Built as a show city in 1703 by Peter the Great, St Petersburg - with its foreign-looking baroque and classical facades - intended to present Russia as a modern, westward-facing European power. Despite losing its capital city status in 1918 and soon after its name (changing to Petrograd in 1914, Leningrad in 1924 and back to St Petersburg in 1991) the city remained a centre point for the arts.
The stylish turn-of-the-century Hotel Astoria, plotted near the Hermitage Museum, speaks of this bygone age. So too, hotelier Rocco Forte's Italian roots speak to the city's sustained Europe-aligned mandate.
Host to rock royalty and Hollywood legends, prime ministers, presidents and a papal, Hotel Astoria promises guests a luxury-led oligarch-worthy stay.
The art-nouveau hotel, which opened in 1912, masters what many falter in execution - the blending of classic and contemporary style. Standout bedrooms span 86 spacious St Petersburg suites, each individually designed by Olga Polizzi.
Come bedtime, the hotel's turndown service takes the humble chocolate on your pillow routine to new heights. Guests can choose from a pillow menu - ranging from natural buckwheat to the "dream cloud" (a quilted cotton satin and fibre ball combination) to ensure the most restful night's sleep.
Morning meals at the Astoria are a real treat, with row upon row and tray upon tray of every foodstuff imaginable. Start with with pickled herring, caviar and champagne (naturally) followed by sour-cherry crepes. Room service is also an option, and where better to consume prime pickings than from a silver tray than in your bed, donning your cloud-like hotel robe, overlooking St Isaacs. Tick for a copy of the morning papers and cast them aside after that smug Insta shot (La Monde was a rogue choice anyway considering that Francophile you are not).
How about lunch and dinner?
Reshuffle your schedule and block out two solid hours for some midday cake sampling and tea brewing. Hosted in a lobby setting surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, sumptuous armchairs and the centrally positioned dessert table, any time pressure ebbs away at the Rotonda Lounge. For those uninterested in sweet stuff, the pelmeni (a sort of dumpling) is a must-try.
Across the lobby, Restaurant Astoria offers a menu of French and Russian cuisine and is open from 7AM-12AM. Alternatively, neighbouring restaurant Borsalino serves Italian fare from brand chef Fulvio Pierangelini.
Is there a bar?
Yes, the Lichfield Bar is a 24-hour watering hole paying homage to the celebrated pensman, Lord Lichfield. Dark-wood furnishings, art-deco lighting and striking black-and-white Chesterfields set a distinctively seductive tone. Sit back and admire your surroundings with a glass of ice-cold vodka.
Within a short distance you'll find…
Located directly across from St Isaac's Cathedral (which stays open until 10PM daily) Hotel Astoria is conveniently positioned among many of the city's main attractions - including Nevsky Prospect, Palace Square and the Mariinsky Theatre.
Take in a ballet at the Mariinsky (the concierge can assist if you've yet to book tickets) and follow with dinner at The Repa. Interiors here combine delicately handpainted balletic murals and tastefully embroidered velvet swan chairs. Order pavlova for dessert in a nod to its namesake, ballet dancer (and Petersberger) Anna Pavlova.
Things you should know
Part of the Rocco Forte Group (Browns in London, Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt, etc) this connecting dot should tell you all you need to know about the quality of the hotel. Those requiring further convincing can be coaxed by a comprehensive roll call of the hotel's most notable visitors - ranging from Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren to Jacques Shiraq to Vladimir Putin.