It’s no secret that the Russian electronic music scene has been experiencing a recent renaissance. From the latest celebration of the Moscow-based ARMA club at Berlin Funkhaus to the international ascent of up-and-coming artists like Nikita Zabelin, there’s been an upsurge in the talent coming out of the country—and a brighter spotlight being placed on the underground electronic scenes burgeoning there.
One of the most notable additions to this trend is the St. Petersburg-based Present Perfect Festival, which is in its third year of operation. The event—which is hosted on one of the city’s beautiful seaports—promotes contemporary club culture through art installations, an exciting lecture program and a full lineup of experimental, EBM, techno and electro-fueled music. Alongside homegrown acts like Anastasia Kristensen and Lipelis will be big names Objekt, DMX Crew, Broken English Club, Ron Morelli, Lena Willikens and more.
In anticipation of the big event, the festival organizers put together their tips on visiting the city, including places to pre-party, eat and get a quick cultural fix. Check out a preview of the festival below, and then read on to see all 13 of their recommendations.
While nothing can match the beauty of the Mariinsky Palace designed by the famous Russian architect Andrey Ivanovich Stakenshneider, you can still pay homage to the designer by going to his namesake club, Stackenschneider. In its four-year history, “Staken” has already become a must-visit city attraction because of its sprawling terrace, which is a favorite hangout for locals. The important nightlife destination has also historically hosted the Present Perfect festival pre-party. With just a 200-person capacity, it’s one of our favorite places to dance.
Blank is the largest club in the city, and it’s built on a very professional scale. Massive parties marked by big names regularly take place here. And even though it’s quite a new venue, Blank generates high expectations. We hope that it will soon become a new place of power in the city club circuit.
This new center of attraction for young people—which was recently deemed “the wildest club in Russia”—is an independent DIY project with charisma and a deliberate punk spirit. The founders actively program noise, techno music, and various bands in a very authentic way. There are also cool international and local DJs who play there regularly, especially after live acts finish. Sometimes they won’t finish until the next day at noon. Perhaps the quirkiest thing about this place is that there’s a dance floor where the DJs play next to the toilets. But nobody seems to care.
This public city spot is a new social hub in St. Petersburg. The space is located next to the Vasilievsky Island harbor and is on the territory of a former Siemens & Halske factory, so it has a very authentic look. It’s also surrounded by 19th century buildings made of red bricks and looks over the Gulf of Finland. All of this makes this place very special. Port Sevkable is currently under reconstruction, so it’s only available for special events and activities. This is also where most of the programming for Present Perfect Festival will happen this summer. There are a lot of great ateliers, workshops and housing options nearby, but they can go quickly, so we recommend that you already book yours now.
Street Art Museum
This museum is located in the industrial Eastern part of St. Petersburg in the old factory for laminated plastics. The project’s main focus is on the unification of industrial post-soviet ethics, the nerve of real life and youth street art. It’s a unique area where the street artists’ exhibits are available for the visitors. The museum space is divided into two separate zones: a permanent exhibition and open public space, and a separate venue for temporary exhibitions and large-scale events. The factory space hidden from public eye is where the permanent exhibition of murals made by contemporary artists lives.
New Holland Island
The New Holland Island can be depicted as a huge, green glade with a summer stage, an awesome and active gig schedule, a sandy beach surrounded by huge inflatable flamingos and winding walking paths. It’s also home to a former naval prison that, today, is filled with cafes, restaurants and shops selling goods from modern Russian designers.
Podpisnie Izdaniia Bookstore
This shop has existed in St. Petersburg since 1926. But for the last 30 years, it’s been situated at 57 Liteyny Prospect. Here, you can find a wide selection of literature for all tastes and age groups, as well as rare editions and books by small publishers. Our tip is to grab some souvenirs! They have notebooks, badges and posters that they make themselves. The store is also home to a nice coffee shop, Meet Joe, from the famous Bolshecoffee roaster.
We discovered this place three years ago, and we’re still in love with it. No luxury, just simple, cheap and incredibly delicious Georgian food and the best khinkali in the city! This place is perfect for a Sunday after-party, especially for people over thirty who don’t necessarily want to stay in the club. The prices will pleasantly surprise you, but the hospitality of the hostesses—who truly seem to run everything here—will surprise you even more.
This is by far the best budget pizza in town. Kamora is especially cool to visit in summer when the tables are outside. It reminds us of simple and charming Berlin outdoor cafes, neatly hidden between the houses. And while it might take you some time to get your pizza—since this restaurant is nearly always full—we guarantee that it’ll be worth it. In the meantime, you can enjoy a nice selection of beers.
If you happen to be in St. Petersburg on a Sunday, don’t hesitate to get brunch at Atelier. We love that this place has delicious food and a quaint atmosphere. It also has some great vibes, like a neon sign that reads “No Bad Days” and a live DJ every Sunday at 12:30. The tables are always full with cava, tacos, guacamole and a huge variety of snacks. You’ll never feel like leaving.
This restaurant is one of the most charming venues of the city, and it’s located in a small courtyard hidden from prying eyes. The Garage is designed and built in an American style. Getting here isn’t so easy, and you can’t make a reservation in advance. This might make it sound like the trek there isn’t worth it, but we guarantee that it’s probably the best combination of nice company and good food in town.
Rumochnaya Liquor Store
This store and bar is a very authentic drinking establishment typical in St. Petersburg. Rumochnaya is a place that sells the cheapest vodka and beer in town. But don’t let that sway your opinion of it—its patrons are usually intellectuals, artists and other city bohemians who give this place color and life.
Soul Kitchen Hostel
A perfect place to crash for the night, especially if you’re in the mood to party. This stylish hostel is located in the heart of St. Petersburg and faces the Moika river embankment. It’s walking distance from all of the worthy check-points on the city’s pub crawl, not to mention the traditional sightseeing spots, all of which are only a stone’s throw away. The international airport Pulkovo is also 15 km from here. It’s not surprising that the Soul Kitchen Hostel has consistently ranked among the best in Europe for several years in a row.
Present Perfect Festival will take place July 27-30 and feature artists including Ellen Allien, Aux 88, Blawan, Anastasia Kristensen, Lena Willikens and many more. For tickets and more information, visit the festival website here.