24 Malaya Morskaya
Tel: 7 812 494 5666
The Astoria's neighbor got a total makeover in 2003, courtesy of Olga Polizzi, sister of Sir Rocco Forte and designer of his divine grands. That's because Sir Forte took over the management of this five-star, instantly making these 193 rooms some of the most desirable in the city. Guests here get the same great Isaac Square location, plus signing privileges at the Astoria's facilities, and decor that's almost as lovely. Here are parquet floors; heavy drapes and matching armchairs in burgundy, grey, or cream; Volga linens; and dark-stained wood. There's satellite and cable TV, but the marble-tile bathrooms aren't so attractive—and you have to graduate to the Club Floor or a suite before you get a robe. The Italian Borsalino Restaurant (gnocchi, osso buco, tiramisu) is very pleasant, and Caviar, a ground-floor Russian bar with panoramic views of Isaac Square, opened in December 2006.
4 Ulitsa Neglinnaya
Tel: 7 495 783 1234
The Park Hyatt hotel is in a terrific location—around the corner from the Bolshoi Theatre and within a few minutes' walk of Red Square and the Kremlin—and until the Ritz-Carlton opened in 2007, it was the best hotel in Moscow. Inside, it's modern, with glass-and-steel elevators and 216 light-filled, beige-on-white rooms; the huge bathrooms feature black-granite heated floors, roomy showers, and soaking tubs. As at the Ritz-Carlton, the least expensive rooms start at more than $1,000 a night; booking a Park Deluxe room with a kitchenette can save on extras, such as nearly $60 for a hot breakfast (or nearly $50 for a cold one) at the Park Restaurant. The hotel was built on the site of a legendary Soviet-era Armenian restaurant, and it recalls its predecessor not only in name but also with ethnic touches: artwork by contemporary Armenian artists, a depiction of an Armenian fertility goddess in the atrium, an Armenian chapel with a priest on call, and, of course, Café Ararat, which dishes up satisfying Armenian fare (bonus: Sunday brunch in winter includes unlimited Veuve Clicquot Champagne). Sushi bars are mandatory in today's Moscow: The Park Hyatt's is called Enoki. The tenth-floor Conservatory Lounge and Bar has a splendid view (although not quite as spectacular as the vista over the Kremlin from the Ritz-Carlton's rooftop bar), and the Ararat's spa includes a 45-foot-long swimming pool and a choice of Finnish sauna, Russian banya, and hammam. The service is unobtrusive but friendly—and though it's unusual for Moscow, the staff actually smiles.
57 Nevsky Prospekt
Tel: 7 812 380 2001
St. Petersburg's luxury hotels often feel like extensions of the palaces you come here to visit—the more gold plating and brocade, the better. But sometimes you need a palate cleanser, a more streamlined place to lay your head. And for that we suggest the Corinthia. Set in a historic building on Nevsky Prospekt, the hotel reflects modern St. Petersburg with clean-lined, dark-wood furniture and luxe textures in buttery leather headboards and plush velvet couches. This is Russia, so you'll still get your glam, but here it comes in the form of elegant Art Deco chandeliers and caviar breakfasts. It's worth the extra $100 to stay in the executive wing that the hotel annexed in 2010. In addition to a better room, you'll get ironing services, business assistance (free printing, Wi-Fi, computer usage), and access to a lounge supplied with an impressive array of free food and drinks. The on-site Imperial Restaurant serves solid Mediterranean fare but is best during breakfast, when you can sip Champagne and watch the bustle of Nevsky go by.—Colleen Clark
5 Bolshoi Starodanilovsky Pereulok
Tel: 7 495 954 0503
This placid five-story hotel on the grounds of the Orthodox Danilovsky (St. Daniel) Monastery feels like a cross between a monastic inn and a Soviet-era hotel for top party officials. But don't let that put you off one of the few hotel bargains near central Moscow. The 116 air-conditioned roomsdecorated with icons and portraits of Russian Orthodox patriarch Aleksy IIwere upgraded with new furnishings and modern bathroom fixtures in June 2008. Some, however, still feel slightly fusty: The flowery suites, for example, are reminiscent of an alpine B&B. If you want a double bed, be sure to ask for one (some "doubles" have twin beds). And request a room facing the cathedrals and the complex's lovely garden: The exterior view is industrial and unpleasant. While rooms are cheap by Moscow standards (about $250 for a double), the nondescript restaurant, which used to be known for relatively inexpensiveyet tasty and heartyRussian fare has become pricier and more Continental. There is a small business center, sauna, and pool, and the Russian Orthodox Church sponsors concerts and exhibitions on the grounds. It's likely you'll encounter clergy among your fellow guests. The nearest metro station, Tulskaya, is a few minutes' walk away, and then it's a ten-minute ride to the Kremlin. A few years ago, the neighborhood (usually called Tulskaya after the metro stop) was remarkably dreary, but has been spruced up with the addition of big shopping malls (one with a roller rink).
