Ten hotels fit for an oligarch
Where do Eastern Europe's rich and powerful stay when they holiday close to home? Danielle Demetriou reveals the most luxurious addresses ...
Sunday 01 October 2006
1. A touch of glass for the literati
Amid Prague's historic spires sits stark, modern Hotel Josef. Set in the Jewish Quarter, it eschews the surrounding architectural opulence for bold, contemporary design and white, minimalist decor. A staircase consists of a sculptural swirl of glass and metal; a circle of clear glass set against a stone wall is your bathroom sink. Be warned, the bathroom sits in an exposed glass cubicle in the corner of the room.
Bling factor: One for the cultural oligarch. The Hotel Josef is a favourite with the literati, with visitors ranging from Irvine Welsh to Howard Brenton - the hotel has close ties with the annual Prague Writers' Festival. Check them out debating poetry while sipping Becherovka at the hotel bar.
Bottom line: Doubles at Hotel Josef (00 420 221 700 111; hoteljosef.com) from €156 (£105).
2. Grand opulence and infamy
When Hitler plotted the fall of Leningrad, he made meticulous plans to address the crowds in St Isaac's Square from the imperial balcony at the Hotel Astoria. Few hotels may boast such infamy, yet one can understand how a hotel of such old-school grandeur might easily prompt overly grandiose plans. Now in the hands of Sir Rocco Forte and his designer sister Olga Polizzi, the hotel in modern-day St Petersburg has been refurbished but remains an opulent retreat.
Bling factor: One for the xenophobic oligarch. Russian stars who've stayed the night have included writers Maxim Gorky and Mikhail
Bulgakov, the Fabergé family, and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Foreign interlopers have included Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.
Bottom line: Hotel Astoria (00 7812 494 575; astoria .spb.ru) has doubles from €218 (£218), room only.
3. Go starry-eyed on the roof
Wander down the tiny cobbled street of Kanonicza - the oldest in this Polish city of Krakow - and you'll find the Hotel Copernicus. A beautifully restored medieval residence, with portals, wooden frescos and mosaics dating from the Renaissance, it has 29 rooms and suites, most with views of the nearby Royal Castle. Yet it isn't stuck in the past; modern flourishes enhance these medieval roots, including a vaulted subterranean swimming pool in the basement and a rooftop sun terrace, linked by a glass elevator.
Bling factor: One for oligarchs with a world view. Named after a former guest, the 16th-century Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, the residence famously hosted philosophers and intellectuals of the Enlightenment. Today's visitors are no less influential. They include George Bush and Prince Charles, and Helmut Kohl who has dined here.
Bottom line: Hotel Copernicus (00 48 12 424 3400; hotel.com.pl) offers doubles from PLN850 (£144).
4. Join the A-listers at this vast spa
In its Soviet-era heyday as a sanatorium, the Black Sea resort of Sochi hosted a raft of starry guests, including the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. The Grand Hotel Rodina reopened earlier this year after extensive refurbishment - and there are few echoes of the spartan Soviet era in the stylish design of its 42 bedrooms and vast spa. A subtropical climate has made Sochi a favourite with Russia's wealthy élite. President Putin has plans to turn the destination into a contender for the next Winter Olympics.
Bling factor: One for movie-star-struck
oligarchs. The A-list will be flocking here for the annual film festival.
Bottom line: Doubles at the Grand Hotel Rodina (00 7 8622 539 000; grandhotelrodina.com) start at RUB7,500 (£148), room only.
5. Rub shoulders with Roman
Taking pride of place within the old city walls, the Pucic Palace is the only hotel for any self-respecting oligarch visiting Dubrovnik in Croatia. The tone is regal in this restored Renaissance palace, which spoils guests in its glamorous 19 bedrooms with hand-woven rugs, draped brocade curtains and Turkish antique furnishings.
