Alexander Nevski Cathedral Sofia
This is not meant to be a marketing article, paid for by hotels, keen to get a mention to boost footfall. I often think that the very best of many things don’t actually market themselves, but rely on word of mouth; a theory likely to be shot down by the bearded ones now tasked with marketing through social media, but the argument nonetheless has merit.
At the end of last year I was asked to write a short article by one of Europe’s main airlines highlighting the touristy things a first time visitor to Sofia could sample. In fairness, it was harder to think, what not to include as opposed to what to include.
This set me thinking back 25 years ago when the scene was totally and utterly different which in turn led me to start to compare then and now. The upshot of all this is the realisation that Sofia has developed into a hip, trendy and vibrant capital city; something not very long ago the mere thought of which would have raised raucous laughter from the both the cities inhabitants and visitors alike.
If you fancy somewhere to stay in Sofia in terms of hotels, then you will find it hard to find any European Capital City or indeed “city” where such value for money is found. Most of the hotels are new or relatively new builds and thus have the sense of freshness. The fact that so many hotels have been built over the last decade or so means that supply of hotel rooms often outstrips the demand for them which in turn keeps prices low.
Turning that clock back 25 years, a visitor to Sofia had the choice of a Communist styled and managed hotel or Communist style managed hotel. The places were dour, un-inviting and the smoke filled air inside them would have tested the staying power of any non-smoker let alone those wearing contact lenses or with sensitive eyes. The furniture was from a museum and the service was with that traditional growl. The provision of light entertainment through unattached females hanging around the lobby seemed to form a part of the communist obligatory service manual.
Not that there were too many options either as otherwise the security services wouldn’t be able to watch over the visitors so easily. Prices were not London or Paris levels, but they were distinctly over priced. Fast forward again and many of the global hotel brand names are nowadays found in the city as too are many independent facilities. A couple of these hotels which might slip under the radar of any potential visitor as the hotels may not be willing or indeed have the desire to pay the inflated commissions that hotels have to pay booking.com to attract visitors, are the Sofia Suite Hotel and the Sense Hotel.
The Sofia Suite Hotel in located in the ‘Studentski Grad’ area (Students Town), an area of Sofia not dis-similar to a beach resort except without the beach! This is where much of the student activity and accommodation is located and the area has its own seemingly endless infrastructure of bars, cafes and restaurants.
Near to Students Town
The Sofia Suite Hotel is a superb 4 star hotel that often escapes the notice of the city centre focussed traveller yet its only a 10 minute cab ride right to the heart of the city. Inexpensive public transport can also whisk you around the city from the hotel’s doorstep. The 122 room hotel is too big to be called boutique but it still generates that ‘”boutique’” feel and the room rates will afford you a lot of taxi rides! The saving might even pay for your airfare. Its also opposite an excellent entertainment complex with bars, live music and one of Europe’s top indoor bowling alleys.
Sense Hotel Sofia in The Town Center
The Sense Hotel is probably Sofia’s top hotel and would also find itself described with ‘that’ word which scores of hotels like to call themselves, but which seldom truly fits the bill: the word is ‘”boutique’. The five star hotel has 71 rooms in total and the quality of them doesn’t disappoint. The hotel has a newly created outsourced restaurant that is proving to be one of Sofia’s best places to eat and the hotel has a spa and also one of the top bars in the city which is housed on the roof of the hotel and provides jaw draw dropping views (especially at night) over Nevski Cathedral.
By Mark Thomas, CEO HRG Jamadvice Sofia