Have you already visited some major big cities in Europe and want to see more than that? Want to visit a less crowded city and enjoy it peacefully and spend less money? This time we recommend aiming for the heart of the Balkans and Bulgaria’s capital Sofia. Keep reading to find out what to do when in Sofia, the city that many say might be the new Berlin.
So, let’s find out when and how to visit Sofia, where to stay and what to do once you get there.
Image by Stolichanin / CC BY-SA 4.0
When you are planning your trip, you are wondering when is the best time to visit a place, or you are wondering what is the best destination for your trip in December (or May, June or whenever). So, if you are interested in visiting Sofia you should know that the hottest months to visit are June, August and January. Those months tend to be the most expensive for visiting but still acceptable comparing to cities in Western Europe. But if you are looking for the least crowded time of the year (and the cheapest) add Sofia to your planner for November.
The connection between Sofia and the rest of Europe (and the rest of the world) is pretty good. Sofia has its own airport and few bus and train stations and good road connections. So, you can actually get to Sofia in any way that is convenient to you, you can fly directly to it or go by bus or train or travel by car if you are somewhere around the Balkans.
Where to Stay in Sofia?
Of course, there are many options for staying in Sofia, depending on your budget. If you are travelling on a budget don’t hesitate to book a room (or a bed?) in a hostel. You will spend between 4 and 35 EUR per night. If you prefer hotels there are various options, too. There are some affordable hotels for 35 – 70 EUR per night but there is also a luxurious hotel in the city centre where you will spend around 90 EUR per night.
What to do?
Religious Sites in Sofia
There are so many religious sites in Sofia. The number one and the symbol of the city is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The cathedral is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world, with a capacity of 10,000 people. It’s beautiful both inside and out, but the inside is much more calming. The outside is pretty loud, and you can hear its bells from 12 kilometres away.
As we said, there are many religious sites in this amazing city and when you see them you realise how tolerant Bulgarians are, religious-wise. They literally have the Square of Tolerance where you will see an Orthodox church St. Nedelya, a Catholic Cathedral of St Joseph, a Synagogue and The Banya Bashi Mosque. And it is the only place in Europe where you can find places of worship for four different religions so close together. Also, there is the Saint Sofia Church with its amazing underground museum and many more interesting religious places that you have to see.
Ancient City of Serdica
Thanks to its location in the heart of the Balkans Sofia was even the capital of the Roman Empire once. One of the proofs was found recently when the Arena di Serdica hotel was being built – the Roman arena was found underneath the place. And when they were building the metro, they also found the ruins of ancient Serdica. The whole city lies on the remains of the Thracian and Roman city of Serdica, which was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire.
Museums in Sofia
There is a lot of museums in Sofia, but some of our favourites are the Museum of Socialist Art and National History Museum. The Museum of Socialist Art will show you the history of Communist Bulgaria. You will see various paintings, propaganda and movies and a graveyard of former Soviet statues. To learn more about Bulgaria visit the National Museum which is itself a piece of the Soviet times but shows you the whole history of the country.
Ivan Vazov National Theatre
One of the most elegant buildings in Sofia, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre is the pride and glory of Bulgaria. It is one of the oldest theatre institutions in the country and maybe the most important landmark of the city. You have to admire its gold-coloured ornaments, lions and statues of the Apollo and the muses.
Image by Pudelek (Marcin Szala)/ CC BY-SA 3.0
Every city has its showroom, for Sofia, that’s the main pedestrian street Vitosha Boulevard, or Vitoshka as the locals call it. It’s a place where you can go shopping, walk or sit in a fancy café and people-watch. So, if you want to be seen that’s where you have to go.
Enjoy the Greenery and Fresh Air
There are a few places in Sofia where you can really relax and enjoy some fresh air. There is the Borisova Gradina Park – the most popular and oldest park in Sofia, a huge place with green trees and walking paths. In case you are a fan of hiking climb up to Vitosha mountain 2290 meters above the sea level. You will love the view. Plus, in the winter time, you can go skiing, the resort is only an hour away from the city centre.
Image by Gergana/ CC BY-SA 2.5
Eat Traditional Bulgarian Food
Eat, you just have to eat Bulgarian food, it is amazing. The grilled meat is delicious, but they make good salads, yoghurts, feta cheese. Our favourite dishes are traditional and well known among Balkan-people Shopska Salata, Tarator – yoghurt & cucumber soup and Moussaka. And you should know that Bulgarians make some awesome wines! Enjoy while you are there.
Image by Gergana/ CC BY-SA 3.0
So, all in all, Sofia is a city with a lot to see. You will get a chance to see some really amazing landmarks, enjoy awesome nature, awesome food and wine. And all of that for a little bit of money since it is the cheapest capital in EU. If you are visiting Sofia for the first time you may need a guide. Download our Cultural Places App and find a guided tour through this amazing city and enjoy it fully.