Bling factor: One for the oligarch wishing to rub shoulders with the ultimate oligarch. Roman Abramovich frequently sails his yacht along these shores and has dropped in for dinner at the Pucic Palace. Lesser mortals who have stayed at the hotel include Eastern bloc politicians and Russian businessmen, Hollywood starlets and British playwrights.
Bottom line: The Pucic Palace (00 385 20 324 826; thepucicpalace .com) offers doubles from €302 (£203), including breakfast.
6. Back to nature at an eco-resort
Get back to nature among the waterways and wild forests where the Danube splits before reaching the Black Sea. The Delta Nature Resort is a five-star retreat in Romania offering a natural yet luxurious escape. The 30-cabin eco-resort, built in the style of a local fishing village, sits on the banks of Lake Somova, offering distant views of Moldova and the Ukraine. The wetland reserve is a World Heritage Site and its subtropical forests are home to thousands of species of birds, including 3,000 pairs of pelicans.Kayaking, sailing, cycling and walking are among the favoured activities of more energetic guests.
Bling factor: One for the oligarch twitcher. A retreat for well-connected environmentalists, the hotel was opened last year by the entrepreneur and investment banker Diwaker Singh.
Bottom line: Delta Nature Resort (004 031 710 0334; deltaresort.com) offers doubles, full board, from €140 (£95) per person.
7. Watch out for the royals
The best address in this old town of Vilnius in Lithuania is 7 Ganao St, in the ancient Jewish quarter. Here, Hotel Stikliai offers a cosy touch of old-school glamour in a 17th-century former private residence. Now endorsed by Relais & Chateaux, its 44 bedrooms are graced with four-poster beds and sumptuous soft furnishings. The restaurant is housed in the inner courtyard and there is also a vaulted indoor pool and a winter garden. This summer more apartments in a neighbouring nobleman's mansion were opened.
Bling factor: One for the royalist oligarch. The place of choice for visiting princes and princesses from Denmark, Sweden, Britain, Monaco and Luxembourg.
Bottom line: Doubles at Hotel Stikliai (00 800 2000 00 02; stikliaihotel.lt) cost from €185 (£132), including breakfast.
8. The place to flash the cash
The rich and famous flock to Poland's summer capital, Sopot, each year - and much of the action takes place at the seafront playground, the Grand Hotel. Dating from the 1920s, it has 127 bedrooms,an art deco restaurant, a jewellery shop, a rather decadent ballroom and a casino for those intent on truly flashing the cash. Guests also come here for the beautiful forests and the stunning views across the Bay of Gdansk.
Bling factor: This is one for the oligarch who is seeking world domination. It is not widely advertised that Adolf Hitler spent the weekend at the hotel during the invasion of Poland in 1939. Moving on, more recent leaders have included Charles de Gaulle and the Shah of Iran.
Bottom line: Double rooms at the Grand Hotel (0048 58520 6000; orbis.pl) start at €137 (£92), including breakfast.
9. The best townhouse hotel: Joined at the hip
The Three Sisters Hotel in Tallinn, Estonia, is a chic choice. The style-conscious are drawn to the three 14th-century merchant houses. Inspired by the theory that no three sisters are alike, each of the 23 guest rooms, joined by a network of chambers and secret staircases has its own personality.One for oligarchs seeking powerful Eurofriends: Horst Köhler, the German president, and Mikhail Fradkov, prime minister of Russia, stay. The hotel (00 372 6306 300; threesistershotel.com) has doubles from €357 (£240).
10. The best Art Deco fantasy: The belle of the ball
The Hotel Rialto, Warsaw's first boutique hotel threw open its doors in 2003, in a stylishly restored 1920s townhouse. This is a carefully choreographed celebration of Art Deco, from the stained glass and mother-of-pearl elevator to the African masks on the wall.Kurt Scheller, Poland's favourite celebrity chef, is here. One for the sporty oligarch, it became a favourite with top women tennis players during the city's annual J&S Cup. Doubles at the Hotel Rialto (0048 22 584 8700; hotelrialto.com.pl) from €139 (£93), room only.
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