The tale goes that Hotel Astoria, a Rocco Forte Hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia, was spared from Hitler’s 1941 invasion because he liked the property so much and intended to hold his victory party there. Luckily, he never had the opportunity.
More respectable notables from the worlds of music (Aerosmith, Sting, Elton John), politics (Henry Kissinger, both President Bushes, Colin Powell), Hollywood (Kevin Costner, Will Smith) and the global glitterati have been guests since.
On my trip, the lobby is decked out for the holidays with Christmas trees, an exquisite gingerbread town, and red ribbon and garlands atop every surface. The exterior is resplendent with wreathes hung from ground-floor windows and a huge spruce on the corner balcony overlooking the square.
A port city on the Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg is the second largest in Russia, and its crown jewel, Hotel Astoria, which opened in 1912, sits regally on St. Isaac’s Square. Recently, the art nouveau building underwent a massive renovation, and I see evidence of the delicate restoration work as I take the sweeping staircase to my floor. The doors in the hallways that lead to the suites are original and feature large frosted-glass circle windows draped in ornate molding. The elaborate doors swing open to a private hallway, leading to my quarters—a grandiose entry of pure drama. Nightfall comes early in wintry Russia, but the view of trees flanking the park festooned with twinkling lights is delightfully enchanting.