In researching lodging options for my trip to Nur-Sultan, the Kazakh capital formerly known as Astana, I was somewhat surprised to discover that there was both a St. Regis and a Ritz-Carlton in town, and both hotels looked extremely impressive at first glance.
What’s more, both high-end properties fell very generously into Marriott Bonvoy’s Category 5 – likely because, despite all of the Kazakh government’s best efforts, its capital hasn’t exactly become a global tourism hotspot just yet.
Since I knew that as a Titanium Elite member with Marriott, I’d be entitled to much more generous elite benefits at a St. Regis than a Ritz-Carlton, I ended up booking one night at the St. Regis Astana for the lowest cash rate of $180 all-in, which I thought was better value than paying 35,000 Bonvoy points.
My Turkish Airlines flight would be landing in Nur-Sultan at 4am, so I’d actually arrive at the hotel well before the standard check-in time. Nevertheless, I only made a one-night booking instead of two, thinking that I could always just hang out in the lobby or go out and explore the city if my room was not immediately available.
St. Regis Astana – Location & Arrival
I downloaded the Yandex Taxi app – Kazakhstan’s equivalent of Uber – upon my arrival at Nur-Sultan Nazarbayev International Airport, and requested a ride to the St. Regis for 2,300 Kazakh tenge ($8). This was one of my more interesting taxi rides in recent memory, as my Yandex driver and I exchanged a great deal of pleasantries using Google Translate during the 30-minute journey through an absolutely barren capital city in the wee hours of the morning.
Eventually, we pulled up at the St. Regis, which is housed in a massive compound in a relatively quiet part of town just north of the city centre, on the banks of the Ishim River. Location-wise, the hotel perhaps isn’t the most central, but that wasn’t a problem at all throughout my stay, given the easy access to cheap Yandex Taxis rides.
Upon passing the first St. Regis sign, you are eventually brought to the main hotel entrance via a few more tree-lined streets and a ramp leading to the second level.
Nur-Sultan had already witnessed its first snowfall of the winter by early November, with temperature projections of 0˚C and –9˚C for my two days in town, and the stately St. Regis building looked even more beautiful coated with a layover of snow.
The hotel’s main entrance is known as the “Arrival Yurt”, and it really takes the ostentatiousness of the St. Regis brand to a whole new level compared to other properties I’ve stayed at. A gigantic multi-storey doorframe welcomes you into the roundabout, where a modernist sculpture of three horses, reflecting the nomadic roots of the Kazakh nation, is surrounded by separate entrances for the St. Regis hotel, residences, and the Winter Garden retail area.
As the doorman greeted my arrival and showed me towards the reception desk, I was a little stunned by my surroundings. This was one of the most beautiful St. Regis lobbies – and indeed any hotel lobby – that I had set foot in.
Some St. Regis hotels can be guilty of being overly concerned with glamour and veering into tackiness, but I thought the St. Regis Astana was a fine example of a luxury hotel that embodied class and elegance to just the right amount.
I had a pretty busy schedule in Nur-Sultan, but I would’ve loved to simply spend an hour or so hanging out in the lobby with a cup of coffee and admiring the gorgeous design aesthetic.
St. Regis Astana – Check-in
The check-in area consisted of a set of three simple desks, where guests were invited to sit down for check-in. A lone staff member was on shift in the early morning, and he welcomed me to the hotel and indeed to Kazakhstan on my first visit.
Thanks to my “suite-talking” efforts on the Marriott chat app beforehand, I knew I had already been upgraded to a St. Regis Suite, which is the hotel’s second-highest suite type. To my surprise, however, the room was already available even though it was only 5am in the morning, but I’d have to pay an early check-in fee equivalent to half of my room rate in order to access the room before 11am.
At first, I said I’d prefer to just hang out in the lobby until the regular check-in time, but then again, I could’ve really used a shower and a nap at this point, and I was also feeling quite hungry, so it would be nice to enjoy breakfast in the morning as part of my half-day rate as well. I eventually agreed to pay about $100 in exchange for getting to use my suite and the hotel’s facilities for an additional six hours or so.
St. Regis is known for their Butler Services, and a member of the butler team escorted me to my room on the 6th floor. Like the rest of the hotel, the guest room hallways were strikingly elegant, and I was delighted to see that my St. Regis Suite – Room 620 – would at the very end of the hallway.
St. Regis Astana – St. Regis Suite
Swing open those double doors, and the suite opens up to a long entryway with stunning high ceilings, flanked by two large pieces of art. What a first impression!
The entryway leads to the main living room, with another smaller walkway branching off to the side.
Let’s continue straight ahead for now into the St. Regis Suite’s unbelievably opulent living quarters, which includes a dining table, couch, coffee table, ottoman, another set of table and chairs, and a widescreen television.
Seriously, how beautiful is this suite? I was downright awestruck as the butler showed me around, pointing out all of the suite’s features.
Again, I was most impressed by the design and decor in the room. The emphasis on earthy colours – dark wood floorboards and doorframes providing the accents on a silky palette of cream and beige – paid tribute to the Kazakh identity as a people of the land.
To welcome me to the hotel, the St. Regis had left for me a truly generous amount of chocolates, fruits, and mixed nuts on the coffee table…
…as well as a bottle of sparkling wine over by the pantry.
Let’s continue our tour of the suite by heading to the very back of the living room, near the dining table, where you’ll find a private office, complete with a set of sliding doors.
The equine imagery is yet another homage to the country in which we find ourselves, and the desk itself was a true pleasure from which to work.
Over on the other side of the suite, two separate sets of doors, on either side of the television, lead to the master bedroom.
