Where Bernard Shaw, Mao Tsedong and Richard Gere stayed for the night: Moscow hotels with history

July 3
Tourism and travels

Hotel “Metropol”

Perhaps the most famous hotel in Moscow is a true work of art: architecture, sculpture, majolica, stained glass windows, unique interiors, lamps and custom-made furniture. The hotel even looks like a magnificent mosaic-decorated jewelry box. Savva Mamontov, an entrepreneur and philanthropist, came up with the idea of a magnificent hotel with a business center and a theatre, and commissioned the fashionable British architect William Walkot to design a hotel in the heart of the city. And he did it ignoring of the rules of the public competition which was won by Leo Kekushev and Nikolay Shevyakov.

As a result Kekushev and Shevyakov became co-authors of Valkot after Mamontov went bankrupt and the construction came under the control of Petersburg Insurance Company. When it was finished, Metropol became the largest public art nouveau building in Moscow. In addition to the three leading architects about a dozen of  architects worked on the interiors of the building and painters Vasnetsov, Korovin, Golovin, Chehonin worked on the decoration (both interior and facade). The showpiece of the hotel is a huge majolica panel “The Princess Grioza” based on one of the most famous canvas by Mikhail Vrubel.

All interior work in the new hotel had to be done again after the big fire of 1901. In 1903-1905 the hotel received another masterpiece - this time an engineering one: the famous Vladimir Shukhov created the ceiling of the Great Hall (for the restaurant and the balls) and the interior of this room is sustained in the purest possible style - French Art Nouveau. The hotel rooms are more eclectic: there are both art nouveu elements and pseudo-Russian motifs. It should be noted that among the 350 rooms (the amount incredible for a first-class hotel in those times in Russia ) there were not two identical rooms.

The hotel officially opened in 1905 and became a favorite place to stay for wealthy tourists. It even had a two-hall cinema. The restaurant was visited by a rich audience - both aristocrats and the diplomatic corps, and the nouveau riche. Shortly before the First World War, Carnaval aviatique (Aviation Carnival) was staged in the Great Hall with a fake airship under the ceiling and models of the Blerio airplane in the corners.

In October 1917 the hotel was almost destroyed by artillery; after the revolution it became the so-called “Second House of Soviets” being a government building and a hostel for party members at the same time. According to the contemporaries the Bolsheviks turned the miracle of everyday comfort (the hotel had refrigerators, electric elevators, telephones, and excellent plumbing) almost into a shelter at the time.

However, soon the Soviet government strengthened and wanted to earn money and returned the hotel its status. Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, Mao Zedong, Marlene Dietrich and other mostly foreign celebrities were guests of the swept and garnished Metropol. Hotel “Moskva” built opposite was meant for the Soviet visitors.

Nowadays the hotel has returned itself the super luxurious status conceived by its creators. Together with dozens of standard rooms “Metropol” presents 72 renovated rooms which combine historic elements of decor with modern design and functionality. Guests are offered a choice of classic suites with an authentic interior of the early 20th century and any of the new rooms in the categories: “Executive” room, “Grand Superior”, “Deluxe”, “Deluxe Suite”, “Metropol Lux”, “Premier Lux” and “Embassy Suite”. Not so long ago the historic location of the central entrance was restored - a new wide canopy of metal and glass with convenient access for cars is located in the middle of the western facade overlooking the square with the Vitali fountain.

“Metropol” is justifiably considered to be one of the main venues for the largest secular, corporate, business and private events in Moscow. Conceived as a theater and art space, the hotel has unique opportunities for banquets, receptions, meetings, seminars, press conferences and concerts of any format. 

Hotel “National”

Until the end of the 19th century, the old and rather ugly “Balaklava” tavern occupied a magnificent place overlooking the towers of the Kremlin and Alexander Garden on the corner of Tverskaya and Mokhovaya streets. Finally the tavern was demolished and the businessmen from the Varvarinskoe Household Owners Joint Stock Company decided to build a fashionable European-class hotel in its place.

