For its short history, St. Petersburg saw everything. The ups and downs of the Russian Empire. Bloody wars and peaceful times. Revolutions and power. Repression and the dawn of democracy. But today, St. Petersburg is the cultural capital of Russia.
This city has several nicknames. The “European Capital of Russia,” acknowledging the Democratic views of the city dwellers. The “Northern Capital of Russia” in honor of the city’s former glory and harsh climate. “Northern Venice” for the rivers and canals with many bridges built across them. “Northern Palmyra” due to the city’s architectural style.
Sightseeing and Museums
St. Petersburg has a lot to discover, even for the most experienced world traveler.
It has unforgettable architecture, from Baroque and Classicist to Constructivist and Soviet Fundamentalist. St. Petersburg also has magnificent palaces and well-fortified fortresses in the heart of the city. Monumental cathedrals, surrounded by beautiful parks. We could go on.
The city has about 150 museums to explore — a whole lot of opportunities to learn about Russian culture — and some of these museums are huge. It takes at least two or three days to view the entire collection at Hermitage, St. Petersburg’s main museum.
Founded in 1754 by Catherine the Great, Hermitage Museum is one of the oldest in the world. Its collections comprise over 3 million items, including the largest collection of paintings. Of the six buildings in the main museum complex, five — namely the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre — are open to the public.
A huge patron of art, Catherine the Great collected a massive amount of original works from the likes of Rembrandt, Raphael and Rubens. You can see all these masterpieces at Hermitage Museum, in addition to other art collections from Europe.
Formerly the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty Alexander III, the Russian Museum is another can’t-miss attraction. One of the biggest museums in the country, it displays mostly Russian fine art.
This site is also worthy of a visit for its magnificent architecture. The main building of the museum is the Mikhailovsky Palace, the splendid Neoclassical residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich. You can appreciate history, culture and art all in one place.
Founded by Peter the Great in 1703, the Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of St. Petersburg. In the early 1920s, this fortress served as the prison and execution grounds of the Bolshevik government. The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral, and is the burial site of all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III.
The fortress walls overlooking sandy beaches are the most visited spot in St. Petersburg. The beach gets busy around summer time, especially when the major sand festival takes place on the shore.
The Famous Bridges of St. Petersburg
Bridges, St. Petersburg’s signature infrastructure, deserve a special mention here.
There are 93 rivers and canals in the city, as well as about 100 lakes and ponds. Equally impressive, there are about 800 bridges in St. Petersburg, connecting different parts of the city. What an unforgettable sight: Drawbridges slowly soaring to the sky, St. Petersburg’s biggest buildings towering in the background, illuminated by the rays of the sun beyond the horizon. You will never forget this image.
Palace Bridge is a drawbridge spanning the Neva River between Palace Square and Vasilievsky Island. This bridge is drawn by night, though, which makes foot travel between various parts of the city difficult. But when the lights are turned on, you don’t mind. The Palace Bridge looks regal and magnificent during the night. Beautiful!
Trinity Bridge is another famous drawbridge across the Neva. It connects Kamennoostrovsky Prospect with Suvorovskaya Square. This bridge is the third (permanent) bridge across the Neva, built between 1897 and 1903.
Known for its decoration, this bridge has iron gratings with artistic casting, plus granite pylons with Art Nouveau-style lanterns. A fun fact about this bridge: It is believed that the Soviet pilot Valery Chkalov flew his plane under the Trinity Bridge in the 1930s. In 1940, Evgeny Borisenko repeated this feat several times during the filming of Valery Chkalov.
The Anichkov Bridge is the oldest and most famous bridge across the Fontanka River. The current bridge was built between 1841-42 and reconstructed in 1906-08. While the bridge itself has a simple design, it’s adored with spectacular decoration. As well as its four famous horse sculptures, this bridge has some of the most celebrated ornate iron railings in St. Petersburg.
The Horse Tamers — the four horse sculptures — rank among the city’s most recognizable landmarks. Designed by the Russian sculptor Baron Peter Klodt von Jurgensburg, the sculpture is inspired by the colossal Roman marbles, often identified with the Dioscuri, prominently sited on the Quirinal Hill, Rome.
Nightlife in Gay St. Petersburg
In addition to all the fantastic sightseeing, St. Petersburg is the club capital of Russia.
Gay life in St. Petersburg is not as diverse as other cities, but it’s still fun and lively. There are a variety of shows and themed parties, all with muscular go-go dancers.
