By Viacheslav Shirokov
According to TripAdvisor, which claims to be an expert on hotels worldwide, the best hotel in Moscow is “Savoy.” Never mind the hefty $500/night price tag – TripAdvisor puts even more expensive “Swissotel” and “Park Hayat” Hotel at spots 2 and 3 respectively. Since when did luxury hotels become the best value options we don’t know, but we do know for certain that there are great hotels in Moscow that are not so expensive. These hotels are not easy to spot and we will explain why in just a moment we will also share with you our top picks for Moscow hotels in 2010.
Truth About Moscow Hotels
Moscovites like to boast that Moscow is the most expensive city in the world. In reality, this is not the case. Moscow is ranked as the most expensive city only when it comes to luxury goods and services such as French cognacs, German cars, designer clothes and, unfortunately, hotels.
There are too many luxury hotels in Moscow and too few good quality mid-range ones. During the Soviet times Moscow was the nerve center of the entire Soviet Union and every task, no matter how serious or trivial, had to be solved in Moscow. Whether it was about building a power plant in Siberia or buying clothes for your children, this was all done in Moscow.
|"There are too many luxury hotels in Moscow..."|
Very few people could afford to travel to Moscow so it was Soviet elites for whom the hotel infrastructure was originally built. Soviet hotels did not really have a typical star ranking symbolizing their quality and comfort, but they had their own hierarchy. The party members stayed in hotel Moskva, academia stayed in Akademicheskaya, pilots stayed in hotel Cosmos and so on.
The USSR collapsed overnight and with it crumbled the entire system of economic relations, including hotels. Russian hotels have entered a new world where people are no longer banned, bound by social ranks and can afford to travel. People could not choose by comparing price and quality. The hotels had to change. Many new appeared, many old ones were renovated.Today, Moscow remains the center of Russia in every meaning of this word. It hosts the entire federal government, it is the largest transportation hub in Europe (9 railway stations and 4 airports), the largest scientific and education center in Russia and the biggest military district too. It is also the center of Russian show business and television, of the Russian corporate world and just about everything else.
To give you an idea of the implications - imagine if the US federal government, Las Vegas casinos, Hollywood Hills, Ivy League Schools and Downtown Manhattan would all be in the same city.
|"Even Holiday Inn in Moscow charges $500 per night for a standard room."|
Over-concentration is both a virtue and a peril for Moscow. On one hand it is the key to its commercial viability, but on the other it drives up prices for all property hotels not being an exception. The demand for hotels is simply much bigger than the supply; it is concentrated in just few months of the year as most people travel to Russia during the summer season from May to September.
Even Holiday Inn in Moscow charges $500 per night for a standard room. But, to be fair to Holiday Inn, its Moscow venues are of very high quality that can be comparable to Marriott or Hayat in the US.
Best Kept Secrets in Moscow
So what should you do when every hotel hikes up its rates because it is certain that it will be booked (either way or regardless)? You should know that travel agencies like Travel All Russia make special arrangements with hotels that help reduce the overall prices for their customers.Each season we carefully pick a few hotels that we consider to be the best and to pick those winners we consider a combination of factors. We first look at the price and pick five hotels which offer reasonable rates and have a good location (because no matter how great the hotel and rates are, a bad location could ruin the entire vacation).
We then physically visit these hotels to inspect the rooms for quality and the hotel amenities and service for convenience. We meet with the hotel management to establish how serious that hotel is about customer service and also to give our suggestions, for example: from our experience some American customers like to have extra pillows on their beds.
Lastly, we ask a question – is there anything special about this hotel? For example, if hotel organizes a tea party on one of the nights or has a famous restaurant where Rasputin and Stalin liked to dine, or if it offers discounts for restaurants nearby - this would be considered a special quality. This being said, please allow us to introduce our top hotels for 2010.
Marriott Courtyard (4 stars)
Marriott Courtyard is located within a ten minute walk from the Red Square and the Kremlin in a picturesque neighborhood where narrow alleys, small cafes and restaurants create a unique cozy atmosphere that is not easy to find in a city the size of Moscow. The hotel itself is a hidden treasure which one would never guess is there.
Location: 10-min walk to Red Square
Sovietsky Hotel (3 stars)Our top pick for a three star hotel - is of a different breed. Unlike Marriott which is an internationally acclaimed chain, hotel Sovietsky is truly one of a kind. It was built by a personal order of Stalin in 1952 for the top Soviet elites (hence the name). After the collapse of the “evil empire” it preserved its distinct style allowing you to travel in time and to experience what it was like to live the life of a high soviet official in Moscow during 1960s.
The hotel claims to offer 4-star service, but it is a bit further away from the city center so we rank it at a strong 3. The cab ride to the Red Square and Kremlin takes just 10 minutes.
A famous 200-year-old restaurant “Yar” which catered to Rasputin and Stalin, Chekhov and Gorky, Thatcher and Gandhi (and Arnold Schwarzenegger) is now a part of the hotel.
Location: 10-min drive to Red Square
Both of these fine hotels will be perfect for your vacation in Moscow and can be included in your itinerary upon request. As for TripAdvisor, next time when you make your ranking of Moscow hotels, consider upgrading your methodology or asking experts.
Viacheslav Shirokov is a marketing manager at Travel All Russia & Golden Ring Cruises. He is considered to be one of the best experts on Russian travel. He is a frequent traveler and our destination expert. He spent 20 years in Russia, holds two master degrees, from Vladivostok University of Economics and New York University.