Bulgaria is one of my favourite countries and I’ve been enjoying the beautiful mountains and stunning beaches regularly since my first visit 10 years ago. This year on my way to pretty Bansko, I decided to spend some time exploring the lovely capital of Sofia instead of just transiting through.
As it would be my first proper visit to the city, I wanted to treat myself to a lovely hotel in a great location, and after some research it was clear the best hotel in town was the InterContinental Sofia, and here’s why…
Location, Location, Location!
A 15-minute drive from Sofia international airport, the InterContinental stands on Narodno Sabranie Square, in the very heart of Sofia’s historical quarter and directly opposite the city’s most popular visitor attraction, the iconic St Alexander Nevski Cathedral. Location doesn’t get any better than that!
Opened in 2018, the first addition to InterContinental’s luxury hotel portfolio in Bulgaria – winner of two world travel awards in 2019 (Bulgaria’s Leading Hotel and Europe’s New Leading Hotel) and a member of the American Express ‘World’s Fine Hotels and Resorts’ platform.
It’s a beautiful hotel and a worthy addition to one of the most famous hotel brands in the world, renowned for excellence, luxury and style.
The hotel has 194 luxury rooms and suites – and boasts an exquisite Presidential Penthouse. There is a 24/7 fitness centre, two restaurants and an InterContinental Club lounge. Five meeting rooms with AV and five-star catering service are available for business travellers.
Comfort and style
Art Deco glamour blends with contemporary comfort and style at the InterContinental Sofia, and this is most prominent in the elegant rooms and suites. I stayed in a King Suite with a private terrace, glamorous and spacious, with floor to ceiling windows that opened onto a large private terrace facing the Cathedral. It’s very impressive, truly a room with a view!
The suite provided all the amenities and little touches of luxury expected from a 5*hotel. The super king bed was very comfy with a deep, supportive mattress and large pillows. The soft, white bedding and the quilt were perfect, all bedding is hypoallergenic with no feather, which I loathe.
The décor was a soothing palette of greys, dusky pink and soft mauve; which creates the perfect back drop for the glamourous soft furnishings. My room felt relaxing and gentle, truly a space to unwind and enjoy. I loved the cute little refreshments bar which had everything a weary traveller may want – a Nespresso maker, fruit & teas, soft drinks, snacks and a good variety of wines & spirits.
It is true that often the smallest detail makes the greatest impression, and as I sat at the spacious desk, I was delighted to see universal power points including a UK one, and that made my day because I’d forgotten my adaptor!
I loved the large oval bath tub in the spacious bathroom and enjoyed a deep, hot bath scented with complimentary Bulgarian rose petal bath salts – they smelled so good and made my skin so soft I wanted to buy a case load and take it home with me!
A lovely selection of L’Occitane products for pampering in the bath or the huge walk in shower were plentiful, and divine. In all, there was everything needed for a very luxurious and relaxing bath or shower experience, including super soft robes and slippers.
All rooms and suites in the hotel have a similar design and luxurious finishes. Guests can choose from a variety of Cathedral or mountain view rooms and suites.
For something extra special, take the lift to the top floor and check into the fabulous Presidential penthouse suite, popular with VIP’s and visiting celebrities it is the only suite of its kind in the city. Adjoining rooms can be opened and connected to accommodate a large group or family, offering guests the privacy of having the entire floor to themselves.
Food and drink
The hotel features two elegant restaurants including the stylish Floret on the ground floor, offering international and local cuisine and fine dining with a gorgeous bar. It’s a beautiful space, sophisticated and glamorous with a welcoming atmosphere. On my next visit I will be getting dressed up for dinner and plan to enjoy a cocktail or two at the elegant bar.
Guests staying in the Club rooms have access to the quiet, stylish private Club Lounge, offering Champagne, fine wines, beers and soft drinks, alongside complimentary sweet and savoury snacks.
I really appreciated being able to enjoy a delicious supper in the elegant Club Lounge after a long day of travelling. I was delighted to see some fabulous books about Bulgaria in the bookcase, a thoughful addition which I enjoyed as I relaxed with a glass of champagne and made notes on places I planned to see.
The beautifully designed Studio restaurant offers a generous breakfast buffet with hot and cold European dishes, cereals and pastries to tempt me. There is also an A la Carte menu and the Eggs Benedict is highly recommended!
Out and about – A city rich in culture and history
I love to walk, and as the hotel is directly opposite the city’s most famous building, I had no fear of getting lost. Sofia is an ancient city steeped in history, with many beautiful historical buildings and monuments only a short easy walk from the hotel and I was excited to explore.
I ventured over the road, no easy task as it is without a pedestrian crossing, but I was rewarded for my traffic dodging skills as I stepped inside St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Ornate, dark and broodingly atmospheric; the cavernous space is heavy with religious intensity and gothic splendour.
Faded frescoes and religious icons are illuminated by hundreds of tall, slim candles – lit to commemorate loved ones who have passed, they flicker brightly in the dusky incense scented air. I walked around, spellbound – it all felt very mysterious and I loved it!
I moved aside to allow a robed priest to pass and gently kiss the pictures of the saints displayed in glass cases. I watched like a true tourist as he crossed himself after every lip press before gliding away silently into the darkness. I suddenly felt like an imposter, a garish sightseer, gawping at the pretty things in a centuries old house of holiness, worship and pilgrimage, so I quickly took some photos and left.
The ‘Rotunda’ Church of St George is very close to the hotel and another must see. Built in the 4th century, the small and almost perfectly preserved church is thought to be the oldest building in Sofia. Walk on Roman flagstones and explore the remains of Roman Serdica, including the remnants of the amphitheatre, once coveted as the largest in the Eastern Roman Empire.
My Instagram was immediately lit up with photos. I was delighted but irritated with myself for by-passing this wonderful place for so long! My favourite building was the very pretty and petite Russian Orthodox church. The name got me first, St Nicholas the Miracle Maker.
Stepping out into the chilly night air, I was pleased to see I was at the south end of the city’s main shopping street, Vitosha boulevard, named after the majestic 2,290- metre mountain that looms over it. Lined with stylish and inviting restaurants, quaint boutiques and specialist wine stores, I was soon thinking I needed more time in Sofia!
Bulgaria produces excellent award-winning wines and Winston Churchill loved the earthy Melnik red so much he ordered 500 litres a year! I tried the Mavrud in a cosy wine bar, it’s a deep dark fruity red, and the best red wine I’ve ever tasted. I added it to my list of must buys to take home.
If you enjoy history, architecture, world class wines and fine dining, you will love Sofia, and it’s all within easy walking distance if you are staying in the fabulous InterContinental hotel!
I enjoyed every moment of my stay. Gorgeous design and comfort wowed me. The food was delicious, location amazing and the staff made a big impression, from the welcoming receptionists at check-in to the charming concierge who helped me with my ongoing travel plans prior to departure. I was reluctant to leave.
Address: 4, pl. “Narodno sabranie” Square, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
Phone: +359 2 933 4334
Sofia Airport offers a choice of more than 30 airlines with flights to and from 70 destinations in Europe and in the Middle East.