The Grand Hotel Europe offers a personal connection to the Golden Era of the Imperial City of St. Petersberg while remaining grounded in the excellence demanded by todays Luxury Traveller.
St. Petersberg was the Capital of the Empire of the Tzars for two centuries and remains the Cultural capital of Eastern Europe. It boasts grand boulevards, historic squares and iconic public art commemorating rulers, artists, poets, famous military victories and heroic resistance.
There are numerous public buildings, theatres and museums but the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly the Hermitage museum, Russia’s national gallery housed in the former Summer Palace of Catherine the Great. We visited in late February and enjoyed peaceful, almost private access to this monumental collection which is on the scale of the Louvre or the Smithsonian.
The Grand Hotel Europe opened in 1875, one of the first Luxury Hotels in the World, hosting Rasputin, Romanov and Tchaikovsky in their prime, it has been at the beating heart of this cultural superpower ever since.
Service standards are impeccable as you would expect from a property whose sister hotels include the Cipriani in Venice, the Copocabana Palace in Rio and a personal favourite of ours, Le Manoir au Quatr’ Saisons near London.
Belmond’s trademark attention to detail is evident throughout from the pillow menu of seven choices, to delicately perfumed Bulgari toiletries and the most divine home-made chocolates. You will love the gym, the Carita Spa and of course the sumptuous buffet breakfast.
Rooms start at UK£112 per night (US$145), all categories of accommodation are spacious and comfortable enjoying twice daily room service. The hotel team prides itself on anticipating guests’ needs where possible and at times they do seem to have a sixth sense. A dedicated Butler service for the first floor historic suites takes this to another level, unpacking suitcases, pressing garments without charge, and magically appearing to provide thoughtful advice on tailored activities and excursions. In this hotel, nothing is too much trouble.
The signature restaurant L’Europe is the oldest haute cuisine restaurant in Russia, an Art Nouveau masterpiece that has been the hub of the St. Petersberg social scene for generations. Under its spectacular stained glass window featuring the Greek god Apollo, the patron of travellers, L’Europe has hosted banquets for Igor Stravinsky, Queen Elizabeth II of England and President Bill Clinton, yet retains the air of informality that inspired Sir Elton John to take to the stage and play an impromptu concert
The hotel also offers St. Petersberg’s only dedicated Caviar restaurant under the watchful eye of Alexander Dimitriev, Maitre D and vodka sommelier. Maintaining no less than thirty five vodkas, as well as their home-infused liquers, Dimitriev and his team also boast a partnership with champagne house Dom Perignon. Their signature dish is “Egg in Egg” blending hen egg with sturgeons roe to create a truffle-flavoured scrambled egg that is topped with Oscietra caviar.
Music is in the DNA of the Grand Hotel Europe which is situated adjacent to the Arts Square and opposite the building of the Noble Assembly which is the home of the Philharmonic. Mindful that rehearsal space is always in short supply, the hotel’s Grande suites contain historic pianos enabling artists to prepare in their rooms. Distinguished guests included Strauss, Shostakovic, Stravinsky and a veritable who’s who of classical music.
This musical legacy has tangible benefits for today’s guests. The concierge has privileged access to late tickets including seats in the hotel’s own box at the Mariinksy theatre. On Friday evenings the L’Europe restaurant hosts a famous Tchaikovsky night.
Not surprisingly, the hotel is the established first choice for A-list celebrities visiting town. The Lobby bar, with its stunning art nouveau interior, is open 24 hours for cocktails, drinks and food. Don’t be surprised if you run into Richard Gere, Michael Douglas or Leonardo DiCaprio.
In summary, Russia’s first ever five-star hotel remains as relevant today as it ever was. St. Petersberg should be on every Luxury Traveller’s radar and there is no better place to check in than the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe.
Disclosure: Most of our property, service & product reviews are sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced by any sponsor.