During my trip to Russia with Travel All Russia on their small group tour Treasures Of Two Capitals visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg we departed Moscow bound for the historic city of St. Petersburg by Sapsan Train.
On arrival into St. Petersburg our small group were escorted on board a slick air conditioned mini coach to the famous Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, situated on Nevsky Prospekt - home to some of the worlds most beautiful and historic sites including The Kazan Cathedral, Stroganov Palace and the House of Books, one of the first bookstores to open in Russia.
The Grand Hotel Europe is truly an experience in pure Russian luxury, the building itself is an architectural marvel boasting centuries old cupolas and porticos it rises above the surrounding beauty in a vibrant display of glittering golden lights and sculptural beauty.
The facade of the Grand Hotel Europe is more reminiscent of a palace than a hotel which sets the tone for the duration of my stay. Interestingly the hotel itself has an impressive history all its own, no wonder since it's history dates back over 140 years.
The Belmond Grand Hotel Europe has always been rooted in the cultural landscape of St Petersburg. With influential guests such as Tchaikovsky and Pavarotti, its association with music, dance and literature has always remained strong.
Located in the heart of the city on Nevsky Prospekt and Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa, Belmond Grand Hotel Europe is renowned as a luxury hotel and cultural landmark in St Petersburg. Italian architect Carlo Rossi used an impressive Neo-Baroque façade to combine neighboring properties dating back to the 1820s to create one magnificent building for the Evropeyskaya Hotel Company. This opened as Hotel de l’Europe in 1875. The beautiful Art Nouveau designs still enjoyed today were introduced by Swedish-Russian architect Fyodor Lidval at the turn of the century.
From the First World War to post revolutionary times, the building has been a hospital, orphanage and government offices. Thanks to careful and extensive renovation between 1989 and 1991, the building was restored to its former Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau glory and re-opened as Grand Hotel Europe. The building is now classified as a historical monument.
Among its guests were the elite in Russian society many of which are now paid homage through the vast numbers of suites in which guests can stay including:
The Dostoevsky Suite
THE GREAT LITERARY GENIUS
19th-century Russian writer Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, author of Crime and Punishment—which was set in the Haymarket, a short walk from the hotel—was a frequent guest. A quotation from the archives documents his reaction to the building’s construction in the 1870s:
'The architecture of this modern, huge hotel is efficiency itself'.
Aficionados of Dostoevsky’s writing will note that it is a corner suite (the author preferred corner rooms) noting that, while busy writing they were most convenient for observing street life outside. The living room contains a large desk for anyone inspired to create their own literary masterpieces.
The Mariinsky Suite
LEGENDS OF THE THEATRE
Over the years Belmond Grand Hotel Europe has hosted many luminaries from the worlds of music and ballet, from great choreographer Marius Petipa and prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, to Peter Tchaikovsky, Johann Strauss, and a young Dmitri Shostakovich who once played a sonata for Sergei Prokofiev.
Many of these stars performed at St Petersburg’s legendary Mariinsky Theatre, which was built in the mid-19th century and named in honor of Tsar Alexander II’s wife, Empress Maria. Those of an artistic nature will love the Mariinsky Suite’s theatrical decor, with light blue tones and gilded plasterwork evoking the Mariinsky’s sumptuous interiors.
The Stravinsky Suite
In 1914 Russian composer Igor Stravinsky left his homeland and moved first to Europe and then to the USA, only returning to the Soviet Union in 1962. During his visit, he gave several concerts in Moscow and St Petersburg, staying at Belmond Grand Hotel Europe for the latter.
Stravinsky’s avant-garde 1913 composition, The Rite of Spring, is considered one of the seminal works of the 20th century. Its theme of reawakening is reflected in the suite’s fresh, joyful green hues and the beautiful Verde Guatemala and Carrara marbles in the bathroom. The gleaming grand piano is a particular draw for our musical guests.
An array of wining and dining options are availble within the walls of the hotel. Each morning, I dined on a delicious breakfast at L'Europe Restaurant, (Russia's oldest continually serving restaurant) which boasts a simply stunning art nouveau decor the feature of which is the stained glass mural of Apollo.
Caviar Bar And Restaurant
For just one night, I wanted to live like a Russian Tsarina, and booked myself a table at St. Petersburg's only caviar restaurant located at the Belmond Grand Hotel - Caviar Bar and Restaurant. To read about my unique experience, read my article here.
My incredible caviar dining experience at the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe
The menu boasts 15 types of caviar, 12 Dom Perignon vintages, 35 types of vodka and 15 varieties of distillate. There is also an superb collection of domestic liquors and liqueurs.
From late night cocktails to early breakfasts, the lobby bar was a regular place to meet up with a few of my travel group buddies. Often times it was filled with a few famous and infamous faces of St. Petersburg dressed in the finest tailored suits and the ladies on occasion were seen to be wearing their fur coats.
A quiet intimate corner of the Lobby Bar.
While I did not have the opportunity to experience this restaurant personally, a couple of my fellow travelers spoke of their enjoyment while dining there. The restaurant draws its inspiration from Asia and offers a warm relaxing atmosphere with dining options for both inside and alfresco dining.
If you are looking for a truly unique stay in St. Petersburg, then its well worth considering the Belmond Grande Hotel Europe for its richness, its history and its welcoming experience that travelers from around the world can experience for themselves.