There aren’t that many instances when the super-rich provide services that are a) free, b) of definite benefit to the public. The courtyard passageway of the five-star Corinthia Hotel is one example of this.
It is a fairly open secret that St Petersburg’s weather is often somewhere between foul and disgusting, which may make walking under the open sky mildly unpleasant. The Corinthia passageway is your solution if you’re willing to stroll from the Stremyannaya street into the Nevsky without unduly close contact with the elements. The entrance is just left of the Samoilov Family Museum. This part of the passage is usually empty; you turn slightly left after the statue and the lifts and through the lobby (a lounge bar with occasional piano tinkling or other soft music) and you may step into St Petersburg’s main thoroughfare.
The building itself was turned into a hotel only a little while before the revolution (so there isn’t much grand imperial history), when Viktor Bobrov oversaw its reconstruction in 1913-1914. The hotel changed its name over the years (Renommée, Hermes, Baltiyskaya, Nevskij Palace), and has been known as Corinthia only since 2001. By then, yet another reconstruction gave it the passageway described above. Oh, and apparently some scenes in a made-for-TV Michael Caine thriller were shot there already.
Actually, the place is conductive to spy-thriller make-believe – you may pretend to be an agent who needs to slip somewhere quiet so as to lose those tailing you.