The country that perfected some of the most exquisite luxuries on earth – including ballet, caviar and a certain brand of filigreed gold and enamel egg – is an entry on many a bucket list for good reason. For a local’s take on what to see and do (and eat and drink) in Russia’s two largest cities, we turned to Concierges at Four Seasons Hotel Moscow, a replica on Red Square of the 1930s Hotel Moskva, and Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg, built in the early 1800s for Prince A.Y. Lobanov-Rostovsky and his wife, Princess Cleopatra Lobanova-Rostovskaya.
Here, team members at each Hotel open their little black books to reveal what locals do, and where they go to see and be seen.
With a population of nearly 13 million residents, Moscow is the New York City of Russia – chock-a-block with spectacular cultural offerings. Concierge Roman Syazin at
Four Seasons Hotel Moscow recommends heading to the Moscow Kremlin Museums first this summer, particularly for three exhibitions: “First of all, ‘The Ming Dynasty: The Radiance of Knowledge’ in Kremlin. The Shanghai Museum’s collection of porcelain, paintings, stone carving and furniture will be on display in Moscow for the first time – and it’s just 10 minutes from the Hotel.” He also suggests a stroll through the flower-stocked Alexandrovsky Garden, along the Kremlin’s western wall, while you’re there.
Another exhibition not to miss, he says, is “The Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer” in the 1912 Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts: Select 17th-century Dutch paintings will be on display in Moscow, for the first time, until July 22. For something a bit more contemporary, Syazin can’t wait for the Central House of Artists exhibition on British street artist Banksy, whose identity remains a secret despite global fame.
In the height of summer, Moscow’s daytime temperature can hover around 27 degrees C (80 F) – perfect for al fresco pleasures like outdoor concerts. Syazin emphasizes the Parklive Festival in Gorky Park (July 27 – 29) with features headliners like Massive Attack, Tricky, Gorillaz and David Guetta. He’s also marked his calendar for Moscow’s Picnic Afisha Festival (August 4), where Arcade Fire and Belle and Sebastian are playing in Park Kolomenskoe.
For another way to take advantage of the weather, walk boutique-lined Stoleshnikov Lane, where internationally beloved brands like Louis Vuitton and Nobu have outposts. Be sure to pop into the ultra-hip KM20, a concept store with a wealth of streetwear favourites as well as one-of-a-kind installations from brands like Off-White. “There’s also a rooftop restaurant with a cosy terrace that’s open during summer,” Syazin says.
Four Seasons Hotel Moscow
Back at the Hotel, Food and Beverage Director David Gevorkyan is looking forward to the opening of Moskovsky Bar’s terrace, where cocktails include – what else? – a Moskovsky Mule, made with Beluga Noble vodka and kvass (beer) demi-glace.
“Four Seasons Moscow will roll out its al fresco dining, which affords a first-class view of the Russian Kremlin in the historical centre of Moscow,” Gevorkyan says. Refreshing summer dishes and a special line of cocktails, he says, “will be crafted for our guests to enjoy in honour of the 11 greatest Russian football players of all time.”
Other locally favoured cocktail spots include White Rabbit, which has a glass-ceiling rooftop overlooking the cityscape – try the cardamom-infused white mulled wine – and Noor Electro, a Tverskaya Street go-to where the tipples range from the classic to the inventive. Chewing-gum martinis, anyone?
Overlooking the shimmering Baltic Sea, St. Petersburg is Russia’s second-largest city, with upwards of 5 million denizens. It’s also home to a vibrant culinary scene. Chief Concierge Olga Kachalova of Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg is partial to Il Lago, Italian hideaway on the frothy banks of Swan Lake, sporting floor-to-ceiling windows. “The serene and calm ambience stops the flow of time,” Kachalova says. “You can just enjoy exquisite cuisine, perfectly seasoned, with the silence of nature and splendid views.”
Another of her favourite meals can be found at Dom, in a quirkily beautiful space with a view of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and a history that includes luminaries such as Aleksandr Pushkin. Dom creates what Kachalova describes as “modern Russian fare – a mix between traditional and super European haute cuisine.” Currently on the menu: sea urchins in yuzu juice, served with shots of horseradish vodka. And for meat lovers, she points to Tartar Bar, near St. Petersburg’s main shopping street, Nevsky Prospect – on the ground floor of a residential building that used to be an army barracks, dating from 1908. The tartare options range from the traditional steak to venison with green radish.
“One of the most important must-do things is to enjoy St. Petersburg at night,” Concierge Elena Batova says. “Walk along beautiful Nevsky Prospect, enjoy the atmosphere of the party on Rubensteina Street, and take a boat ride along various channels and rivers of the city.” Batova also points to the Stars of the White Nights 2018 International Ballet and Opera Festival, which runs from May through July. “It’s the main event of the year at the world-famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera Theatre,” she says, “and a unique chance to see the ballet and opera stars up close.”
Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg
Don’t leave St. Petersburg without seeing its most iconic sites. “I would definitely recommend a visit to The State Hermitage Museum and Peterhof Palace and Park,” Kachalova says. And if you’re in town on June 23, don’t miss the Scarlet Sails Festival, during which the entire city watches a tall ship with fiery red sails ply the waters of the Neva River as it has every year since the end of World War II. Add music, dance and boat races to the event — and fireworks. “The best place to enjoy the Scarlet Sails fireworks will definitely be the 1703 Peter and Paul Fortress,” she says. “This year’s show promises to be one of the most impressive in years.”
After a long day of sightseeing, guests of Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace will relish returning to the Spa, set in the former palace’s magnificent courtyard. The Royal Body Scrub leaves actual gold particles on your skin – and if that’s not the mark of a glamorous Russian vacation, we don’t know what is.
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