With its incredibly wide headboard and lofted ceilings, this must’ve been one of the most lavish-looking king beds I’ve ever encountered in any hotel, and I took real joy in napping and sleeping here on many occasions due to my unrelenting jet lag (which was especially noticeable here in Kazakhstan, since it was the first time I’d ever have to adjust to the UTC+6 time zone).
Also in the bedroom was a small couch and television (adorned another horse sculpture below it), and another gorgeous piece of artwork featuring a lavishly feathered bird.
We’ll continue into the master bathroom, which was – you guessed it – yet another aesthetic masterpiece.
First there’s the walk-in closet, with spacious wardrobes in which I stored my belongings throughout my stay. St. Regis’s butlers also offer to help you pack and unpack your bags throughout your stay, although I’ve never found that to be necessary, so I declined my butler’s offer of doing so.
The bathroom leans heavily on perhaps the most opulent design element of all: marble. The double sinks, bathtub, and separate shower and toilet compartments are all decked out in two different shades of grey marble, adorned by a series of polished bronze accents on the taps, handlebars, towel racks, and other bathroom features.
The entire walk-in closet and bathroom is equipped with heated flooring. Overall, just like the rest of the suite, using the bathroom was a wholly enjoyable experience all in itself, and if I had one regret from my stay, it would be that I only had time to take a decadent warm shower on a single occasion. 😉
Finally, there’s the half-bath and kitchen via a separate hallway from the main entryway. I was definitely impressed to have access to a full kitchen, including a stove and fridge, but alas I wasn’t exactly planning to pick up some groceries and cook my own meals during my short time in town, so I never ended using it.
The suite also has access to a large balcony overlooking the Ishim River, the impressive Ramstor arch bridge crossing it, and the residential life that takes place on the opposite banks. Sunrise wouldn’t occur until around 8:30am in the morning, so these pictures are from a little later in the day.
Overall, the St. Regis Suite was a tremendously generous upgrade even by my standards, and definitely ranks up there as one of the most memorable suites I’ve gotten to stay in across all my travels.
I immediately ordered a cappuccino via butler service – a staple at St. Regis hotels, where you can order complimentary coffee or tea delivered to your room 24/7 – to relax in my suite for a while, before breakfast in the restaurant would begin at 7am.
St. Regis Astana – Breakfast
Breakfast is served daily at the La Rivière restaurant on the main floor, and I’d enjoy complimentary access as a Titanium Elite member. The breakfast spread offers up a varied selection of mostly international breakfast items, with a few local favourites mixed in there.
To kick off your breakfast, you can help yourself to a glass of sparkling wine if you so desire.
The Western spread includes the kind of items you’d find anywhere, such as eggs, bacon, and sausages, but also a few more upscale dishes like grilled salmon and beef.
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There are separate stations for pastries, fruits, charcuterie, and the salad bar, as well as a made-to-order egg and omelette station.
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To drink, you’d be able to order coffee or tea from the wait staff, as well as help yourself to various types of juices. There was even a station for kumis, a traditional Central Asian specialty of fermented mare’s milk. I had tried something similar in Mongolia before, and now that I was in Kazakhstan, I couldn’t help but try out another bowl of it to go with my breakfast, although to be honest I really didn’t enjoy the taste and finished it rather painstakingly!
While this isn’t the largest breakfast spread in the world, all the items were prepared to the highest quality, and I had a delicious meal on both mornings. I find that St. Regises in general tend to favour quality over quantity in their breakfast spreads, and this location was in keeping with that trend.
Over the next two days, I’d mostly spend the mornings out in Nur-Sultan exploring the city, while I’d retreat to my room in the afternoon for some much-needed jet lag-induced rest. Over the course of this period, I ordered quite a few more coffees and teas via butler service, all of which were delivered promptly…
…and I also ordered a burger via in-room dining on the second morning, when I had woken up at 3am in a ravenous mood. It was a delicious meal, and I saved some of it for lunch later that day.
My priority during my time in Nur-Sultan was definitely to see as much of the city as I could during my limited time in the Kazakh capital, so it’s a shame that I didn’t get to spend more time simply enjoying the St. Regis’s many facilities and amenities, since I certainly would’ve liked to.
St. Regis Astana – Other Facilities
I briefly swung by the notable facilities to take a look, though. The signature St. Regis Bar was quite a lively spot during the daytime, and it seemed that many of Nur-Sultan’s upper crust would come here for a drink on a regular basis.
The hotel also hosts a boutique by Farro, a Kazakh high-end jewelry chain.
I paid a visit to the Fitness Studio, although didn’t manage to slot in a proper workout. That was a shame, because unlike most hotel gyms, this one actually has a few proper squat racks and barbells in addition to the usual treadmills, exercise machines, and free weights.
The indoor pool also looked like a visually appealing space in which to go for a swim.
Alas, I did wish I had more time to fully immerse myself within the comforts of the St. Regis Astana, but after an eventful second day in the heavy snowfall of Nur-Sultan, I hurriedly called another Yandex Taxi to bring me back to the airport for my 4pm domestic flight down to some warmer weather in Almaty.
The St. Regis Astana is a magnificent hotel for anyone who’s venturing to this part of the world. The design language was one of my all-time favourites, effortlessly balancing the Kazakh identity and the St. Regis brand’s signature grandiosity in a highly tasteful fashion.
I was fortunate to be upgraded to the absolutely stunning St. Regis Suite, and moreover, I found the hotel’s service to be top-notch everywhere from the front desk to the Butler Services team. And best of all, the nightly rates here, in both cash and points, are exceedingly affordable for a hotel of this calibre.
To be honest, I’m not sure how eager I am to return to Nur-Sultan in the future, but the prospect of another stay at the excellent St. Regis Astana would definitely tempt me in that direction!