The only five-star property in Ljubljana, the Lev is a large hotel located, surprisingly, on the outskirts of the city centre. Popular with business travellers (for its excellent conference and meeting facilities), the Lev is also a good choice for city-breakers thanks to comfortable accommodation and attentive service. Its name means 'lion' in Slovenian and comes from the name of the restaurant that used to be where the hotel is today.
On the edge of the city centre, Lev is situated on the junction of two major thoroughfares. Allow about 10 minutes to walk into the heart of the city (Triple Bridge). The beautiful Tivoli Park is just across the road and is popular with the locals for jogging and picnics etc. Meanwhile, Ljubljana Airport is a 25 minute drive away.
Major stars of the past and present have stayed here such as Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Claudia Schiffer, Pavarotti and Sting.
Private underground parking is available at 14 Euros (£12.15) per day.
Free WIFI is available in the lobby whereas free cable internet is available in the rooms.
Built in 1964 but last renovated at the end of 2009, the Lev may not look like much from the outside but that changes when you step into the lobby with its gleaming floors and gilt chandeliers. The 14-storey building has large conference and banquet facilities on the ground and top floors, as well as a breakfast room, lobby bar, restaurant and small fitness room. While there is a lack of facilities (especially for a five-star hotel), guests of the Lev may use the facilities (such as the indoor swimming pool) at the Grand Hotel Union Business, 10 minutes walking distance from Hotel Lev.
Accommodation (there are 173 rooms) is divided into standard and superior categories and claim either city or park/mountain views. Single, double and twin rooms are available in both categories, and there are a few junior suites and interconnecting rooms as well. At the time of our visit (July 2011), the standard double rooms had been recently given a makeover. The décor remains very classic (and some might say uninspiring), with colours such as mustard and Bordeaux mixing with simple pine furnishings. While for a five-star hotel the rooms are not over-the-top luxurious, they are very clean, bright and comfortable. We did however find the standard double bathroom a tad small for a five-star property. Meanwhile, the superior double bathrooms boast L'Occitane toiletries. The junior suites are spotless, spacious and tastefully decorated in a style much more contemporary than the standard and superior rooms.
The breakfast room is classic, like the rest of the hotel, except for the bold artichoke-shaped light fittings which hang from the ceiling. There is a well-stocked bar which divides the breakfast room from the restaurant, where the centrepiece is the aquarium with an assortment of brightly coloured tropical fish. This aquarium can also be seen from inside the restaurant, the award-winning Pri Levu.
For us this was the highlight of the Lev Hotel. With split-level seating areas, Pri Levu is located on the ground floor just off the lobby bar but can also be accessed from the street. The contemporary but elegant decor (spectacular glass bauble light fittings, gold columns, gun metal curtains) creates a chic and intimate atmosphere; while it is undoubtedly 'design' it is far from being cold.
The food eaten here is simply excellent. While there are multi-course weekly specials, the regular à la carte menu is also worth a look. During our visit we relished a starter of Iberian ham served with olives and ewe's milk cheese, followed by a traditional dish of flour dumplings and chanterelle mushrooms, lamb confit with herbed cheese dumplings, and finished off with a decadent chocolate dessert. Each course was slowly savoured with a glass of local wine. What really stood out however was the incredibly professional service - knowledgeable waiters who never put a foot wrong - making you realise you are indeed at a five-star establishment with service to match.
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Mark out of 10 for geographical location