Finding unique hotels all over the world is one of my travel passions. I spend much of my pre-trip preparation researching hotels and the various options available on where to stay. My lodging selection can sometimes make or break my holiday. Accordingly, I start by searching my favorite sites such as Kayak, Jetsetter, Oyster, Hipmunk, Momondo and of course, TripAdvisor for hotel suggestions. Once I have keyed in on the top three or four choices, I really drill down before, ultimately, booking that "special" place.
St Petersburg, the "Venice of the North," is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A multitude of magnificent palaces, museums, churches, gardens and parks make a visit to this historic Russian city a bucket list must for the solo traveler. I love St Petersburg so much that I have traveled there three times in the last six years and plan to return this June as part of a specialty Classical Dance tour sponsored by the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and my company, AstridTravel, LLC. (For more info about this fabulous tour read my Love Russian Culture?This Art Routes Tour is for You! blog.)
My last trip was during the Russian, pre-Christmas season in the last week of December 2015. On my previous trips I stayed at the wonderful Belmond Grand Hotel Europe but on this sojourn I wanted to try out a different classy hotel. My options were the pricey new Four Seasons Hotel, the historic Astoria Hotel or the opulent former palace, the Taleon Imperial Hotel.
After comparing and studying the three establishments' information, photos, reviews, map locations and Youtube videos, I decided I was in the mood for something royally Russian. The Taleon Imperial Hotel was billed as the only palace hotel in St Petersburg. All little about it's colorful, interesting history needs to be shared.
Originally designed in 1768 by the famed French architect, Jean-Baptiste de la Monthe, on a coveted parcel of land donated by Catherine the Great to the city's powerful Chief of Police, Nikolai Chicherin. This new palace quickly became a hotbed of activity for the powerful city elites. In the mid-1800's two of St Petersburg's wealthiest merchants, the Eliseev brothers, bought the grand building and made it even more magnificent by adding an ecclectic mix of Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and French Empire style changes to the interior. The Eliseev's famed Culture Salon was frequented by the likes of Dostoyevsky and Turgenev, two of Russia's most renowned authors.
After the Russian Revolution, the palace was nationalized by the Communist government and was converted into the House of Arts. Maxim Gorky, founder of the Center for Revolutionary Art, help create an artistic commune here which survived until 1995 when it was purchased by a private company. After four years of renovation the palace was reopened as the ritzy, Taleon Club and in 2003 it was converted into the present day, five star Taleon Imperial Hotel.
The promotional photos and videos definitely depicted the hotel's opulence. In addition, it was a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World and was rated by Conde Nast as one of world's 100 best hotels. Everything I read sounded almost "to good to be true" especially, for the $125 per night, low season room rate. I always find it a little scary booking a room in an unique, one-of- a kind place but I had a good feeling this would be the case when I checked in.
WOW was my initial reaction as I entered and passed the hotel's elegant Neo-Baroque Atlantis Cafe and was led to the front checkin desk. Four gigantic columns adorned with mythical gods dominated the forecourt. White antique furnishings covered with red damask fabric, the ultra shiny marble floors, a huge fireplace and a gentleman playing classical Russian music on the white piano set the initial tone for my royal one week stay. No I wasn't disappointed; I was relieved and elated! My first impression was "Yes" this place is a palace.
After a quick registration process, the bellman escorted me to my room. Upon entering the elevator I noticed the hotel's monogramed, Oriental rug illustrating the day of the week, quite "fancy" indeed.
My room was, likewise, a wonderful surprise. The three room suite was composed of a living area furnished with an antique settee, an armoire and a club chair, a separate bedroom with a desk and a flat screen TV and a fabulous, marbled filled bathroom with a huge tub, a Rainbird shower, heated floors and plush bathrobes. By this time, I was in a pleasant state of shock. All this for $125 a night!! In Paris or London a comparable room would be in the $800 price range.
Once I unpacked, I headed straight to the interior spa pool area to indulge in a Russian banya massage to help relieve my bad case of jet lag. (Read about the banya experience in my blog titled The Banya Spa:The Best Way to Relax in Russia). Heavenly describes this unique massage. I finished off my spa visited with a quick swim in the heated pool. Completely relaxed, I headed for bed.Within ten minutes of laying my head on the feather pillow and snuggling under the down comforter, I was sound asleep for ten deeply, restful hours.
Waking up and walking on the heated, marble floors in the bathroom was divine. I dressed for the day and headed to the breakfast dining room via the grand, red carpeted staircase. Not to be disappointed, this eating venue was, also, well-appointed complete with Christmas decorations and an optional buffet. I opted for a light breakfast of tea and croissants.
Nightly before I retired to my room, I would linger in the comfortable Atlantis Bar and enjoy a glass of wine while writing my journal. I loved this convivial area of the hotel. The roaring fire in the fireplace, the live piano music, the gorgeous furnishings and the friendly Russian guests and service personnel made my evenings in the palace memorable. You know you are in a "special" hotel when you, as a solo traveler, can relax in the bar and feel comfortable.
During the winter time, the low season when I visited the Taleon Imperial Hotel, several of the establishment's public areas were not open for service. Because I am a travel blogger, I had to explore these areas and take some photos. One of the hotel's most beautiful dining areas and library bar plus the rooftop, glass covered outdoor pool and spa were closed. Maybe this summer when I return to St Petersburg, I will have time to dine here.
Some additional facts about the Taleon Imperial hotel I need to share. The spa facilities found here are second to none in St Petersburg. In addition to the fully equipped gym area, the two spas offer an array of bath options. A Finish sauna, a banya, a Turkish hamam and a salt room are available, as well as, a of variety of massage treatments. A full-service beauty salon with cosmetic services is also housed in the hotel. Twenty-four hour butler service and complementary, daily breakfast are included in the room price. Last, I found the multi-lingual staff to be helpful and friendly.
If you are thinking about traveling to St Petersburg and want to reside in a authentic Russian palace, the Taleon Imperial Hotel is the place. Hands down this is the most opulent hotel for an amazingly affordable price I have ever had the pleasure of staying in anywhere in the world. Before I wrote this blog, I checked the room rates and they were in the $166 range, still an exceptional value for the quality of stay. If you want the rock bottom price, visit in the dead of winter as I did.
Feeling in a royal mood and the need to be pampered like a queen, travel to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, St Petersburg, and stay in a palace at the Taleon Imperial Hotel.
Enjoy this short video showcasing the beautiful Taleon Imperial Hotel and it's regal interiors. As alway, I love to hear from my readers. Let me know if you have found this blog post informative or if you have any other travel related questions or comments, I will be happy to share my incites.