Astoria Grand

Rocco Forte's Astoria is simply the best place in town. Not only does it have real class but the mint-green, cream, and off-white decor by Forte's sister, Olga Polizzi, is an ideal match for the pale candy-colored palaces that line St. Petersburg's wide avenues. Some do complain that the rooms are a bit small­, and we would agree. In fact, we changed quarters three times, finally settling on an appropriately (and comfortably) sized junior suite. The rooms are, however, stylish, with many looking out over St. Isaac's, one of the great Russian cathedrals. Bathrooms are marble, floors parquet, and the curtains classic linen. Located just off Nevsky Prospekt, the city's main boulevard, the Astoria is conveniently within walking distance of the Mariinsky Theatre. The restaurant, Davidov, is made for women in sable and men in tuxedos. And even if you're not staying, come for a pre- or post-theater dinner. Specialties include silver platters of sturgeon, caviar, and a first-rate chicken Kiev. The borscht is a standout. After­noon tea in the lounge is popular with St. Pe­­ters­burgers for the old-fashioned sweet cakes and Earl Grey tea served in czarist-era blue-and-gold Lomo­n­osov porcelain. From $755 to $4,515. At 39 Bol­shaya Mor­skaya; 7-812/494-5757; the