59 Moika River Embankment
Tel: 7 812 324 9944
This echt palace from the czarist era opened its doors in mid-2003 as a luxe hotel, having already established a following among the moneyed and reckless with the Taleon Club casino within the same walls. The 29 rooms (to be joined by an additional 70 by the end of 2007) are designed to appeal to the high rollers; they have a Vegas sensibility, with brocade, polished walnut, gilding and molding, Italian marble and whirlpool tubs, and hand-painted reproductions of the best of the Hermitage, all in color schemes ranging from gold and cream to bordello red. The Taleon restaurant has a good reputation with people who dress up for dinner; the Victoria is more relaxed, especially at breakfast. There's also a bar, a café, an oyster bar, and a cigar lounge—just as well, for one feels practically obligated to puff on a stogie here.
Ulitsa Malaya Dmitrovka Dom 11
Tel: 7 495 980 7000
Anton Chekhov once stayed in this 19th-century building, but the sophisticated European tourists, visiting executives, and celebrities (Christina Aguilera, Fergie) who pass through these days aren't here for the history. They come for this 92-room hotel's hip vibe, convenient location near Ulitsa Tverskaya (the main thoroughfare to the Kremlin), and a Philippe Starckstyle design that's not unlike a high-tech, high-concept cruise ship, courtesy of Canadian architect Rafael Shafir. The hotel's namesake fruit is echoed throughout the hotel, notably in the huge lobby sculpture and the motif decorating the guest room carpets. Avoid standard rooms: A neighboring office block obstructs the view from most, those with small windows feel like prison cells, and the tiny bathrooms don't help (the "showers" are just curtained-off corners). The sympathetic front desk staff readily move guests when space allows, so booking a standard room couldwith a bit of luck and a pained expression on your faceland you a VIP superior room with floor-to-ceiling windows and one hour of free Internet per day. But since the standard rooms are priced just under $1,000 and the VIP rooms are just over $1,000, we recommend booking the latter in the first place. Breakfasta selection of berries, omelets, pastries, breads, carpaccio, and smoked fishis very fresh and included with all rooms. The Apple Lounge, which is adjacent to the slick restaurant, looks like something out of New York City or London, with psychedelic blowup photographs of trees, fur-covered cube stools, and a long bar. The whirlpool tub, sauna, and cardio room are open 24 hours as is the Coffee House, a Starbucks-like chain located down the street where Wi-Fi is just $2it's a good place to avoid the hotel's $35-per-day charge.
18 Suvorovsky Prospekt
Tel: 7 812 140 5000
The advantage of staying in a hotel built in 2003 in this city is that everything works—from broadband and Wi-Fi to satellite TV and AC. The drawback is history deprivation, though local architect Eugine Gerasimov has done his best to override that by designing a replica of a grand 19th-century mansion. There's not much to gaze at in the 92 rooms, with their ersatz-classical look, but they're comfortable, bright, and inoffensive. Spring for a suite and you get your own Jacuzzi and sauna. Hotel facilities are better than the reasonable rates suggest. There's 24-hour room service, three restaurants, a casino, and a spa with several ways to sweat: Turkish bath, sauna, and Russian banya, plus a gym with classes in yoga and—let's hear it for the Tae Bo revival!
1/7 Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa
Tel: 800 237 1236 (toll-free)
Tel: 7 812 329 6000
The landmark 1824 edifice, with a neoclassical facade and an Art Nouveau interior, reopened as a hotel in 1991 with patchy results, but since early 2005 it's been in the very well run Orient Express Hotels stable (along with the Cipriani in Venice and the Splendido in Portofino). And after a comprehensive restoration, it's giving the Astoria a run for its money. The redone rooms sport wide-screen TVs, original Russian art and antiques, and locally crafted wooden furniture. Ask for a Terrace Room facing Arts Square, so you can overlook the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood while eating breakfast, or one of the 10 suites on the Historic Floor that were restored in 2009the original decor in each is inspired by a figure in the hotel's or Russia's history. Other pluses include the health club/spa, seven (sometimes celeb-haunted) restaurants and bars, a pastry shop, and, of course, the amazing Nevsky Prospekt location.
