HOTEL INSIDER: Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor
Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor, the Grande Old Dame, was constructed to attract the aristocracy of the early twentieth century Europe and has for almost a century hosted royalty, celebrities and world leaders. If walls could speak, you would be able to hear about Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb and Agatha Christie's thoughts on her book "Death on the Nile."
Luxor's finest, this palatial hotel is exuding old-school charm and nostalgia, looking back on a once glamorous past. The façade is crumbling, the long hallways are dark and covered with rugs that have seen better days—it does look tired, but there is something charming about the old atmosphere and the old-school service.
Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor is located in the heart of Luxor on its East Bank, overlooking the majestic Nile river, the desert mountains and the distant Valley of the Kings. Karnak and Luxor temples are close by and boats depart to the West Bank just across the street from the hotel.
The centerpiece of the Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor is the beautiful marble staircase that curves around a glass chandelier. "It's Murano!" we were proudly told. On both sides, the hotel has two large wings that run parallel to the Nile. On the second floor, right behind the stairs, is the Royal Suite where Agatha Christie once stayed. The suite is kept more as a museum and is rarely occupied.
The high ceilings and long, wide corridors add to the palatial feel of the hotel.
The entry hall is filled with antiques and old furniture. The reception area is small and dark, and half of it is taken by the x-ray machine for screening visitors. The long and wide hallways are lined with table lamps but strangely, they are always turned off, giving the hotel a dark and dated feel.
The large and elegant Victorian Lounge, decorated with chandeliers and large pink oriental rugs is barely used but the richly decorated Royal Bar is a popular spot for an afternoon drink.
The high ceilings and the brocade upholstery give the rooms a palatial feel, but the dated decor may not be to everyone's taste. There are 86 rooms and six suites. The 24 square meter Classic Rooms with either a garden or Nile view are small, much smaller than the photos on the hotel's web site make you believe. The Superior Rooms are slightly larger at 32 square meters, and the Luxury Rooms are larger still at 37 square meters.
Some of the Nile view rooms come with balconies and offer gorgeous sunrise and sunset views. Having your coffee in the morning or a drink in the evening, the sound of the caleches clip-clopping along the corniche under avenues of palm trees—it's magical.
There is a Nespresso machine in each room with a limited selection of capsule; and WiFi is available but slow.
- ROYAL SUITE -
The most luxurious suite in the Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor is the Royal Suite, located on the first floor right above the entrance to the hotel. The suite comes with a grand terrace overlooking the Nile.
The suite seems to be more of a museum than a hotel suite. The hotel claims that Agatha Christie wrote her "Death on the Nile" here, and guests are given tours of the suite, but the suite remained vacant during our three-night stay right next door. The management refuses to give any discounts for the $2,000+ asking price, a price that does not seem to be in line with what this hotel has to offer.
The second largest, the Opera Suite is located on the ground floor. It has a connecting room for a bigger family. For a couple, a luxury room on the first floor overlooking the Nile is a better choice since the Opera Suite is quite dark, lacks character, and does not have much of a view.
- OPERA SUITE -
- LUXURY ROOM -
The Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor has four restaurants. La Corniche serves international cuisine and breakfast. The room is truly "old school" and the food is good but nothing special. The breakfast is spread out in a large area and has plenty of simple choices. As the hotel itself, the buffet area is dark and the staff does not keep up with keeping it clean as well as one would expect in a five star hotel.
1886 is their "fine dining" restaurant where you can eat in the original crystal-lit salon where royals and dignitaries once dined. For gentlemen, a coat is a must, and they have some available should you not have one with you. In the old school fashion, main courses are served by waiters elegantly lifting the silver domes off hot plates. The food is good but does not reach the level of fine dining.
The pool-side L'Oasis offers pizzas and salads. At night, the barbecue restaurant by the pool serves a buffet dinner with a good choice of meats, salads, and desserts for about $68 per person.
The elegant Royal Bar with old books lining its shelves and a pianist playing in the afternoon, is a perfect spot for an afternoon drink.
- BREAKFAST AT LA CORNICHE -
- 1886 french restaurant-
- barbecue in the garden -
This 40,000 square meter oasis contains fifty different species of trees, some of which are around 120 years old. Beautifully landscaped and adorned by a fountain and pink bougainvillea in urns, this is probably the best part of the hotel.
For things to see in Luxor and travel tips check out out post: Luxor, Egypt: What to See + Tips.