Guide to ballet in Russia: where to see ballet in St. Petersburg & Moscow

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In this guide to ballet in Russia, I will tell you where to see ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, how to buy the tickets and what is the best ballet to watch in Russia (apart from the famous Swan Lake).

Russian ballet is world famous. As a former local (yes, I lived in St. Petersburg, Russia for over 22 yearscheck my local’s guide to St. Petersburg), I used to go to watch opera and ballet in St. Petersburg quite often and even have my favourite performers and theatre.

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In St. Petersburg, students often have a 50% discount for the performances and I was lucky to have even bigger one – 80% for the opera and ballet in Mikhailovsky Theatre.  I managed to see over 14 performances and develop a taste for opera and ballet. Now I have favourite artists, performances and even a theatre. However, it all started when I was 9 years old – and I went to watch a ballet for the first time with my mum. We watched Giselle and it was magical! Ballet was always like something from a fairytale to me and that’s why I think I only like classical ballet – the modern one doesn’t impress me at all. And St. Petersburg ballet has the majority of the classical performances!

St. Petersburg ballet - where to see ballet in Russia - Mikhailovsky Theatre
La Fille Mal Gardee at Mikhailovsky Theatre

Where to see opera and ballet in Russia

In Russia, two best places to see ballet are Moscow and St. Petersburg. Moscow has its famous Bolshoi Theatre and tickets there are sometimes very hard to get, due to a large number of resellers, who buy them out and try to sell them for the price, 4-5 times higher than the original price. We wanted to see the Nutcracker in Bolshoi just after the New Year, but the tickets were sold for almost $400 – over 20,000 rubles and they would never cost so much in the normal ticket office, so we decided to watch it in St. Petersburg for 6,000 rubles instead.

How to buy Bolshoi theatre tickets

People often buy tickets for ballet in Bolshoi theatre from resellers for obscene prices. If you don’t want to be scammed or overpay, only buy the tickets on the official website of Bolshoi theatre here. You can buy an e-ticket there and then print it and show it at the entrance. In order to buy the ticket, you need to register. 

I agree that the website interface is not the prettiest, but it’s functional and it’s in English as well, so don’t worry about that either. 

Which ballet theatre in Russia is the best?

There is a huge debate over the ballet theatres in Russia: which ballet theatre in Russia is the best – Bolshoi in Moscow or Mariinsky in St. Petersburg. I personally think that both are great, but tickets to Mariinsky are somewhat easier to get. Even checking now, off-season (Jan), the tickets for the most popular plays in Bolshoi are long gone and you need to book at least 2-3 months in advance.

In Mariinsky theatre, you can totally buy tickets weeks before the play. How to buy tickets for Mariinsky theatre? -Well, same case as with Bolshoi theatre – on the official website. 

If you’re choosing a ballet in St. Petersburg, it makes sense to check the following theatres.

Read my post about the best areas to stay in St. Petersburg >>>

Best theatres in St. Petersburg, Russia:

1. Mariinsky Theatre (opera and ballet)

Mariinsky Theatre is a world-famous theatre located in the city centre of Saint Petersburg (but you need to take a taxi to it, because the metro station is still being built) and it has 3 stages. The only 2 good ones, however, are the main stage and the new stage. Try to avoid the Concert Hall, as they usually don’t show the best performances there. You can buy a ticket online at

St. Petersburg ballet - where to see ballet in Russia - Mariinsky New Stage
New stage of Mariisnky Theatre
The Nutcracker at Mariinsky Theatre

Read my blog post about the best tours to take in St. Petersburg >>>

2. Mikhailovsky Theatre (opera and ballet)

Located in the heart of St. Petersburg, on the Square of Arts, this theatre is my favourite. I also think it’s one of the most beautiful theatres there are in Russia – its combination of gold and red makes it look lavish. Also, it’s more spacious than the main stage of Mariinsky and the chairs, in my opinion, are more comfortable. You can buy the tickets online at

St. Petersburg ballet - where to see ballet in Russia
Mikhailvosky Theatre

Read my blog post about the best museums to visit in St. Petersburg >>>

3. Hermitage Theatre (ballet)

If both of the theatres above are not showing performances or everything is sold out, try the lovely Hermitage Theatre, though it’s the theatre, which shows the Swan Lake and the Nutcracker all year long and its audience are 100% tourists (95% of them – from China). Nonetheless, the quality of the ballet is still good and the theatre is very small and beautiful. You can buy the tickets here.

There are more places to see St. Petersburg ballet, but I really don’t recommend them, because the only 3 impressive theatres are the ones I listed above.

Which ballet (and opera) to see in Russia (best ballet in Russia)

If you’re wondering, which ballet to see in Russia and what’s the best ballet in Russia in general, I’d recommend the following ones:

Swan Lake (Ballet)
Giselle (Ballet)
Nutcracker (Ballet)
La Fille mal gardée (Ballet)
La Sylphide (Ballet)
Romeo and Juliet (Ballet)

Best opera to watch in Russia:

Prince Igor (Opera)
La Boheme (Opera)
Eugene Onegin (Opera)

Don’t forget to check the ultimate guide to St. Petersburg, which I composed not so long ago – it’s very useful! I tried to write about everything you might possibly need to know before going to St. Petersburg, Russia. Also, here are the best dishes to try in Russia. Finally, if you’re planning to visit both St. Petersburg and Moscow in one trip, here’s my guide to getting from one city to another. 

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1 thought on “Guide to ballet in Russia: where to see ballet in St. Petersburg & Moscow”

  1. hello I have visited both cities and both are incredible … I saw the nutcracker at the Kremlin theatre whilst in Moscow on a recommendation from a lady who I meant on the train from st Petersburg to Moscow … the theatre is amazing and so was the show I am surprised it is not listed as one of your recommendations…


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