A Jazz Lover’s Guide to St. Petersburg
There was a saying in the former Soviet Union: “Today he plays jazz, tomorrow he’ll sell out his motherland”. Back then, jazz was seen as Western, subversive and something not to be trusted. Fortunately, times have changed, and today St. Petersburg attracts top jazz performers from across Russia and indeed the world.
Every year, the city hosts Russia’s largest jazz festival, the internationally acclaimed Triumph of Jazz. And, while we may have just missed this year’s event, that doesn’t mean the music has stopped. Here are some places where you can see jazz in St. Petersburg all year round.
Probably the first destination any serious jazz lover in St. Petersburg should head to, this large club has been going strong since 1989 when it was set up by Russian jazz legend David Goloshchekin. Housed in a two-story theatre complete with large stage, balconies and some very retro tables, stepping into this venue is like stepping back in time.
Address: Zagorodny pr. 27.
An intimate club where it’s advisable to pre-book a table, this venue channels the moody atmosphere of a Manhattan jazz joint with nightly performances of everything from experimental and acid jazz to blues, swing, bluegrass, ragtime, fusion and more. With an impressive roster of big-name performers from Russia and beyond, this is the place to go for seasoned jazz aficionados.
Address: Shpalernaya ul. 33.
This is a jazz joint so hip it would fit right in to Berlin (in fact, the management recently opened up another Hat bar in Berlin for this very reason). The venue attracts some of the biggest names in the genre, the bar stocks over 30 varieties of whiskey, and at weekends the dance floor is jam-packed. What’s not to like?
Address: Belinskogo ul. 9.
A bit like an anti-café but with cocktails and hard liqueur, Commode is a ‘self-cost’ bar, where you pay for the time spent inside (a reasonable 180 RUB per hour) and then buy drinks at the purchase price, which is often less than 150 RUB. On top of that, the bar hosts regular free jazz nights and live music. All of this adds up to an enjoyable, offbeat evening that won’t break the bank.
Address: Ul. Rubinshteyna 1.
So named for the number of seats in the venue (so you might want to book ahead), 48 Chairs is a restaurant and jazz bar that recreates the sizzling atmosphere of 1930s American cabaret hall. The food has a strong Italian influence, there’s an tempting selection of wines, and there are live jazz performances every night.
Address: Ul. Rubinshteyna 5.
Named after the trumpeter Henry “Red” Allen, this cosy basement café has everything you could possibly need for a complete evening out. Treat yourself to dinner from its Russian-European menu, then sit back with a digestif and enjoy some classic, old-school jazz. Live performances take place every evening from 8.30pm onwards.
Address: Mayakovskogo ul. 50.
Just a stone’s throw from the Church of the Savior on Blood, on the banks of the Griboyedova Canal, you’ll find this laidback restaurant/jazz club. Spread over two floors, the venue combines meals and snacks with live jazz by Russian and foreign performers. The music often doesn’t get going until about 9.30pm, making it the ideal place for a weekday nightcap. It’s also free to enter and there’s no dress code, which adds to the chilled out charm.
Address: Kanala Griboyedova Emb. 7.
As you can see, there are plenty of places where you can enjoy jazz in St. Petersburg. If you know of any others not included on this list or have visited one of the above venues, why not share your experience in the comments below or on our Facebook page? We always enjoy hearing your thoughts.