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LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Kempinski St Petersburg, Russia

Style:Zhivago meets private house

Scene:Banks of the Moika

Seen in the lobby: Russians in fur, tourists in love with Russia

FROM THE window of the suite at Hotel Kempinski  Moika 22 I can see the Hermitage, so close I feel I could reach out and touch it. The world's most famous museum feels like my personal art gallery, others may arrive by coach or cab (and they do, in their droves) but for me it is just a short stroll away. In the morning I wake up to its mint green facade, at night I walk back to my hotel across a sleepily silent Palace Square.

There are grander hotels in St Petersburg -  the new Four Seasons caused quite a stir when it opened last year and the Hotel Europa is an institution - but none of them give you St Petersburg like  this hotel does.

hotel kempinski st petersburg
hotel kempinski st petersburg
hotel kempinski st petersburg entrance
bellevue brasserie view
grand deluxe room
hotel kempinski st petersburg tea room
hermitage suite

Hotel Kempinski makes St Petersburg personal. Not for this hotel the flashy, busy boulevards. Instead we are right on the Moika canal amongst the delicate bridges, waterways and lemon drop-coloured houses that epitomise the soul of this port city. This is the 'New Amsterdam' created by Peter the Great; the city of white nights and Winter palaces, of Anna Karenina  and Count Vronsky dancing until dawn.

Our room pays homage to the city's nautical heritage with stripy wall paper and Dutch yacht prints on the walls. 

The hotel feels like a private mansion, not just because that is exactly what it once was but also because the current owners have decked it out with their personal collection of art and antiques. The oil paintings and bookshelves in the bar, the delicate dressers and inlaid tables in the tea room are all one off originals.  I feel as if I were visiting the home of my favourite Romanov aunt. All be it one where the service is impeccable and there are restaurants and a spa.

'Auntie' also has entree to all the best places. The hotel has close links with the Hermitage (after all they are neighbours) and the concierge arranges tickets and a private guide to lead us through its extravagant labyrinth of rooms.  The hotel can also arrange tickets to the  Mariinksy  ballet or any of the other artistic delights in this culture-rich city.

We dine the first evening in the Bellevue brasserie. Never has an eaterie been so aptly named. There are indeed 'belle' views all around. The roof top restaurant has wide windows that frame the St Petersburg night, in summer there is a terrace open to the stars. If I were compiling a list of top ten restaurants for Valentine's Day - this would be definitely be on it.  There is also fine dining at Beau Rivage and a wine, cheese tastings in the basement  Wine Cellar 1853.

One afternoon, flushed with cold, exhausted from sightseeing, we relax in the salon drinking endless cups of tea and eating too many cakes. Over the gentle hum of conversation I find myself listening for the rustle of Aunt Romanov's skirts. I feel sure she will enter at any moment.

The romance of St Petersburg constantly beckons us outside but every time we come back from our city ramblings I am struck by the intimate feel of the hotel. Don't expect a sterile lobby and echoing marble;at breakfast there's laughter over the Eggs Benedict and relaxed chat. In the evening the Von Witte bar is packed with locals and guests all of whom laze back in the leather chairs as if this were their own private gentleman's study; oil paintings, bookshelves and all.

On our last day some of the staff gathers to say goodbye, as if we really have been at a family house party. We wave through the window of our departing taxi, genuinely sad to leave.

See our interview with Reto Wittwer, CEO of Kempinski Hotels HERE 
See our review of Kempinski Nikol'saya Moscow HERE 
Check in: Kempinski Hotel Moika 22, Moika River Embankment 22, 191186, St Petersburg, Russia. 
Key Count: Total 197, including 23 suites
Ultimate Luxury: The Hermitage Suite with canal and museum views
Most Indulgent Moment: Dinner in Bellevue with its sensational views and equally good cuisine.
Insider Secrets: A new spa is being built in the new wing, so get ready for indulgence
The Little Things: Free wi-fi (yes!) and complimentary newspapers in Russian and English.
Junior Luxies: Not specifically catered for but welcomed as long so they don't knock over the antiques
Dress code: St Petersburg is pretty chic and less flashy than Moscow so tone down the fur
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www.kempinski.com
 Hilary Doling 7/2/14
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