St. Petersburg, known in Soviet days as Leningrad, is often considered Russia’s “Second City.” In the more hidden Russian gay community, that means it’s one of the few places for gay bars and clubs. While the gay scene is not as prevalent as in Moscow, there is still more alternative life here than practically anywhere else in the country. Here is a guide to some of the bars and clubs that form the backbone of gay culture in St. Petersburg, Russia.
1. Greshniki / “Sinners”
http://www.greshniki.ru/(You can use a page translation site to see it in English, but the pictures should give you an adequate idea.)
If you take multiple dance floors, bars, lounges, and video screens – and then populate the scene with drag queens, strippers, and scantily clad Russian youth gyrating to club music – you’ll get Greshniki. The place resembles a campy medieval carnival with thumping beats, thongs, and a toned-down versions of 1980s New York club kids against a faux-dungeon backdrop. This club uses a unique system for payment, one unfamiliar to most American visitors: upon entry, you receive a tab card that staff will append with costs for everything you do. You then pay as you leave, and they don’t take kindly to excuses like “I didn’t understand.” Probably the most popular gay club in St. Petersburg, Greshniki attracts people from all walks of life. Be prepared to see businessmen, prostitutes, tourists, students, and assorted nondescript locals. If you want a more chill, intimate experience, they also have a restaurant where it’s easier to make conversation and enjoy a later dinner.
2. Kabare / “Cabaret”
Nab. Obvodnogo Kanala #181
Rumor has it that TATU, the teenage Russian lesbian-acting popstars, have visited Cabaret a few times and caused a mild stir. While it’s unlikely that you’ll see any celebrities during your visit, this club rivals Greshniki for the spot as St. Petersburg’s premier gay club. Although most large gay clubs can’t help but feel a little tacky, Cabaret is far less ostentatious than its dungeon-style competition. The gimmicks are few: lots of dancing and lots of stiff drinks. With the exception of the extremely popular stage shows (hence the name), this club is all about men and music. Plenty of Russian soldiers, mostly from the navy, frequent Cabaret and look to hustle. They also have a back room, but that may be more dangerous and drug-filled than Western visitors want to experience.
Kolomenskaya Ul. #4
http://www.monoclub.ru/ ï¿½(Site is only in Russian, but it has a few pictures)
Although it can only accommodate a fraction of the patrons Greshniki and Cabaret can, Mono provides a cozier alternative to the mega-clubs. The crowd, though friendly, is older and less diverse. Men already pay less for admission than women, and the bar is so desperate for attractive patrons (to help its reputation) that sometimes cute guys just get in for free. But if you want a different view of St. Petersburg gay life, Mono is certainly worth a visit on the weekend, when the small dancefloor is packed and Euro-pop hits are spinning.
4. Tri El
5-aya Sovetskaya Ul. #45
Oddly enough, even though Moscow is the locus of gay activity in Russia, St. Petersburg is the home of the former USSR’s first lesbian bar, Tri El. On most nights, only women are admitted. However, they do allow men at least one day a week, presumably so that Russian male dyke-tykes can hang with their lesbian friends and shoot pool.