Russian Federation Travel Guide
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Добро пожаловать!* We may have got a little sidetracked by the insane suites of St Petersburg yesterday, but today our eyes are pointed back towards Moscow, where the Four Seasons finally opens in a recreation of the legendary Hotel Moskva which featured on the Stolichnaya vodka label and which was bulldozed 10 years ago. (In fact, it ‘opened’ two days ago with a big party, but is only available for bookings for normal folk from today.)
As we said before, the location is spectacular, on Ploshchad Revolyutsii, which filters into Red Square. It has five food and drink venues including Italian and Russian restaurants, a 24-hour fitness center, a glass-roofed lap pool and a whopping 32,292 square feet spa, which will open early next year.
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The Presidential Suite: so fancy, we're only showing you the gilt bathroom
All eyes are on Moscow this week, for the on-schedule opening of the Four Seasons, which unlocks the front door tomorrow. Nothing could possibly take away our Russian focus from this, the redevelopment of the Stolichnaya label building. Edit: nothing could take our focus away unless it’s the news that Russia’s original five-star hotel, the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg, has just unveiled six new suites, including (sorry FS) the largest presidential suite in town. Only in lux-mad Russia, etc etc.
Because in today’s Russia, a standard room in a crazy-luxury hotel wouldn’t even make the grade on Facebook, let alone Instagram, the hotel has converted 19 rooms into these six suites, and added 24-hour butler service for good measure.
OK have one of the bedrooms too
The 3770 sq.ft Presidential Suite is accessed through a domed, gold-leaf-encrusted lobby, has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fitness center, dining room, games room, living room (with bar), kitchen, music room (with antique grand piano), hammam and a study-cum-library-cum-secret-door-into-bedroom-one. The price? “Available on request”.
Does this building look familiar? It should, and not just to hotel geeks or fans of Stalinist architecture. In fact, this – the Hotel Moskva, which opened in 1935, is the building on the label of Stolichnaya vodka.
And now it’s about to find a whole new kind of fame as the Four Seasons Moscow. The hotel has just started taking reservations for an opening date of October 30.
This isn’t the actual Hotel Moskva, sadly – the original building was demolished in 2004, when authorities decided that knocking it down and building a replica would be easier than restoring the original. Completed in 2012, the gargantuan new building houses offices, apartments and a shopping mall (currently open) as well as the hotel. The location is fantastic – right by Red Square, bang on Ploshchad Revolyutsii (basically it’s overlooking the State Historical Museum, which forms the entrance to Red Square). Get a room on a high floor, and you should be able to see the onion domes of the Kremlin, straight opposite you (yes, the Kremlin has churches). Possibly even St Basil's Cathedral, over the shoulder of the museum, if you're on the right side, and high enough.
Unless you're a billionaire, then probably not. But we're always on the lookout for some spectacular suites and today, we've got plenty of photos of the Lotte Hotel Moscow which at 490 square meters claims to have the largest suite in Moscow. That's over 5,000-sq.ft. in American measurements.
The Lotte Hotel, part of the Korea's Lotte Hotels and Resorts group, describes itself as a 5-star hotel in New Arbat, the financial and shopping center of Moscow. The exterior looks corporate-y but inside the 300-room hotel is a French restaurant, Les Menus from 3-star Michelin Chef Pierre Gagnaire along with a modern fusion Japanese restaurant called MEGU. There's also a Mandara Spa, an all-day lounge that does tea and late-night music and an outdoor terrace that's open from May to October. And clearly, guests love the spot as it's ranked #1 on TripAdvisor.
We won't even try to guess how many rubles the Royal Suite costs, we do know that the regular rooms (at 48 sq. meters) start at around $300USD a night. But given that it's a dicey time in Russia right now (to say the least), you may want to wait a little while to book.
[Photos: Lotte Hotel Moscow]
The 2014 Winter Olympics Games have begun, many miles and several tape delayed hours away in Sochi, Russia. But all anyone can seem to talk about is how terribly unprepared the Sochi hotels have been.
We saw journalists take to Twitter the other day, detailing the horrible hotel conditions--from broken drapes to toxic water and broken toilets. While laughable in some cases, sadly, these conditions seem to be "standard" for Sochi.
Today, we've got a report from a Super Secret Sochi Insider who spent a few months in the city preparing for the Olympics. Here's his tale of hotel woes:
A Super Secret Sochi Insider Speaks:
The hotel I was living at is called Marins Park Hotel - they say it’s 4 stars but that’s laughable. It’s been open for a long time (in fact it used to be a Radisson SAS) so I did not have any of the extreme issues like what you’re seeing on Twitter.
Still, we’d only have hot water a few days of the week. Asking the Front Desk about it would result in a shrug and a forced smile. When the hotel lost electricity over one weekend, we asked about it being restored and the response was something to the effect of “everyone is complaining, what do we know? it will come back soon”. Like sorry to disturb you from texting.
What sucked about losing electricity - other than the obvious of being on generators only - is that the heater in most of the rooms don’t work. I was given a small space heater which has to be plugged in to the wall. No electricity in the wall = no heat from space heater. In the middle of Russia. In winter. Fun.
Well, while we certainly feel for them having had our fair share of bad experiences, this is definitely a case of "it's funny because it's not us."
Media covering the Winter Games landed in Sochi this week to find that their rooms weren't ready for check in. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with delayed room turnover. No -- the rooms really weren't ready, as in still under construction.
