Destination Guide

St. Petersburg

Unknown Image
Courtesy Hermitage Museum
St. Petersburg, or Piter as it is affectionately known to locals, offers a wealth of history and culture. The city has dizzyingly beautiful buildings, 60 rivers and canals, endless (but easily visited) attractions, and its tragic and triumphant history can be felt around every corner. One cannot help but be affected by the humbling rush of history and sheer beauty, yet there is a great frustration in knowing that visitors can only begin to scratch the surface. The city, though familiar with its European aesthetic, has (understandably) hard edges and touring major sights should be done with a local guide. Note: Indagare does not recommend travel to Russia at this time, and the U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4: Do Not Travel warning for Americans considering a trip there.

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Facade - Four Seasons Lion Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Four Seasons Lion Palace

You’d be forgiven if you confuse the newest St. Petersburg luxury hotel with one of the city’s Imperial Russian palaces. The Four Seasons Lion Palace, located directly on St. Isaac’s Square, is housed in an extraordinarily beautiful, early-19th century building that has been painstakingly renovated to its former glory.

In 1820, Prince Lobonov-Rostovsky, a close friend and aide-de-camp of Tsar Alexander I, built the triangular-shaped palace with architect August de Montferrand (the same who designed St. Isaac’s Cathedral across the square). Two marble lions by sculptor Paolo Triscorni front the imposing yellow-and-white Classicist façade, upheld with rows of proud columns. The statues, which were made immortal by the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, represent the pride and strength of the city, its people and culture, and are an apt symbol for the hotel and its majestic beauty. The building, which has since been the Ministry of War and a design school, opened as the first Four Seasons in Russia in 2013 after eight years of construction. While much of the hotel is restored (original features like the grand façade, columned lobby and magnificent marble staircase were renovated to landmark specifications), the building has been fully retrofitted to accommodate the most discerning 21st-century guests. Word is that the IT department had to install an unprecedented number of modems to ensure wireless signals could penetrate the three-foot-thick walls; while craftsmen who previously worked on Catherine’s Palace regilded the lobby ceilings.

Guest rooms boast high ceilings, detailed moldings and décor outfitted in pastel colors—designed with a nod to the city’s facades. Luxurious textiles like cashmere, silk, velvet and fine linen abound, creating soft and comfortable spaces. Modern-day amenities were considered as well, such as flatscreen TVs, heated bathroom floors and mirrors with built-in clocks and televisions. Many rooms have terraces and balconies with spectacular views of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Voznesensky Prospekt, and as an added bonus, terrace floors are heated so that snow build-up doesn’t impede guests from stepping outside for (brief!) breaths of cold, fresh air. The Lobanov Presidential Suite boasts a magnificent balcony under the columned façade, a large living and dining room, a kitchen and a spacious bedroom. The master bath is the star, however, with painted frescoes and a bathtub carved out of a single piece of marble.

Dining options are plentiful, refined and delicious, including the Italian Percorso and pan-Asian Sintoho restaurants, the handsome, walnut-paneled Xander Bar and the Tea Lounge located in a romantic glass-domed winter garden courtyard. The magnificent four-story spa includes a banya (Russian bath) and a fitness room centered around an eight-foot-tall chandelier.

A city of palaces and theaters, St. Petersburg is undoubtedly best explored from a palace of one’s own, and as is the custom of Four Seasons properties, there is an emphasis on truly excellent service. Indeed the staff seems determined to make each guest feel like a member of the Romanovs. When Isadore Sharp, founder and CEO of Four Seasons, introduced the property, he described it as “the best of both worlds.” The hotel is distinctly of the modern era; guests are the movers and shakers of the world and St. Petersburg, and every detail is state-of-the-art luxury. And yet, the 19th century set-up, quirky architecture (the hotel still sits on a labyrinth of passages running throughout and underneath it) and refined sense of service are distinctly of another age. The beauty of the hotel is that it seamlessly blends these two worlds into an exceptionally comfortable and luxurious experience.

Exterior View - Hotel Astoria, St. Petersburg, Russia

Hotel Astoria

With spectacular views of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Winter Palace, this grande dame property blends history with sleek, modern décor.


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