Sofia is the largest regional city in Bulgaria and also is its capital. This city combines thousands of years of history and traditions. Sofia is becoming more and more preferred tourist destination. The capital is in the top 3 of the European cities, which register the highest growth of foreign tourists in the period between 2009 and 2017.
“Sofia – It grows, but does not age!”
There are three things that you may already know about Sofia: The history of Sofia begins seven thousand years ago. Since ancient times the city and its surroundings have been famous for the big number of hot and cold mineral springs. And last but not least – it’s the capital of Bulgaria.
Sofia is not only the capital of Bulgaria but it’s also the heart of the country. This city is a cultural, educational, administrative and industrial center and because of that its motto is “It grows, but does not age “. Sofia is the largest city in Bulgaria. It is surrounded by Stara Planina in the north, Vitosha in the south, in the southeast of the Lozen mountain and Lyulin mountain in the southwest.
Sofia is a town with 7000 years of history. In the 8th century before the new era, onto the place of one Neolithic settlement appeared the ancient Thracian town called Serdika – by the name of the Thracian tribe Serdi. There is a reason for the settlement of these lands and this happens to be the big number of warm mineral springs that are situated in Sofia area.
The Royal Palace – Old Sofia
The whole history of the Third Bulgarian Kingdom is closely related to The Royal Palace in Sofia. This was the place, where the laws and royal decrees were established. There the monarch welcomed his guests and organized receptions. Also the royal family lived in the palace. It will be true if we say that in the royal palace was centered the countrys life.
The building was surrounded by thick wall made from stones, bricks and in places reinforced concrete, in which several entrances were made. In addition to the parade entrance, there were an east and west gate and the servants and staff were entering the palace from the north gate.
Top 5 meals
- Shopska salad: This salad is one of the modern emblems of Bulgarian national cuisine, which is why its name is among the first Bulgarian words that foreigners tend to learn.
- Tarator: The Tarator is a type of cold soup made mainly from yogurt and it’s traditional for the Bulgarian cuisine.
- Tripe soup or Shkembe chorba: This is a common dish in Balkan, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek, Turkish and Eastern European cuisine. It’s prepared from a well boiled and chopped veal or lamb meat.
- Banitsa: This is a traditional Bulgarian dish made from dough. It’s prepared by layering a mixture of whisked eggs and pieces of cheese between filo pastry.
- Cabbage rolls: Cabbage roll is a dish consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. The most common filling is with rice and meat.
Top 5 restaurant
- Bagri – The menu of this restaurant is more than diverse and the main idea is to be a reflection of all the food goods that nature gives us. And because of that they change it according to the available products for the season and they do this approximately once in a month and a half.
- Restaurant Aubergine – This restaurant is the only one in Bulgaria that is combining its menu with Bulgarian craft beer. It’s situated in the center of Sofia.
- Hadjidraganov’s Houses Restaurant – this one is also situated in the center of Sofia in four restored renaissance houses from 1866. They can offer a rich menu of traditional recipes, complemented by selected Bulgarian wines and rakia.
- Chevermeto – The Bulgarian restaurant Chevermeto for 20 years every night entertains its guests with folk dancing and live music. Traditionally Bulgarian dishes based on tested recipes from all regions of Bulgaria.
- Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine – Moma Restaurant is the new modern face of Bulgarian restaurants, that combines a delightful culinary experience with authentic recipes and a modern interior.
Top 5 shopping experiences
- Vitosha boulevard – It is called also “Vitoshka” and it’s the main pedestrian shopping street in the center of Sofia. There is no possible way for someone to come to Sofia and not go down this street. The combination of culture and entertainment makes the street a preferred choice for a walk for both locals and tourists.
- Paradise Center – Paradise Center reflects the real nature of Sofia – dynamic, fashionable, green, expanding and treasuring up the coziness of the traditional urban environment. This is also the largest project of this category in Bulgaria and one of the unique mall structures in Europe
- Gifted Sofia – Gifted is an urban space of a new type. It`s mission is to present Sofia at first place and Bulgaria in general in a new, innovative and creative way. The space is dedicated to local artists, collectives and brands, who are trying to build the contemporary image of the capital and the country as an attractive touristic destination.
- Zhenski Pazar or Women’s Market – this is the largest open market in Sofia. It is located in the center of Sofia near Lion’s Bridge.
Top 5 excursions
- Vitosha Mountain – Vitosha is the most visited mountain in Bulgaria and it also takes fourth place in height. It is located really close to Sofia. Cherni Vrah is the highest peak of the Vitosha mountain.
- Boyana waterfall – One afternoon just take a walk from Boyana to the Boyana waterfall and vice versa . There is nothing more nice and relaxing
- Seven Rila lakes – They are symbolic for Bulgaria and are located 90 km away from Sofia. Undoubtedly this is one of the most impressive natural landmarks on the Balkan Peninsula.
- Kremikovtsi Monastery – The whole area is filled with history. For example, in the area called “Gradishteto”, near the monastery, there are remains of an ancient fortress.
- The hottest geyser in Europe – It is located in Sapareva Banya and it is the hottest geyser in Europe and one of the hottest in the whole world. The temperature of the water reaches 130°C.
Top 5 other great sites in Sofia
- Sofia Church – The emblematic building, made from bricks, is actually one of the reasons that helped gaving the name of the city and it’s also dedicated to Hagia Sophia. It is built on old churches from the 4th century.
- Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – It was built in the period from 1904 to 1912 as a sign of gratitude of the Bulgarian people to the cause of Russian soldiers during the Russo-Turkish War from 1877 to 1878.
- The Earth and Man National Museum – This is a complex of mineralogy located in Sofia. In this museum you can see permanent, temporary and visiting expositions. Permanent expositions offer a wide variety of giant crystals, precious stones, minerals and other valuable finds from all over Bulgaria.
- Ivan Vazov National Theatre – It is built on the basis of a German architect’s project and it is the first theater stage in Bulgaria and also a national cultural institute. The impressive building was established in the period 1924-1928.
- Church of St. Petka of the Saddlers – It is located in the center of Sofia, close to St. Nedelya Cathedral. Onto the crypt, which is a very ancient Roman tomb from the 4th century, was built the current temple and that happened during the 11th century.
5 things I wish I’d known…
- Bulgaria is part of the European Union, which allows EU citizens to visit it only with an ID card. Third-country nationals do need a visa.
- Sofia does not have UBER – If you are looking for UBER taxi in Sofia, you will not find one, because in Bulgaria they are forbidden.
- The cost of a lunch in Sofia depends on the place and restaurant that you have chosen, but in comparison with other countries in Europe here is cheaper, so on average we can say that you need 20 leva per person.
- In Sofia there is a subway, which covers a large part of its territory and is a convenient way to travel around the city.
- Almost all major stores and restaurants work with credit and debit cards.