Cabaret is the largest and oldest gay club in Russia. It’s celebrating 20 years on Nov. 1, 2017, and the anniversary show promises to be a massive celebration. The Cabaret show is the main draw for the club. The show runs every Friday and Saturday at 2:30 am.
This club also doubles as an art cafe from noon to 10 p.m. daily. It turns into a club on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., so you can party all night long. There is a cover charge — for men, it’s 300₽ (about $5 USD). For girls, it costs around 150₽-500₽.
Ligovsky Prospekt is the closest station to Cabaret.
If you want to check out as many clubs as possible while travelling as little as possible, you’re in the right place. Check out Central Station, Blue Oyster and Priscilla too — they are all in the same building, right next to each other. It’s one-stop fun for amazing shows and karaoke, and you can hit the dark room for some adventure in the heart of St. Petersburg.
Named the best gay club in St. Petersburg since December 2005, Central Station is St. Petersburg’s branch of the famous Moscow club. You’ll find three floors with different activities on each one. On the first floor is a restaurant. You can relax here in a friendly atmosphere. Taste European cuisine and enjoy the daily drag show which starts at 1 a.m.
On the second floor, you’ll find a main stage, a dance floor and three separate bars. You can dance to a variety of music, including house, progressive, techno and disco-house music. You may even see a celebrity here. Many famous DJs have performed here, as do a lot of famous Russian singers. Be sure to check the schedule for these special performances.
On the third floor, there’s a men’s VIP section with leather sofas, a separate bar and a view from the balcony to the main dance floor. For amateur singers, you can show off your skills at the karaoke room every day of the week. If you’re into discreet fun, check out the dark labyrinth.
Central Station also hosts a huge after party on Saturdays and Sundays from 5 a.m. until noon. And in the summer, every two weeks on Thursdays and Fridays, there are foam parties.
There is a cover charge at Central Station, though special events may be more expensive.
Another excellent place on Lomonosova street to have fun is the Blue Oyster, where anything goes! Want to dance on the table or bar counter? Go for it. Like to take off your clothes and dance around the crowd? Do it. Feel like having a drink with the DJ? Why not?! The only thing you’ll never experience at this place is rudeness. And if you want to play a little bit, there’s also a dark room.
There is no cover at Blue Oyster, but they do have a bouncer who decides who gets in, so you’ll want to dress to impress. For the girls, you will need to be accompanied by a guy to join the fun.
Not a bar per se, Malevich is a small, private LGBT organization. It offers a place for creative people from the LGBT community to share their thoughts, feelings, art, hobbies and ideas in an inclusive setting.
Malevich hosts a variety of events for members. During the evening, the club has tango and voice lessons. It also arranges movie screenings, concerts, plays, and games for the crowd.
On weekdays, the club functions as a cafe, but on Fridays and Saturdays, everything changes. Malevich hosts breathtaking theme parties, which are accompanied by bright and colorful shows.
You’ll find no loud music, noisy crowds or disco at Bunker. You simply stroll through the halls of this club to find a private booth for a hookup. What else can you find at Bunker? There’s a bar, and a video room with four channels of eroticism.
There are private rooms with locks for privacy. Bunker also has shower cabins for you to freshen up, plus lubricant and free condoms at your disposal. There are special parties on Thursdays like the “Naked Party,” when all visitors are completely naked, or the “Underwear Party,” when the dress code is underwear-only.
Part of the charm of Priscilla is that it’s in the same building as Blue Oyster. This ultra-chic place has four floors for nightly entertainment. Priscilla has three bars, a karaoke room, a massive dance floor and of course a “dark labyrinth” to explore.
Like Blue Oyster, you’ll have to impress the bouncer to get in. And like Blue Oyster, ladies need to be accompanied by a gentleman to gain entry at Priscilla. Conveniently located close to Nevsky Prospekt or the Gostiny Dvor subway station, this club remains open until the morning on Fridays and Saturdays.
The atmosphere and structure of Labyrinth reflect its name. In the zigzags of the labyrinth, everyone meets unexpected acquaintances. This facility has a bar for guys to socialize, and there’s also a video room, a maze of dark rooms, secluded areas and private cabins to explore. Plus there are different themed parties every day. The cover charge is about 250₽ ($4.20 USD).
By the Circus features a bar, a dry sauna, a Turkish sauna and a separate smoking area for guys to mingle. If you find a partner here and want to play a little bit, there’s a dark labyrinth with leather sofas and private cabins.
Featured image by martin-dm via iStock