This review details the magnificent Sofitel Winter Palace in Luxor, a historic 19th century hotel on the banks of the Nile with its own palm garden.
Luxor Winter Palace
As my train back to Cairo would only depart the following day, I had one night left to spend in Luxor.
Even before my trip, I had anticipated that the intensive tour, which included some of Ancient Egypt’s most renowned sights, would leave me exhausted.
Therefore, I had made the choice to reserve a 5-star hotel in Luxor for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
Although I heard some good things about the Hilton Resort and its grounds right on the banks of the River Nile looked stunning, I knew there was only one proper choice in Luxor: The famous Winter Palace.
The Winter Palace in Luxor, which is nowadays managed by Sofitel, is the historic luxury hotel in Luxor.
Luxor’s Winter Palace is famed for its large palm garden, and the rich history of this hotel made it impossible for me to even contemplate staying elsewhere.
About the Winter Palace in Luxor
From the moment you enter the Sofitel Winter Palace you will find yourself surrounded by 19th century Victorian charm.
Built in 1886 under the supervision of Thomas Cook International and designed by Italian architects, the Winter Palace was initially planned as a luxury hotel for Egypt’s ruling classes and nobility.
The hotel is named Winter Palace because it was originally opened only during the winter season when the temperatures in this part of Egypt are much milder, which makes visiting the sights in and around Luxor a much more pleasant affair than during the scorching hot summers.
Luxor’s Winter Palace held a special place in the heart of King Farouk of Egypt and also drew in numerous international dignitaries and celebrities, including the likes of archaeologist Howard Carter, President Georges Clemenceau of France, American actress Jane Fonda, and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Agatha Christie also stayed at the Winter Palace and wrote her book Death on the Nile during her stay at this historic hotel.
I was about to follow in their footsteps, but when I arrived at the hotel at 11am, the friendly receptionist said that my room wasn’t yet ready, so I had no choice but to wait for a while in one of the cosy seating areas of the beautiful lobby.
About one-and-a-half hour later, a bellboy came to me to say that my room was ready and that I could check-in at the reception.
All hotel rooms at the Sofitel Winter Palace are located in the historic main building, but there is also the Pavillon Winter Luxor, a modern annexe at the other side of the shared palm garden.
While the Sofitel Winter Palace shares certain facilities like the palm garden and swimming pool with the Pavillon Winter Luxor, both of which are operated by the Accor Group, they are listed as a separate properties on hotel booking websites.
If you can fetch it, I would strongly suggest to make sure you are booking a room in the Winter Palace instead of the Pavillon Winter Luxor, as the historic property carries much more charm than the modern annexe.
Rooms in the main building of the Winter Palace either face the palm garden or the corniche and the River Nile, with the rooms in the latter category being more expensive.
I had booked a classic room with garden view in the main building of the Winter Palace, for which I only paid $75, a rate which included breakfast.
While this incredible deal can be partly attributed to the fact that I travelled at the height of the global pandemic, luxury accommodation in Egypt is generally excellent value for money and it is not uncommon to find low rates for five-star hotels.
I was given the keys to Room 221 and headed up the beautiful grand staircase to the second floor.
My classic room was located towards the end of the wide hallway.
While my room at the Sofitel Winter Palace certainly wasn’t the largest I had ever stayed in at a luxury hotel, it was tastefully appointed and spotlessly clean.
My air-conditioned room featured a kingsize bed, a seating corner and a wall table that could also serve as a desk.
The room’s high ceiling and dark red curtains in front of the doors added a touch of historic charm.
Additionally, my room was equipped with a fridge, ample storage space in a spacious closet, and conveniently positioned power sockets at the bedside tables and wall table.
Wi-Fi internet was relatively fast and reliable and worked like a charm during my entire stay.
A kettle, along with complimentary tea, coffee, and water bottles, were also provided.
However, what puzzled me was the TV’s position, as it was inconveniently located diagonally across from the bed on top of a cupboard, making it impossible to watch something when lying down on the right side of the bed.
By far the best aspect of my room was the amazing balcony overlooking the gardens of the Winter Palace.
The balcony, which had two seats and a small table, was such a lovely and peaceful spot that I ended up spending nearly as much time there as in my room itself.
Although the front-facing rooms of the hotel with their balconies overlooking the River Nile also sounded appealing, you should note that these also come with the traffic sounds of the corniche, while the only noise you hear from a balcony overlooking the gardens are the birds and some murmuring from other guests strolling the grounds.
