Those, who want to get to know Bulgaria, need to visit its capital, Sofia – a city with ages old history, magnificent architecture, numerous museums, galleries, theaters, parks, hotels, restaurants and various entertainment opportunities.
Here everyone can find a way to entertain or learn something new and interesting.
Sofia – the capital of Bulgaria
Sofia is the largest city in the country; it has an international airport and local transport which covers the entire city – subway, buses, trolleybuses, trams, and route taxis.
The opportunities for accommodation are diverse and can satisfy every taste – from various category hotels, international hotel branches, small family hotels, hostels, etc. Many of Sofia’s landmarks are concentrated in the central part of the city.
They are located close to each other so the tourists, wishing to tour all of them, don’t need transport. But in order to be sure you don’t miss anything important, it is better to buy a city map or hire a guide from the city tourist information center.
The center offers free walking guided tours along the downtown landmarks of Sofia, which are held on Saturdays and Wednesdays from 9.30 am for groups over 10 people. It is necessary to make an appointment in advance by phone (+359) 2 4918344 or (+359) 2 4918345.
What to see / visit in Sofia ?
In the subway, between the Council of Ministers and the Presidency, lie the remains of the east gate of the ancient fortress of Serdika.
The fortified wall was built during the second half of the 2nd century AD. A large part of the ancient city lies in this part of Sofia nowadays. New parts of the fortress were discovered during the construction of the subway; they are soon to be restored and exhibited.
Rotunda St. George
Very close to the fortress, in the courtyard of the Presidency, is the rotunda St. George.
It is the oldest Christian temple in the capital. It was built in the 4th century, during the reign of emperor Constantine the Great. Nowadays St. George is an operating Orthodox church.
National Archaeology Museum
Opposite to the Presidency, in an old mosque, dating back to the 15th century, stands the National Archaeology Museum.
The exhibition in the museum represents some of the most important archaeological discoveries made in the Bulgarian lands. Among the most valuable exhibits are the mask of Teres, the Valchitran Treasure (14th – 12th century BC) and the treasure of Lukovit (4th century BC).
Banya Bashi mosque
Not far from the museum, on the other side of the Council of Ministers is the Banya
It was built in 1566-1567. The Muslim shrine is operating, but it is only accessible for tourists, who observe certain rules of dressing and behavior.
Catholic cathedral St. Joseph
Only a few hundred meters from the mosque stands the Catholic cathedral St. Joseph.
The building is brand new – it was built in 2006 at the place of the old Catholic Cathedral, which was destroyed in the bombing in 1944, during the second World War.
National theater Ivan Vazov
One of the most beautiful buildings in Sofia is the national theater Ivan Vazov.
It is located in the central part of the city. The building was built in 1906 by the design of Austrian architects. However in 1923, during a performance, the theatre was set on fire and almost burned to the ground. The new building, raised by a project of a German architect, opened in 1929. The front garden of the theater is a pleasant place for walks and relaxation.
Another landmark in Boyana district is the Boyana Church – one of the Bulgarian sites under the aegis of UNESCO.
If you are tired of a long walk, you can relax in a restaurant or in one of the parks in Sofia.
Video guide – Sofia Vacation Travel Video Guide
Travel video about destination Sofia in Bulgaria.
Arriving & Getting Around
Sofia may not be as breathtakingly beautiful as many other Central and Eastern European capitals but it still has plenty going for it: a compact and manageable city centre with some rather pretty Neo-Classical and Secession buildings, antique gold treasures in the museums and Roman ruins dotted around the place
SOFIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Situated on the outskirts of Sofia in the direction of Plovdiv, Sofia airport has two separate terminals. Terminal 1 (the ‘old’ terminal) serves low-cost airlines Wizz Air and Easy Jet while all other flight leave and arrive at Terminal 2.
The journey into town takes not more than 30 minutes. The road to the new terminal is clearly marked, turning right off Brussels Blvd. before reaching the older airport buildings. The new terminal is modern, bright and clean although rather bland.
You could be anywhere in the world! The cafe in the departure lounge charges outrageous prices for drinks, though there are now vending machines with items at more reasonable prices. Sofia airport’s new terminal has a multi-storey car park with over 800 spaces and it is even quite reasonable to leave your car parked there for several days.
Sofia’s public transport is getting better and new trams, trolley buses and buses are already running on some of the routes.
It is fairly reliable except in the harshest winters and the lack of A/C or even any form of ventilation can be highly unpleasant in the summer months.Trams, trolley buses and buses cover the whole of the city, including the outskirts. Sofia has two underground lines which intersect in the city centre at the Serdika stop.
The red line 1 runs from Business Park Sofia( south east) to Slivnitsa (north-west), via the city centre while the blue line 2 runs in a loop from the airport T2 (north east) to Vitosha (south) via Obelya (north-west). Work has just begun on the 3rd line linking districts from the north east to suburbs in the south west of the city.
The underground is clean and efficient, though it does get crowded at peak times. Tickets cost 1.60 lev and can be bought from the ticket machines at the entrance to the stations.
Sofia’s city centre is packed with restaurants, bistros, cafes and eating establishments of all kinds and for all pockets. In a bid to beat the financial crisis, most restaurants now offer daily lunch specials at very competitive rates, so if you are on a budget but still enjoy eating out – now is your chance to try some of the better restaurants.
Worth bearing in mind:
– tips should be roughly 10% of the bill. Do check to make sure a service charge hasn’t already been added.
– check your bill carefully! There are still many cases of unwitting foreigners being overcharged.
– there is some confusion as to what order to serve meals in: some restaurants serve food as it becomes ready, others stick strictly to the rules so that the person who is only eating
a main course has to wait until everyone has finished
with their salad and starters before it arrives.
– food tends to be served warm, rather than piping hot.
– many restaurants have taken the law into their own hands by allowing patrons to smoke after 22:00, with no consideration for their non-smoking clientele.
With so many malls trying to take shoppers away from the city centre, Sofia’s central streets are filling up with small, craft shops, local designers, cafes and bars. Some of our favourites are listed here. ANGEL KANCHEV Angel Kanchev runs parallel to bul.
Vitosha, from bul. Patriarch Evtimiy down to pl. Garibaldi, and offers a more eclectic mix of shops, cafes and restaurants. You can find small bakeries offering freshly baked bread and other snacks, restaurants and cafes as well as a variety of small shops run by Bulgarian artists and designers, offering their creations.
Till now the broken pavements and fully parked street has slightly detracted from taking a leisurely stroll down Angel
Sofia may have no river to speak of, but how lucky it is to be at the foot of the majestic Vitosha mountain.
Standing at a proud 2290 metres high, the mountain provides hiking and skiing opportunities for the city’s residents and can be a welcome break from the summer heat. Spring and autumn are both wonderful seasons for a leisurely or not so leisurely walk up the magnificent mountain that is only 15 km away from the centre of town.
In the autumn you will even find blueberries (borovinki), though the wild strawberries and raspberries are long gone. There are many starting points, depending on where you are coming from in the city.
Closest to town are Knyazhevo, Boyana, Dragalevtsi and Simeonovo. The Simeonovo gondola lift is down on the ring road and takes you up to Aleko, which in winter months is the centre of the ski resort.