Can this really be a Hilton?
That’s the question I ask myself as I gaze up at the jaw-dropping 136-metre (446ft) Stalinist-style tower in Moscow that’s home to the chain’s Leningradskaya Hotel.
And it’s the question I continue to ask when I walk into the lobby. It’s wow-factor central. There are marble floors, grand marble columns, huge sparkling chandeliers, an ornate golden gate leading to a lounge area, a dark cherry wood reception desk, another gold arch, which frames the doorway to the bar, gold beams, and fixtures and fittings dripping with yet more gold.
The lobby in the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya Hotel. MailOnline Travel’s Jennifer Newton found that the hotel’s fixtures and fittings dripped with gold
The Leningradskaya Hotel opened in 1954 and immediately become a true pearl in Moscow’s crown. In 2008, it was taken over by Hilton. Pictured is its lobby area from another angle
Jennifer says the hotel’s lobby is ‘wow-factor central’ with marble floors, grand marble columns and huge sparkling chandeliers
The hotel is one of Moscow’s famous Seven Sisters towers – also known as ‘Stalin’s high-rises’ – which were built between 1947 and 1953
It’s clearly no ordinary Hilton.
The hotel is one of Moscow’s famous Seven Sisters towers – also known as ‘Stalin’s high-rises’. They were built between 1947 and 1953 on the orders of Stalin, who considered the city’s lack of skyscrapers to be a ‘moral blow’.
The Leningradskaya Hotel opened in 1954 and immediately become a true pearl in Moscow’s crown. Its architects, Leonid Polyakov and Andrey Boretsky, combined several architectural trends, Naryshkin Baroque, Gothic and elements of Russian Orthodox to create something quite breath-taking.
The hotel was renovated in August 2008 and became a Hilton – the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya, to give it its full title.
The dark cherry wood reception desk inside the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya. The hotel combines Naryshkin Baroque, Gothic and elements of Russian Orthodox architecture
An ornate golden gate divides the lobby, with the reception and concierge desks in front of the gate and a lounge area behind the gate
I stroll across the marble floors, which provide some relief from the hot Moscow air, to the reception desk and check in to a room on the fourth floor.
I take the lift and the doors open to more Baroque styling in the hallway, candle-style light fittings and dark-wood panelling.
But the historic theme ends at the threshold of my room, which has regular muted Hilton-esque décor.
And acres of space.
There’s a vast hallway leading to a sizeable desk, a massive TV and an extremely comfortable double bed.
The free in-room WiFi is surprisingly quick, although there are no beside charge points for my phone – I have to plug it in near the desk, which is not within arm’s reach.
Jennifer discovered that her room had acres of space and included a sizeable desk, a massive TV and an extremely comfortable double bed
THE METRO SYSTEM WHERE THE STATIONS ARE LIKE ART GALLERIES
Before my trip to Russia, I was told it wouldn’t be complete without at least one ride on the Moscow Metro.
What’s more, the Hilton is very close to Komsomolskaya station – often referred to as one of the most beautiful on the network – so going in and seeing what all the fuss is about becomes more or less mandatory.
But I’m apprehensive.
Inside Komsomolskaya station on the Moscow Metro. It is often referred to as one of the most beautiful on the network
I don’t speak Russian nor can I read Russian. How will I be able to get around without getting completely lost each time?
In the end, all is well, partly because the Citymapper app has a Moscow version.
I tell it I want to go from Komsomolskaya to Red Square and it plots a four-stop journey on the No.1 red line to Okhotnyy ryad, the closest station to Red Square.
I enter the station through a metal detector, a standard procedure in Moscow, and find a touch-screen ticket machine.
These machines can be set to English and just a few minutes later I have an all-day ticket costing 230 roubles (£2.95/$3.68). A bargain.
I take the escalator down towards the red line’s platform and am quickly bowled over by the station’s ornate ceiling and marble columns – it’s almost like an art gallery.
The first test comes when I arrive on the platform and I can’t see any English signs. Am I going north or southbound?
Okhotnyy ryad station, left, is the closest station to Red Square in Moscow. Pictured right is one of the old Soviet-era trains that run on the network
An old Soviet-era-style train pulls in and I decide to jump on and sit on one of the no-so-comfortable plastic seats.
I’ve memorised the names of the stations I should pass through and realise after the first stop that I’m going the wrong way.
