Witnesses to History: Two Grand Dames

St. Petersburg, Russia -   yulenochekk/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
St. Petersburg, Russia - yulenochekk/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

 

The Adlon Kempinski, Berlin
The Adlon Kempinski in Berlin was rebuilt in 1977 at its iconic site across from the Brandenburg Gate.

 

The Adlon Kempinski, Berlin

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Throughout Berlin’s storied history, Hotel Adlon Kempinski has always served as the central meeting place for locals. Since it opened with grand opulence in 1907, it has hosted Kaiser Wilhelm II, Greta Garbo, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin and Thomas Mann. It survived World War II until a fire destroyed all but one wing. After falling into disrepair, the Adlon was demolished in the ’70s; but with the reunification of Germany, it was rebuilt in 1997 at its iconic location, opposite the Brandenburg Gate.

Today, Adlon Kempinski continues its heritage as the social center of Berlin. Consider the Lobby Lounge, where Berliners settle in for a cup of tea or even an Adlon Cocktail (think fresh fruits, gin, pomegranate and champagne), catching up with friends as the world passes by. They can do the same from Restaurant Quarré, which has floor-to-ceiling windows, perfect for people-watching outside. And Berliners are sure to see and be seen at the two Michelin-starred Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer restaurant while dining on “Canard à la presse” and the “Adlon-style fillet of sole.” Hint: To request the best seat in the house, contact the restaurant manager, Boris Häbel ([email protected]; 001-0049-0-30-2261-1960).

If you want to settle into this Grande Dame hotel and really feel like an affluent local, we suggest the top accommodations, such as the Presidential Suites (“Brandenburger Tor” and “Pariser Platz”), as well as the Royal Suite. Note: All of them meet high security standards if your A-lister is flying under the radar. Contact Sales Manager Hanna Hinz ([email protected]; 001-0049-0-30-2261-1374) if you need assistance sorting through the best options.

Tip: The Adlon Executive Suite, its Junior Suites, and Linden and Berlin suites provide doors to double rooms, which make a connection of several rooms possible.

Want to feel as if you’ve set up home in Berlin? Request a room overlooking the famous Unter den Linden, known as the “grandest” boulevard in Berlin.

 

The Royal  Suite
The Royal Suite is one of the top accommodations at the Adlon Kempinski.

For shopping, consider the nearby Quartier 206, one of the top shopping venues in the city. We’re also partial to KaDeWe, acclaimed as the second-largest department store in Europe, after Harrods in London. The head concierges, André Höftmann ([email protected]) and Joachim Lenk ([email protected]) can set up private shopping excursions or they can arrange a visit to the Adlon’s spa, which has private suites with their own Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. Hint: Surprise your clients with a welcome gift of champagne and fruits, especially if you’re booking a couples’ treatment. Be sure to ask for Stefan, who is highly recommended for his Balinese massage. We hear that yoga master Vijay is very popular for his yoga, “singing bowl,” and Ayurvedic treatments. Want to buy out the entire spa for a bridal party or girlfriend getaway? Contact the spa director, Elisabeth Hödl ([email protected]; 011-0049-0-30-2261-1512). Good to know: The spa also offers teens’ facials.

Fancy a wedding at this Grande Dame? Contact Christina Grahl ([email protected]; 011-0049-0-30-2261-1385), event sales coordinator.

The hotel is run by General Manager Oliver Eller ([email protected]; 011-0049-30-2261-1004). Note that the busiest times in Berlin are Fashion Week in January and July, Berlinale in February and ITB in March, as well as New Year’s Eve.

Grand Hotel Europe, St. Petersburg

In the heart of St. Petersburg, Russia, at Nevsky Prospekt and Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa sits the Grand Hotel Europe. Since opening in 1875, it’s survived as the Grande Dame of the city through two world wars and all of Russia’s political phases, all the while hosting historic figures such as composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, playwright Maxim Gorky and ballerina Anna Pavlova. More recently, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, actress Jane Fonda and Queen Elizabeth II have also graced its accommodations.

While these folks likely stayed in the Presidential Suite, it’s apt to recommend as well the top-floor Terrace rooms, which are designed as private residences. They provide great views of St. Petersburg and have lovely terraces that are used often during the summer months. If you’re game to sink into the lore of this Grand Dame hotel, we suggest taking a suite on the Historic Floor, where the hotel’s original architectural features have been restored. Neatest Perk: These suites come with butler service.

 

Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg,
Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, Russia, is especially proud of its formidable grand staircase.

 

As for the public spaces, there’s nothing like a Grande Dame with a formidable grand staircase, which the Grand Hotel Europe displays with pride. We were partial to enjoying the local vibe in the Lobby Bar, which buzzes late into the evening as guests and St. Petersburg denizens gather to ward off the cold weather outside with some spirits from its impressive Russian vodka menu. Want a swell memory? Sample the signature drink, the Million Red Roses cocktail; it’s prepared with fresh grapefruit juice, honey and Russian Moussuex.

The hotel’s Lobby Bar is an inviting and elegant space that is perfect for pre-dinner drinks or a warming cocktail on a cold, winter night. The bar also hosts live entertainment in the evenings.

Speaking of vodka, Grand Hotel Europe actually offers a master class on vodka pairings and cocktail mixing. Consider for example, learning how to pair Astrakhan Beluga caviar with Beluga vodka; marinated salmon with Tsarskaya Gold vodka; and for dessert, strawberries dusted with icing sugar served with none other than Grey Goose vodka. Mixing lessons are also included and cover drinks such as Dirty Martinis, Moscow Mules and White Russians. The classes are held in the Caviar Bar and Restaurant or the Lobby Bar and are scheduled upon request.

What to wear? We say if you’re going to dine at L’Europe and Caviar Bar and Restaurant, guests should sport at the very least semi-formal or business casual attire. Rossi’s and the Mezzanine Café are far more relaxed and guests should feel comfortable in more casual attire.

The head concierge, Ksenia Bobrikova ([email protected]; 001-7-812-329-6000) can make reservations for you at any dining establishment, and also arrange BMW and limousine transfers to and from Pulkovo airport, a 30-minute drive from the hotel. He can also arrange for guests to receive special welcome amenities such as the hotel’s exclusive chocolates, made-to-order fruit platters, pancake breakfasts, or vodka and caviar. Consider as well a private tour of St. Petersburg and be sure to request to see such legendary sites as the Peter & Paul Fortress and the Isaakievskaya Square. Nice Touch: The hotel is located on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s famous shopping avenue.

The hotel is run by General Manager Leon Larkin ([email protected]) and is pet-friendly.

Note: St. Petersburg may get a bit chilly in the winter but consider visiting during White Days, when the city is dressed up with a Dr. Zhivago-like romantic ambiance, complete with troika sleigh rides. The Grand Hotel Europe offers a special package during this period. 

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Teo's previous experience includes Waldorf Astoria, The St. Regis, EDITION, The Ritz-Carlton and InterContinental hotels in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.