NIGHTLIFE IN RUSSIA
Discos are popular in Moscow, although there are also an increasing number of pub-type bars, many of which serve food. These generally offer a happy hour, with two-for-one drink specials. There is no shortage of exotic entertainment and Western men do tend to attract young Russian women. Some bars can be quite violent Ã¢â¬â it is best for visitors to ask for local advice on which ones to avoid.
Moscow has a number of 24-hour bars and Ã¢â¬Ënight restaurantsÃ¢â¬â¢ that are often open until 0500 or 0600. These combine dining, drinking and entertainment under one roof. Otherwise, bars tend to stay open until 2400 or 0100. The minimum drinking age in Russia is 18 years, although the minimum purchasing age is 21 years. Cover charges vary Ã¢â¬â some places actually offer free drinks for a limited time, while others charge a cover of Rb613-919/US$20-30 (or more). Live music is played all over the city but quality acts are not always easy to come by. Many of the bars and clubs are located in the larger hotels or the immediate vicinity. Because of the rocky economy, bars and clubs tend to close down and open up fairly frequently. The American expat newspaper, eXile (website: www.exile.ru), offers an up-to-date, if somewhat rude, guide.
The John Bull Pub, Kutuzovsky proezd 4, has decent music and stays open until 0300 at the weekend. The Irish pub Rosie OÃ¢â¬â¢GradyÃ¢â¬â¢s, Znamenka ulitsa 9/12, is a popular spot. Homesick Canadians head for the Moosehead Canadian Bar, Bolshaya Polyanka ulitsa 54, where buffalo wings and other bar food keeps the punters happy and beers cost Rb122-184/US$4-6 (daily 1200-0500). ChesterfieldÃ¢â¬â¢s, Zemlyanoy val 26, has the longest bar in Russia (apparently) and draws a mixed expat and Russian crowd. For those who enjoy a cigar and cognac, The Embassy Club, Bryusov pereulok 8/10, provides an appropriately swanky environment. The News Bar, Petrovka ulitsa, has recently made a stylish entrance into the nightlife of Muscovites, while OGI Project, Potapovsky pereulok, has become hugely popular.
There are dozens of casinos in Moscow. Some of the more elegant are attached to the five-star hotels. The 24-hour Casino Metropol, located in the hotel of the same name at Teatralny proezd 1/4, is a classic casino with blackjack, roulette and poker. The minimum stake is Rb166/US$25. For lower stakes, the Olympic Casino Club, aboard the Valery Brusov, Krymskaya naberezhnaya, is open 1900-0600 and offers roulette, blackjack and poker. Another alternative is the Casino Moskva, located in the Leningradskaya Hotel, Kalanchevskaya ulitsa 21/40. There is an age restriction of 18 years for gambling; a passport is not always required and the dress code is smart-casual.
Propaganda, Bolshoi Zlatoustinksy pereulok 7, is one of the cityÃ¢â¬â¢s best dance clubs and plays non-techno tunes (occasionally acid jazz). Techno ravers head for Khaos, Timirgazevskaya ulitsa 17. Brand, Smolensky ploshchad, has a more upmarket feel with a disco and bars. The big-name international DJs who appear from time to time at Club XIII, Myanitskaya ulitsa, attract foreigners and young Russians with pockets full of cash. Titanik, inside the Young Pioneers Stadium, Leningradsky prospekt 31, is a well-known techno club with a decent but expensive chill-out area (the cover charge is Rb919/US$30). Clubs catering to a gay crowd are becoming increasingly popular in Moscow. The most frequented of these is Central Station, Bolshaya Tatarskaya ulitsa, which could almost compete with any Western gay club. Homophobia is still very much in evidence in Moscow, so it is advisable for visitors to avoid going to any of the gay clubs alone.
Many of the bars and clubs have live music Ã¢â¬â usually rock but occasionally country, reggae or folk Ã¢â¬â for a couple of hours in the evening (generally 2200-2400/0100). For jazz and blues, the Arbat Blues Club, Aksakov pereulok 11, is considered one of the best spots in Moscow. The Jazz Art Club, Begovaya ulitsa 5, offers what the name suggests for a Rb214/US$7 entry fee. Bunker, Tverskaya ulitsa 12, and Tabula Rasa, Berezhkovskaya naberezhnaya 28, both feature live bands Ã¢â¬â the cover charge depends on the night and who is playing. The Voodoo Lounge, Sredny Tishinsky pereulok 5/7, is a fairly recent arrival, hosting rock and Latin music.
Classical Music: Opera, Ballet, Orchestral
RussiaÃ¢â¬â¢s great heritage of classical music is reflected in the quality of its orchestras and orchestral venues. The Bol'shoi Theatre is a world-renowned institution and the jewel in the crown of MoscowÃ¢â¬â¢s cultural nightlife. The auditorium and performances are immaculate and in terms of grandeur, the Bol'shoi surpasses anything else in Russia. It is therefore a popular venue - especially among visiting tourists - and tickets may be difficult to snap up at short notice.