Architect Alexander Ivanov, one of the creators of the building of the “Rossiya” insurance company, was invited to build the hotel. For “National” Ivanov chose a much lighter and more refined style — art nouveau with neo-renaissance elements. He was also a connoisseur of the then advanced technologies: waterproofing, reinforced concrete, metal structures were used in construction which made the marble staircase "soaring".  Electric elevators were installed in the hotel and each of the more than 150 rooms had a telephone.

The corner attic, quite in the spirit of art nouveau,  was adorned with the majolica panel “Apollo and the Muses”. It was made according to the sketch of the artists Chekhonin and Golovin by the masters of Savva Mamontov ceramic workshops in Abramtsevo. In the early 1930s it was replaced with a new one - with an industrial landscape, power transmission towers, factory pipes and a tractor. It is considered to be the work of Ivan Rerberg.

The hotel opened at the very end of 1902 and the doors opened for the guests on January 1, 1903. On the ground floor there were Perlov's tea shop, Chuyev's confectionery and other places for wealthy Muscovites and guests of the capital. Herbert Wells and Anatole France, Anna Pavlova and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov were among the hotel guests. Many Russian writers mentioned the hotel in their works including Andrei Bely (in the novel “Moscow under attack”).

After the October Revolution the “National” was turned into the House of Soviets — the first in a row (the second was “Metropol”) and just like the “Metropol”  it was again made a hotel for rich and influential foreigners in 1930.

In the 1990s the fairly dilapidated hotel was restored retaining some of the historic decor - for example, stained glass windows on the main staircase. The restaurants on the ground floor changed several times during the hotel’s operation, now there is the popular restaurant of the Russian restaurateur Alexander Rappoport “Dr. Zivago” with Russian cuisine and interiors done in the Soviet style. “National” is part of the Marriott network of The Luxury Collection. Most of the 202 rooms are furnished with antiques from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Hotel “Savoy”

The neoclassical building of the hotel - it changed its name three times, having been “Berlin” twice and “Savoy” twice (to this day) - erected in 1911 at the intersection of Rozhdestvenka and Sofiyka (now Pushechnaya) streets by half-forgotten today Moscow architect Viktor Velichkin who mainly specialized in the construction of tenement buildings. The customer was the owner of the site - the insurance company "Salamander". The restaurant hall of the five-story hotel was decorated in a redundant and magnificent rocail style by another fashionable Moscow architect of the time Pavel Visnevsky and artist Tomashki.

"Berlin" stayed "Berlin" just before the beginning of First World War: after the declaration of war on Russia by Germany the hotel was naturally renamed. It became “Savoy” - either in honor of SavoyPalace in the capital of allied Britain or “to rhyme” with the ”Alpine Rose” restaurant next door which was decorated by the same Visnevsky as they say where the Alps are Savoy is logical.

Among the guests of "Savoy" in the not-too-luxurious and comfortable for it 1920s was a dancer and the wife of Yesenin Isadora Duncan; later, in the 1930s, Hollywood stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, French writers Romain Rolland, Henri Barbusse and their American counterpart John Steinbeck - he even mentioned the hotel in his memoirs.

Alexander Tsfasman “Vesyolye rebyata” jazz band entertained the hotel’s restaurant  guests - business executives and political bosses, underground millionaires, the top of the Soviet bohemia. It was a rather symbolic place on the Moscow's "hot spot map" of the middle of the last century - in any case this is how the Weiner brothers and Anatoly Rybakov describe it in their novels.

The name "Berlin" returned to the hotel after the Second World War in 1958 on the wave of the patronizing friendship between the USSR and the socialist GDR. Thirty years later reconstruction began in the hotel, turning the Soviet accommodation facility into a modern hotel. After the reconstruction it became “Savoy” again and the name remains to this day. In 2005 the hotel was renovated. The facade with a semi-rotunda, Ionic columns and stucco in the form of lions, griffins and salamanders as a memory of the first owner of the hotel was restored under the guidance of the Italian Leonardo Tonioni.

Italian classic furniture, expensive textiles, mirrors and gilding: the hotel’s 67 comfortable rooms are furnished with luxury reminiscent of pre-revolutionary “Berlin”. Montserrat Caballee, Luciano Pavarotti, Jane Fonda, Richard Gere, Stephen Seagal were the guests in these interiors.

