At the Grand Hotel Europe, you can walk in the footsteps of some
of Russia’s historical figures. This storied 1824 hotel, with its
magnificent baroque facade, was a favorite of Tchaikovsky,
Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Anna Pavlova and Maxim Gorky, and today it
continues to be the center of this enchanting city, founded by
Peter the Great in 1703.
Celebrities, heads of state and royalty have enjoyed the
landmark hotel’s elegant interiors, exquisite art collection and
top-notch service. And now there is even more of a reason to visit
last year it was acquired by Orient Express Hotels and plans to
renovate its 301 rooms are already under way (it will be done in
stages and the hotel will remain open).
The Grand couldn’t be in a more ideal location. It sits just off
Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main thoroughfare, lined with
boutiques, cafes, restaurants even a few remaining Old World
grocery shops. It is just minutes from the famed Church of Our
Savior on Spilled Blood with its traditional Russian onion-dome
architecture (built on the site where Czar Alexander II was
killed). It is also near the world-famous Hermitage Museum,
featuring a priceless collection of artwork, including paintings by
Da Vinci, Raphael and Rembrandt, as well as the spectacular
The Philharmonic is across the street and it’s a 10-minute taxi
ride to the Mariinsky Theater known as the Kirov Ballet during the
Soviet era where Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov danced.
(The concierge can arrange sightseeing tours, opera or ballet
tickets and more.)
Old World Decadence
If the Grand Hotel Europe is the hub of St. Petersburg, then the
focal point of the hotel is the lobby bar. This two-room Art
Nouveau treasure is richly decorated with stained-glass ceilings,
brass-and-hand-blown-glass lighting fixtures, wood paneling and
green-marble table tops.
The bar is open 24 hours a day and is always buzzing with all
manner of people, from tourists to visiting dignitaries to powerful
Russian businessmen who travel with a phalanx of bodyguards. It’s
the only bar in the country that offers Dom Perignon by the glass
and, of course, there’s an extensive selection of vodka, including
one that comes in a faux Faberge egg (at $1,500, you keep the
bottle, the shot glasses and the jewel-encrusted egg).
Many guests enjoy a cocktail in the bar before or after a meal
in one of the hotel’s many restaurants. One of the most popular is
the Caviar Bar, a jewel box space with live music and a traditional
Russian menu. Clients can order the delicious caviar sampler
(beluga, osetra and sevruga) accompanied by sour cream and warm
L’Europe restaurant (where the breakfast buffet is also served)
is another option. Beneath a beautiful Art Nouveau stained-glass
ceiling, guests dine on refined French fare. All of the restaurants
are under the direction of executive chef Dominique Ferchaud, who
hails from France.
Rooms are elegantly designed with period furnishings, wooden
floors and extra-long windows with damask drapes (many suites
overlook Nevsky Prospekt). The refurbishment of 120 rooms was
completed this May (the next phase will begin this fall). The
designs were conceived by French designer Michel Jouannet and new
features include hypoallergenic beds, pop-up flat-screen television
sets, Russian-style upholstery and curtains and original framed
etchings of St Petersburg’s cultural highlights.
Some of the most sought-after accommodations are the fifth-floor
terrace suites, which offer striking views of the Church of our
Savior on Spilled Blood and the Russian Museum from the spacious
terraces. And the premier rooms are the Lidvall and Rossi suites,
complete with antique furniture, crystal chandeliers, oriental rugs
and gilt-framed paintings (the Rossi even has a piano).
A stay in one of these fantasy suites is like stepping back to
the time when St. Petersburg was still ruled by the czars.
Grand Hotel Europe
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