“ Address: Hotel Slon / Slovenska cesta 34 / 1000 Ljubljana / Slovenia „
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Way back in 2004 when I first visited Ljubljana I stayed in a freezing cold (it was February) little studio apartment near the University. Irish delegates attending the same co-working event were staying in the (then) almost palatial Hotel Slon, a Best Western hotel on the city's main street, Ljubljana.; I was rather envious to hear that guests in that hotel got complimentary slippers, and the use of a bathrobe. It wasn't that I'd never enjoyed such luxuries myself, more the fact that our accommodation was so basic and cold. In February 2013, after many visits to Ljubljana and trying lots of different accommodation options (they have multiplied somewhat since that first visit) I finally got to stay in the Slon.
We booked through Expedia, getting an excellent rate for a Saturday night in one of the nicest and best located hotels in the city centre. The majority of the new, upmarket hotels are located outside the city centre. The Best Western Premier Hotel Slon is rated four stars. The hotel is just a minute's walk from Presernov trg and the Triple Bridge, the heart of touristy Ljubljana; it's handy for the business/political area and close to the main embassy district. Should you wish to walk, the Slon is just ten minutes maximum from the train and bus stations, though I doubt whether many of the guests staying at the Slon go on foot, carrying their luggage.
Entering Hotel Slon is not the event that it should be: parked cars in front of the entrance and the number of pedestrians passing by the doors mean that you usually have to take a chance and dive through the doors. Once inside it's a different story: sparkling chandeliers, big squashy sofas and carpet that's so soft and lush you can feel it through your winter boots. 'Slon' means 'elephant' in Slovene (see below for more). A small carved elephant is displayed in the lobby and can be seen from the street. There are other elephants in different parts of the hotel and there's even a stuffed one on your bed (which you can buy as a souvenir or gift).
Our check in experience was entertaining as we engaged in a spot of jousting with the receptionist who wanted to swipe our credit card in case of extras. He maintained that this was essential and said he could not give us our room unless we passed over the card. This is a hotel practice I despise and I held my ground: weary from debating the issue, the receptionist handed over two swipe cards for our room. He told us that as we were not handing over a credit card check out would take longer as someone would have to check the room; in the end nobody did and we checked out in seconds. A word of warning: even though our room had been paid up in advance, your tourist tax (Euro1.01 per person per day) is not included and must be paid at the time of checking out.
The Slon is one hotel where you really want to be given a room at the back and not the front. You'll still be overlooking the bins, to some extent but you'll also be able to see the distinctive twin towers of the candy pink Franciscan church, Ljubljana Castle and Kongresni trg with its handsome buildings. At the front all you will see are the shops on the other side of Slovenska cesta.
There are different grades of rooms and suites and we stayed in a standard or economy room. Like the public areas we had come through, the room was in immaculate condition with no signs of wear and tear. There were some niggles, however: the bedside rugs slid dangerously on the parquet flooring, and the lighting was less than adequate with only bedside lamps and an Anglepoise-type desk lamp. In the bathroom, it was impossible to shower using the over-bath shower without also soaking the floor because the shower head was attached to the wall too close to the edge of the shower screen and could not be moved. The little bathmat couldn't cope with such a deluge which meant that it was impossible to exit the bathroom with dry feet, making the parquet even more dangerous. The complimentary slippers did not help as the floor was so wet that they too were soaking in a second.
The nice things about the Slon such as the lovely warm robes, fast freee wi-fi internet throughout the hotel, the (elephant shaped) chocolate on the pillow, the choice of two different types of pillow (guests in luxury rooms and suites have even more choice) and the selection of complimentary toiletries, as well as a hot drinks tray (rare in Slovenian hotels) were easy to overlook when the basics such as practical and safe showering couldn't be gotten right. It seems to me that, at least where the lower priced rooms are concerned, Hotel Slon has an over-hyped reputation. I would definitely not want to pay anything approaching the rack rate.
Breakfast is served in a large and bright room on the first floor. A pleasant young lady took our room number and spoke to us in English, continuing to do so even when we replied in Slovenian. It wasn't until we'd filled our plates from the buffet that we spotted the little menu card on our table that listed the breakfast dishes that could be made to order. The young lady who greeted us should really have told us that we could order from the menu or help ourselves to the buffet because those items that were meant to have been kept hot on the buffet were barely warm. In found a small piece of plastic-y wire in baked beans and told the only staff member visible, the lady who had greeted us; she then told a supervisor and went back to her position. When the supervisor apologised to me I had to suggest that they removed the remaining beans from the buffet: it hadn't crossed her mind that there could be more plastic in the dish.
The breakfast should have been great but it was just average. I fancied tea but there was only leaf tea and I couldn't be bothered with that at breakfast time. The bread was either dried wholemeal baguettes that you had to cut for yourself at the buffet table, or sliced toasting bread: for a Slovenian hotel this is unusual as you'll almost always find a good variety of breads. The melon and pineapple slices were dried out; and the fruit juices were to be dispensed from large glass jugs which were difficult to pour from (I pity any arthritic guests trying to do this).
Hotel Slon also has a bar, a restaurant and a coffee shop, all of which are popular with non residents; Sunday lunchtimes are always busy at the Slon. I've visited the coffee shop as a non resident but it's pricy and there are plenty of good places for coffee and cake around the city that are much more reasonably priced for the same quality. Himself reports that a business event he attended at the hotel was well organised and that the catering was good. It's a shame the breakfast didn't live up to our expectations as it seems like generally the Slon's food is good.
The positives were a well presented room, a comfortable bed and a quiet night's sleep: for me they are the essentials, I expect them as a minimum whatever price I've paid. But this is a four star hotel and I expect them not to make the kind of bloopers I found. Hotel Slon has a great location and certainly looks the part but the number of good hotels in Ljubljana has increased in the last few years and you may well do better for your money by looking elsewhere.
We paid approximately £80 for two people with breakfast in Feb 2013, booking through Expedia.It's worth checking the hotel's website for special offers; there is currently an offer for dinner, bed and breakfast in a 'comfort' room for weekends for the next few weeks for just Euro20 more than the B&B rate.
If you're interested in how the hotel got it's name, follow this link to the Hotel Slon website http://www.hotelslon.com/index_en.php?id​=2