Sometimes hotels can seem so pristine that we forget that beyond the stunning facades, luxurious lobbies or beautifully designed rooms, there are fascinating stories to be told. Behind each Radisson Blu door, any number of historical events may have occurred, so let us take you down memory lane with these inspiring Radisson Blu hotel stories. Who knows, you may even learn a thing or two about history along the way!
Moscow’s not for sale
The most logical place to start is with the famous Hotel Ukraine that was officially renamed the Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow in 2010. This extraordinary structure was completed in 1957 as the last of the capital’s Seven Sisters. The Hotel Ukraine (now Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow) was supposed to be a starting point for revitalizing the city, and the hotel definitely came out grandiose! Foreign guests didn’t hide their admiration of its sky-piercing spire, wide corridors adorned with ornate patterns, and marble stairwells. It is said that some Soviet citizens who stayed at the Hotel Ukraine when being awarded a state prize slept on the floors in their rooms, afraid to upset the luxurious feather bed!
Over time, the hotel began to turn into a museum. Its walls are now decorated with more than a thousand paintings (all originals) crafted by famous artists, sculptures are interspersed throughout the halls, and the grandiose 400-m2 Moscow Diorama is the feather in the collection’s cap. It's rumored astronaut Neil Armstrong wanted to buy it, but he was rebuffed - Moscow is most certainly not for sale.
At history's crossroads in St Petersburg
The famous Radisson Royal Hotel, St. Petersburg, located at the intersection of Nevskii and Vladimirskii Prospekts, has represented luxury at its best, and that for many many years now. The corner edifice was built at the end of the 18th century, and the history of the entire town is intertwined with its story. At first, the building was a conventional one-story wooden structure. But its location was always noteworthy. The so-called “louse market” was located next door, where the poor who had flocked to the capital would come to look for work. At the intersection of the two streets was a certain breakwater that divided the middle class and aristocrats who came out on Nevskii Prospekt to promenade.
During Pushkin’s time, a fourth floor was added: guests who stayed here were treated like royalty, and the popularity of the hotel grew. The well-known composer Glinka for example lived here following a long foreign trip in 1834. The apartment in which he lived with his sister was so spacious that they found room for three baby grand pianos.
During the Soviet era, the hotel was closed, and the restaurant was turned into a standard workers' dining hall, even with its gigantic proportions. The building regained its lost glory in 2001 when Radisson reopened the hotel. Its facades were scrupulously restored according to 19th-century drawings and the interior decor was designed in line with appropriate standards. Now the best of St Petersburg's society is once again at the intersection of Nevskii and Vladimirskii Prospekts.
Psst! Interested in design? Learn all about our inspiring design stories with Design Talks.
Under the oak trees in Bratislava
In the center of town, the glowing white facade of the Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel, Bratislava extends along the shores of the Danube River. As rumor has it, it was here Jules Verne finished the last chapters of his novel Mysterious Island. The roots of this building stretch back all the way to the 13th century, when an inn was kept in this location. Five hundred years later, larger-scale hospitality could be found here, when the stables were replaced with a hotel that was originally named “Under Three Green Trees” (the inner courtyard had three broad oaks growing in it).
Witness to history in Brussels
Few hotels around the world can be found on the UNESCO World Heritage List, but the Radisson Blu Royal, Brussels is among them. The hotel’s atrium is decorated with a restored fragment of the city wall dating back to 1134. At that time, it encircled Brussels and stood eight meters tall. The Radisson Blu Royal has witnessed many seminal events. For instance, it was the birthplace of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, which led to the separation of the nations of Belgium and the Netherlands. Strictly speaking, everything started at the La Monnaie Opera House located within a stone's throw from the Radisson Blu Royal during the opera La muette de Portici. But the viewers, overcome with romantic nationalist sentiments, poured out onto the square in front of the hotel, coordinated their plans, and set off to fight for their country’s sovereignty.
A little bit of Italy in Vilnius
The oldest hotel in Vilnius, the Radisson Blu Royal Astoria Hotel, has always led a quiet, slow-paced existence. It was built in the 14th century at the intersection of the main streets in town, and as it was located at the end of the route from Krakow. And it certainly has never been lacking in guests. During the late Middle Ages, Vilnius was known as almost the most prosperous city in Eastern Europe and the long-term residence of many eminent scientists, humanists, and architects, etc. Once the Italian masters rebuilt the hotel, it started changing hands like a dollar bill. It different times, it was owned by prominent city residents, including some mayors. In the 19th century, the building was bought by the wealthy Algirdas Vagneris, who renamed it the Hotel Italja. His son, Vitoldas, performed a large-scale restoration of the hotel and added a fourth floor while giving the hotel a distinct neo-baroque look. Its appearance has been preserved to this day.
Fleeting justice in Nantes
Until recently, the French city of Nantes didn’t have a single world-class hotel. This problem was fixed in 2012, when the former Nantes Palace of Justice was transformed into the stately Radisson Blu Hotel, Nantes. The Palace was originally built in the 19th century. In addition to courts of law, it housed a gendarmerie (French law enforcement) and a prison located in an adjacent building. In 1992, the French Ministry of Justice announced a tender for a new building to house the judges of Nantes, and the Palace of Justice was abandoned for some time. It took a great deal of effort to convert it into a hotel. At the same time, the architects have done everything in their power to preserve the historical appearance of this colossal structure.
Icelandic elevator ride
And finally, a few words about a modest (compared to other hotels), but very proud travelers’ retreat in the Icelandic capital. In 2019, the local Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel, Reykjavik will celebrate its 100th birthday. It was initially an office building for the largest steamship company in Iceland built by architect Guðjón Samúelsson. Incidentally, the building was equipped with the first elevator in the country. And in 2005, the building was converted into a hotel.