Hi there fellow travellers! Alexx right here from Discovering Alexx. I’m on a year-long solo adventure to a brand new nation each week for a yr, with my route based mostly fully off the most affordable flight every Tuesday. Yep, it’s as hectic because it sounds! This insane journey took me to Sofia, a stunning hidden gem within the Balkans and the capital metropolis of Bulgaria. Right here’s all you want to know in case you’re contemplating a visit to Sofia, from what to do, the place to sleep to the best way to get round and extra.
The place to remain in Sofia
Let’s kick this off with some excellent news… Sofia is the best spot in case you’re on a price range! There are many low cost hostels in Sofia with dorm beds for lower than $13 an evening, or you may get a budget-friendly lodge room from about $32 an evening.
Usually I’m a giant advocate for lodging with full kitchen services so it can save you cash on meals, however meals in Sofia is so low cost (and good!) that there’s actually no must cook dinner your personal meals.
Methods to get round Sofia
Should you’re staying within the metropolis centre and also you don’t thoughts getting your steps up, you’ll in all probability have the ability to see the town fairly simply by foot. Loads of the principle sights are inside strolling distance, and wandering aimlessly across the metropolis was how I discovered a great deal of my high meals suggestions!
Should you want to get someplace faster (and possibly drier), there are trams, buses and the metro. A single journey is 1.60BGN (about 90 cents) or a day cross with limitless journey is 4BGN (about $2).
There’s no Uber in Sofia, however there’s a nice native taxi app that does the identical factor, referred to as TaxiMe. You may join along with your UK quantity, add in your bank card and hail a journey via the app identical to you’d anyplace else.
To get to and from the airport simply and comparatively cheaply, I’d advocate getting a taxi from the airport taxi stand. Just one firm is authorised to offer taxi companies on the airport they usually’ve acquired normal fare charges, so comply with the indicators to the official taxi space and also you’ll be sorted. To get into the town centre it is best to pay about 15-20BGN ($8-$12).
On a brilliant tight price range? You will get the metro from Terminal 2 on the airport to Serdika station for 1.60BGN (money solely so that you’ll want to make use of an ATM on the airport), then switch to a bus, tram or different metro to get nearer to your lodge.
How a lot to price range for Sofia
Yay for affordable locations! Very like my week in Warsaw, Sofia was an actual deal with for my pockets.
Should you’re searching for a problem, Sofia is definitely doable to expertise from solely $15-$20 per day. This is able to cowl low cost hostel lodging ($9-$13) and grocery store or bakery meals (as much as $7). You may see a great deal of the attractive buildings without spending a dime, and with a little bit of Googling you possibly can self-guide a metropolis tour to study concerning the metropolis’s communist historical past.
So as to add in a pleasant native meal ($6-$10), a drink ($3) and the donation for a free strolling tour ($6), I’d advocate budgeting round $40 a day.
You will get freshly baked goodies from native bakeries for lower than 1BGN (about 65 cents), respectable sandwiches or salads for lunch from 4-8BGN ($1.95-$4.50) or barely fancier sit-down dinners from 12-20BGN ($6.50-$12). A neighborhood beer will value something from 2BGN to 6BGN relying on the place you’re ($1.30-$4).
One of the best issues to do in Sofia
Regardless of it not being as well-known as different Jap European scorching spots like Prague and Budapest, the town has lots going for it and there’s countless issues to do in Sofia it doesn’t matter what you’re into.
Acquire some perception into Bulgaria’s rocky previous, store for second-hand goodies at flea markets, eat your coronary heart out at a few of my favorite cafés from all my travels, or escape the city jungle and head out to discover one other close by metropolis. Right here’s 5 of the most effective issues to do in your Sofia journey.
1. Find out about communist historical past
Bulgaria’s political previous is one thing that’s nonetheless woven all through the town, with big headquarters, structure, museums and statues representing the communist period from 1946 to 1989.
Whether or not you’re a complete beginner to communist historical past or all clued up and wish to see how if affected Bulgaria particularly, there’s a few locations and excursions so as to add to your Sofia communism class.
Coming from New Zealand, the place communism’s by no means touched anyplace close to our little nook of the world and the place I opted for maths and science lessons over historical past, geography and politics (nerd, I do know), my information of Jap Europe’s communist regimes was restricted.
First up is the Free Sofia strolling tour, which runs three or 4 occasions a day (relying on the season) and is tip-based. Your native tour information will take you round 20 of Sofia’s must-see spots, and also you’ll get a good overview of the historical past and politics of the town, in addition to a neighborhood’s tips about issues to do, eat and see.
Free Sofia additionally has a each day communism tour for under $11, which provides you a three-hour in-depth stroll via of the town’s communist landmarks in addition to an perception into what Sofia was prefer to stay in throughout these 43 years.
Need extra? Contemplate visiting the Nationwide Historic Museum or the Museum of Socialist Artwork, which is dwelling to the massive crimson star that sat on high of the communist occasion’s headquarters earlier than being overthrown within the late 80’s.
2. See the town’s most stunning spiritual buildings
Whereas the dominant faith in Bulgaria by far is Bulgarian Orthodox (at about 60%), there are some merely gorgeous church buildings, mosques, cathedrals and monasteries within the capital metropolis.
Begin off with essentially the most epic constructing within the metropolis, and one of many coolest buildings I’ve ever seen, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This significantly spectacular Orthodox church was began in 1882 however not completed till 30 years later, and it’s probably the most iconic landmarks in Bulgaria’s capital metropolis, with a 45m excessive gold-plated dome and inside manufactured from onyx, marble and different ultra-fancy supplies.