The bathroom of my classic room at the Winter Palace featured a classic bath tub with shower.
A bathroom amenity box with Acqua di Portofino toiletries, as well as bathrobes and slippers, were provided.
Bars and restaurants
After settling into my room, I started to explore all the public spaces of the Sofitel Winter Palace.
The hallways, particularly those on the ground floor, are beautifully adorned with red carpets and feature numerous interesting paintings, old photographs, and informative signs about the hotel’s history and the archaeological sites of Luxor.
The Sofitel Winter Palace in Luxor offers several bars and restaurants, including the elegant, French-inspired 1886 Restaurant (dress code applicable), La Corniche Restaurant, The Victorian Lounge, and the Royal Bar.
In the palm garden you can find the Central Park Bar and the El Nakhel Restaurant, while in front of the Winter Palace you can enjoy drinks at the Nile Terrace.
During the course of my stay I would try out several of these places.
Behind the Sofitel Winter Palace you can find the large palm garden of the hotel.
At the steps leading down into the garden, you’ll come across a small terrace, which is an excellent spot to relax, read a book, or enjoy a glass of tea.
Winter Palace garden
When you walk down the steps at the rear side of the Winter Palace, you enter the magnificent palm garden.
The secluded palm garden is arguably the Winter Palace’s most prominent feature and is the reason why this historic hotel is the most renowned in Luxor.
The expansive grounds of the Winter Palace garden are so immensely peaceful and relaxing that you will keep returning to it during your stay.
Walking through the Winter Palace gardens, you could almost forget that the hotel is located in the heart of Luxor as you won’t hear any traffic noise at all, just the delightful sound of chirping birds.
The garden measures 40,000 square metres and has more than 50 types of tree, some more than 100 years old.
A team of 12 gardeners looks after the plants, trees and lawns of the Winter Palace garden.
The trees and plants also attract a diverse birdlife, and in the gardens of the Winter Palace you may come across birds such as eagles and hoopoes, native species that were already depicted in the ancient Egyptian temples around Luxor.
My favourite park of the Winter Palace garden was the area immediately around the large fountain.
Here, you can find lounge chairs and seating corners under the shade of large umbrellas, making it a great spot to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
The Sofitel Winter Palace also features a large swimming pool, which is located towards the back of the winter gardens, in front of the modern hotel annexe.
Especially during the morning and early afternoon, when most people are out sightseeing, the pools are rarely used, and there’s a good chance you might have them all to yourself.
However, even at peak hours the swimming pool is still a quiet environment and there is plenty of space between the loungers and umbrellas to maintain a bit of privacy.
During my stay I had lunch at the poolside restaurant El Nakhel, which also serves as a bar where you can get drinks and cocktails.
I enjoyed a cold Stella beer and a pizza, which was of decent quality.
After a refreshing swim and filling lunch, I returned to my room for a shower and some R&R.
I decided to call room service and to order a bottle of Egyptian wine and some chocolate cake as dessert.
Both were swiftly brought to my room, and I thoroughly enjoyed these treats while taking in the view of the beautiful palm garden from the comfort of my balcony chair.
When you have a room at the front of the hotel, you can enjoy the sunset over the River Nile from the comfort of your own balcony.
Since my balcony faced the palm garden at the back of the hotel, I therefore needed to walk outside the main entrance in order to admire these sunset views.
Stepping out of the door, I was amazed by the spectacular sight of large flocks of birds flying in formation over the Nile.
For the best view of the sunset over the Nile, you need to cross the bustling corniche road and descend one level to the jetties where the boats of local fishermen and small river cruise ships are moored.
You may encounter occasional touts offering sunset boat tours and hustlers trying to sell trinkets on the corniche, but a firm “la shukran” (Arabic for “no thanks”) should help deter them.
Once I managed to shake off some persistent touts, I found a peaceful spot on the waterfront to sit down and enjoy the absolutely stunning sunset views over the River Nile.
After the sunset, I returned to my hotel room to enjoy the remaining half of the bottle of wine I had ordered.
Watching darkness fall over the Winter Palace and the garden lights being switched on was quite a sight.
Be sure to take a walk through the garden in the evening as the atmosphere is entirely different than during the daytime.
