A Theater Lover's Guide to St Petersburg, Russia

Russians love a good theater production, from opera to ballet to puppets to contemporary plays. After all, this is where the world famous ballet and puppet theater companies come from. It's in their blood!
So it's no wonder in the beautiful, artistic city of St Petersburg, there are more than a hundred theaters, some dedicated to specific genre or style of performances.
Having repeatedly visited Russia, I fell in love with this familiar yet outer-worldly place, especially with the local's enthusiasm for performing arts. So here's a guide to some of the best theaters in St Petersburg. While some are already famous by name, there are others that are more of a local affair, but for those who wish to mingle with the local crowd and perhaps have a grasp of the language, you'll probably enjoy these smaller and more adventurous venues!
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Mariinsky Theatre

Theatre Square, 1, St Petersburg, Russia, 190000

This is the premier theatre in St Petersburg, a historic theatre mostly famous for its ballet productions. I love the glamorous interior, sitting for a performance is like being in audience with the royals.
A theatre that is the pearl of St Petersburg's performing arts, and it is highly recommended for theatre lovers!

Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater

nab. Reki Fontanki, 65, St Petersburg, Russia, 190031

The exterior of the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater looks a little like a mini-Hermitage. A beautiful turqoise building on the Fontanka river is great to look at, but it's the productions that sets it apart.
Formerly known as Gorky Bolshoi Drama Theater, the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theater is considered one of the best Russian theaters.
Those who are into Russian literature will love this theater as it focuses on plays based on Russian classical literature, with occasional performances of foreign literature based plays.

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Alexandrinsky Theatre

pl. Ostrovskogo, 6, St Petersburg, Russia, 191011

Opened in 1756, this theatre is the oldest Russian national theater! While it is no longer as famous as it once was, the Alexandrinsky Theatre, also called Russian State Drama Theatre, is still lovely to visit. The building itself as a simple but beautiful feel about it.
The specialisation of the theatre is Russian drama, which is a chance to experience this style of performance art that Russians are so good at.

Maltese Chapel Concert Hall

Sadovaya St., 26, St. Petersburg 191011, Russia

Famous for its organ recitals and chamber orchestras, this is an unlikely place that music lovers, especially those who love old world music, will find excellent concerts in the setting of the beautiful Maltese Chapel.

You can't miss the bright pink exterior and the interior is decorated with beautiful stone sculptures, pink marble columns. Being a chapel, the acoustics is absolutely fantastic so the music completely flows through beautifully.

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Yusupov Palace

Embankment river Moyka, 94, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 190000

A beautiful, elegant palace which used to be the primary residence of the House of Yusupov family, situated on the bank of Moyka River.This is an absolute gem, with really elaborately decorated staircases, glamorous ballroom, a colourful and exotic Moorish drawing room and the small theatre, which is used for small scale private and public concerts.

Attending a concert here is like being invited to a kingdom's ball, imagine Cinderella! However more famously, the palace is known to be where Rasputin was murder.

Even without attending to a concert, a visit is highly recommended.

Oktyabrsky Grand Concert Hall

Ligovskiy prosp., 6, St Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast, Russia, 191036

This very Soviet looking building is the Oktiabrsky Concert Hall, built in the 60s the architecture itself is a wonder of the mighty Soviet era.

These days, the concert hall is used for large scale pop concerts, including those from foreign artists, but also shows ballet and opera numbers from foreign productions.

Due to its modern simplistic design the concert hall can be decorated into various themes so it is a popular place for experimental, modern productions.

The concert hall if close to a Metro station and has plenty of cafes around for the pre- or post- concert outing.

St Petersburg Bolshoi Puppet Theater

Nekrasova St., 10, St. Petersburg 191014, Russia

No matter how old we get, we'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for puppets! And this craft of puppet theatre is so rare in the world now that the Bolshoi Puppet Theater in St Petersburg is a rare find.

While this is a Puppet Theatre, it isn't always for children. Productions here tell stories from Shakespearean tragedies to Slavic horror stories.

For families, take the kids to see a production of The Little Prince to delight them with such a touching tale.

Not all shows are in English. Check before booking.

Puppet Theatre Of Fairy-Tales

Moskovsky Ave, 121, St Petersburg, Russia

This small and cozy theatre is filled with magical fairy tale kingdoms, and family travellers with children will love coming to the Saint Petersburg State Puppet Fairytale Theater.

The use of puppets to tell many of the familiar stories gives the shows that different feel to just watching a movie, or going to a formal ballet performance.

The puppet shows are expertly performed, with beautifully made backdrop and the unused puppets are displayed before and after the show. The puppets used are beautiful and so professionally made you'll have you believe they could come alive!

The best thing? It's a mostly non-touristy crowd so you are sure to be mingling with locals.

Highly recommended.

Zazerkalye St. Petergbough Children's Musical Theatre

Rubinshteina St., 13, St. Petersburg 191002, Russia

Local families love patronising the Zazerkalye St. Petergbough Children's Musical Theatre, a theatre dedicated to support theatrical works adapted specifically for children.

Production such as 'War and Peace' set in a way that children will understand is an excellent way to educate and encourage children to love performing arts, and the quality productions are also loved by the accompanying adults.

The theatre is modern and contemporary, but is unfortunately in Russian only.

Skazkin Dom Museum Theater

Aleksandrovskiy Park, 1A | Metro Gorkovskaya, St. Petersburg 197101, Russia

Such a kitsch wonderful place! The Skazkin Dom Museum Theater is one of a kind, offering puppets and interactive performances to get the audience involved, including being part of the play, travelling between the different rooms with plenty of creative surprises.

The onsite museum is also very interesting, this is a must for family travellers.

Kamennoostrovsky Theater

pl. Starogo teatra, 13, St Petersburg, Russia, 197022

Recently (2012) restored, the Kamennoostrovsky Theater is small and cozy, and has original productions from local and foreign writers. The interior decorations are lovely, not overly done as other older style theatres in the city, but it does give a pleasant feel to the atmosphere.

Performances are excellent, and it tends to steer away from the traditional stories and promote new writers and plays.

Most intriguing is that the entire theatre is made out of wood!

Russkaya Antrepriza Saint Petersburg Mironov Theater

P. S., Bolshoi prospekt, d. 75/35, St. Petersburg 197022, Russia

The Russkaya Antrepriza Saint Petersburg Mironov Theater is relatively small and unknown but has an interesting exterior architecture that if you saw it you wouldn't forget it.
The theatre interior is decorated with old memorabilia, including old pianos, dolls and puppets and newspaper clips. The stage is an old style, red velvet curtain type stage so makes an intimate, old school setting for a show.
It is extremely small, so often shows smaller, unknown plays - but these writers are talented and the contemporary works are interesting. Unfortunately almost always in Russian so would only suit those with knowledge of the language (or at least have a translator)


Zagorodnyy Av, House 27, St. Petersburg, Russia

A modern and fusion venue, the Jazz Philharmonic Hall is like a combination of a classical concert hall with a jazz club - and the atmosphere is surprisingly lively!
The seating is set almost like a restaurant/social club seating, with chairs around tables where you can sip on drinks and snack on finger foods. The place is cozy and intimate, so that the whole experience doesn't feel too formal.

Best place for classical jazz lovers.

State Academic Choir-Music Hall

Reki Moiki naberezhnaya, d. 20, St. Petersburg 191186, Russia

For lovers of choir music, no where else in St Petersburg performs better than the group at State Academic Choir-Music Hall. This is where the State Capella Choir sings the most beautiful choruses - they are said to be one of the best choirs in the world.
The choir's history dates back to 1479 (older than most of the countries on this planet!) and has a traditional approach to performance. The concert hall has good accustics so that makes the listening experience even better.
Ticket prices are pretty cheap too.

Lensovet St Petersburg Academic Theater

Vladimirskiy pr., 12, St Petersburg, Russia

A very local establishment, the Lensovet St Petersburg Academic Theater was founded as a 'New Theatre' in 1933. The unmissable yellow building is located right on the busy street of Vladimirsky Ave, making it convenient for those with hotels nearby.
Productions are varied and can include Shakespeare's works in English, which makes it quite interesting as the local actor's interpretation of how certain scenes should be acted gives you a different point of view for a familiar story.

Good theatre for stage plays.

Baltiyskiy Dom Theatre

Aleksandrovskiy Park, 4, St. Petersburg 197101, Russia

This small theatre is neither grand nor glamorous. The grey stone Soviet looking building has a drab communist style interior (lack of decor) and the theatre hall feel more like a movie theatre than drama theatre.
However, the Baltiyskiy Dom Theatre is popular among the locals. The annual Drama Festival attracts people from all over the city to celebrate contemporary works from all over Europe, often with stories that question modern day life, spirituality and everything in between.
One for the true theatre lovers who don't just want to stick to the good old 'Swan Lake' productions elsewhere.