39 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa
Tel: 7 812 494 5757
The top hotel in town is part of Sir Rocco Forte's collection (sisters include Hotel de Russie in Rome and the Angleterre here in St. Petersburg) and couldn't be better placed—by St. Isaac's Cathedral. As always with Sir Rocco's digs, the 213 rooms strike a balance between traditional and contemporary, leaning here toward the classic, in a winter palette of white, beige, blue, and red that was installed in a 2002 redo. There are parquet floors, brass bedsteads with Russian linens, dark-stained wood furniture (some antique), and white marble bathrooms—all hung on such good bones. (Note, however, that most Classic standard rooms have no external view but look out on the inner courtyard instead, as do the ten 650-square-foot Olga Polizzi–designed Ambassador Suites, which were opened in spring 2007.) The grand 1912 building has beautiful proportions, with spacious lounges and parlors downstairs; have caviar and vodka in the Davidov bar, and afternoon tea in the Rotunda Lounge in the opulent lobby. Plus, there's a gym and a Clarins spa with a sauna and Turkish bath, which opened in 2003. The hotel takes particular pride in its concierge team, who give insider tips, score tickets, and generally help to negotiate what can be a tricky city: At these rates, you should give them a thorough workout.
1 Ulitsa Baltschug
Tel: 7 495 230 6500
A pioneer in the 1990s, the Baltschug (located in the Zamoskvorechya district), was among the first Western-managed hotels to open in Moscow, but lost its way when even flashier, more centrally located competitors like the Park Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton opened. Now it's on a comeback. Thanks to a top-to-bottom upgrade, finished in July 2008, the old Art Decostyle furniture and wine-colored furnishings were jettisoned and managing director Gianni van Daalen commissioned reproductions of Kazimir Malevich's paintings to hang throughout the hotel. The revamped rooms are done up in shades of beige, blue, or rose; some are classic in style, others are more contemporary; all 230 are spacious (350 to 1,100 square feet). They also include the usual menu of luxury amenities (Frette linens, pillow menu, bath butler, plasma TVs). What didn't change are the great views of the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral. Deluxe rooms are equipped with telescopes for a closer peek at the landmarks, and the corner Kremlin Suite and Princess Suite have especially fine panoramas. Some superior rooms (the hotel's least expensive accommodations) overlook the pipes and industrial buildings of the Mosenergo power plantwhich isn't quite as oppressive as it sounds. It also didn't hurt when GQ Bar, Moscow's trendiest restaurant, opened next door in 2007. But dining at the Restaurant Baltschug is almost a bargain by Moscow standardsa dinner prix fixe starts at $70. There's also a Japanese restaurant; Café Kranzler, which resembles an airport lounge but has a pretty river view from its summer terrace and even prettier pastries; a bar with a cigar sommelier and hundreds of vodkas on the menu; and breakfast (not included in the room rate) includes red caviar and Champagne. The health club has an indoor pool, solarium, juice bar, and massage facilities, and the newly renovated Baltschug Beauty Center offers a range of facials and body treatments with Sensai and La Biosthetique products.
Ulitsa Sretenskaya Dom 15
Tel: 7 495 933 55 44
One of Moscow's first "boutique" hotels, the Hotel Sretenskaya opened in 2000 in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood (usually called Sretenka) two subway stops from Red Square. It's not luxurious, but has a B&Bstyle homeyness that stands out in Moscow's over-the-top hotel scene and attracts older British and American travelers. The theme (in the public areas at least) is Russian fairy tale: Painted pastel filigree and carved wood and plaster moldings decorate the lobby and restaurant, and a glass atrium soars above the lobby bar's junglelike winter garden. The 38 rooms are considerably less fanciful: You get a bed (comfortable), a dated TV (English-language channels, though), and a bathroom (shower stalls only). On the other hand, there is a nice sauna that can be reserved for private use. Note that the layout of some suites is Russian provincial stylelarge living rooms for entertaining plus a tiny bedroom. There's no nighttime room service, so after the restaurant and bar close at 11 pm, your next chance to eat is at the filling breakfast buffet (including blini and cereal), which is included in the room price. If you're on a budget, check for weekend discounts and note that Wi-Fi is free in the lobby and bar, although it can be very slow.
