Moscow, Russia: Arriving in Russia - Hotel National

Mokhovaya ulitsa, 15/1, Moskva, Russia, 125009

I arrived in Russia to a room with a view - facing Moscow's iconic Red Square and Kremlin.

A room with a view: what lies yonder of the windows of the Studio Rooms with Kremlin viewI think it an amusing contrast of sorts to stay in the shiny, modern W Hotel at historical St. Petersburg, yet in the relatively-young Russian capital of Moscow I checked into a century-old landmark that has seen tsarists and communists alike come and go amidst the tempest of the 20th century: Hotel National, A Luxury Collection Hotel. I would like to take the time to tell you what makes Hotel National so special, but it's way past midnight here in St. Petersburg and I have to be up and early (you could say I'm Russian this post, haha) in a few hours, so I'll let the hotel explain for me (bad blogger, I knooooow! I promise I'll make it up to you):

"The National is a unique Russian historical and cultural monument that stands apart from Moscow's other hotels. The Hotel combines the best of the centuries-old traditions of Russian hospitality and entrepreneurship. The hotel's 100-year history is closely intertwined with the tumultuous events of the twentieth century. Over the years, the hotel's guests have included heads of state and government, diplomats and businessmen, military officials, scientists, writers and musicians. Before 1917, guests at the National included members of royal families, foreign diplomats and politicians. 

But Russian state officials and representatives of the tsarist administration made up the main contingent of guests. Members of the State Senate, State Duma deputies and tsarist ministers, generals and governors all preferred to stay at the National. The hotel's restoration in the 1930s marked yet another milestone in achieving even greater grandeur. Artifacts from Russian Tsar palaces and aristocrats' estates were added, and the hotel was decorated with museum-quality furniture, exceptional paintings and exclusive art objects. To this day, visitors can still marvel at the majority of these precious antiques forming part of the National's interior. The history of the National is a journey into a past rich in events. It is a tale of the people who were at the origins of the hospitality industry in Russia, a tale of our contemporaries and a story of the traditions of Russian entrepreneurial spirit and hospitality." Read more about Hotel National's fascinating history. 

Hotel National as seen from Alexandrovsky Garden, where the eternal flame burns ever brightly for the Unknown Soldier. As far as location goes, I was in prime position to sightsee and shop Moscow's best - with the Red Square, the Moscow Kremlin, St Basil's Cathedral, G.U.M (the modestly-named State Department Store packed with luxury brands, really Moscow's answer to Selfridges), and the Bolshoi Theatre all just a hop, skip, and jump away - although I did end up being driven everywhere.

The design of the Hotel National is typical of turn of the century Moscow, combining renaissance and classical architecture with modernist decorative elements. Personally, I much prefer the classical elements - columns, cornices, the caryatids carrying the figurine balconies - although my mother wasn't the biggest fan. She's resolutely a fan of modern design and new hotels ("Less people dying in the bed I'm sleeping in...") and insisted the hotel is "too old" for her liking - but I disagree. I love a historical hotel as much as I enjoy swish space-age sleeping chambers.

The lobby bar is plush and warm yet I didn't knock back any drinks there - I always walked through to the airy bar next door...

...the other hotel bar, with its Instagram-perfect skylights (fondly dubbed by yours truly as 'the smoker's conservatory') where many a Diet Coke chased down the crazy-cheap Vogue menthols sold in Russia- they are 100 RUB - that's not even £1! I'm definitely not going to give up the bad habit in Russia...

You all know I'm committed to avoiding physical strain of any sort, although with steps these gorgeous eschewing the elevators for the staircase to the 5th floor wasn't entirely unrewarding. Hotel National describes the elaborate stairway as their 'jewel' - with white marble, gilt decorations and stained-glass windows filtering the light in to diffuse the corridors 'just so'. 

Double doors swing open to reveal the private corridor of each Studio Rooms. I like little touches like an entryway/landing strip - it makes an otherwise impersonal hotel room seem more homely, also acting as a buffer between bed, bath, and beyond.

An adequately-sized room for two with decent amenities (the Elemis bath products and gold accents in the bathroom fittings were a nice touch), more-than-ample wardrobe room for two very messy people, and a never-utilised working desk (more like receptacle for trays of room service, which by the way was unimpressive). I have mixed feelings about Hotel National: it bills itself as a 5-star hotel but a few niggling issues did bother me. The staff are as courteous, helpful, and welcoming as they come, although a chambermaid did let herself in to clean the room while I was sleeping (at a not unreasonable hour of ten in the morning - tipped her anyway). Ordering room service was not the indulgence I expected - I ordered food at least twice on two very late nights, and each time the food was not on par, with an especially disappointing cheese plate complete with stale crackers. Some of the hotel's modernist decor motifs felt a little dated to me (which I suppose is the risk with mixing and matching styles) - I liked the classical elements just the way they are, but I suppose I'm just being fussy there. Mixed bag aside, The Hotel National is fantastic for its location (although next time I'm in Moscow I'll give next-door Ritz-Carlton a try - I loved their rooftop O2 lounge which I can't wait to blog about!) and simply unbeatable when it comes to the view:

Few other hotels in Moscow can top this vista - waking up to this sight every morning did set a nice tone for my trip. Despite my mixed review of Hotel National - which I chalk down to personal preference (decor-wise) and what I hope to be a couple of unfortunate flukes - it's definitely considering if you're planning a trip to Moscow. 


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