Academical Maly Drama Theatre

ul. Rubinshteyna, 18, St Petersburg, Russia

One of the modern theatres that opened in 1911 specifically for adventurous drama, which are experimental, non-conformist and exciting, including one work that ran for 9 hours!
Unlike the more historic theatres in St Petersburg, Academical Maly Drama Theatre's productions are not always well known stories, and attract more of an artsy crowd mostly younger generation. The actors are not always confined to the stage, and often appear among the audiences for dramatic effect. This also means, a show at the Academical Maly Drama Theatre can be very engaging and guaranteed to amuse!

The Hermitage Theatre

Palace Embankment, 32, St Petersburg, Russia, 191186

Second best for ballet performances in St Petersburg, (if you can't get into the more famous Mariinsky Theatre) the Hermitage Theatre is inside the famous Winter Palace compound (The Hermitage), right on the picturesque Neva River.

The theatre interior uses a lot of colour marble from Europe to give a luxurious effect. It was, after all, commissioned by Catherine the Great. The auditorium is not grand, with seating room enough for 250 people only, and has none of that velvety look the Mariinsky has but it is perfectly shaped for a ballet performance, even if you are at the back, in the cheaper seats.

The theatre was almost exclusively used by the Imperial family in the 18th Century, so attending a show here is like being a royal! Highly recommended, especially combining a day out visiting The Hermitage.

St. Petersburg Philharmonia

Mikhaylovskaya ul., 2, St Petersburg, Russia

Classical music lovers will love the St Petersburg Philharmonia, the oldest Philharmonia in Russia established in 1802.
The grand hall of the venue itself is amazing. The quality of the concert is excellent, and the place itself is lovely. Unfortunately the seating can get uncomfortable, as they are temporary chairs, and there isn't a lot of personal space.
Otherwise, enjoy the concert!

Leningrad Center

Potemkinskaya ul., 4, St Petersburg, Russia

Originally a movie theatre, the Leningrad Center is now a multi-purpose concert hall, which puts on music concerts, plays, ballet, circuses etc.
The classical exterior is paired with modern interior, where stages can be formatted to suit the performance.
There's a nice bar and an excellent gallery restaurant, and the theatre will appeal to those who love a good contemporary production.

St. Petersburg Youth Theater

Emb. Reki Fontanki, 114, St. Petersburg 190005, Russia

For those looking for a non-touristy theatre experience, and enjoy new age, new talent productions, the St Petersburg Youth Theater is a good option. The theater focuses on developing new talents, and are frequented mostly by locals.

The theater building itself is nothing fantastic, a bit of modern Russian architecture where it's kind of half Soviet, with a bit of flourish. (flowery lines and all) but it's a good venue, with modern facilities.

The theater also hosts rock concerts and modern productions.

St. Petersburg State Theater of The Musical Comedy

Italyanskaya ul., 13, St Petersburg, Russia

This beautiful, glamorous venue is the St. Petersburg State Theater of The Musical Comedy - but it doesn't just produce musicals, in fact, if there was a comedy ballet or play, the theatre will put on a production.

The theatre is frequently by locals and tourists, and do traditional performances with comical twists. May not be a traditional theatre go-er's cup of tea though.

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Mikhaylovsky Theatre

Ploshchad' Iskusstv, 1, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191011

The Mikhailovsky Theatre was established by Tsar Nicholas I specialising in quality dance and opera performances.
The exterior is nothing special, very typical of what St Petersburg has been built for.
The productions are fantastic, and does not limit itself to just the famous operas. The variety of performances means that you can experience something different, from a different era, or a different style, especially to discover some fantastic, less known Russian operas not really performed elsewhere in the world.

Baltic House Festival Theatre

park Aleksandrovskiy, 4, театр

The Baltic House Festival Theatre holds an international theatre festival, which is considered the most prestigious and important theatre forums in the whole of Europe.

This modern theatre is multipurpose, but mostly promotes productions that touch modern issues and lifestyle. A lot of the shows here contain contemporary artistic expressions of love and sex, so most shows are tagged aged 12+, 16+, 18+ etc.

A great place for contemporary productions, but probably not for those who prefer their more traditional theatre shows.

Akimov Comedy Theatre

Nevsky Prospect, 56, St Petersburg, Russia, 191011

The Akimov Comedy Theatre is a locally popular theatre dedicated to comedies. This small theatre is inside an exquisitely designed and decorated with beautiful sculptures.

While it's mostly a local crowd that attends this theatre, it is one of the world's most famous comedy theatres.

Unfortunately, productions and support are mostly in Russian, which not entirely tourist friendly, but those who do have a grasp of the language will find a show filled with laughs and delights.

Last updated at Mar 21, 2016