Winterly. Coronacrisisly. Different

02 March 2021

Saint Petersburg during the pandemic is like first, thin ice on water – itn frightens and attracts at the same time. Hermitage now is half-empty, fitting rooms do not resemble a miniature embassy of China anymore and the main sports facilities managements making peace with the limitations are striving to prepare for the 2021 events – from regattas in Gulf of Finland to UEFA Euro 2020. In this exclusive time, St. Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development suggested that mass media combines the sporting and the beautiful in one trip.

Kommersant, Rostov-on-Don

Uncrowded classic

According to the most optimistic prognosis, the 2021 tourist flow in Saint Petersburg is not even going to reach 70%. However, what is unearned income for the treasury that is a principally new experience for those who are bold enough to come.

Saint Petersburg remains the cultural capital. Even in time of the pandemic. Regardless of the incidence rate. Cultural life, which froze in the regions as far back as in the last year April, is not just warming but blazing here and now. Just within the first half of December 2020, Anna Netrebko went out on the stage of Mariinsky Theater starring in Eugene Onegin, Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra headed by Yuri Bashmet performed twice in Saint Petersburg Philharmonia and Cinderella starred by Natalya Osipova – principal ballerina of Royal Ballet in London – was performed in Mikhailovsky Theater.

The theaters halls in Saint Petersburg may be quarter-occupied – that is the limitations by Smolny. Limitations are also valid in the museums. Thus, Hermitage – the necessary point of any tourist route – is selling tickets only online and limiting the number of visitors of every 2-hour session. But are there so many disadvantages in being among 5-7 visitors (and not excursion groups) in Hermitage’s hall?

Along with a chance for an unhasted stroll in Russia’s principal museum, the pandemic gave an opportunity to see one of the first attempts of its own artistic reinterpretation at Chinese artist Zhang Huan’s exhibition there. The headliner of the exhibition – five-legged and headless Hermitage Buddha – will meet the visitors by shimmering with copper just in Great Courtyard of Winter Palace.

Time of contemporary art and new discoveries

The main part of Zhang Huan.. In the Ashes of History exposition of the author known for his live art performances and creating by means of incense ashes occupied the largest hall of Hermitage – Great (Nicholas) Hall. In several serias there are about 30 works which part is created especially for the exhibition, under impression of visiting Saint Petersburg. A particular place is taken by two works created by the author while under domestic lockdown – inspired by worries about the pandemic and its consequences – and included in Love series.

Wind from the East is blowing not only in Hermitage: Lee Bul: Utopia Saved exhibition of Sout Korean artist Lee Bul is open in Manege until the end of January. The programme includes reecho with Russian avant-garde and immerse installations, specular and photic objects including Dirigible Balloon.

St. Pete’s Mecca of modern art – Erarta Museum – received and started housing collection of works by “Mad Hatter” Philip Treacy during the pandemic. A retrospective of works by the Irish man decorating the heads of Earth’s principal women – from Elizabeth II to Lady Gaga – have already appeared in the museum once – in 2015. The new project is dedicated to the museum’s 10th anniversary.

For those who want arts moderately but lack novelty seriously, it is time to go to Kronstadt – the place where Russian lighthouse development takes origins. In January, new Lighthouse Museum – the “younger brother” of Lighthouse Service Museum in Fort Konstantin – will open there.

Under brick domes of XVIII century, there were constructed ten spear lighthouses (one sectioned) and exhibits that happened to be parts of the real lighthouses in Leningrad Oblast. The most efficient of the exhibits are lamps and lenses. The heart of the new museum will be the revolving lens with an incandescent lamp with 1 kW of power. Its light reaches 32 nautical miles – about 60 km.

Besides, there is a room of lighthouse keeper – one of the most rapidly extincting professions on the Earth – recreated in the museum.

Stakes on sports

When the snow melts down, the days will become longer and the pandemic will start to decrease (the latter is being counted on by the city authorities no less than the first and the second), the tourists will be presented options of the sports leisure: Saint Petersburg has been actively fitted with sports arenas for the last years. Thus, in the west of Primorsky District, across the bay from Gazprom’s skyscraper Lakhta Center (invested 120 bn. rub. in and almost half kilometer high), there is multifunctional Tinkoff Arena complex is built. And, if Oleg Tinkov is related to the complex only by 3-year contract of naming, Tinkoff Arena is hugely planned for fighting sports. Vadim Finkelstein – an investor of the complex and an organiser of MMA contests – is going to turn fighting sports back here in August after a forced interruption. Even earlier, in April, the arena will receive Cup of Federation of Bodybuilding. Furthermore, the plans for the next year include competitions in boxing, jiu-jitsu and judo.

Within walking distance of Gazprom’s future headquarters there is Saint Petersburg Yacht Club. A children and youth sports school works twenty-four seven here; evening sail regattas take place here from June till September. Until the competitions turn into corporate tournaments (which was planned before the pandemic), the commercial race may be taken part in under well-experienced shipman’s guidance by anyone wishing.

For those who like watching contest from tribunes, it is worth coming to one of the tournaments of Nikiforov Tennis Club – the Saint Petersburg largest tennis- club situated on Krestovsky Island. In terms of the competitions, matches featuring professional players who got in top-10 in WTA rating just a while ago – from Anastasia Myskina to Mikhail Yuzhny – happen here regularly. At the tournaments featuring the invited sports stars for whom tennis is not a profession but just a hobby, Evgeni Plushenko, Alexander Zhulin, Alexander Kerzhakov and Artyom Dzyuba appeared at the courts.

Football possibilities of Saint Petersburg need no advertisement, UEFA Euro 2020 postponed a year later due to COVID-19 do even less. The Russian part of the matches is to be received by Gazprom Arena which seats up to 80 000 fans. UEFA’s plans include holding games from the 11th of June to the 11th of July, now 2021.

But tourists are loved in Saint Petersburg and also welcome there before. Truly. Even this year. 


The material is based on the results of 5 introductory press-tours which took place in North Capital from the 28th of November to the 7th of December 2020. They were participated in by 50 journalists and bloggers from different regions of Russia.