Sofia is unispiring at a glance. Crouched on the floor of a valley, the city is often shrouded in smog during the winter, which obscures the view of the surrounding mountains and plays havoc with the flight schedule. You have arrived safely, however, and retrieved your luggage from the carousel, and now you are thinking: where to next?
Despite the drab, grey apartment blocks that greet you on the way in from the airport, Sofia is a city well worth getting to know. It offers a variety of options and sights for the discerning traveller, with accommodation to match. Unlike many capitals, staying in the centre of the city is not necessarily more expensive – there is a good choice of accommodation, from five-star hotels to youth hostels with their own unique character. Make sure you book beforehand, though, as Sofia hosts a steady stream of backpackers, tourists and business travellers all year round.
If you feel like exploring the city's historical sights, then you may find it best to book a room in the very centre. This way you can roam freely around the ruins of the Roman city of Serdika, or squeeze yourself into St George's Rotunda to experience the atmosphere of the 4th Century. There are many ways to get acquainted with the quirks of living in the heart of Sofia. Try getting up in the morning to wander over to the hot mineral water springs, steaming in wintertime next to the Sofia City Baths, or choose some fruit to nibble on at the market on Graf Ignatiev St, where the produce comes from all over the world.
If it's peace and quiet you are after, try a hotel off the beaten track in the maze of side streets. The compact nature of the centre of Sofia means that you can get to nearly everywhere of interest on foot, including most of the museums. When it's too cold to walk for long, carry out some research instead on the many little shops and establishments scattered around the centre. In the past couple of years the number of places like soup bars, bookshop cafés and specialist boutiques has multiplied significantly, so you can enjoy a day discovering and investigating interesting venues.
Those travelling to Sofia on business should choose their accommodation with regard to the daily traffic jams. If you need to keep office hours, look for a hotel as close to your business destination as possible, otherwise you might experience a lot of frustration and worry trying to get there on time. With a more relaxed schedule you can choose somewhere away from the city centre, where access to offices, restaurants and clubs is equally easy. You don't have to be worried about the trip to the airport – outside rush hour it will take you no more than 30 minutes to get there in a taxi.
It pays to put your trust in the classic – such as the Hilton Sofia, which is located right in the heart of the city. Whatever the purpose for your visit, this elegant and modern hotel is a great choice, with the largest conference centre in Sofia just a step away and the shopping district a five-minute walk. Relaxing in the five-star luxury is an experience in itself, when you add in the gourmet restaurant, the health club with indoor pool, and the stylish in-room facilities. You can easily bring events to you, as well ‒ there is no need to go outside. The Hilton Sofia has versatile halls for every occasion, from office meetings to formal receptions, and the extensive Business Center has state-of-the-art technology for all your needs.
Combine business with pleasure by staying in the Grand Hotel Sofia, in the lap of five-star luxury at the heart of the city. You can explore the galleries, landmarks and concert halls that surround it, or you can use its closeness to the main administrative and financial institutions of the capital. The stylish hotel offers to its guests the Executive Lounge for business meetings and leisure with the news of the day, the gourmet restaurant Shades of Red for delightful food and wine choices, the Congress Centre for your business needs, as well as the extensive sports centre for your well-being. Convenience and attention are the standard: the family brunch on Sundays makes you feel at home, while ever helpful staff caters for the comfort of body and spirit.
For those who prefer more independence and home-like feeling, the Apart Hotel Sofia, managed by VIP Apart Sofia, provides 7 choice apartments, completely furnished. Whether one-bedroom, two-bedroom, or studio apartment, you have the use of luxury equipment such as LCD TV, unlimited Wi-Fi, kitchen facilities and underground parking. The apartments are all located in a modern building 15 minutes away from the Alexandr Nevskiy Cathedral and the centre of the city, and are available for short or long-term rent.
In case you like intimate atmosphere, the Madrid Family Hotel delivers. The keywords are comfortable and peaceful, even though it is close to the centre of Sofia. You find yourself cosily enclosed in warm and soft colours that permeate the rooms, while still having access to superb amenities like central heating, Internet and air-conditioning. Your stay is complemented by the attentive hotel staff who can help you with anything you need, and your company would feel at ease in the small and cosy hotel.
Another good haunt allowing you to step out into the heart of the city is Ganesha Hotel. All the details in the soundproofed rooms, including anti-allergic carpeting and high-quality mattresses, are meticulously planned to give you the best experience possible. You can relax after a long day out, enjoying the use of cable TV, Wi-Fi access and a safe in the room.