Surprisingly, the Moscow Metro has WiFi not only in the stations but also on board the trains and, after a quick recalculation on Citymapper, I leave that train, cross over the platform, and get a service going in the right direction.
As the train edges closer to the centre of the city, announcements start to be made in both Russian and English – much to my relief.
Within 20 minutes, I get off the train at Okhotnyy ryad station, which isn’t as impressive as Komsomolskaya, but it still has eye-popping silver marble walls and beautiful ceramic tiles.
After that, for the rest of the day, I zoom around the city on the trains – admiring the other stations and wondering why I was ever apprehensive in the first place.
The en-suite is also very roomy with a huge sink, but no bath – only a shower. When I test it out, the water pressure is really good and afterwards I feel very refreshed.
I bed down for the night and forget to fully close the curtains – cue waking up around 4am when the bright sunshine starts streaming in through the window.
But after quickly closing them again properly, I get another few hours of sleep and wake again feeling ready to explore Moscow.
Breakfast is served in the hotel’s Janus restaurant and like all other common areas of the hotel, it has grand marble pillars and several huge chandeliers.
The Janus restaurant, pictured, is like all other common areas of the hotel – grand
Jennifer’s breakfast in the hotel restaurant, left. She says that the huge buffet has every type of breakfast food imaginable on offer. Pictured right is a plate of Nutella sachets that had been labelled as ‘chocolate pasta’
Jennifer was a guest of the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya for one night.
The hotel is located at 21/40 Kalanchevskaya Street, Moscow.
Rooms start from 6,600 roubles (£80/$101) per night. For more information click here or call +7 495 627 55 55.
Rating key: one star – poor; two stars – ok; three stars – good; four stars – very good; five stars – exceptional.
The breakfast offering is a huge buffet with every type of breakfast food imaginable on offer.
I take some cereal and fruit before opting for some bacon, beans and toast, which are very good.
I do have a little laugh, though, while looking for some butter for my toast, because I come across a plate of Nutella sachets labelled as ‘chocolate pasta’.
Obviously, it’s a typing error and meant to say paste, but the lost-in-translation moment brightens the start to my day, which I spend exploring the sights.
The hotel isn’t within comfortable walking distance of the likes of Red Square or the Bolshoi Theatre, but it is handily located just several minutes’ walk from the Komsomolskaya Metro Station, which can whisk you to the heart of Moscow in just under 20 minutes.
In addition, Leningradskiy railway station, which runs services towards St Petersburg, is very close by, as is Kazansky railway station, where you can catch a train towards Kazan and Yekaterinburg.
I decide to take the Metro into the city centre and as I leave the hotel for the day, I see newly arrived guests taking pictures of the stunning lobby.
They too are obviously as impressed as I am.
FROM THE RED SQUARE TO THE BOLSHOI THEATRE: MOSCOW’S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS
Red Square – Located in the heart of Moscow, the cobblestoned Red Square is surrounded by some of Russia’s most famous buildings from the Kremlin to St Basil’s Cathedral.
Also in the vicinity is the State Historical Museum and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where you can see a changing of the guard ceremony at the top of each hour.
The Kremlin – To the west of Red Square is the Kremlin, a huge fortress with a massive wall surrounding it.
One of the highlights of visiting Moscow is wandering around Red Square. To the west of the Square is the Kremlin, the official residence of the Russian president, and on the south side of the square is the instantly recognisable St Basil’s Cathedral
Inside the walls are museums, cathedrals and the official residence of the Russian president.
St Basil’s Cathedral – Best known for its colourful, onion-shaped domes, St Basil’s Cathedral stands on the south side of Red Square.
It is probably the most instantly recognisable Russian building and is actually made up of nine churches.
Bolshoi Theatre – The historic Bolshoi Theatre opened in 1865 just a stone’s throw from Red Square and is the oldest theatre in Moscow.
The historic Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. It is best known for its ballet and opera performances and its beautiful, grand interior
It is best known for its ballet and opera performances and its beautiful, grand interior.
Sparrow Hills – Sparrow Hills is one of the highest points in Moscow and offers breathtaking views across the Russian capital.
The observation platform is located just above the famous Luzhniki Stadium.
The observation platform at Sparrow Hills is one of Moscow’s highest points. It offers views across Luzhniki Stadium to the city beyond