Londonskaya Hotel – Money exchange in Odessa, Ukraine
We were on a mission to get some Ukrainian hryvnia this morning and our guide brought us to the Londonskaya Hotel on Primorsky Boulevard. Did other people wonder, as I did, as to why we would change money at a hotel? Don’t they normally offer the worst exchange rates? Anyway not knowing the Ukrainian system nor our way around at this early stage, we obediently followed our guide’s instructions.
As we approached the hotel, it got a little bit more bizzare, the Londonskaya has a huge casino sign flashing beneath the hotel name. This would be a first for me, changing money in a casino? We entered the dimly lit lobby, and to the right of the staircase landing, we saw our dimly lit exchange window where a single lady looked after all our exchange needs. You didn’t have to produce any passport and it was all done quite quickly and efficiently. The only problem I had was not being able to read the faint receipt that I was given. Tony actually had to brighten these photos for the gallery.
The Londonskaya sits on a site that was originally occupied by a private residence in 1826. The building was designed in the style of early Italian Renaissance by Francesco Boffo, an architect who was responsible for designing many of the classical buildings in Odessa at the time. Jean-Batiste Karuta, a well-known French confectioner and food connoisseur transformed the building and became the first owner of the hotel. Apparently all the “patriotic” French names were already taken by other hotels so Monsieur Karuta looked to Great Britain and decided to call his hotel “Londonskaya”. It seems a bit contradictory to go from a choice of patriotic French names to something that is English-based.
The hotel has a beautiful staircase and the grand chandeliers in the lobby are reminders of the charm of the hotel. During its glory days, Londonskaya Hotel played host to famous artists, ballerinas and influential writers. Its guest list included famous personalities from the Ukraine and all over the world including Anton Chekhov, Marcello Mastroianni, Louis Aragon, Robert Louis Stevenson, Isidora Duncan and many others. According to the hotel’s literature, Londonskaya has also played host to many presidents of nations.
The hotel seems to have seen better times and today, there was not a soul in the lobby except a group of tourists in search of hryvnias. If looking for a room in Odessa, this would be a great location as the hotel is within easy walking distance to the Opera and Ballet Theatre, shops and the Old part of Odessa. The hotel now has free Wi-Fi internet which is a plus in the Ukraine.