Sofia is characterized by its Roman heritage as the site of the ancient town of Serdica, its proximity to nature as a city at the base of Vitosha mountain, and its distinct East-meets-West urban structure with some truly charming neighborhoods. These 10 hotels promise a culturally rich and pleasant sojourn to help visitors make the most of the Bulgarian capital.
View of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral from the rooftop bar
Situated on the yellow-brick road that is the artery running through the city center is the Sense Hotel, a member of Design Hotels Company which has authenticity and class at the heart of its values. Locals know it principally for its rooftop bar on the ninth floor, providing a 360-degree panoramic sweep of the entire city which extends as far as the Vitosha Mountain. It also hosts the valuable artwork of Nora Ampova, the sister of one of Bulgaria’s foremost pop icons, “Grafa”.
It was only when building works on this hotel were in progress in 2004 that the ancient amphitheatre beneath was discovered. The project was subsequently altered to incorporate this precious discovery into the hotel’s design, and the theatre has since become a major asset. Besides preserving a historic jewel from Roman times, this one is a 5-star complex with luxury service and a stunning location, only two minutes from Independence Square and the rest of the Serdica ruins.
Floral themes in Les Fleurs | Courtesy of Les Fleurs Boutique Hotel
A predominant floral theme is what greets guests of this glossy boutique hotel on the recently renovated Vitosha Boulevard. Bursting with light and color, Les Fleurs will be especially appreciated by couples as a romantic venue for a weekend getaway in the Bulgarian capital. Each room has its own unique design, and many of them face the pedestrian street below, where visitors can venture out in the evening for a drink at one of the boulevard’s lively bars.
The front entrance on the cobbled Pirotska Street | Courtesy of Hotel Sveta Sofia
Hotel Sveta Sofia impresses with its architectural splendor, being one of the few buildings on Pirotska Street to have been restored to resemble what it would have looked like back in the late 19th century. This, along with its fantastic setting in the religious center of Sofia on a tranquil cobbled street – formerly the city’s main pedestrian shopping zone – sets visitors up for an authentic experience in the capital.
The neighborhood to which Crystal Palace belongs has attracted a large expat community over the years, naturally drawn to the high quality of living as well as its superb surroundings. Indeed, the area around the Doctors’ Garden (just across from the hotel) is the academic heart of Sofia, with the University, National Library and Bulgarian Academy of Sciences all only a few minutes away. The hotel itself combines posh grandeur with a modern style, and has won the Bulgarian “Four-Star Hotel of the Year” Award as chosen by readers of the distinguished Travel Magazine.
When it comes to location, it’s not always about a central spot. Positioned near the foothills of the Vitosha Mountain, Earth & People is for those customers who prefer to be closer to the capital’s natural wonders. The hotel’s design fully embraces this quality, from its multiple plant decorations to the natural light which reaches all corners of its internal spaces. Come here to admire the views of the mountains from the hotel’s sky bar, or enjoy one of the best spa treatments that the capital has to offer.
This place goes far beyond its description as a hostel. Everything happens in the basement, an underground hangout with a bar and adjoining lounges whose catchy graffiti are a testament to Art Hostel‘s inherent artistic value. Jazz concerts are a common feature in the evening, and they attract a youngish crowd of locals and foreigners with alternative tastes – great if you’re looking for some company during your stay. The quiet and colorful backyard is perfect for curing an inevitable hangover from the previous night’s reveling, or otherwise for relaxing throughout the day.
It is the curious nature of the area in which this hotel is situated – Lion’s Bridge Square – which determines Hotel Lion‘s cultural value more than anything. Back in the day it was as notorious as the city’s red light district, however the recent unveiling of the new metro station and the complete restructuring of the square has meant that it has shaken off its shady past. This regeneration has not happened at the expense of the cultural diversity that exists here, with the nearby Arab quarter and the Jenski Pazar flea market still thriving and showing off the city’s multicultural identity.
Hotel Balkan occupies an emblematic spot which boasts cultural monuments on all sides, from the Church of St George (the oldest preserved building in the capital) in its courtyard, to the Sveta Nedelya Church a 20-meter walk from the front entrance. The glittery chandeliers (140 in total) and the Italian marble floors are a stand-out feature of the interior of this Luxury Collection hotel. The concierge is said to be particularly knowledgeable about what is worth doing and seeing in the city, and the Free Sofia Tour, which happens twice a day throughout the year, conveniently sets off outside the Palace of Justice only several steps away.
The Hotel Marinela may have changed hands several times since the renowned Japanese architect completed the project in 1979, but even today people refer to it by its unofficial name – Yaponskiya: the Japanese Hotel. In fact, this one has gone down in Bulgarian folklore with many a story to tell: the French designer Pierre Cardin once won 200 dollars playing at the casino; the former Bulgarian Tsar Simeon II took shelter here in 1996 after returning to Bulgaria from exile for the first time in 40 years. In short, this one’s a true legend of the city.