Luxury Hotels in Sofia: Construction Delayed by the Romans

Sofia’s hotel market is changing rapidly. Some years back, the Ramada was the Princess, the Marinela was the Kempinski Zografski, the Radisson was still the Radisson, the Balkan Hotel was the Sheraton, and the Hilton was non-existent. Neither was the Sofia Grand Hotel. The luxury hotel market in the Bulgarian capital is relatively small. But that is about to change.

The Radisson Blue Hotel had an excellent location, right across the street from Sofia’s Parliament building, on Boulevard Czar Osvoboditel. But somehow, it was not too successful in fighting the competition anymore. So it had to be refurbished.

Along with the ongoing construction, the owners decided to rebrand the hotel and run it in cooperation with InterContinental Hotels Group. The first InterContinental in Bulgaria was supposed to be inaugurated at the end of 2017, before 20,000 guests would come to Sofia because of Bulgaria’s EU Council Presidency. It could have been a great start, but things take time.

If this was “Wheel of Fortune”, buying an “i” would be the right step. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

It does look like the construction work will be completed soon. Last Thursday, hurricane winds partially removed a black plastic cover from the new InterContinental sign next to the entrance, while workers were busy decorating the brand new lobby. The rooms already have curtains.

The InterContinental Sofia will have 182 rooms and suites, several conference halls, a restaurant on the roof, with a great view of Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, a spa and a well-equipped fitness centre. It will be an attractive place.

Just refurbishing a hotel is easy, compared to building one from scratch. When archaeologists delay the construction, things can get really frustrating. This is what happened to the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, which will open its 740th property in Sofia.

When Bob the Builder and his colleagues were in the process of digging a rather big hole for the construction at Levski Square, they found several ancient Roman tombs. At least one of them will be relocated and displayed somewhere else. At this point it is unclear whether some of the archaeological treasures will be integrated into the construction or not.

Nowadays, modern construction technology can do wonders, but at this moment the construction site at Vassil Levski Square does not really look like the hotel will be ready this year, as originally planned. So, that luxury temple might be opened in mid-2019.

The Hyatt Regency Sofia will have 190 rooms and suites, three restaurants, and a rooftop bar, a spa and all the amenities a hotel of that kind should have. This place will look very different from the former Serdica Hotel, which was located at the same spot, and got damaged by a fire.

The future Hyatt Regency Hotel at “Pametnika Levski” in Sofia. Photo by Hyatt.

Potential luxury hotel guests who are not impressed by any of the above, will love this: Mariott is coming to Sofia too. No, this is not just about yet another hotel. What they are erecting will be the highest hotel, and the third-highest building in all of Bulgaria, 107 metres. Try to beat that.

Ajtaire Development EAD is the investor. The Bulgarian-language publication Mediapool reports, the investment amounted to some 50 million euro. This huge amount of money will get them a nice building, which will be located at Sofia’s Boulevard Hristo Botev.

The Mariott will have 30 floors, a panoramic restaurant, an underground parking garage and countless amenities, Mediapool wrote. It will take 30 months, or one month per floor, to finish the building. The investors want to have it up and running by 2020, unless they hit some Roman walls or tombs while digging, like the competition.

The big question is: Does Sofia need that many luxury hotels? Even before Hyatt, Mariott and InterContinental are in business, well-heeled visitors have a choice, between the Hilton, the Sofia Grand and Hotel Marinela. Oh yes, a brand new airport hotel just popped up too.

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