Things to do in St Petersburg
St-Petersburg Opera and Ballet
No trip to St-Petersburg is complete without seeing an opera or ballet performance. The Mariinsky is perhaps the most well-known institution, but it is by no means the only theater in the city. Tickets are sold throughout the city at kiosks and shops called Teatralnaya Kassa, which charge a nominal (usually about 20 RR) fee for "insurance," which is theoretically optional. The theater box offices themselves sell tickets directly, too, and usually for the same price. Sometimes blocks of tickets sell out at the kiosks but tickets are still available at the theater, or vice versa, so it is worth checking both places if you have your heart set on a particular performance. It is possible to take not-so-small children into some performances if you take a private box, although you will need to ask when you buy your tickets.
- Mariinsky Theater
This is world-class for both opera and ballet. There are English supertitles for operas sung in Russian; operas in other languages have Russian supertitles. Performances are offered in two halls: the main theater, and the newly-built Mariinsky Concert Hall. Tickets can be purchased on the theater's website.
- Mikhailovskiy Theater
The exterior is not as recognizable as the Mariinsky, but the interior is nearly as grand, and the theater hosts both Russian and foreign headliners in opera and ballet.
- St-Petersburg Opera
An intimate theater (half-sized stage, and only about 150-200 audience seats) which puts on the major repertory operas at a lower price than the major theaters and has a fascinating foyer - one has to see it to believe it.
- Conservatory Theater
While the hall itself is not lavish - quite sterile, really - a good option for seeing Russian and repertory operas cheaply, performed by faculty and students of the conservatory where Tchaikovsky (and many other famous figures from the Russian music world) studied.
The music scene in St-Petersburg is diverse, with several classical, jazz, and pop concerts to choose from each week. Tickets are available at theatres cash desks also ballet and opera tickets, although tickets to pop concerts - especially US and European stars on tour - sometimes use exclusive distributors. For pop and rock concerts, unless you buy tickets for the dance floor (tanzpol), you are expected to sit quietly in your seat as if you were at a ballet - ushers are vigilant about keeping the audience from standing up, dancing, or cheering (polite applause is allowed, but that's about all).
Several of the ballet and opera theaters above also offer orchestral and recital performances, so those are not repeated below. Also, don't forget the many small clubs where up and coming bands play.
- St-Petersburg Philharmonic Grand Hall
A world-class orchestra which records and tours abroad. The Small Hall (Maliy Saal) hosts excellent chamber music performances and recitals.
- St-Petersburg Philharmonic Small Hall
The Small Hall (Maliy Saal) of the Philharmonic hosts excellent chamber music performances and recitals.
- Jazz Philharmonic Hall
Offers a variety of jazz performances several times per week.
- Ice Palace
One of several sports arenas that also serves as a concert hall for pop and rock concerts.
- Oktyabrskiy Concert Hall
Pop and rock concerts in an auditorium close to the St-Petersburg center.
Films in St-Petersburg
Most cinemas in St-Petersburg show Hollywood films dubbed in Russian. Art cinemas like Dom Kino often show independent American or British movies subtitled in Russian. DVDs of American/European films are also often dubbed. There have been crackdowns on sellers of bootleg DVDs, so it may be difficult or expensive to find DVDs in English these days. There are several DVD stores in the city - often near Metro stations - and it is worth asking about films in English. Annual Message to international documentary, short, and animated films festival takes place in June or July, screening many films in English.
St-Petersburg Canal boat tours
A tour of the canals by boat is a great way to see the St-Petersburg in the summer. The typical tour is through the Moika, out to the Neva to see the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Cruiser Aurora, then in through the Fontanka (sometimes as far as the Mariinsky Theater). Tours start at many points along the route and return to their starting point - hawkers for different boat companies abound - and the boats may or may not have a cafe and toilet on board.
Walking around with locals in St-Petersburg
The alternative way to explore St-Petersburg is to know it from inside walking and talking with locals and trying local activities. Those people who have lived here for years (local guides) would like to tell you a plenty of stories, open some secret places (as roofs or courtyards etc.) and treat you as a friend. Most of tours are for 1 to 5 people. As some tours are free you are welcome to try it.