This impressive hotel stands on St Petersburg main street, Nevsky Prospekt among the city’s great architectural treasures. It is close to Arts Square, the Russian State Museum, Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum. Known as one of the most glamorous hotels in St Petersburg, Russia, it oozes style and charm. If only those walls could talk.
The Back Story
Walk through the hotel and you can feel the history – it is not hard to imagine dazzling diamond tiaras catching the candlelight as women dressed in sumptuous silk gowns dined and danced the night away with men in bespoke dinner suits. Tchaikovsky and Pavarotti were frequent visitors to the hotel that has always been associated with music, dance and literature. Italian architect Carlo Rossi used an impressive Neo-Baroque façade to combine neighbouring 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 were introduced by Swedish-Russian architect Fyodor Lidval at the turn of the century. The hotel has had an interesting past – it has been a hospital, orphanage and government offices. Extensive renovation between 1989 and 1991 saw 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.
The 265-room Belmond Grand Europe Hotel wears its heritage impeccably. It’s a class act with magnificent features and sumptuous decor. There are classic restaurants to enjoy traditional Russian food as well as a caviar bar. Azia features great Asian food and breakfast is a feast served in the beautiful L’Europe restaurant. There’s a health club and sauna.
Rooms and Interiors
The hotel features classic style rooms and suites with elegant antique furniture and décor. The latest include the largest presidential suite overlooking the iconic main street, Nevsky Prospekt complete with a 24-hour butler service. The sprawling presidential suite comes with an impressive gold-leaf domed lobby ceiling, two bedrooms, two marble bathrooms and a sauna. A fitness centre, kitchen, music room with antique Carl Schroeder grand piano and a combined study and library with a secret bookcase door that leads to the main bedroom are deserving of accolades. The five Avant-Garde suites named after famous Russian artists are just as opulent with decor inspired by each artist.
Our suite, named after Wassiky Kandinsky, features splashes of bright colours that reflect his abstract works. The spacious suite has a huge bedroom, marble bathroom, dining area and couches, corner sofas and recliners that entice you to linger.
Opened in 1905 but closed during the revolution years, L’Europe is Russia’s oldest restaurant and its centrepiece, a magnificent stained glass window depicting Apollo, still casts its magic over diners. So why has it survived for so long? It is the cuisine, unique atmosphere and outstanding service according to frequent diners. People come from all over the world to dine here to enjoy the ambience, cuisine and service and they are never disappointed – it’s like turning back the clock to Imperial Russia,’ says Moscow-born Marina Petrivo, 63, a devoted fan. Canadian-born executive chef Ian Minnis has reintroduced the heritage menu from the hotel archives where classic Russian dishes star. Borsch Moscow Style – traditional beetroot soup with sliced beef and smoked sausage, Kamchatka crab Romanov Style from the Bering Sea and Beef Stroganoff – a XIX century family recipe of Baroness Helene de Ludinghausen-Stroganoff that was given to the hotel, all have a great following. On Friday evenings graceful ballet dancers perform the White Adagio from Swan Lake on the stage where Elton John once gave an impromptu concert.
Breakfast is a memorable affair in this dining room and French champagne flows at Sunday brunch – a tradition for locals and guests. As for caviar and vodka, head next door to the intimate Caviar Bar – a 19th-century neoclassical design with marble floor and columns, red velvet chairs and sparkling silver.
The city’s first vodka sommelier, Alexander Dmitriev, guides guests through the subtleties of vodka accompanied by a caviar degustation while explaining its heritage. Passionate about his national drink, he loves to share his knowledge and dispel myths about the often misunderstood drink. “Vodka is a very special drink and plays a very important part in traditional Russian life and is present at all important ceremonies where it is drunk each time in one mouthful from tiny glasses,” he says.
“We toast to health, family, love and one for the road and it is always taken with tasty snacks – you need to deeply exhale and then drink it in one gulp and if you drink it correctly half a minute later you will feel a heat in your chest and that wonderful feeling.”
Alexander teaches us how to discern the mildness of live vodkas made with water from natural springs and says his favourites drops are the Tzar’s Imperial Gold filtered with honey and Imperia and Beluga vodka from Siberia. The hotel now serves more than 50 vodkas including home-infused flavours such as cranberry and honey.
Our caviar degustation starts with the signature dish, Egg in Egg – truffled flavoured scrambled egg topped with Ossetra caviar and it’s fabulous. Alexander points out the taste nuances of three different caviars including Beluga, Astrakhan and Sevruga caviar that are served with blinis, sour cream and finely grated hard-boiled egg
The menu boasts 15 types of caviar, 12 Dom Perignon vintages, 35 types of vodka and 15 varieties of distillate. But if caviar isn’t for you, try the Azia restaurant where Asian cuisine takes centre stage – its opening coincided with the hotel’s 140th anniversary two years ago.
L’Europe restaurant is definitely a highlight and a place where you can gaze at the magnificent stained glass window depicting Apollo
Try the caviar and vodka degustation and traditional borsch.
What I Loved
The heritage-listed Lobby Bar with its exquisite art nouveau decor is perfect for a night cap. Sink into a red leather chair and order -what else – but a Tzar’s cocktail.
Belmond Grand Hotel Europe