as unusual souvenirs.

58 Liteiny pr., St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 191104, Russia

Glinka Hall

City Center

For chamber and vocal music, head to this small theater, part of the Shostakovich Philharmonic (it's just around the corner from the main hall of the Philharmonic). It's also known as the Maly Zal (Small Hall).

Hermitage Theater

City Center

This glorious and highly unusual theater in the Hermitage mainly hosts the St. Petersburg Camerata, a fine but often overlooked chamber ensemble. The theater doesn't have a box office, so purchase tickets at a theater kiosk or via your concierge. The entrance is reached via the museum's staff entrance at 34 Dvortsovaya embankment.

House of Composers

City Center

Lovers of contemporary classical music flock here to hear pieces written by its members—look for names such as Sergei Slonimsky, Boris Tishchenko, and Andrey Petrov—and their students at the conservatory.

Kochneva's House

City Center

Chamber music concerts are held here in atmospheric salons.

Loft Project Etagi


Inside the five floors of what was once a bakery are galleries, exhibition halls, and designer boutiques. This arts and cultural center gets attention from the hip for its provocative shows, controversial artists, and unorthodox approches. Exhibitions on themes like urban biking, post-war Italian commercial design, or World Press photos are displayed on the rough-and-ready painted brick walls, concrete floors, and exposed pipes.

Mariinsky Concert Hall


The lobby of this theater converted from a redbrick warehouse isn't much to look at and brings to mind a faceless business hotel. The inside of the hall itself, however, is a different story. It's a large-scale, world-class venue with stellar classical-music performances that's extremely comfortable and boasts superb acoustics. In addition to concert performances, a number of operas have been staged especially for the venue.

37 ul. Dekabristov, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 190121, Russia

Mariinsky II


Set just across a small canal from the historic Mariinsky Theatre, Mariinsky II is the company's state-of-the-art opera, ballet, and concert hall. The massive theater seats 2,000 spectators and features one of the world's most technologically advanced stages.

Marina Gisich Gallery

City Center

One of the best small galleries in St. Petersburg hosts exhibitions by international and Russian artists in a former apartment.

121 nab. Reki Fontanki, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 190068, Russia
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Marionette Theater

City Center

The company revels in an avant-garde and experimental tradition in which works by Swift and Andersen are adapted for marionettes. It has a varied repertoire of fairy tales and children's stories.

Masters' Guild

Petrograd Side

You'll find paintings, graphics, decorative art, and various jewelry items made by local craftsmen for sale here.

21 ul. Kronverkskaya, St. Petersburg, St.-Petersburg, 197101, Russia

Matiss Club


Underground art is the main focus of this gallery, which represents a number of well-known local artists.

Mikhailovsky Theater

City Center

This charming theater puts on productions that, at their best, rival those at the Mariinsky. As far as opera is concerned, the Russian repertoire is the theater's strong suit, but it occasionally strikes gold with Italian works as well. Although the company hosted the world premieres of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk in 1934 and Prokofiev's War and Peace in 1946, the works of these composers are now absent from the repertoire, which focuses heavily on 19th-century classics. Highlights include Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Tsar's Bride, Borodin's Prince Igor, and Tchaikovsky's Iolanta.

The company's strong dance division is deservedly rated the second-best in town. The classical fare includes Swan Lake, Giselle, La Esmeralda, and Don Quixote as well as some jewels of Soviet-era choreography, like Khachaturian's Spartacus and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet.

Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato became the artistic director of the ballet company in 2011 and stages several premiere's of his new work each season. Ballet and opera are both generally performed September through June or July.

Musical Olympus

Another attractive event is the Musical Olympus festival organized by acclaimed Russian pianist Irina Nikitina at the Philharmonic in May and June. The festival assembles winners and laureates of each year's most respected musical contests from all over the globe. Each musician is handpicked by Nikitina herself or members of the festival's honorary committee. The audiences often get to see rising talents immediately after they've claimed the fame but haven't yet been booked for years to come.

Palaces of St. Petersburg

The Palaces of St. Petersburg festival presents an impressive series of classical concerts in more than two dozen magnificent palaces and mansions year-round. In the heyday of Imperial Russia, the social season, with its grand balls, masquerades, and concerts, occurred in winter. During the stuffy summers the pillars of high society escaped the heat and dust of the city by heading to their country estates. A century later, St. Petersburg is trying to restore the glories of the past—minus the serfs.

Peterburg Concert

City Center

Many of the concerts organized at St. Petersburg's most historic venues are run by Peterburg Concert. These concerts are not usually of the same high standard found at other musical events in the city, but they are a much better bet than most of the events organized especially for tourist groups. Tickets can be bought directly from the Peterburg Concert offices.

Petro Jazz

Every year in July, the Peter and Paul Fortress hosts three days of performances of bands from Russia and beyond.