St. Petersburg, Russia ~ Rossi Hotel & Spa

June 2018

Russia had been on our travel list for a very long time, but each time we started planning a trip, it seemed not to be a good time to go to Russia. We finally realized that it was probably never going to be a good time to go to Russia, so we bought the plane tickets (easy), booked the hotel (easy), and then jumped into the visa process (easy-ish, but also time-consuming). We almost opted for a relatively new hotel run by the Hermitage; it looked elegant, but potentially a bit fusty. Instead, we heeded reviews in guidebooks, on and in the London Telegraph and chose the Rossi, a boutique hotel in a historic building right on the Fontanka Canal near Nevsky Prospect.

A happy room


We arrived in St. Petersburg in mid-afternoon after a decently long, but not horrible, trip. When we walked into our room for the first time — after climbing to the 5th floor because the lift was down — the sun shone right in the two large windows that looked out to the Fontanka and a small park. It’s always nice to arrive at a hotel and know right away that it’s a place we’ll enjoy spending time in. This was the kind of feeling we got in our Rossi room. It wasn’t the most lavish place we have ever stayed, but it had a really nice feel, and we knew it would be a nice retreat from adventures out in the city. Plus it was easy to settle in. With plenty of storage, we could put our things away and stash our suitcases out of site, taking away any reminder that vacation would inevitably come to an end.

Experiencing white nights

We were fortunate to be in Russia during the famed White Nights, the days when the sun goes down for only a few hours. On our first night at the Rossi, we both woke up in the middle of the night with a bright sun streaming in the windows (we hadn’t closed the drapes). Because we were a little jet-laggy, we figured we were just seeing the clock wrong, but sure enough, it was 3 am. On subsequent nights, we were woken by the clippety clop of horses trotting down the quiet streets. It was an odd sound in the middle of the city, but we loved it and made sure to leave our windows open so we could listen for the horses. We’re not sure if the horse riding was a white nights thing, but we liked to believe so.

St. Petersburg on the verge of darkness outside the Rossi

Remnants of Soviet days

All in all, St. Petersburg doesn’t feel very Soviet; it definitely bears the mark of its European-loving founder Peter and the empresses who followed him — Elizabeth and Catherine. However, reminders of Soviet days do linger on and can be noticed if you’re paying attention. At the Rossi, the lobby felt a little like a  room from the days of communal living, except of course for the very prominent desk for the administrator. Additionally, the hotel restaurant was always full of staff doing their best to keep busy. We were amused each morning by the wait person who carefully polished a collection of wine glasses. This is certainly not a bad thing — we certainly appreciate wine glasses without smudges or dishwater spots — but the restaurant was never very busy. We imagined the glasses got a daily rubdown whether they had been used the day before or not. And, of course, there was the elevator. We enjoyed the walk up the stairs, but had we needed the elevator, it seemed to work about half the duration of our stay.

Looking out the window of our room

It’s always nice to arrive at a hotel and know right away that it’s a place we’ll enjoy spending time in. This was the kind of feeling we got in our Rossi room.


Perhaps our favorite Soviet remnant, which we encountered in the hotel but also in many other places, was the challenge obtaining small bills or change. We used the ATM in the hotel freely (even though we weren’t completely confident that the data transaction was secure — the hotel’s WiFi was open access). However, the ATM dispensed large bills in the neighborhood of $5,000 ruble notes (the equivalent of about $75 US). Trying to spend a bill that large is a challenge, but trying to get smaller bills is even harder. The first time we tried at the hotel, we got a lot of drawer opening and paper shuffling before the very-kind receptionist said, “Vasily can help.” Vasily, the bell hop, did help, but we quickly figured out that this couldn’t be a regular request. About halfway through our stay, we did learn from our Finnish friend that subway ticket offices are one of the few places in Russia where it’s easy to get change. So noted.

Classy…but not too classy

Almost everything in our Rossi room was a good choice for both functionality and style, but we did get a chuckle from two features. The first was the sliding glass door that served as either a shower door or a door between the toilet and the rest of the glass-walled bathroom. As you might imagine, this provided a small puzzle when one of us was showering and the other was using the toilet. For the sake of keeping the bathroom dry, the person in the shower usually got use of the door, but not before the other had accidentally slid it open when going into the toilet nook.


And speaking of toilets, the diagram on the toilet lid gave us a laugh each time we saw it. The hotel thinks enough of its guests to provide them with Hermes bath products (they smelled very good) and fluffy monogrammed towels and robes, but apparently those same guests need a reminder not to flush feminine hygiene products, condoms, and, of course syringes.







U Visit Russia

Once we booked our room — by the way, our credit card was charged right away — we started receiving emails from an organization called U Visit Russia. Mostly we just deleted them because they didn’t look totally legitimate, but we both heartily endorse visiting St. Petersburg. Whether you stay at the Rossi or somewhere else, this city is fascinating historically, architecturally, culturally and, of course, politically.

Stay details

What we saw, what we ate

Some of the best ballet in the world at the Mariinsky

Back to HOTELLING home

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