We stayed at the Grand Hotel Europe in the city center for four nights at the end of August to the beginning of September 2010. We loved this hotel and it seemed 5 star all the way! The hotel is affiliated with both the Orient-Express chain and the Leading Hotels of the World chain. It is located on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa and takes up nearly half of a city block. The locations is excellent, with one side of the hotel facing Nevsky Prospekt and the other reaching Arts Square. It is an easy walk to the Church of the Spilled Blood, Russian Museum, Hermitage, Kazan Cathedral. There is some parking in front of the hotel, but the spaces are guarded carefully by the doormen. There are always at least two doormen on duty, and also sometimes two bellman. The front desk is manned by several staff members at a time, and there is more than one concierge. Someone is always available to help you, no matter what your request.
We booked our room through the American Express Platinum Travel Fine Hotels & Resorts program, so we received a room upgrade upon arrival to the historic floor. We didn’t book the absolute lowest standard room category, thinking that the standard would only upgrade us to a superior room; instead, we booked the superior category, hoping to be upgraded to a belle junior suite, which we were. The room was quite spacious, with a large sitting area (with a sofa, two chairs, two end tables, a coffee table, and an entertainment unit), desk area, a large foyer/entry way, and a large bathroom (with a real shower, complete with rainfall shower head and shower curtain). There was actually enough room to set/store two suitcases, which is almost never the case, and it becomes necessary to keep one bag on the floor rather than at waist-height. There was a DVD player, cappuccino maker, mini-bar, umbrella, safe, hairdryer, robes, and slippers. The toiletries weren’t a brand that I recognized, but there was a full complement available, including lesser-seen items like razors and toothbrushes. There is twice daily maid service, including an evening turndown that includes a delicious chocolate for each guest made by their in-house confectionery, Dominiques. Our room supposedly had air conditioning, but despite the fact that the outside temperature never rose above the high 60s, it was always very warm in our room. The air conditioning seemed to run continuously, but it never really produced cold air. Fortunately, one of the two windows in our room opened, and we were able to get some cool air through its tiny opening. (The windows were enormous, but only portions of it actually opened, and it was necessary to use a key-type instrument to do so. The other window did not open, nor did the “key” from one window work on the other.)
There are myriad choices of restaurants at the hotel, including L’Europe, Caviar, Rossi, Chopsticks, Grand Terrace, Mezzanine Bar, and the Lobby Bar. Daily breakfast at L’Europe was included with our room rate, and it was an excellent breakfast, with both hot and cold items. A harpist plays during breakfast, and the servers are very attentive despite the fact that it is buffet service (although I did see people ordering other plates from the kitchen, which seemed to be included in the price as long as you made a special request). The decor of L’Europe is beautiful with lots of stained glass, and it resembles an intimate theatre. For me, a jacket is required for dinner in L’Europe and in Caviar. One night, we ate dinner at Grand Terrace (outdoors) at the Grand Hotel Europe because we had a $100 credit from booking through American Express Platinum Fine Hotels and Resorts. And guess what? Our bill was just about $100 for the same two entrees and drinks that we had just around the corner for half the price. But the location was excellent, because it is positioned on the corner of Nevsky and Mikhailovskaya, and we sat outside covered up with cozy blankets and watched the pedestrians stroll by. We had a pizza and a veal schnitzel dish, the latter of which was tasty. The pizza, while huge, was not very good, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Service was sub-par as well, although it was difficult to tell how much of this was our own fault. In the US, we are accustomed to first ordering drinks, then ordering food usually after the drinks are delivered. In Russia, the servers seemed to expect patrons to order everything at the same time, including drinks and food. Perhaps if we didn’t have to scrutinize the menu each time, even looking for something simple like a non-alcoholic soft drink, we would have had an easier time with ordering and received better service. As we read online, when we paid our bill (even if it was using a credit card), we left 10% of our total check in cash as a tip. On another evening, after a ballet performance at the Theatre of Musical Comedy (also called the Grand Palace Theatre) we had some drinks and dinner at the Lobby Bar at the Grand Hotel Europe. For two rounds of drinks, a club sandwich, and an eggroll-type appetizer, the cost was about $100, proving that even a quick and not elaborate meal in the hotel was twice as expensive as a meal just down the block or around the corner.