Different Orthodox church buildings which are price a go to are St Nicholas Church (a Russian Orthodox church), the Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church, and Sveta Nedelya Church, which has a dramatic historical past together with a funeral bombing in 1925 by the Communist Celebration the place over 500 of Bulgaria’s elite political figures had been injured and 150 had been killed.
After Jap Orthodox, the subsequent most typical faith is Islam, with as much as 15% of the inhabitants figuring out as Muslim. Bulgaria was below Ottoman rule for nearly 500 years, from the late 1300s till the Russian Empire took on the Ottoman Empire in 1878, however after being liberated because of Russia’s victory after which declaring independence in 1908, many buildings from this period had been repurposed or destroyed. The 16th century Banya Bashi Mosque is the one functioning mosque left in Sofia, and as such it’s a bustling hub for the town’s Muslim group.
Historic historical past followers will wish to make a cease at Sveti Georgi, a 4th-century Christian church constructed by the Romans within the historical metropolis of Serdica. It’s the oldest constructing within the metropolis, and it’s dwelling to some gorgeous frescoes courting again to the 10th century.
3. Devour all a budget meals
I’m a giant proponent for cooking your personal meals whereas travelling to stay inside a decent price range, and often permit myself a little bit of spending cash every week for a meal or two out. Buttttt in Sofia, I ate out each single meal of the entire week. Sure, I stated each single meal!
The native meals scene shouldn’t be solely low cost, nevertheless it’s really significantly spectacular too. From bakeries the place you may get 4 pastries or savouries for the equal of €1, to Instagrammable brunch spots with subsequent stage dishes, to conventional eating places serving up home-style dishes, I’d return in a second actually only for the meals.
There’s sure to be an eatery in Sofia good for no matter kind of meals tickles your fancy, however listed below are a few of my favourites.
Bistro Pesto was my primary, and I’m not ashamed to say I had lunch there 4 days in a row! They’re a brilliant cute nook restaurant near the principle buying boulevard, they usually serve Italian meals all day and night time. Their panini menu is wonderful; genuine Italian components and a Bulgarian price ticket. Win win!
Should you’re searching for a cool meals picture (no judgement right here), try the brunch menu at Rainbow Manufacturing unit or Boho. I didn’t make it to Rainbow Manufacturing unit however my hostel mates raved about it, and I can personally vouch for the Oreo pancake stack at Boho. Mmmmhmmmm.
And for a cheap however scrumptious sit-down dinner, be sure you go to the legends at Shtastlivetsa, a sequence restaurant with a HUGE menu of home-cooked meals. Costs are understandably a bit greater than the native avenue meals stalls, however the service is improbable, the meals are huge and there are many hearty Bulgarian dishes to select from.
4. Head into the mountains
Sofia’s panorama is uncommon when it comes to European capital cities, as a result of there’s a mountain vary so near the town centre. The underside of Vitosha Mountain is just 10kms or so from the town, and it’s simply reachable by taxi, public transport, or strolling if you wish to make a day of it.
In summer time Vitosha is a well-liked mountain climbing vacation spot, the place city-dwellers escape to on weekends to get some contemporary air. The very best peak is 2290m however there’s additionally hikes across the backside half of the mountain to totally different rivers and waterfalls.
Throughout winter, the mountain is a ski resort, good for any snow bunnies on a price range. Though it’s considerably less-developed than different European ski locations like Switzerland and France, your day cross and rental might be less expensive and your cash will go manner additional.
In addition to being an adrenaline exercise scorching spot, Vitosha is dwelling to a different Sofia must-see and a UNESCO World Heritage Website, Boyana Church. Boyana is an Orthodox church from the 11th century and is legendary for the various frescoes it homes, significantly a set from manner again in 1259.
5. Take a day journey
There’s some fairly unbelievable locations to see and expertise exterior of Sofia itself, so in case you’ve acquired the time, I’d advocate attempting to squeeze in a day journey or two!
My high choose for a day journey from Sofia is Plovdiv, one other Bulgarian metropolis and one of many two 2019 European Capitals of Tradition. Plovdiv is a few hours away from Sofia by bus, and tickets value about £6 every manner. When you’re within the metropolis I’d advocate leaping on a free strolling tour, run by the identical organisation who run the Sofia tour. They’ve acquired a metropolis tour each day year-round in addition to a free graffiti tour each day from October to April. And if you wish to discover your self, don’t miss the distinctive colored homes that line the streets within the previous city, it’s totally different to each different European previous city I’ve seen!
Fancy a piece out? There’s no higher place in Bulgaria to get shifting than within the Seven Rila Lakes space. Seven Rila Lakes is, you guessed it, dwelling to seven glacial lakes within the Rila mountain vary, and all are between 2100m and 2500m of altitude. It’s doable nevertheless it’s powerful to get there on public transport so it’s finest to rent a automotive and drive (1.5-2 hours), or to ebook an organised day tour or shuttle bus. Bonus tip: Don’t miss Rila Monastery, a 10th-century Jap Orthodox monastery and the most important within the nation. Effectively price a go to!
And there you could have it, a full journey information for Sofia and past in your Bulgarian journey! E-book your flight to Sofia now with STA Journey. If you wish to comply with extra of my adventures yow will discover me on Instagram.