Sofia, Bulgaria is one of the most interesting and cosmopolitan places in all of Europe. The land around Sofia has been continuously inhabited for at least 30,000 years!
You’d be dome to miss the Alexander Nevski Cathedral!
For the longest time, the city went by the Thracian name of ‘Serdica’, derived from the ancient ‘Serdi’ Celtic tribe. Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, sacked the city in 339 BCE and this was one of the first times it was mentioned in history. Serdica came to great prominence during the Roman empire when it was a major trading city. The Roman emperors Aurelian and Galerius were born in Sofia (Serdica) and it was an imperial city during the reigns of several other leaders.
You mosque visit Banya Bashi!
Sofia International Airport is easily accessible from all over Europe, and it is serviced by many low-cost carries. The airport is only about 20 minutes away from the city centre with a yellow taxi costing around €7-€10. The Metro, found outside Terminal 2, drops you at Serdika, which is the main central station of Sofia and a transfer hub. Arriving into Sofia via train is not uncommon and it is an exciting way to view the countryside on the way there! Once you arrive, walking is the best way to explore the city centre and to discover interesting sights. You can also travel by yellow metred taxis which are easily found in the city centre.
Here’s a pro-tip: £1 equals to 2.20 Bulgarian Leva and you will need Leva to pay for the Metro and taxis (cards are not accepted). Cash machines are available throughout the city.
These are a few of my favourite places in this exciting city:
- St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral – This is Sofia’s main tourist attraction and, with its outstanding beauty, it’s easy to see why. This Cathedral was designed in the Neo-Byzantine style and, just like a puzzle, is built from pieces that come from all over Europe. It can hold up to 10,000 worshippers and is not to be missed.
This is the oldest edifice in Sofia and it’s just beautiful!
- George Rotunda – It’s the oldest building in the city, this red brick church was built when Rome still ruled an empire. It is amazing to see this relic still standing after 17 centuries! Surrounding it are other remnants of ancient Serdica that are worth exploring.
- Vitosha Boulevard – This upscale shopping street is full of posh boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. The views of Vitosha Mountain are absolutely stunning from here. This is lovely place to spend the afternoon!
- Vitosha Mountain – There are two reasons why I love this natural beauty. The first is the amazing skiing you can experience so close to the city! There are 20km of ski runs that seem a world away from the ancient city below. Secondly, during the warm Summer months this is the perfect place to enjoy nature and enjoy great hiking. The viewpoint at Kopitoto is spectacular, it’s hard to believe its only 30 minutes from the city!
- Central Mineral Baths – This is Sofia’s most photographed building and it’s easy to see why. Like much of the city it was built in the neo-byzantine style. The site dates back to Roman times when it was also used as a bath because of the area’s mineral springs.
- Square of Religious Tolerance – In this one small area you will find St. Nedelya Church (Orthodox), St. Joseph Cathedral (Roman Catholic), Banya Bashi Mosque and the Sofia Synagogue. I know of no other place in the world that honours religious tolerance in this manner!
- National Opera and Ballet – this imposing neoclassical building houses world renown performances that are a joy to behold in such a wonderful setting!
There is really too much to see and do in Sofia! You’ll obliviously be hungry after your explorations. What is travel without sampling local dishes? Here are my top picks in Sofia:
- Pod Lipite Restaurant – This classic Bulgarian restaurant has a history dating back over 90 years and is where you can try local foods made from homegrown ingredients. With a beautiful design and lovely garden for the Summer months, you cannot miss this restaurant! The restaurant has its own farm with its meat and produce incorporated into their dishes.
- Do-Re-Mi – Another wonderful restaurant offering Bulgarian dishes! Run by a local family who also have a farm, you can expect fresh produce and even homemade Rakia.
- Khlebar – You cannot leave Sofia without sampling their famous ‘Banitsa’. This is made of layered sheets of buttered filo pastry with a mixture of eggs, yogurt, and white cheeses. Besides the classic cheese, this delight can be made with many savory or sweet and even vegan fillings! Try these at the Khlebar Bakery and enjoy a coffee while you’re there!
Cheeses, that’s delicious!
Here’s another pro-tip: If your visiting Sofia during the Winter months then you should try their ‘Bob Chorba’. This is a hearty soup that contains kidney beans, onions, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and mint. Additional ingredients can also include bell peppers, paprika, potatoes, and meat with a sprinkling of cheese!
Bulgarians love to party, the capital city is the best place to experience the vibrant nightlife and cultural events! Here are my top picks:
- Rakia Raketa Bar – This bar specialises in the local alcoholic drink Rakia. Bulgaria’s unofficial national drink comes in a variety of flavours. Enjoy fiery shots in a cool setting!
Mineral like the waters, and women too!
- One More Bar – This venue is famous for the curious and creative cocktails that are like nothing you’ve seen before! They have even created some of the first organic and vegan cocktails in the city, with a colourful and playful interior you may find yourself visiting this bar more than once.
- “Ivan Vazov” National Theatre – For something a little different, why not put on your fanciest frock and visit this historical theatre for an early evening play. The theatre offers a wide range of both contemporary and classical plays.
Sofia is one of the best travel values in Europe! Check out my accommodation recommendations:
- Arena di Serdica Residence Hotel – This hotel discovered an ancient Roman amphitheatre during construction! Preserving and incorporating this beautiful piece of history into this luxury hotel was a stroke of genius. Treat yourself and enjoy this centrally located beauty.
- Les Fleurs Boutique Hotel – A romantic floral themed hotel awaits you. Full of colour and light, this unique design will have you wanting to take in every inch of this hotel! Centrally located on Vitosha Boulevard it’s the perfect base for enjoying the city.
- Earth & People Hotel and Spa – When it comes to location, this hotel is a little out of town, but with the huge benefit of being near Vitosha Mountain. Admire the mountain views from their sky bar or enjoy some of their amazing spa treatments as you breathe in the fresh mountain air.
With it’s incredible history, vibrant lifestyle and friendly residents, Sofia is a place that I love to visit!