Social media is dangerous enough when it comes to the everyday person, let alone when a group of American media encounter a problem. Tweets from reporters, some hilarious and some sad, have been the talk of the town as they attempt to settle in before the opening ceremonies on Thursday. We've embedded a few of them below for your reading pleasure, and it won't take you long to find others from various news outlets via a quick Google search. And of course, Twitter itself.
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One more hotel to add to our OPENING THIS MONTH list!
“What’s with the French?” you may ask. Well, Kempinski is bringing a bit of grand Paris to Moscow with the opening of the palace-like Hotel Nikol'skaya in the centre of Russia’s capital, the company’s second hotel in the city.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the Bolshoi Theatre, Duma and the famous GUM department store, the hotel was formerly the residence of Count Orlov-Davydov until the early 1900s and also used to house the Koeller perfumery and many fine chocolate shops. After six years of restoration by Leo International Design Group (architects of several Shangri-Las and Le Meridiens in China and Thailand), the hotel has opened its grand doors with 211 rooms and suites, six—count ‘em—six restaurants and bars, a spa, fitness center and five meeting rooms.
In a move that would greatly empower the consumer, the Russian Ministry of Culture is attempting to pass legislation that would create a standard of hotel service and give guests a legal path of recourse should the expectations of their stay not be satisfied. It is, without a doubt, one of the most direct and outright attempts at putting the power back in the hands of the paying customer.
According to reports, guests would have options under the new law when they encounter a problem with a hotel's service:
1) Guests can request that their problems be resolved and the property would be allotted one hour to do so.
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In continuing with our luxury hotel news today, we just wanted to inform you that the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace in St. Petersburg will be opening this Sunday, July 7. Reservations for the hotel opened up back in April but that was when we thought the hotel was opening August 1. Now it's practically a month ahead of schedule. We likey.
The hotel has 151 rooms and 26 suites, all with views of either Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, the Aleksandrovsky Garden or the landmark Admiralty. Yet despite this being a new hotel, it's not entirely new money here. The Lion Palace dates back to the early 19th century when it was an apartment building for Russian royalty which was guarded by two marble lions. It was even name-checked in a poem by Alexander Pushkin in 1833, The Bronze Horseman. It's a perfect fit for Four Seasons.
As for the guest rooms, they are very much in the traditional and subdued Four Seasons style, as opposed to any Russian glitz. But they will have all the modern amenities such as a full marble bathroom, giant flat-screen TVs, another TV set within the bathroom mirror and high-speed internet along with toiletries from L'Occitane, Hermès and Bulgari.
While we were hoping for a late 2012 opening when we had a first look at some of its photos, things rarely go our way like that in a world of hotel delays, but reservations for Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace in St. Petersburg have now finally started for arrivals from August 1 this year. And as a bonus, the group has confirmed the long in the works Four Seasons Moscow, due later in 2013 right next to the capital’s Red Square, as well.
Dating back to the early 19th century, Four Seasons Lion Palace started its life as an apartment building for the city’s elite, and was famous enough in its day to be captured by Alexander Pushkin in 1833 in his poem The Bronze Horseman.
We've mentioned how expensive hotel rooms can get, especially in Moscow. Where luxury hotels like the Ritz-Carlton can fetch upwards of $17,000 per night for a super flashy suite, it makes sense for an affordable hotel to come to the city center and give options to the masses. Enter, Sleepbox Hotel Moscow, the city's first capsule-style accommodation.
It's not the first Russian capsule hotel, but it is the first in the high-priced city. Sleepbox opened up it's first trial capsules in Moscow Airport ready for long layovers and weary travelers. Now, the boxes have come downtown to one of Moscow's most vibrant areas forming a hostel-like hotel of multiple pods.
Opened last month, the Sleepboxes offers small 'semi-self-contained' boxes that come in various sizes from single, twin, double and a family right in the heart of the Tverskoy District. Each 'room' comes with a TV, free WiFi and unlimited use of the hotel's iPads.
Starting rates of 2,600 Rubles ($86 USD) per night for a twin capsule with bunkbeds is affordable enough for those that are backpacking through the region or even hipster travelers that want a new experience on a dime. If you're traveling with a family and need to reserve some Rubles, the family capsule goes for 4,900 Rubles ($162 USD) per night.
The area is known for a wealth of history, so this place might be the best option for you and your Comrades if you would rather spend your money at the Bolshoi Theatre or other neighborhood culture. And if Sleepbox hopping is your thing, the airport is only 35 minutes from the main train station just a few blocks away.
[Photo: Sleepbox Moscow Facebook]
When it comes to the Olympic Games, historically hotels raise rates because of a little something called supply and demand. We witnessed this in London this past summer. For the next Olympics, we might see reasonable rates coming from Sochi hotels during the 2014 Winter Games.
To make event accessible to more people, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister, has capped the prices of rooms for the host city for next year's Olympics and Paralympics. With just about one year to go and about double the amount of rooms yet to be built, this is welcome news for those who want to join in the wonderment that is the Games.
In the past, hotels have charged as much as 157,000 RUB ($5,139 USD) for a one night stay, the new reduced prices are roughly 30-40% less than room rates during the port city's peak periods. A deluxe suite in a 5-star hotel will be no more than 13,896 RUB ($455 USD per night) and in 4-star properties the price will come in less than 13,148 RUB ($430) per night.