Looking for a spot of luxury for your sleep in Sofia, Bulgaria? If you’re willing to take the classical Soviet-style of elegance then the Sofia Hotel Balkan, part of the Luxury Collection family of properties from Starwood, is a decent option. If you’re expecting modern, western-style opulence, however, you might find yourself disappointed.
Grand ceilings and open spaces welcome you into the building. My last-minute award booking (super-cheap either in cash or points, but the SPG rates are going up with the 2018 adjustments) didn’t faze the check-in desk and I was informed of my “upgrade” as a SPG Gold member.
I wasn’t expecting much out of that upgrade which is a good thing given the room I received. It was exactly what I booked and a review of the floor maps suggests it was no larger in size from any other rooms available. Maybe it was a “higher floor” upgrade which is fine, but the guy at the front desk hyped it up a lot for that to be the offering.
The bed was fine (though I doubt I’d complain about any bed after 20+ hours in transit), as were the bathroom amenities.
But the part that kept me awestruck, as is often the case in Eastern Europe, is the common spaces of the hotel. Each floor had a huge lobby area with couches at the stairs/elevator. Today it would be seen by most as wasted space but in that era and region it was the height of luxury. Or something like that.
Hallways wider than some NYC apartments to get to your room. Again, a luxury that seems out of place in many ways. But there it was.
Some of that “wasted” space is being renovated into new rooms. I walked through one of the under construction updates and it looks like it will be much more of a western-style luxury when the work is complete. It is less clear, however, what level of renovation the existing rooms will receive. I spotted some new furniture stored by the freight elevator but no indication of construction on the current rooms anywhere in the building.
The building sits in the center of Sofia, just above the Serdica metro stop. That area also happens to be an archeological treasure trove. When digging began for the metro system Roman-era ruins were discovered in the area. That makes for great history just outside the front door of the hotel or in the courtyard behind/inside the building.
In addition to that bit of history the location is pretty much perfect for being a tourist in town. It is an quick and easy ride to and from the airport on the metro and well positioned for walking around to explore some of the highlights Sofia has to offer.
As cheap(ish) but nice hotels go this is definitely a solid play. I skipped the in-house casino (they do offer a match play of some sort at check-in) and dining, but I assume they’re as expected given that the rest of the property was pretty much exactly on spec, assuming you strike “Luxury Collection” from the name.
More from this trip:
- Why did airlines decide that "1" isn’t first?!?
- Country hopping: A quick weekend in Europe
- Ups and downs on the new British Airways business class service
- DLD 179: When we couldn’t figure out where to go
- Checking in: The Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Luxury Collection Hotel
- Cosmos: Hipster dining in Sofia, Bulgaria
- Chasing food across borders: Banitsa at Sofia’s Tsentralni Hali
- Seeing Sofia: The Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski
- Finally a successful CSR travel insurance claim!
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