On other nights, we ate dinner in the same block as the hotel. According to my credit card statement, the restaurant was called Nevskij 40 (Nevsky 40), although that was difficult to tell from the sign outside of the restaurant. It was a refurbished restaurant with both indoor (down a few steps) and outdoor seating. Tatiana said that there weren’t any good restaurants on Nevsky (we equated it to eating in Times Square in New York; there are restaurants, but they aren’t the best ones in Manhattan), but we enjoyed our meal. We ate a typical Russian meal of beef stroganoff served with mashed potatoes (not egg noodles) and meat dumplings with a few beers for my husband and a few Diet Cokes for me; the total was about $50. The food was tasty, but I thought that the portions were small. $50 was our standard dinner tab, which was much less than we were expecting to pay for food. We thought that our dinners would easily be $100+, and they could have been if we had eaten in the hotel restaurants and not ventured out just a block from the hotel. We tended to visit touristy restaurants that had menus in English; otherwise, it would have been an arbitrary pointing to some wording on the menu. Admittedly, they weren’t the finest meals that we’ve ever had (no need for The French Laundry or Le Bernadin to worry), and we only ordered entrees, not appetizers, but the food was just fine, and there was a great variety of cuisines available to suit every taste. In a recent search online, I found nearby restaurants located at www dot nevskycontour dot com forward slash en forward slash nevskyprospect forward slash cafes; that website would have been very helpful to have seen before we visited.
There are several shops in the hotel, including La Petit Opera, Mercury (jewelry), an art gallery, Russian souvenir store, Russian handicrafts shop, flower shop, and Dominiques chocolate shop.
We couldn’t seem to find the fitness center, but I think that you could reach it through the beauty salon. There is an Citi (?? Citibank) ATM machine and also a bank in the hotel, but the ATM is not near the bank office or owned by it. We weren’t charged any fees to withdraw money, either from the bank owning the ATM or by our own bank (credit union). Twice we withdrew 10,000 rubles (about $330), and there was an option to withdraw an even larger amount, although I don’t recall what that was.
There is a grocery store was located on Nevsky Prospekt in the block before the hotel, heading away from the city centre. It is on the same side of Nevsky as the hotel; walking from the hotel, first pass the Armenian church, then the 24-hour bookstore, then the indoor shopping arcade (which I believe is called Passazh, meaning The Passage or The Arcade), and the grocery store will be next in the basement of the arcade. It seemed like a well-stocked store, and I think that they accepted credit cards, although we used cash each time.
We liked our stay at the Grand Hotel Europe, but unfortunately, our last minutes there spoiled our experience a bit. When we checked out, there were charges on our bill that we did not understand. Two of them were easily explained: the fee and associated tax for registering our stay in order to complete the visa process. It would have been nice if the line item entries accurately described the charges so that we did not have to ask for an explanation. We were also charged the equivalent of $10 for sending a fax, which we did not send. (Who sends faxes anymore these days? Doesn’t everyone just scan and email instead?) There was a lengthy back-and-forth between the front desk and someone else (perhaps the telephone operator or someone at the business center) as to whether we sent this fax. In the end, the charge was removed from our bill, but not before my spouse was forced to write and sign “I did not send a fax” like a child would be reprimanded to write on a chalkboard! We also had a problem with our return airport transfer. Although we asked the bellman, and called down to the front desk two times, no one told us that it would be necessary to order/ reserve a city taxi to take us to the airport, and that it would take at least 30 minutes for the car to come. Had someone told us that prior to check-out, we would have planned accordingly, but we didn’t feel that we had an extra 30 minutes to wait for the ordered car to arrive. (We weren’t exactly pressed for time, but we wanted to allow 1.5 hours to reach the airport, with an additional 1.5 hours at the airport pre-flight.) The hotel had Mercedes transportation available, but at a cost of approximately $125 USD one way. We ended up walking outside of the hotel and hailing a taxi that was waiting across the street. The cost was $70, significantly less than the hotel Mercedes, and only about $10 more than the city taxi quote. Regardless of our last few minutes there, we would definitely stay at the Grand Hotel Europe again when visiting St. Petersburg.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A cultural and culinary landmark, Belmond Grand Hotel Europe has played a central role in social, cultural, civic, and business life of St Petersburg for over 135 years. Belmond Grand Hotel Europe is located in the very heart of the city centre, on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa. Positioned adjacent to the Arts Square, the hotel has strong associations with the worlds of theatre, music and ballet. Past guests include Peter Tchaikovsky, Dmitry Shostakovich, Ivan Turgenev, Johann Strauss, George Bernard Shaw, Luciano Pavarotti, crowned heads and world leaders. Today the hotel offers its guests 265 rooms. The hotel's Historic Floor boasts 10 unique suites with individual names, including the Dostoevsky, Romanov and Pavarotti suites. The hotel is home to six welcoming restaurants and bars of the highest international standards. On Fridays, L'Europe Restaurant hosts the hotel's celebrated Tchaikovsky evenings, while another pearl of the hotel's restaurants is the Caviar Bar, where guests can enjoy blini with caviar washed down by ice-cold vodka. Those who enjoy chocolate can make their dreams come true in the hotel's in-house chocolate factory, where they can even order a chocolate grand piano. Located in the heart of the cultural capital of Eastern Europe, Belmond Grand Hotel Europe combines the charm and elegance of 19th century tsarist Russia with the contemporary comfort. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Grand Hotel St Petersburg