Russo-Balt Hotel Moscow


Yet another hotel for the fans of Moscow art nouveau. However, unlike the large-scale Metropol, the Russo-Balt is a chamber hotel with just 15 individually decorated rooms: even the regulars returning to the hotel again and again enjoy the sensation of novelty. The class of the hotel - five stars - implies a level of service not inferior to the "Metropol".

Another advantage of Russo-Balt Hotel is its location. It is ideal for those who want romance and a light spirit of antiquity which despite all the upheavals of the twentieth century still hovers under the linden trees of Gogol Boulevard and in the adjacent Arbat lanes. The original building, which the hotel now occupies, was erected in 1879 by the architect Pavel Zykov the second, a master of eclecticism at the time, as an apartment house; in 1909 it was re-decorated in the art-nouveau style, which was wildly popular at the beginning of the century in its Russian version - modern.

This place on Gogolevsky (it was called Prechistensky back then) Boulevard was very fashionable and popular with the intellectuals: in the next building just next door in the former Khrushchev-Kotlyarev estate Sophia Fischer’s private gymnasium where Tchaikovsky visited musical evenings was located and Andrei Bely’s publishing house "Musaget" rented the premises there. All the literary stars of the Silver Age, including Blok, Bryusov and Balmont visited it. And Bely himself lived here in the wing.

It was the decor in the modern style that was taken as the basis by the architects and the decorators engaged in the repair, restoration and reconstruction of the building in the mid-2000s. They restored what was preserved during the rebuilding and the times of the Soviet communal apartments, recreated what had not been preserved and styled the interiors in the spirit of the old rich Moscow apartments. The guests have the feeling that they are visiting a major philanthropist or a professor of Moscow University.

Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya

The Leningradskaya Hotel is the lowest of the Seven Sisters, seven Moscow sky-scrapers built after World War II and one of two metropolitan hotels in Soviet sky-scraper buildings. The project of "Leningradskaya" hotel was developed by Leonid Polyakov and Alexander Boretsky, the first stone in its foundation, as well as the foundation of the other six sky-scrapers, was laid in September 1947 - the day of the 800th anniversary of Moscow.

“Leningradskaya” hotel cost the builders more than other sky-scrapers although it was the lowest among them: only 136 meters including the spire. The reason for the high cost of the project in addition to a priori costly finishing of the building in the style of "Stalin's Empire" (sculpted friezes, lining with stone, columns, etc.) was the need to strengthen the foundation with piles. The ground beneath the future hotel “floated” since two rivers which were made underground Rybinka and Chechera flow under it.

The construction of the hotel with 349 rooms was completed after Stalin’s death in 1954 and his successor Khrushchev severely criticized Polyakov and Boretsky for “excessive waste of public funds” during construction. The architects were accused of the fact that is had been possible to build a hotel for 1000 rooms for the amount of money spent on the Leningradskaya, as well as for the “features of bourgeois pomp and unbridled decoration” in the interiors. Polyakov did not admit his guilt, he was fired from Mosproject and the Stalin Prize for the construction of the sky-scraper was taken away from him and Boretsky.

We have to admit that it didn’t do without decorations, though not the bourgeois, but the pseudo-Russian - Naryshkin baroque. From the outside the hotel resembles the Kremlin tower, the main entrance with eaves, pinnacles, characteristic hanging drop ornaments - an open ground-floor gallery of old tower houses. The emblem on the spire as well as some elements of the facade of the building are covered with braid gold.

The hotel looks even more solemnly inside. The elevator hall is decorated with an expensive Shoksha quartzite and golden smalt, chandeliers hanging in the lobby resemble church chandeliers. The interior of the hall is decorated with sculptural medallions in memory of the victories of Russia in the Battle on the Ice and on the Kulikovo field.

After restoration and reconstruction in 2008 new owners opened the hotel under its current name - Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya. The redesigned rooms have become larger and more comfortable, their number has decreased to 273. Most of them are decorated according to sketches by American designer Marcel Bikuyar. However, it was decided to preserve the historical look of some of the rooms and authentic-looking furniture was designed for them. The author of the design of these rooms is Russian architect Alexander Loktev.

