A guide to Petersburg’s luxurious entrances
A guide to
Enchantingly beautiful, Russia’s Paradnye, ‘front doors’, are as quintessential and characteristic to Petersburg’s aesthetics as the roofs and bascule bridges. The entrances, known for their grandeur, differ from your average front door. We bring you a guide of the most beautiful entrances to see.
When did Paradnye appear in
The tradition of building residences in a European style appeared in St. Petersburg during the era of Peter the Great. The main peculiarity of these buildings was in their several entrances, with a main front entrance leading directly to the street, and the back stairs utilised by servants and for household needs.
The first palace in the city to enjoy a luxurious front door was the palace of the first governor of Petersburg, Alexander Menshikov. Leading from the bank of the Neva shore, the entrance was richly decorated with a portico of wooden columns and a stanza above. During festivities, an orchestra would play as guests entered the house to live music.
The palace’s new tradition brought about a change of attitude amongst the residents in how they viewed housing designs. Soon after, the wealthier townspeople built mansions with stately staircases and grand halls tiled with marble and decorated with statues and bas-reliefs. Not only mansions, apartment buildings with several entrances began to appear more in the 19th century, with back stairs leading to the courtyard, and a front entrance to the main street. They were called Paradnye.
Today, the term Paradnye is used to describe any front entrance in St. Petersburg, with some considered as part of the city’s main sightseeing attractions. Their beauty can enchant even those outside St. Petersburg — one Instagram account, Paradnye, is dedicated to capturing their charm.
While in St. Petersburg, here are a few Paradnye definitely worth visiting:
This eclectic mansion was designed by the architect Gustav Barch for the wealthy tavern-owner Vasily Kanshin, who later furnished the apartments and gifted them to his daughters as a source of income. After the revolution, it was converted into communal apartments.
The Kanshin mansion was maintained and perfectly preserved; today you can see the original composition of the main façade and its splendid stucco decoration with caryatids and cupids inside the building. Film lovers will particularly like this place — in the front hall, Alexei Balabanov shot the film “Happy Days”.
Years of construction: 1869–1870
Address: Kuznechny Pereulok, 6
In the middle of the 19th century, architect Freiberg built a three-floor house with a courtyard annex for the wife of Privy Councillor Rul. Later, Turkish banker Henrich Blokk ordered the construction of a six-floor building in its place, partially preserving the old walls. The facade of the lower floors housed wide vitrines for commercial and office premise, while the upper floors boast striking designs reminiscent of late eclecticism, including a bay window, balconies and large volutes.
At various times, the premises were rented out for various uses, including as an auction house, shops for the Belgian society “Burners Auer”, to a confectionery company and trade houses. Today, the building houses a post office, travel agencies and shops.
Years of construction: 1902–1904
Address: Nevsky Prospekt, 65
Pale-Royal furniture house
Pale-Royal is a private hotel dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Described as the ‘haven of artistic bohemia’, writers, artists and musicians frequently stayed there. Among the guests were Anton Chekhov, Ivan Bunin, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Fyodor Chaliapin. Russian poet and novelist Zinaida Gippius wrote about Pale-Royal saying, “authors loved it for some reason and lived there, especially those without families, for months, and even years.”
Today, the building is recognised as a cultural heritage site. Decorated in a rich eclectic style, the facade features sculptures, reliefs and ornaments. Initially intended for commercial use, high semicircular windows were chosen for the first floor.
Years of construction: 1875–1876
Address: Pushkinskaya st., 20
Considered one of the most beautiful tenement house in St. Petersburg, this five-floor building owned by merchant Raphael Bernstein has a staircase between Nevsky Prospekt and the 2nd Sovetskaya street richly decorated with stucco medallions, caryatids and lion figures.
At the beginning of the last century, the building included tea shops, pharmacy warehouses, carpentry workshops and hairdressers. In his book, 20 unique front entrances of Saint-Petersburg, local historian and tour guide Fyodor Gribkov delves into the fascinating interiors of the second tenement house.
Year of construction: 1898
Address: Nevsky Prospekt, 134
Built at the beginning of the 20th century between 1919 and 1941, this building housed one of the oldest musical schools, the Rimsky-Korsakov School. Before, the premises were rented to Dobroe Delo bookshop, owned by Lev Tolstoy.
Playing an ode to the classical Baroque and Renaissance architecture, the five-floor building is adorned with corner turrets, three bay windows and intricate reliefs. With its interior, the architect hoped to personify wealth and representivity. The interiors can still be seen today as the building was not converted to communal apartments and remains well preserved.
Year of construction: 1903
Address: Nekrasova st., 4
Medical doctor Vladislav Kreavsky is considered to be the “father of Russian athletics”. The vegetarian and physical training enthusiast established in his own flat the first sporting and wrestling club in the mid 1880s, with a fully equipped sports hall. With over 40 apartments in the building, some had three rooms, others nine rooms. For the more luxurious apartments, there were fireplaces, balconies and in one, a special Paradnye front entrance with its own doorman.
Years of construction: 1881–1882
Address: Chekhova st., 3
photo & video: Alice Kuchinski