The Astoria Hotel in St. Petersburg is to be thoroughly recommended. Its location within easy walking distance of the Hermitage could not be bettered, and it’s a short drive from all the sights of the city. We were there for just a short stay, principally to go to the Ballet with tickets for the Mussorgsky and the Mariiinsky which didn’t leave much time for sightseeing.
The hotel has been tastefully renovated and retains all its elegant grandeur. Rooms are unfussy but stylish with the service you would expect from a Rocco Forte Hotel. The most memorable moment was taking afternoon tea in the hotel lounge, where a harpist played beautifully as we selected cakes and sipped tea.
The Russians are passionate about their ballet – it’s like a national sport, and children are selected at a young age for the ultimate honour to train with one of the main companies. The Mariinskky Theatre itself is fairly humble, or at least not palatial, and we had tickets for a Sunday morning performance. Seating was on simple chairs, rather than fixed rows, and it felt like being in a school hall. The audience were knowledgeable and attentive, cheering “bravo” on many occasions throughout the performance. Even young chidren were transfixed.
It’s best to book the ballet before you travel to avoid disappointment as tickets are usually sold out. Also worth bearing in mind that ballet and opera are rotated at the theatre.
All in all, it was an unforgetttable trip to a wonderful city, and the choice of the Hotel Astoria, with its tradition and charm, combined with discreet and faultless service, was definitely the right one.