Radisson Collection Hotel, Moscow

The historic hotel “Ukraine” (now the Radisson Collection Hotel, Moscow) is another of the “Seven Sisters”. It is higher than the "Leningradskaya” hotel (its height together with the spire is 206 meters) and although it was laid simultaneously with other sky scrapers it was put into operation later - in 1957. In addition to the hotel itself there are restaurants, boutiques and even private apartments of the Muscovites.

Perhaps this is why the architects Arkadiy Mordvinov and Vyacheslav Oltarzhevsky and the chief designer Pavel Krasilnikov, did not suffer the fate of their colleagues Polyakov and Boretsky: Khrushchev had already established himself in power and he did not need to actively deal with the echoes of the Stalin style. Initially it was planned to call the hotel which became the dominant of Kutuzovskiy Prospekt and the entire surrounding area Dorogomilovskaya but in 1954 the 300th anniversary of the unification of Ukraine and Russia was celebrated and the authorities made a symbolic gesture changing the name of the hotel under construction.

The hotel “Ukraine” originally had 1026 rooms — more than any other hotel in Europe. Oltarzhevsky was in charge of facades and interiors decoration. The first two floors were decorated with limestone, the main entrance with expensive granite, the turrets were decorated with stylized wheat sheaves and lush vases according to the fashion of those days and the ceiling in the central hall was crowned with a sentimental piece in the spirit of socialist realism - the painting “Celebration of Labor and Harvest in Hospitable Ukraine”.

The palace interiors of the hotel were set out with paintings by Soviet artists: over 1,200 canvases created in the 50s of the last century were placed both in public areas and in rooms and suites. Among the authors of these paintings there are world-famous names - Lentulov, Polenov, Deineka, Nalbandyan, Suzdaltsev and other artists whose works are the pride of many museums. Restaurants, a winter garden, shops (including the iconic "Beryozka"), post office and telegraph were open in the hotel. Advanced for its time engineering communications included air conditioning.

By 2007 having gained half a century of experience in hospitality the hotel passed to the private owner; it was completely modernized and restored and reopened in 2010 under the management of the international Radisson Hotel Group. The number of rooms has been reduced: now there are only 500 rooms but incomparably more comfortable and better equipped. There is a Romantic Suite for the newlyweds, the Presidential Suite with an area of ​​370 square meters and the unique Maybach Suite created in collaboration with the famous automobile brand.

The cultural and historical component of the hotel is fully preserved and enhanced by the acquisition of the Moscow diorama of 1977 and 57 original sculptural works of the Soviet period. It must be said that service benefits from the presence of art.

The hotel “Ukraine” as an object of cultural heritage of Moscow, is today one of the most attractive places: the complex has 19 fashionable restaurants and bars, a premium wellness club with a 50-meter pool and even its own fleet of year-round navigation river yachts. In the central tower on the 33rd floor a viewing platform which can be used by guests and guests of the panoramic restaurants of the upper floors was opened. Another landmark place for the hotel has become a restaurant for two located just under the spire: official marriage registrations take place here.

This very hotel was favored by FIFA: it was chosen as the headquarters for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 500 FIFA and the Organizing Committee employees worked during the World Championship in the hotel building; the hotel had 30 working offices. During this time 45,000 cups of coffee were drunk, about 10,000 lunches were prepared at the Club Lounge and the Veranda restaurant, 38,000 guests were served during the coffee breaks. During the World Cup a lot of famous people stayed at the hotel such as Diego Maradona, Will Smith, Robbie Williams, Fatma Samura, Nikki Jam and others.

World stars of sports and cinema regularly visit the “Ukraine” hotel. While visiting Moscow, Chelsea and Real Madrid football teams, directors Wachowski, Francis Ford Coppola, Emir Kusturica, flamenco king Joaquin Cortes, actors Robert De Niro, Shaun Bean, Dominique Cooper, Adrien Brody, actresses Audrey Tautou, Andy MacDowell, Ornella Muti, Sophia Loren, Halley Berry, Fanny Ardant and other prominent people stayed here.

Since 2019 the hotel has joined the Radisson Collection brand under the management of the Radisson Hotel Group which unites only the world's best five-star hotels.

Source: mos.ru

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