A visit to the Royal Bar
As I wasn’t very hungry, I decided to skip dinner and head straight to the Winter Palace’s famous Royal Bar for another drink.
The Royal Bar is full of old-fashioned character and with its dark colours, dimmed lights and bookshelves resembles a traditional cigar bar.
In addition to beer, wine, cocktails, and other alcoholic beverages, you can also order cigars, which was exactly what I did.
Winter Palace breakfast
Each morning, a buffet breakfast is served at the La Corniche Restaurant.
There is a decent selection of Egyptian and Continental breakfast staples available at the buffet.
This includes freshly baked croissants, bread, pastries, fruits, salads, jams, cheeses, cold cuts, sausages, and a wide variety of desserts and other sweets.
I certainly appreciated the egg station, where you can order made-to-order omelettes and other egg dishes.
Milk and a selection of juices is available at the buffet, while tea and coffee is brought to you by the friendly and hard-working waiters.
Overall, I was certainly pleased with all the food I tried at the Sofitel Winter Palace, although I didn’t think the quality was on the same high level as at the Cairo Sofitel where I had stayed before.
The Sofitel Winter Palace has a superb location in downtown Luxor.
Within a 5-minute walk you can reach Luxor Temple, while the city’s train station is 15 minutes away on foot.
There are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants in the direct environment of the Winter Palace in case you want to do some shopping or have a drink or meal outside of the hotel.
What makes the location of the Sofitel Winter Palace even better is that, despite being right in the heart of the city centre, you don’t experience the usual drawbacks of Egyptian cities like noise and chaos, as the hotel with its huge garden really is an oasis of quietness.
The Sofitel Winter Palace in Luxor is a delightful historic hotel full of 19th century Victorian charm.
There is just something special to the atmosphere of the Winter Palace, as it not only feels like you are stepping into a different era, but an entirely different world when you stay at this hotel.
Although the Sofitel Winter Palace is located in the heart of Luxor, the hotel grounds are an oasis of quietness compared to the chaos and noise of the city centre streets.
By far the best feature of the Sofitel Winter Palace is its wonderful palm garden and swimming pool.
I certainly enjoyed staying in my charming Classic Room with a balcony overlooking these peaceful gardens.
The hotel also has some beautifully appointed bars and restaurants and the quality of the food is quite good.
Although there were some slight drawbacks to my room and some other aspects of the hotel could be further improved, I simply had an excellent stay.
In fact, I enjoyed my stay so much that I regretted having only stayed for one night, as I felt so relaxed at the Winter Palace that I wished I would have stayed for a while longer to rejuvenate after my tour across Egypt.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Walk Like an Egyptian: A Grand Tour of Egypt‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Red-Eye Ramblings of a Late Night Flight to Cairo
2. A Visit to the Pyramids of Giza by Camel
3. Review: Sofitel Nile El Gezirah, Zamalek, Cairo
4. Exploring the Medieval Old Town and Islamic History of Cairo
5. Visiting the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo
6. Mar Girgis: The Churches of Christian Old Cairo
7. Review: Ernst Watania Sleeping Train Cairo to Aswan
8. The Ancient Quarry of Aswan and the Unfinished Obelisk
9. A Boat Ride From Aswan to the Temple of Isis at Philae
10. A Visit to the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser
11. A Visit to the Nubian Village on Aswan’s Elephantine Island
12. Aswan Guide: A Visit to Egypt’s Most Stunningly Located City
13. A Half Day Trip From Aswan to Amazing Abu Simbel
14. Nile River Cruise Guide: All Info for Your Egypt Boat Trip
15. Review: M/S Princess Sarah Nile River Cruise Ship
16. Nile Cruise: Sailing From Aswan to Kom Ombo
17. A Visit to the Ancient Crocodile Temple of Kom Ombo
18. A Visit to the Temple of Horus at Edfu
19. Nile Cruise: Sailing From Edfu to Luxor
20. Luxor, Egypt: Visiting the Sights of Ancient Thebes
21. A Visit to Luxor’s Giant Temple Complex of Karnak
22. Visitor Guide to Wonderful Luxor Temple
23. Valley of the Kings: A Visit to Luxor’s Ancient Necropolis
24. The Temple of Hatshepsut: A Visit to a Unique Mortuary Temple
25. Review: Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel, Luxor, Egypt (current chapter)
26. Review: Daytime Train Luxor to Cairo, Egypt
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **