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Radisson Royal Hotel, St. Petersburg

Hotel History

Discover an 18th-century city with Radisson Royal Hotel in St. Petersburg

The colorful history of the building on the odd-numbered side of the Nevsky Prospect 49/2 with the pink-colored façade trails back to the 18th century. Traditionally, the evocative setting and the atmosphere of historic St. Petersburg attracted people of the art and many cultural and major public events played their essential role in the building’s past.

Many famous Russians were related to this historical building: composer Mikhail Glinka, writers Nikolay Nekrasov and Anton Chekhov, poet Alexander Pushkin, artist Vasiliy Surikov.

The exact date of the building construction is unknown, but it was one of the first edifices in the area and already standing by late 1730s, when this section of the city was a less than aristocratic neighborhood.

The interior has been reconstructed in 2001 retaining the original features of the 1880s, many of which are almost 300 years old. The building is under state protection as an example of architectural Classicism.

In 1790 – 1827 French spice merchant Barbazan was the proud owner of this building. He expanded the premises and started vertical extension of the building, making it three-floored with a classic style façade.

In 1828 – 1829, when the house belonged to the Princess Shakhovskaya. Mikhail Glinka, the famous Russian composer, stayed there. Returning from Warsaw as internationally well-known composer after a 20-year absence, Glinka was once again a guest. Performing in his comfortable apartment, he held concerts, which became popular throughout the city.

In the 1850-ties a 2nd-guild merchant Rotin owned the building and opened a hotel and restaurant ‘Moscow’.

In 1879, a 2nd-guild merchant Abram Ushakov acquired a house at 49 Nevsky Prospect. He had renovated the building giving it its current look - gorgeous façade, decorated with stuccowork and caryatids. The project was approved by the emperor Alexander III. The hotel immediately became one of the city’s most fashionable and well-appointed locations, keeping its previous name – ‘Hotel Moscow’. The best rooms were exclusive, expensive and offered all necessary facilities for the guests of the upper-class society.

For several years after the Revolution of 1917 ‘Hotel Moscow’ remained one of the city’s premier hotels. But it was closed in the late 1920s. Yet the restaurant of the hotel continued to operate and even expanded.

In 1962 the last but one reconstruction of the restaurant started. The building was then divided between the ‘Moscow’ restaurant with 4 floors, the office premises and multifamily “apartment” units.

In September 1964 the restaurant was reopened after the reconstruction and continued operating till the 90-ies.

Right under ‘Moscow’ restaurant there was a nameless Café. The Cafe didn’t served food, but offered mostly some snacks and coffee. The first unofficial name was ‘Podmoskovje’ (literary ‘Under Moscow’), although it will forever remain in the memory of its visitors under the name of ‘Saigon’. Within the history of the modern St. Petersburg one cannot surpass mentioning ‘Saigon’ if only of the fact of the number of celebrities it has produced.

As with all the best rock-music legends, no-one can remember why it was called this name. The Saigon Café and the name ‘Saigon’ didn’t have a great reputation as it was associated with the at that time ongoing Vietnam War. Someone re-christened it ‘the Saigon’ and it was under this name that it entered the history.

When the ‘Saigon’ opened in September 1964, it was a simple Soviet Cafe. The restaurant ‘Moscow’ and cafe were connected by a hidden door right behind the bar counter and only selected people knew about that door. There was an entrance to the cafe from the street and in the middle hall, close to the windows with wide sills, there were lots of tables for people to drink at, but no chairs, so you needed to drink fast. In the corner close to the window you could order some food, which would be no more than sausages, bread and several types of cookies with cream.

‘Saigon’ could not be described exactly as a club or even a cafe. It was a place which cultivated the special lifestyle and atmosphere of several generations of an intellectual public.

It was a symbol of non-conformist protest – but it was latent protest and there was no active politics there. Mostly it provided a place for things that weren't approved – drinking coffee and cheap wine, reading unpublished poetry, swapping unofficial or self-publish literature, or maybe a whisper about politics. There were art-shows and unlicensed concerts. Mainly it was a place to see and be seen.

Around 1968 ‘Saigon’ became an unofficial meeting place where poets, writers and artists from many different backgrounds and groups began to congregate. The unofficial writers, artists, human rights activists, feminists and Christian groups that had existed often in isolation from each other began to meet and gradually form a more substantial sub-culture. This cafe figures large in the memories of writers and artists who grew up in the city of Leningrad.

Heroes of Leningrad's underground music movement were regulars here. They were very interesting characters to get to know and drink with. Boris Grebenshikov from AKVARIUM or Viktor Tsoi from KINO could be seen standing outside smoking, or Sergey Kuroykhin with his long hair could be seen just hanging around. These people were already popular and many newspapers and music journals had already started writing about them, but no one really knew them unless they visited Cafe Saigon!

Here forbidden books such as ‘Arhipelag Gulag’, ‘Moskva-Petushki’, ‘Lolita’, ‘Master and Margarita’, writings by Nietzsche and Brodsky would be shared by ‘Saigon’ inhabitants. In 1989 ‘Saigon’ was finally closed, its former premises were given at first, to an Italian sanitary ware shop, later it turned into an A/V store.

The former regulars have gone in different directions – some grew up, some grew old, one won a Nobel Prize (Iosif Brodsky), quite a few hit the bottle and shuffled off early to the next world.

During the Perestroika, in 1992, the idea to re-open the building as a hotel was originated, but only in 1997 a contract with Radisson SAS Hotels (currently the Radisson Hotel Group) was signed to operate the hotel. During the renovation and reconstruction, the ‘Moscow’ restaurant closed its doors forever.

The name of the Saigon was later changed into Cannelle Bar, as Cannelle was the Favorite spice of Barbazan one of the former owners.

The Radisson Royal Hotel is very proud of its history and tries to keep the ‘Saigon’ spirit alive when you visit the Cannelle Bar. You will find many memorabilia like books, an old typewriter, gramophone and live piano music from back in the days. On several tables in the Cannelle Bar you will find unique plaques which honor and remember their famous visitors of the past times.

On July 23, 2001 the Radisson Royal - the first Radisson hotel in the city of St. Petersburg - graciously opened its doors. HM Queen Victoria, HM King Gustav and crown princess Silvia from Sweden were among a few of the Royal and Famous guests who enjoyed the timeless genuine hospitality.

The Radisson Royal guest rooms and corridors have undergone a complete refurbishment in 2017 and were redesigned and modernized but preserve some of the original heritage throughout its current interior. To honor the achievements of famous Russians who have resided here, our conference rooms are named in their memory. On the room walls you can see reproductions of photos of Boris Smelov – regular visitor of ‘Saigon’.

All guest rooms were foreseen with the latest technology and comfort like Full HD Smart TV, streaming connectivity, Nespresso coffee machine and high-speed Wi-Fi. The Radisson Royal Hotel is the favorite place to be for business or leisure traveler guests who like to enjoy a bit of luxury and staying in the city center where everything seems to happen in St. Petersburg.

Just step out of the famous front door and you are at the heart of shopping, restaurant and bars, the Hermitage, Kazan cathedral and the famous night life of the Nevsky street.

The Radisson Royal Hotel gives you a unique opportunity to follow in the footsteps of some of Russia’s greatest artists and historical figures. The hotel team will ensure that you will be comfortably taken care of during your time in the city of St. Petersburg.