Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mini Guided

Culture in St Petersburg

Executive summary by Darmansjah

St Petersburg is a treasure trove of culture: fill your days strolling from one art-filled room to another in the Winter Palace, listening to a symphony at the Mariinsky and paying homepage to literary geniuses.


The Hermitage

The State Hermitage Museum’s vast collection (365 rooms) ranges from Egyptian mummies to a collection of early 20th-century art (featuring Matisse, Picasso and Kandinsky) that’s almost unrivalled. Your ticket (reserve online to save queuing) allows you to wander the Baroque Winter Palace, part of the museum complex ( Dvortsovaya pl; closed Mon; US$13).

Russian Museum

While the Hermitage looks to art beyond Russia, this lesser-known gallery concentrates on domestic art, and spreads out over four sumptuous palaces in the centre of the city. The main building, Mikhailovsky Palace, presents a fascinating collection, from medieval icons to masterpieces by painters such as ilya Repin, as well as 20th-century avant garde works (; inzheneraya ul 4; closed Tue, Thu morning; main building US$11.40).

Errata Museum

Out in the wilds of Vsilyevsky Island, this fantastic museum of contemporary Russian art is the very first of its kind in the city. The permanent collection of some 2,000 works produced from the ‘50s to the present day is particularly strong on late Soviet underground art. One nice curatorial touch is the frequent inclusion of objects (such as a bowl of apples) beside paintings that depict them (; 29-yaliniya 2; closed Tue; US$9.80).


Dostoevsky Museum

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s final home was this flat in Vladimirskaya, where he lived from 1878 until he died in 1881. The apartment remains as it was then, and includes the study where he wrote the brothers Karamazov, and the office of his wife Anna, who edited all his books (; Kuznechny per 5/2; closed Mon, Wed morning; US$5.20).

Site of Pushin’s Duel

This park is a place of literary pilgrimage for lovers of Russia’s poectic genius, Alexander Pushkin, who was killed in a duel with the Frencman Georges d’Anthes in 1837, after d’Anthes had publicly courted Pushkin’s wife, Natalya A marble monument now stands on the place, where Pushkin was shot, on the Vyborg Side, around 15 minutes’ walk north of Chyornaya Rechka metro station. There are always fresh flowers here (Kolomyazhsky pr).

Anna Akhmatova Museum

Housed in a wing of the 18th-century Sheremetyev Palace, this touching and fascinating literary museum honours the life of Anna Akhmatova, St Petersburg’s most famous 20th-century poet and survivor of the Stalinist terror. Akhmatova lived in an apartment here from 1925 to 1952, and it’s filled with mementos of the poet. Downstairs is a bookshop and video room (; Liteyny pr 53; closed Mon, Wed morning; US$2.60).

Music and Dance

Mariinsky Theatre

What could be more Russian than seeing a ballet at the Mariinsky? Known as the Kirov in the Soviet era, when stars such as Nureyev danced, today the Mariinsky is one of the world’s premier ballet troupes. Tickects to see ballet and opera here and at the next-door New Mariinsky are always in high demand – book early (mariinsky.fru; Teatralnaya pl 1; opera from around US$24.40, ballet from US$40,70).

Shostakovich Philharmonia

Under conductor Yuri Temirkanov, the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra represents the finest in orchestral music. The Bolshoy Zal (Grand Hall) at Mihailovskaya ul 2 is the venue for a full programme of symphonic performances, while the nearby Maly Zal (small hall) hosts smaller ensembles. Both venues host numerous music festivals (; tickets from US$9.70).


In its urgently orange and green underground space near pl Vosstaniya, Zoccolo has a great atmosphere and an interesting line-up of music, from indie rock to ‘ethnoelectonica’ and other styles you may not have heard of. Entry is free before 5pm, when the venue functions as an arty café (; 3-ya Sovetskaya ul 2/3; noon-midnight weekdays, to 6am weekends; performances US$3.20).


Flights on Singapore airlines and Malaysia airlines are available to Heathrow, after which a British Airways flight takes you direct from Heathrow to St Petersburg (from US$327; Pulkovo Airport is 10 miles south of the centre; you can get a shuttle bus (US$1.10) or city bus (US$0.80) into town – see times and details at Airport taxis should cost around US$24. The St Petersburg metro is sufficient, cheap (from US$0.90) and useful for travelling long distances but it can be a bit of an adventure if you don’t read Cyrillic. Metro maps in English are available in the tourist publications that are distributed around town.
Where to Stay

Facing the Hermitage across the river, Tradition Hotel has extremely helpful staff. The 16 rooms are well appointed and the great views make up for the hotel’s distance from the nearest metro station (; pr Dobrolyubova 2; from US$98).

A dramatically lit stone stairwell sets the scene for Casa Leto, a stylish boutique hotel. The spacious quarters are decorated in soft pastel shades and filled with antiques (; Bolshaya Morskaya ul 34; from US$179).

When it opened in 2011, the W Hotel became the talk of the town. Rooms come with iPhone docks and Nespresso coffee makes, and the Alain Ducasse restaurant is one of the city’s top tables (; Voznesensky pr 6; from US$391).

ST PETER’S GREAT Three centuries of talented writers in the city: Gogol-Nikolai Gogol came to the city in 1829. He wasn’t impressed by it, but he wrote a number of absurdist stories, known as The Petersburg Tales. Dostoevsky-Born in Moscow, he moved to the imperial capital in 1838, aged 16, and his Crime and Pusnishment is the ultimate St Petersburg novel. Blok-Alexander Blok was one of the symbolist movement’s most renowed poets. He depicted prostitutes, drunks and others on society’s margins. Pushkin The national bard mused on the city’s fate through the eyes of a statue in his epic poem. The Bronze horseman.

The long evenings of the White Nights make June the busiest time to visit. Events include the Festival of Festivals, a film festival (, and the Stars of White Nights Festival at the Mariinsky and other venues (

Lonely Planet’s St Petersbur is a comprehensive guide to the city and chapters from the book can be download at A briefer St Petersburg work from the pen of Dostoevsky is white Nights, dover Thrift editions, a short story that’s been adapted for cinema several times. You can also see the city on film in Brother (1977), Russian Ark (2002) and The Stroll (2003).

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