22 Moika River Embankment
Tel: 7 812 335 9111
This mid-19th-century neoclassical building (with much newer additions), on the Moika riverbank opposite the Winter Palace, received a soup-to-nuts renovation when it opened as a Kempinski hotel in February 2006. It has location, history, and beauty going for it. Of the 188 rooms, the best offer panoramic vistas over the Piter rooftops and Palace Square; less desirable are views of the internal glass-roofed courtyards. The rooftop restaurant shares the spectacular outlook, and there's a spa/health club on a second roof terrace.
15/1 Ulitsa Mokhovaya
Tel: 7 495 258 7000
For historical atmosphere, the National is hard to beat. In 1918, Lenin moved into a two-room suite here overlooking the Kremlinnaturallyand so can you if you're willing to fork over a very capitalist $3,000 per night. Other famous guests have ranged from Stalin to Pelé to Catherine Deneuvetheir photographs hang side by side in a portrait gallery. The Art Nouveau building's historic status forestalls the possibility of major reconstruction to squeeze in more rooms (there are 216), but beware of standard singles: They're like glorified train compartments with tiny beds. All rooms are decorated with stately oak furniture and the suites upgrade to French and Russian antiques; unfortunately, many rooms are burdened by a somewhat off-putting mauve color scheme. Bathrooms, most of them spacious, have been spiffed up with modern tiles and bathtubs. The entire seventh floor and most of the fourth are nonsmoking, which is relatively rareMoscow is still a smoking city. Owned by Moscow city government but managed by Starwood, the hotel has all the usual perks: a spa and fitness area (the indoor swimming pool and whirlpool bath were renovated in 2007) and a business center (as in most Moscow hotels, Internet is pricymore than 60 cents a minute). But there are also a few extras: Breakfast (included in the room rate) is served overlooking the Kremlin, which is possible because Red Square is right outside the door.
40 Ulitsa Pokrovka, Stroyenie 2
Tel: 7 495 229 57 97
Mamaison isn't quite as central as Moscow's top-end hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton and Ararat Park Hyatt, but it is more affordable. Mamaison claimed the title of Moscow's first all-suite hotel when it opened in 2007, although standard rooms, called Junior Suites, are really one-room studios with a seating area and a minibar. For a full apartment, you'll have to bump up two room categories to a one-bedroom Junior Suite Deluxe, which includes a full kitchen (you'll want to skip the subpar—and pricey—buffet breakfast). All rooms are decorated with wood floors, modern furniture, Art Deco accents, and bright pops of color; the best in all room categories overlook Ulitsa Pokrovka, one of Moscow's busiest, prettiest old streets. The spa, opened in 2008 as Russia's first Algotherm facility, has a Turkish hammam, Moroccan rassoul, and 14 treatment rooms.
1/4 Teatralny Proyezd
Tel: 7 499 501 7800
The Metropol vies with the National for the title of Moscow's most historic hotel: Lenin lived in the National, but he gave speeches here. It's a huge hotel (363 rooms), with a grand lobby, an even grander restaurant under a vaulted stained-glass ceiling, and fountains and marble pillars for adornment. Some of the early Bolsheviks lived and worked here (the presidential suite includes a huge desk used by Lenin's comrade Yakov Sverdlov); more recent notable guests include heads of state, Michael Jackson, and Sharon Stone. Guest rooms have high ceilings and many are decorated with antiques preserved and restored from the hotel's opening in 1901. (Some are lovely, while others have an overwrought Victorian feel that might not be to everyone's taste.) The bestsuch as rooms No. 4464 and No. 5564have views of the Bolshoi Theater and Revolution Square (Ploschad Revoliutsii), which is adjacent to Red Square; for a view of the Kremlin's towers, book No. 3340. Avoid the seven tiny single rooms and the rooms with views over the glass ceiling of the Metropol Hallyou'll feel as if you're stuck in a broom closet. High-speed Internet can be installed for a flat fee of nearly $200 plus about $35 per day for the service. Skip the tired breakfast buffetlive harp music notwithstandingand upgrade instead to the VIP floor, which for an extra $40 gets you breakfast, a light dinner (you can bring a guest, free of charge), and meeting room. The pool and sauna are beautiful, but close at 10 pm.
