A guide to the extravagant side of St. Petersburg

Lori, Legion Media
Many years ago when St. Petersburg was the imperial capital, it was known for its noble entertainment -- excerpts from Pushkin’s poem Yevgeny Onegin illustrate how young urban men entertained themselves with balls, extravagant receptions, theatrical plays, holidays, and lunches made up of many exquisite dishes.

The city's founder, Peter the Great, was known for his attention to new social trends. He was the first of the Russian tsars to hold an assembly, to build palaces for receptions and to collect art, and the park with fountains in Petergof amazed visitors with its array of activities: traveling by water from St. Petersburg, festive receptions at the palace, lunch in the Hermitage pavilion at exotic mechanical tables, and, of course, fireworks in the evening.

Mansions of the Northern Capital

Almost all of the entertainment from the 18th and 19th centuries in St. Petersburg is available once again. Now you can hold a large meeting or your own festive ball in one of the beautiful palaces or mansions of St. Petersburg. Scheduling a meeting in Mikhailovsky Castle, having a romantic date with dinner in the tower of Peter and Paul Fortress, or taking a horse and carriage ride to the Tsarskoe Selo park will not be a problem. In addition to this, one of the most popular attractions available to tourists is a trip to Petergof, the "Russian Versailles," in a motor boat and then watching a fireworks show after closing time. (Grand Premier, events, palaces&mansions: (812) 337 16 32, (812) 940 09 20. From $ 9 000 (6750 €)  to $ 20 000 (15 000 €).

Restaurants, Terraces, Cafes

The elegance of breakfast, lunch and dinner in modern restaurants has not diminished since the time of Yevgeny Onegin. The Tsar restaurant in St. Petersburg offers genuine Russian cuisine. It is located in the center of the city, near Nevsky prospect. Here, you can dine on crab soup and Siberian pelmeni or grilled Atlantic catfish and wash it all down with lingonberry kvas. There is also a special called "Breakfast for a Lord": it is always a pleasure to begin the day with millet porridge with pumpkin, potato pancakes or blini (pancakes) with red caviar. (Tsar restaurant, from $ 121 (91 €) for dinner,  from $ 61 (46 €) for breakfast)

Another upscale restaurant, Dvoryanskoe gnezdo (Nobles' Nest), is located in the Tea House of the Yusupov palace, near Mariinsky Theater. The restaurant has two cozy rooms and a music lounge, where you can enjoy live music in the evenings. On the menu are unique dishes based on French and Russian cuisine. Original recipes from the restaurant's chef coexist here with dishes resurrected from records from the Yusupov family cookbook: bear meat pelmeni in wine sauce with sliced foie gras, baked sterlet served in nobleman style, fillet of northern deer marinated in burgundy and herbs de Provence. There are also more traditional dishes such as borsch, beef stroganoff, fish soup, that are made here according to original old Russian recipes. Previous guest here include Vladimir Putin and George Bush Sr, Gerhard Schroeder and Helmut Kohl, Catherine Deneuve, Bruce Willis, Paul McCartney and his wife, and many other stars and heads of state. (Nobles' Nest, (812) 312 09 11. From $ 152 (114 €) to $ 900 (675 €)

On Sunday you can treat yourself to a traditional brunch in the luxury restaurant Taleon located in the heart of Nevsky prospect, not far from the Hermitage. The leisurely meal (served 12-4pm) is always accompanied by live music. This brunch impresses with it's abundance of snacks and main dishes: hot smoked sterlet with pink horseradish, Asian-style cold-smoked rainbow trout, marinated slices of veal, lobster with pink sauce, the freshest oysters and homemade desserts. The restaurant is located in the recreated Yeliseyev mansion decorated in the style of Louis XVI. Two more restaurants with wonderful panoramic views of the city are located on the upper floors of some of the tallest buildings in the city centre. Sitting on the roof of Terrasa , you can watch what's happening on Nevsky prospect and admire the architecture of Kazan cathedral. Mansarda restaurant is located near the magnificent St. Isaac's Cathedral in the Quattro corti business center. The menu (which is given on an iPad) offers the best classic dishes of European and Asian cuisine. (Terrasa restaurant, (812) 937 68 37. From $ 151 (113 €), Mansarda restaurant, (812) 946 43 03. From $ 151 (113 €)

Exclusive Transportation

For those who enjoy vintage cars, the St. Petersburg entertainment bureau offers a Cadillac, Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz and 1950's Jaguar as well as Russian vintage beauties , Chaika and Pobeda, which were the cars of Soviet leaders, astronauts and movie starts ($ 106 (79 €) per hour) . Its always nice to go shopping knowing your car is nearby to relieve your hands of the burden of heavy shopping bags. With so many famous boutiques located on Nevsky Prospect and in the DLT department store ( Leningrad Trade Building ), with everything from Armani to Versace, you will be glad you brought your vehicle Those interested in contemporary art can visit a branch of the Hermitage XX-XI museum, which is located in the main headquarters on Palace Square. Contemporary Russian art can be found at Marina Gisich gallery where one can view, as well as purchase, works of artists from 1980 to the 2010's such as paintings, installations, sculptures, graphics, and photography. The artists include Yevgeny Yufit, Grigory Maiofis and Vladimir Kustov (av. check from $ 6000 (4600 €).

Airplane aficionados can take an aerial excursion. One can fly over the city , or take a trip in a light sport airplane outside the city to the lovely Karelian lakes and forests, as a passenger or a pilot (from $ 121 (90 €)  to  $ 18 500 (13 900 €) per hour).

In St. Petersburg you can rent a motor boat , jet ski, diesel-powered ship, a sail boat or motorized yacht for any number of people to explore the rivers and channels of the city or for fishing in the local lakes or in the Baltic sea through the Gulf of Finland. Also available are comfortable trips to the monastery island of Valaam and to Kizhi, the museum of Russian wood craftsmanship. (Baltflot travel association, (812) 275 85 10. From $ 121 (90 €)  to $ 728 (546 €) per hour)

Entertainment 'a la russe'

After all these adventures a branch of the world-famous lounge restaurant Buddha Bar invites you to spend a relaxing evening in St. Petersburg. But, if you want to let your hair down and have some fun, you would enjoy the Jelsоminо cafe , an elite night club with a restaurant and karaoke. You can order and sing your favorite song with professional accompaniment, watch a show, and enjoy black caviar and other high-class dishes, and watch how they really have fun in Russia. Over the next few years several golf courses with hotels and restaurants are slated to open in the buildings of former estates in the Petersburg suburbs. (Buddha Bar, from $ 151 (113 €), Jelsomino cafe, from $ 200 (150 €) to $ 650 (480 €)

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