Stay: June 2009
Staying at the Hotel Princesa Sofía in Barcelona was not my choice - I was having an international meeting at the Polytechnic University (June 2009) close by and that's where our accommodations had been arranged by the organizers. Had it been my choice I would probably had steered away from the Princesa Sofia, its reviews on Traveladvisor.com - my favorite travel review site - were pretty dismal. That would have probably been a mistake; while the Princesa Sofia neither achieves nor aspires to 5 star status, it is a fairly comfortable place to stay for a few nights and I'd happily go back.
As many of the Tripadvisor reviewers say, the key to enjoying the Princesa Sofia is to consider it a standard 3-star business hotel. Don't be tempted for a moment to take its advertised 5-stars at face value - nor be foolish enough to pay any non-seriously discounted rate for a stay here (our conference rate was E88 for an individual room). The same can be said about any of the services offered by the Princesa - it'd be absurd to pay E22 for their breakfast buffet, but ask and they may give it to you at E14 at check in. WI-FI internet access is also advertised to be over E20 a day - but our hosts arranged a E12 rate instead. Even their dinner buffet ended up costing our hosts about E35 per person - rather than the E50 or so I think they try to charge. Alas, getting discounts on drinks is much harder - a coke at the bar will still be E6 - and don't expect more than 200ml. I still can't believe I paid that (but it was just one)!.
Now, for the amenities. The individual rooms, the only ones I checked out, are relatively nice - basically what you'd expect in a modern 3-star hotel anywhere in the world. There was a double bed with comfortable bedding and pillows, a semi-comfy chair, and a desk with a chair. The desk was fairly large, which is good as that's where the flat-screen TV is located. The closets are divided in two, with a few small drawers on one side - there isn't much room here, all in all, and if you stay more than a few days you might wonder where to put your clothing. It was OK for four nights.
The bathrooms have a lot of marble, but a rather narrow bath tub - the water pressure is quite strong, however, and I had several nice showers and a good bubble bath. They are a little tight with their towels, however - they only give you a single bath, hand and floor towel - but the bath towel is actually huge and I'm sure they'd bring more if you asked. The lack of a washcloth/face towel was rather puzzling, however (don't they use them in Spain?).
Something else which they don't seem to use in Spain are clocks - the rooms don't come with one and the guest relations person (who did answer the phone very quickly every time I called) was puzzled when I asked for one (they don't have them). You can check the time on the TV, but that requires more effort than I want to engage to when I briefly wake up at dawn wondering whether it's time to get up. Their personal wake up serviced worked quite well, however.
As some Tripadvisor reviewers have said, the rooms are in need of updating. The carpet in my room had bold and faded patches. Still, given that the rooms are too modest to charge considerably more than they do for them, I can see their reluctance to spend the money updating. It does ultimately tarnish the image of the hotel chain, however.
I didn't encounter cleaning problems, as others in Tripadvisor have, but housekeeping is clearly hurried - don't expect to get a tightly made-up bed, perfectly arranged pillows or even a replacement of all your toiletries.
The one area in which Princesa Sofia does take its purported 5-star status more seriously is on the breadth of complimentary toiletries it offers. They have the standard shampoo/conditioner/bath gel/body milk set, as well as your typical sewing kit and shoe polishing kit - but they also offer a comb, shaving kit and toothbrush/tooth powders. They are all cheaply made, but everyone likes something for free.
The rooms at the Princesa Sofia come with a small refrigerator filled with your standard ridiculously-priced sodas and cookies, but there is no microwave or coffee maker. Still, they will give you a complimentary tray with packets of tea and instant coffee and an electric water heater. They replenish the teas/sugars/milks every day and this worked out very well for me (I'm a big tea drinker).
The hotel itself looks like your standard big business hotel. It has a large lobby with several waiting areas (and a paid computer area), a couple of restaurants and a bar. There are meeting facilities (the ones we used were fine but lacked enough electric outlets) and a spa, which I didn't use so I can't comment on. Service was friendly and professional, but they seem to lack porters - nobody offered to carry my baggage or show me the room - which was a pity, as I never quite figured out how to use the lights.
The hotel is very conveniently located vis a vis the Polytechnic University and the Barcelona soccer stadium. It's only about a block away from a Metro Station and the Tourist Bus stops nearby. There is also a nearby trolley, though I'm not sure where it goes. There is a Corte Inglés about two blocks away for your shopping needs, and plenty of restaurants of all prices.
In all, I was quite happy with my stay at the Princesa Sofía, and would stay here again if I needed to be near the University.
Hotel Princesa Sofía
Plaza Pio XII 4