Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have stayed in a lot of spectacular hotels, from back to basics hostels in breath-taking locations to full-on shrines to luxury.
But like a first love, there’s always been that one ultimate hotel before which all others hobble like knights in rusty armor. Yet affections can be uncertain things for there’s a new contender for the number one spot: The Grand Hotel Europe, St Petersburg.
Since we were only in St Petersburg for 4 days we decided to stay at the Grand. It is situated in the very heart of the city; The Winter Palace and Hermitage are a short walk, The Russian Museum, the Philharmonic Society and the Mikhailovsky Theatre literally on the doorstep.
The Grand Hotel Europe is as much a historic landmark of St Petersburg as The Hermitage or St Isaac’s Cathedral. Designed by Rossi in the style of La Belle Époque as the grandest hotel of the 1800s and Eastern Europe’s first five star. Today it remains an exquisite example of elegance and refinement. Tchaikovsky spent his honeymoon here, Pavarotti refused to stay anywhere else, and it continues to welcome heads of state and celebrities.
We were staying on the first floor in one of the historic suites (link), with an adjoining historic room accessible through a connecting door.
As the door opened to reveal room 109, The Yacht Suite, my eyes were greeted by one of the most elegant and beautiful interiors imaginable. I couldn’t help but let out a very Russian ‘OPA’ .
Executed in sumptuous creams and soft eggshell blues, towering six meter ceilings, crystal chandeliers, antique furnishings and original art, walk in wardrobe, fresh roses, champagne and the hotel’s legendary chocolate confections presented in an edible chocolate piano. The hotel’s signature warm amber fragrance lingered softly in the air. My senses were in raptures.
The suite had all the modcons you would expect from a 5 star with the addition of a built in television, which emerged from the foot of my king sized bed at the flick of a button. As well as this, each historical suite came with its own personal butler; our butler Misha very kindly offered to unpack our suitcases and got us tickets to the Russian Museum.
Despite the suite’s considerable size, it had an incredible coziness with everything designed to mimic the comfort of home. Even the kitchen was filled with a great range of snacks and the evening turn-down service furnished us with further tasties ranging from freshly baked cookies to chocolate covered strawberries.
I skyped my mother back in London but her stoicism cracked as she sternly reminded me that despite my exultation,'there’s no place like home’- 'well then mummy, good job you decided to stay in London'; she wasn't impressed.
The entire property is utterly beautiful with lustrous art noveau and art deco interiors incased in a building, which architecturally speaks to the days of the Russian Empire. Marvelously, all the original features of have been preserved and there’s a weighty sense of history about the place.
The vast range of restaurants and bars caters to all tastes, from Russian food at The Caviar Bar (link) and Restaurant, to Italian, Chinese and modern European in L’Europe (link), which is the jewel in the crown of St Petersburg dining.
But the one thing I had most of had to be the chocolate, so boy was I glad there was a 24 hour gym onsite for my midnight workouts.
We absolutely loved The Grand and it really is one of those special places that you wistfully leave behind, heavy hearted and slightly glum as you return to wherever home is. However, I wasn’t morose for long as another family trip is scheduled for summer and you’ve guessed where we’re staying….