Where to stay in Sofia, Bulgaria

Bulgaria's storied capital has a wealth of affordable luxury hotels. Here's our pick of the best four for 2023.

Completed in 1912, Sofia's Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevski is the largest Orthodox temple on the Balkan Peninsula.

Photograph by Getty Images
By Pat Riddell
Published 6 Dec 2022, 08:01 GMT

History wraps its arms around you in Sofia. Whether it’s Roman remains in the subway, Ottoman heritage dotted around the city or the more prevalent communist-era architecture looming over you, there’s no escaping the Bulgarian capital’s eye-catching grandeur.

1. Sofia Hotel Balkan

Part of the vast President’s Palace complex, the Sofia Hotel Balkan sits pretty right in the centre of the city — on one side of the 1956 palace a luxury hotel, on the other the president himself and the hourly changing of the guard. The oldest-preserved building in Sofia, the fourth-century Rotunda Church of St George, sits in the courtyard; while excavations of the Sveta Nedelya Square in front of the hotel have revealed further layers of ancient Serdica.

The classical exterior is equally matched by the interior — the lobby home to a vast chandelier, grand staircase and intricate marble flooring while the bar and restaurant offer grand pillars and slick art deco stylings. Rooms are a mixture of the traditional decor you might expect as well as some more sleek modern offerings. And the central location — still just a 20-minute car journey to the airport — means you have all of Sofia’s modern and historical attractions within easy walking distance.

But the real bonus in Sofia is the fact that it’s difficult to spend much north of £100 a night in whichever property you choose to stay in, making the destination easy to pick but the hotel more of a challenge. From €82 (£71).

King Deluxe Guest Room at the Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Luxury Collection Hotel.

King Deluxe Guest Room at the Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Luxury Collection Hotel.

Photograph by Sofia Hotel Balkan

2. Grand Hotel Millennium

With 30 storeys, 400 rooms, 10 restaurants and bars, a spa and swimming pool, the Grand Hotel Millennium is about as big and bold as a hotel can be in Sofia. It’s swish and stylish, with towering views over the city — it’s one of the city’s highest buildings. From €162 (£140). 

3. Sense Hotel Sofia

In sharp contrast to much of the city’s architecture, the Sense Hotel Sofia’s glass facade offers clean, modern lines that are evident throughout the property. Situated on Sofia’s main boulevard, the 71 rooms are complemented by an alluring rooftop bar overlooking St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. From €108 (£94). 

The ninth-floor Gastro Bar at the Sense Hotel.

The ninth-floor Gastro Bar at the Sense Hotel.

Photograph by Matteo Piazza

4. Hyatt Regency Sofia

Opened in 2020, the 183-room hotel on Vasil Levski Square is a stone’s throw from St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. As you’d expect for such a new property, the rooms are modern and smart — many with floor-to-ceiling views over the city or Vitosha mountain — and the ubiquitous rooftop bar, complete with fire pit, doesn’t disappoint. From €113 (£98).

Published in the November 2022 issue of  National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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