Other major venues include the Dvorets S"ezdov (Palace of Congresses), a Soviet-style building within the walls of the Kremlin which hosts performances of the great Russian ballets. Both the Stanislavskii and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre and the Helikon Opera run a variety of Russian and foreign classics, with the latter being more innovative in approach. For the cityÃ¢â¬â¢s best orchestral music, visit the Tchaikovskii Concert Hall and the Tchaikovskii Conservatory. The Rossiia Concert Hall hosts occasional classical performances.
Modern Moscow may be an aggressively commercial and openly materialistic place, but theatre and the arts still play a special role in the cityÃ¢â¬â¢s life. The breadth and range of drama theatres more than rivals that of any other major capital. The following is but a handful of what is on offer.
The Moscow Art Theatre has always been among the cityÃ¢â¬â¢s most prominent theatres. ThereÃ¢â¬â¢s now two branches, of which the original (Chekhov MKhAT) is reputed to be the best. The other takes GorkiiÃ¢â¬â¢s name and is located on Tverskoi BulÃ¢â¬â¢var.
The Tagankawas a politically controversial theatre during Soviet times, famous for its veiled satires. For classic Russian drama, head to the Malyi Theatre, founded in 1824 and still playing predominantly 19th-century material. The same goes for the Sovremennik Theatre. Contemporary works are favoured by a few theatres, most notably the Maiakovskii and Lenkom theatres.
The Mossovet Theatre performs a fairly mixed bag of works, including foreign classics and Soviet standards, as do the Iugo-Zapad Theatre and the Pushkin Drama Theatre. ItÃ¢â¬â¢s all a little pointless if you donÃ¢â¬â¢t happen to know Russian of course, in which case youÃ¢â¬â¢d be better off trying less mentally demanding alternatives like the Obraztsov puppet theatre or the Moscow Clown Theatre.
The smell of popcorn and Hollywood blockbusters can be found at the American House of Cinema, MoscowÃ¢â¬â¢s most glitzy film house. Pod Kupolom and the Kinomir cinema both offer much the same in terms of films on offer. If youÃ¢â¬â¢re looking for Russian movies, the Illuzion and the Cinema Centreat Krasnaia Presnia are worth checking out: these also show western arthouse films. The Pushkinskii Entertainment Centre has the biggest auditorium in town and concentrates predominantly on American blockbusters, but occasionally premieres major Russian movies.
St Petersburg has a vibrant, varied nightlife Ã¢â¬â ranging from opera and ballet to sleazy nightclubs and acid house raves Ã¢â¬â and is emerging, after some 75 years of Communist control, as the rock music capital of Russia. However, the scene is constantly changing Ã¢â¬â new venues open, old ones close. So the best advice is to check the weekly listings in the St Petersburg Times (website: www.sptimes.ru/current/events/gigs.htm).
The Russian mafia Ã¢â¬â a collective term for various groups of gangsters, criminals and racketeers Ã¢â¬â control most of the nightlife and gambling in St Petersburg. However, most visitors will have no contact with this aspect of Russian life and if you do happen to sit next to a gangster in a smart restaurant, you are more than likely to assume the man is a successful businessman. Caution should be exercised, however, especially with casinos Ã¢â¬â you should only frequent venues that come recommended.
Most of the decent nightlife is in the city centre. Bars open from 1100 and start closing around 2400, although some remain open until 0200 or 0400. Drinking regulations are strict, with the minimum drinking age set at 21 years. The average price of a drink is US$3. Nightclubs have varying hours but you will find them open as early as noon and closing as late as 0900. Casual dress is the norm, although you should smarten up if you plan a visit to the theater, ballet or to a classical concert.
Although it is a bit scruffy and smoky, Cynic, Goncharnaya ulitsa 4, is an excellent venue for those wishing to settle down with a teapot of vodka to watch occasional spontaneous dance performance by girls who have watched Coyote Ugly too many times. The Idiot, Moiki reki naberezhnaya 82, is popular with the smart-set, who flock here in droves for the friendly service, vegetarian menu and used English-language newspapers and books that are available for perusal. MollieÃ¢â¬â¢s, Rubensshtyena ulitsa 36, provides the international comfort that people have come to expect from an Irish pub Ã¢â¬â this is also a good introduction to the expat community of the city. Punters seeking the downright weird should check out Sakvoyazh dlya beremennoy shpionki (A Briefcase for a Pregnant Spy), Malaya Konushnaya ulitsa 11. One room boasts tables and chairs without legs, which are attached to chains that dangle from the ceiling and floor. Propoganda, Fontanki reki naberezhnaya 40, is filled to the brim with kitschy Soviet-era decor and posters.
