As the World Cup approaches, it starts June 14, Vogue Living brings you the cultural delights of the imperial city of Russia, including artistic fixes, where to go to get a bite to eat, where to stay and shop, plus the best place to soak up St Petersburg’s famous summer White Nights. Soon we will all be in the throes of World Cup fever. During the week of June 14 regardless of whether or not you are a football fan – we will all have an opinion, support a team, know the most attractive players by heart, and revel in our teams’ victories (or mourn their defeat). Russia, which is the host country this year, will inevitably come under scrutiny as 64 matches are played in 12 stadiums across the country, including in St Petersburg. There’s more to the imperial capital than Kisho Kurokawa’s 2017 Zenit Arena, or St Petersburg Stadium as it will be known during the World Cup, though. Here, Vogue Living highlights where to go, what to see and where to eat in the Venice of the north.
Stay at the Four Seasons Lion Palace. Make like European royalty and book a room at the Four Seasons Lion Palace. The interiors hark back to imperial Russia and are completely restored to their 1820 glory, albeit with a few modern accents. The clubby Xander Bar is the perfect place for a nightcap, and the Japanese and Italian restaurants Sintoho and Percorso are among the best in St Petersburg. Decompress under the warm waterfall of the adults-only spa pool, and if you’re feeling extra special, upgrade and request a terrace room for a view of the golden domes of St Isaac’s Cathedral.
Have fun shopping at department stores and the independent retailers. If there’s one thing the Russians do well, it’s a luxe department store. The St Petersburg outpost of the famous Moscow store TSUM, DLT is a where the Vogue Russia team like to stock up on sartorial wares. The store offers transfers from your hotel and their personal shopping lounge is second to none. Though originally set up an independent store in 1988, Babochka has expanded to three locations since. But it has done so without losing its boutique feel. Hit its concept store outpost Nevsky 152 for the latest streetwear collabs and a carefully curated buy of new designers. Enjoy the Eliseevy Merchant’s Shop. A popular tourist spot, for good reason, Eliseevy Merchant’s Shop is an Art Deco mecca filled to the brim with Russian delicacies. From cured meats and natural oils to sweet fancies, chocolates and beautifully decorated tins of caviar, this is the place to find a special souvenir. Once they’ve been found, settle around the chandelier-strewn palm tree in the center and enjoy a cup of Russian Earl Grey and a patisserie and listen to the tinker of the self-playing piano.
Also, visit The State Hermitage Museum. Founded by Catherine the Great and occupying six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, The State Hermitage Museum has the largest collection of paintings in the world, around three million, a fraction of which are on display. There’s more to see that art through – the Winter Palace itself provides a great insight into the world of the Tsars. The gold room is a true taste of decadence. The collection is vast, but be sure to make time to visit Glavny Shtab or General Staff Building as it is more commonly known. Beyond being an architectural wonder of the city of St Petersburg, the contemporary east wing also offers a refreshing dose of international photography and contemporary art.
Plan a trip to see the Ballet at Mariinsky Theatre. A visit to the green-and-white wedding cake-like building is a must. This was the stage of the Russian ballet greats, from Nijinsky and Nureyev to Pavlova and Baryshnikov. Take in the ballet from the gilded gold stalls ahead of its renovation, or for a more modern experience, skip across the Kryukov Canal to the Mariinsky II which opened its doors in 2013. The dress code is decidedly formal and many still regard it as an opportunity to revel in old-world glamour. Arrive early for champagne and caviar.
Peterhof Palace is Arguably the grandest of St Petersburg’s many palaces, Peterhof, or if you prefer The Russian Versailles, is a worthwhile day trip. In May, the fountains spring to life, so be sure to take a camera and make the most of the summer sun. Arrive in style, in only about 30 minutes, by boat from the Admiralteyskaya embankment, cruising down the Neva River.
DON’T MISS, The White Nights, from late May to early July. The sun barely sets in St Petersburg. Known as the Beliye Nochi (White Nights), there is a sense of celebration in the air. Former Vogue Russia editor Aliona Doletskaya’s favorite hangout to celebrate around-the-clock is the newly restored New Holland island, nestled in the center of the city. Doleskaya recommends the island’s Kuznya House, a restored foundry turned relaxed daytime café and fine dining restaurant, which on Fridays and Saturdays transforms into a nightclub until light night. In other words, you will be dancing until 6 am.
When you get hungry you should try eating at the Pyshechka, the must-visit café.
The fuss-free café of Pyshechka is a local legend. Taking its name from its specialty dish, pyshka (doughnuts). At just 19 Russian roubles per doughnut, which is around 40 cents, you can really afford to indulge. Grab a boxful of these wonders, covered in powdered sugar, and take a stroll down the canal to marvel at the five-domed dazzler that is, the church of the Saviour on the Spilled Blood. Cococo is also an in-the-know eaterie. A favorite of the Vogue Russia team, Cococo is the brainchild of famous chef Igor Grishechkin, dishing up seasonal produce in an opulent but contemporary setting. Grishechkin’s menu is heavily inspired by his home region. Lastly, before you go check out Mansarda, the rooftop restaurant. Overlooking St Isaac’s Cathedral and the historical city center, Mansard’s rooftop restaurant is a must-visit. Part of the St Petersburg’s high-class restaurant group Ginza Project, we recommend the oysters or salmon-topped blinis, followed by caviar tagline or grilled sea bass. Consider this rooftop dining at its most stylish in north-western Russia.
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