The capital is not a pretty city. In fact, years of communist rule have left it with more than its fair share of ugly buildings. Combine that with the fact Bulgaria is one of Europe’s poorest countries and your not going to get a glamourous capital. But Sofia is an old city, with plenty of history… and as the countries wealth improves, many buildings are gradually being renovated. If your travelling through Bulgaria, it is likely at some stage you will pass through Sofia – so rather than picking obvious faults, fill your time and visit the sights. You may well end up pleasantly surprised.
Food in Sofia is a bargain – you can get a meal in a small restaurant for €4, a light meal such as soup is even cheaper – under €2 in some places. Fruit and veg at the markets is great value too for self caterers. For junk lovers, there are plenty of fried meat stands and a Mcdonalds in the city centre.
There’s a lot of hostels in the city, which means great value for travellers. A dorm bed can be as little as €8, even in high season. Hotels and guesthouses are common too with doubles a snip – they start at around €15 for the room! If your travel worn and looking to splurge on luxury for a couple of days, Sofia is one of the best value places to do it.
To get around Sofia, buy a same day ticket, giving you unlimited travel on buses, trams, or the subway for just €2. The main bus and train stations are next to each other, with international buses leaving to all of the bordering countries. Trains go to Serbia, Turkey, Romania, and Greece.
• View a Roman ruin – Sofia stands on the ancient Roman city of Serdica and there are remnants of it around the city. Go to the Arena di Serdica hotel and view part of the large amphitheatre on the ground floor – it’s open for free to tourists. Only discovered in 2004, other parts of the theatre are continuing to be excavated.
• Go to Alexander Nevski church – the main sight to see in the city. It is a prominent, large church with golden domes. Interesting for people who like religious sights, there is also a crypt to visit.
• Drink free mineral water – Sofia was renowned for mineral springs, and you can still enjoy spring water from taps in front of the large public bath building. The building itself is being restored but the water outside is safe to drink and is reputed to be healing.
• Explore Vitosha mountain – catching a bus to Vitosha takes 30 mins, and your rewarded with great scenery. There are hiking and mountain biking paths, while in winter you can ski here. The Boyana waterfalls are nearby and a cool place to go.
• Find Sveti Georgi church – This tiny church, in the heart of the city, is from the 4th century. It’s a great piece of hidden history in Sofia, located amongst more modern buildings, near to the Sheraton hotel. Inside there are old frescos to enjoy.
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