Premiere, situated in the Titan cinema, Nevsky prospekt 47, is a reasonably safe gambling venue with cards and roulette tables. Open 1200-0900. Venice, Korablestroiteley ulitsa 21, is another upmarket venue, which opens 1900-1600 and is frequented by wealthy Russians and foreigners. A passport is required at both casinos and the dress code is smart-casual.
At Apraksin dvor 14, Money Honey is located downstairs, with the sweet sounds of rockabilly emanating, while the upstairs City Club caters to an older crowd who like a bit of blues in their rock. Konnyushenny dvor, Griboedova kanala nabrezhnaya 5, is spectacular for clubbers interested in thumping Russian pop music and other wonders of chart-hit wonderland. Located in a former bomb shelter, Griboyedov, Voronezhsakaya ulitsa 2a, is definitely the place to be for an array of house and techno music.
Fish Fabrique, Pushkinskaya ulitsa 10, is perfect for visitors wishing to see local rock and alternative bands. Jazz Club, Zagorodny prospekt 27, is where to head for the Russian spin on jazz, with the modern stuff played on Friday and Saturday nights. The Jazz Philharmonic Hall, Zagorodny prospekt 27, is the venue for traditional and Dixieland jazz, performed in an auditorium but with a more intimate venue upstairs, in the Ellington Hall. Jimi Hendrix Blues Club, Liteiny ploschad 33, has live bands on at midnight, every night. It is open 24 hours a day and has a reputation for great food but exceedingly lousy service.
Classical Music: Opera, Ballet, Symphony
This is a city of countless great composers - including Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Shostakovich - and possibly the most famous ballet troupe in the world: the Kirov Ballet. In the financially uncertain world of post-Soviet Russia, the city's cultural life has been hard-hit and many of it's music ensembles make money by heading out of Russia tÃÂ¾ cash in on their excellent reputation. That said, St Petersburg remains one of the greatest cities in the world for lovers of classical music.
Foreigners may have some problems purchasing tickets for events, especially in more popular venues like the Mariinskii Theatre for which a dual-price system is in operation (visitors get tÃÂ¾ pay more than twice the amount Russians do).
The eternal leader of the pack is indeed the Mariinskii Theatre. Formerly known as the Kirov, it is the jewel in the crown of the cityÃ¢â¬â¢s cultural life. Luxuriously outfitted, it hosts several major premieres every year and affluent tourists flock tÃÂ¾ catch showings of major Russian works such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker as well as performances of major works from the European canon.
For opera and ballet, your next best bet is the Mussorgsky Theatre on Arts Square, not quite as luxurious or prestigious as the Mariinskii but still worth a visit. Elsewhere, the Oktiabrskii Kontsertnii Zal ('October' Concert Hall) hosts performances in its large Soviet-era hall, but these are only tÃÂ¾ a recorded soundtrack.
Symphony concerts can be attended at a variety of excellent venues, among them the Philharmonia on Arts Square and the Glinka Kapella just off Palace Square. Smaller venues such as the Iusupov Theatre and the Hermitage Theatre (both former private theatres for the Imperial elite) offer much more intimate performances. The recently renovated Smolnyi Cathedral also hosts classical music performances.
St Petersburg has a grand dramatic tradition and takes the theatrical arts very seriously. There are a huge variety of theatres tÃÂ¾ visit, offering a wide range of works. The premier venue is the Bolshoi Drama Theatre on the Fontanka canal, whose reportoire takes in a broad range of Russian material plus the occasional interpretation of Western works.
Located in a beautiful Rossi-designed auditorium, the Aleksandrinskii Theatre draws on the full canon of Russian and Soviet works. The Malyi Drama Theatre is another popular option as is the Komissarzhevskaia Drama Theatre just off Palace Square. Both show mainly Russian works, the latter with a much more classical bent. The Baltiiskii Dom hosts a number of the cityÃ¢â¬â¢s more progressive and innovative drama groups as well as a number of rock and pop concerts.
The Russian film industry is in a state of some disorder. Though it has produced the odd blockbuster in recent times such as The Barber of Siberia or the Brat movies, mainstream cinemas are Hollywood-dominated. The most obviously blockbuster cinema is the shiny Crystal Palace on Nevskii Prospekt (just follow the smell of popcorn). Barrikada shows pretty much the same range of films, but in a decidedly more elegant and spacious environment.
At the opposite end of the scale, Spartak is the best of the art-house bunch, showing both contemporary and older Russian movies along with art-house foreign imports. Dom Kino is housed in an impressive Style Moderne building and shows both major Russian and Western films, as do the Khudozhestvennyi - which increasingly fails tÃÂ¾ live up tÃÂ¾ its name (which means Ã¢â¬ËartÃ¢â¬â¢) - and the Parisiana.