11/20 Ulitsa Petrovka
Tel: 7 495 937 1000
The official hotel of the Bolshoi, the Royal Aurora hotel is located a mere pirouette away from the theater on historic Petrovkaone of Moscow's oldest streets and home to a beautiful monastery founded in the 14th century. It's also just around the corner from the boutiques of Stoleshnikov Pereulok. At the end of 2008, the hotel's 230 air-conditioned rooms are slated for renovations, including an upgrade to plasma TVs. Each room has a different configuration, most are spacious, and some have arched windows thanks to the hotel's location in two 19th-century buildings; potted plants and pretty reproductions of 19th-century artwork soften the executive-style decor in wine-colored hues. Mansard-level rooms feel more like homey attic spaces than chain-hotel lodging although some might consider them cramped because of their unusual shape and low ceilings in certain spots; some also have just one small window instead of two large ones. For $115 per night on top of the regular rate, you get a room on the club floor, which includes butler service, access to a lounge, library, and meeting room, as well as breakfast and cheeses, tea, and desserts throughout the day. Prime beef is the specialty of the hotel's decent Polo Club Restaurant (try the Australian Wagyu or Argentine Angus steak). The staff is friendly and helpful, and the excellent concierge can usually snag you a couple of tickets to "sold out" performances (the Marriott Aurora is one of the Bolshoi's sponsors). The basement level has a Guerlain beauty salon and one of Moscow's best hotel fitness centers, open 24 hours, with a pool and two dozen exercise stations.
2/1 Kutuzovsky Prospekt
Tel: 7 495 221 5555
Converted from a Soviet relic on the Moskva River (to the tune of $300 million), the Radisson Royal Hotel quickly became the status address of Moscow after its 2010 opening. It is a hotel of brands: Etro, Provasi, and Frette in the guest rooms; Balmain and Rolls-Royce for sale in its stores; Veuve Clicquot in your glass at breakfast. It is also an exercise in superlatives: the world's biggest hotel art collection (some 1,200 paintings), one of the world's largest arrays of marble (10 different kinds), and the only Moscow hotel to own icebreaking yachts for cruising the river in winter. There's also a 3,500-volume library, five restaurants (including hot spot Tattler Club, owned by megarestaurateur Arkady Novikov), two bars, and a spa and gym with an Olympic-size pool. Neo-Baroque furniture and upholstery fabrics of toile and raw silk in soft palettes (mint and lemon, or indigo and toffee) give the 505 guest rooms a lived-in opulence. And service, the Achilles heel of other Moscow luxury properties, here goes far above and beyond: Staff greet you by name, move heaven and earth to secure an impossible reservation, and even will help you navigate Russian bureaucracy. It all adds up to the kind of home away from home you'll appreciate amid the madness of Moscow.—Colleen Clark
3 Tverskaya Street
Tel: 7 495 225 8888
Perhaps it's fitting that a Ritz-Carlton has risen from the ashes of one of the grimmest examples of Soviet-era hospitality, the Intourist hotel, and to complete the break from the past, it's charging hedge-fund-high rates for the privilege of staying right off Red Square. There's more than a bit of czarist Russia in the faux classical facade and chandeliered lobby, but it's the sleek rooftop bar, O2 Lounge, that's the standout here, serving up a sweeping view of the Kremlin along with sushi and shots of oxygen. Gustatory offerings include a vodka sommelier in the lobby lounge and one of the capital's most popular restaurants, Jeroboam; a full-service spa and a glass-domed indoor pool are available on the lower level for morning-after penance. The 334 spacious guest roomsthe smallest measuring 450 square feetare decorated in polished cherrywood and feature the requisite Frette linens and feather bedding; bathrooms have heated marble floors and separate showers and tubs. The fluent-in-English staff's attentiveness is a refreshing antidote to the gruffness most foreign visitors encounter elsewhere. Moscow's reputation as the world's most expensive travel destination won't change with the Ritz-Carlton's arrivaldepending on the date, the standard room rate is as high as $1,000.
15 Nevsky Prospekt
Tel: 7 812 324 99 11
The overhauled Taleon Imperial is so plush, so imperial, that you'll feel like a czar in the Winter Palace (just down the block) while traipsing through its darkened interiors. Instead of mimicking Western chains, the Taleon is unself-consciously Russian, blending the opulence of the Romanovs with the glitz of today's Russia. The 89-room hotel commands a corner of the Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's main artery, and the Moika River Embankment. It has spacious rooms with thick curtains, thicker bedspreads, Louis XIV furnishings, and bathrooms awash in marble and stocked with Hermès toiletries; fluted columns; ornate sculpture; striking oil paintings; a chandelier-lit bar; and staff who seem as intimidated by its guests as they are eager to help them. On top of all that, there's the first-rate pool, spa, and gym on the top floor, and, next to that, the Victoria Restaurant, with tables on the balcony overlooking the canal.