As Hotel Ukraine in Moscow becomes the latest property to join the Radisson Collection, Breaking Travel News reporter Maria Korelina visits to discover how the Soviet masterpiece has become a striking symbol of contemporary hospitality
Take a short stroll north from Kievskaya metro station, over the Novoarbatskiy Bridge, and you will come to a unique piece of Soviet architecture – one of the ‘Seven Sisters’ skyscrapers built by Joseph Stalin.
Built in the neo-classical style and towering an impressive 206 metres over the Moskva River below, the vysotka (high-rise) is the second largest of the seven.
Today, it forms the centrepiece of the Radisson Collection, a premium group of exceptional hotels in landmark locations.
It has for decades play a central role in the story of the Russian capital.
Designed by Arkadi Mordvinow and Vyacheslav Oltarzhevsky, the leading Soviet experts in steel-framed high-rise construction, it takes inspiration from the famous skyscrapers of New York.
It is also something completely unique.
As Oltazhevsky noted at the time of construction: “According to the richness and character of the architectural composition, this is not only an image of a hotel - it is a monument of the greatness of the Stalin era.”
The property was to be a monument to all that was great about the USSR - quite an achievement for a hotel.
Upon its completion on May 25th, 1957, it was the largest hotel in Europe, with over 1,000 rooms and a capacity for 1,630 well-heeled guests.
Decades later, as perestroika began under Mikhail Gorbachev and Russia gradually opened up to the outside world, the property saw an influx of western guests, from journalists to rock stars.
Many, perhaps understandably, found some if its features peculiar.
From the floor ladies (dezhurnaya) who dotted the hotel, tipping with stockings, the mysterious foods, or accidentally walking into a room full of people eavesdropping, to rumours of the 73-metre spire on the roof housing a nuclear rocket launcher, the stories straddle the divide between fact and fiction.
Those days have passed, however, and the hotel has undergone a major renovation to bring it into the modern world.
Yet, though the 1,000 rooms have become just over 500, the militant dezhurnyje ladies have been replaced by friendly concierges and a number of high-end restaurants and boutiques have opened, the spirit remains.
Radisson have done a monumental job striking that delicate balance between the old and the new, preserving the historic ambiance of the site while bringing it up to the to the standards of contemporary travellers.
They have even kept the original name - Hotel Ukraine.
“As one of Moscow’s legendary landmarks, with outstanding architecture and world-class service, the hotel is the perfect match for Radisson Collection.
“This is a one-of-a-kind property, and we are delighted to have completed the rebranding of the hotel together with the owners,” explains Michel Stalport, area senior vice president of eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey at Radisson Hotel Group proudly states.
Under the Radisson Collection umbrella, the hotel boasts 501 rooms and suites fitted with the latest technology, 19 restaurants and 26 boutiques as well as nightclub and karaoke bar.
There is also fully renovated gym boasting a 50 metre Olympic-sized swimming pool.
In a treat for Russian guests, the spa offers a traditional ‘venik’ massage experience unique to the Slavic banya – if you want a man to hit you with sticks, this is the place.
Floors ten and 11 are handed over to executive lounges and Maybach Suite - built in collaboration with Mercedez-Benz, it was opened before the 2018 FIFA World Cup and is one of the two in existence.
Close by, the presidential suite stretches over 370 square metres and is complete with a grand piano and Vera Wang coffee cups.
Toward the top of the hotel, on the 31st floor, the Sky Bar offers a 360-degree birds eye view of the city and could comfortably take its place on any ‘must see’ bucket list.
As you sip on a carefully crafted cocktail, the breath-taking vista unfolding right before your eyes, you cannot help but want to savour the moment for as long as you possibly can.
With so much history, so many stories, Moscow can be a challenging city to visit, but here that all melts away – this is a place to truly relax.
But the Sky Bar is not the pinnacle of the hotel – with two further elevator rides you reach the viewing platform.
Here you can see as far as the Moscow National University, the tallest building in the city and itself one of the Seven Sisters, proudly perched along the horizon.
There is a two-person restaurant inside the spire reserved for intimate romantic evenings - a perfect place for wedding proposals.
The hotel even offers a ‘proposal service’ where the guest is led blindfolded up to the top and as they take off their mask a kaleidoscope of butterflies is released into the sky – how could anybody say ‘no’?
As Stanislav Kondov, general manager of the hotel, notes: “This is not just a hotel, it is a city within a city.”
The art collection in the hotel also deserves a special mention.
Consisting of 1,256 original canvases and 57 sculptures dating from the beginning of WWII until the end of the 1950s, the collection represents the famous and most recognisable classical artists of the socialist realism period.
Socialist portraits from Alexander Deineka, the futuristic cityscapes of Aristarkh Lentulov and the peaceful landscapes of Nikolay Romadin give guests a unique insight into the ideology of the era.
Fancy a cruise down the Moskva river? Well, Radisson have their very own flotilla of 11 yachts at your disposal.
The boats are fitted with ice breaking equipment which allows them to operate all year round.
Focus on experiences has been one of the main priorities in growing the brand, as Federico González, chief executive of Radisson Hotel Group, points out: “We took the decision to focus growth in two areas - one of them is memorable moments and took the decision to invest in experiences and to really become the best in providing memorable moments for guests.”
So it comes as no surprise that the hotel is one of the most recognised in the country, having taken the title of Russia’s Leading Hotel Residences for the past six years at the prestigious World Travel Awards.
Born in the Soviet Union myself, Radisson Collection, Moscow, certainly offered that familiar touch – a memory of a place from a long-time ago.
Radisson Collection is a new generation of iconic properties and one-of-a-kinds.
A collection of exceptional hotels, where no two are ever the same – here, individuality is our strongest common thread.
Find out more on the official website.