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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I really liked the hotel too. And an incredible bargain for me – 2000 points for my Saturday night stay!
Also – Sofia is totally underrated as a city. Neat town
Very cool… I suppose it’s fitting that the common spaces of the hotel are comparatively larger/more impressive than the average guest room. The appropriate socialist ethos for the hotel’s era
Yeah. I love that aesthetic in many ways and it truly does speak to the “social” side of the culture. It also is a bit of FUD in pretending that there is more space than really exists. After all, why else would there be such grand lobbies?
At the same time, the renovation work that was converting “dead” space into additional rooms will walk back some of that. And bring the fixtures and style into the modern era.
Will you be sharing with us a trip report of Sofia/Bulgaria? I was there abou ten years ago and loved it. My parents are originally from Bulgaria but it was my first time. It is on my list of places to go back to.
Stay tuned…just put a handful of posts together that help tell the story of my 18ish hours on the ground there. Loved it as a destination and this was certainly too short a trip.
Reminded me of our stay at the Gran Hotel Bolivar in Lima, though that one was in much worse shape than yours. Like transporting ourselves into “Somewhere in Time”.
Grand hotel bolivar en Lima was the place to have afternoon coffee or tea or a drink. I remember going with my parents when we lived in Lima back in the 80’s
I’m like three weeks late to this post but I also stayed at this hotel when I was in Sofia and also found it charming in it’s own way. My major problem with the hotel was that I was electrocuted twice by shitty outlets in my room. First time was when I first got into my room and plugged in my phone to a wall outlet and I felt the strong jolt of current run through my body which ended with a pop and smoke from the wall. Had to get the hotel’s maintenance man to come up 15 minutes later to restore electricity to the room and tell me not to use the bad outlet (not an issue, wasn’t planning on it!). Then the same thing happened with the other outlet I was using on the evening before I checked out. Still not the worst hotel I’ve stayed at but every time I think of Sofia I get these flashbacks of being mildly electrocuted. haha
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