The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia isn’t the first place on many travellers’ lists of cities to visit but after a recent short break there I’d definitely recommend giving it a visit on your next European travels.
Having graduated from Coventry University a couple of months ago, course mates and I wanted to get away, I certainly would never have considered Sofia if it wasn’t for one of my friends suggesting it. So off we went to explore somewhere new and celebrate four years hard work at university.
People I speak to seem amazed at the prospect of their actually being hot weather in Eastern Europe, it was probably just above that level of comfortable heat in Sofia and it hit us as soon as we got off the plane.
We stayed for the four days in Hostel Mostel, a comfortable, incredibly friendly and clean hostel with good WiFi (no third world problems here!). As well as being the cheapest place I’ve ever stayed (£15 for the three nights) they also offered breakfast and a vegetarian dinner included in the price! Check them out here.
A great way to see all the best sights in the city is taking advantage of the free walking tours run by Free Sofia Tours, I think these sorts of tours although a bit touristy are a good way of seeing all the best bits a city has to offer. Then if you want to go and explore one sight you saw on the tour in more detail you can return another day!
The most impressive sights that Sofia has to offer are definitely the religious buildings dotted around the city; these include the Sveta Nedelya Church, Sofia Synagogue and the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Travelling to the top of the Vitosha Mountains is another must; unless you’re prepared for quite a long hike the best option to get to the top is the cable car. It should be noted that we missed out on the chance to see the stunning views over Sofia because the cable car only runs at weekends! I can imagine the Vitosha Mountains are also an incredible mountain range to ski down in the winter.
If you are prepared to go a little way out of the city I totally recommend the Korali mineral water pool, it’s a great place to relax in the idyllic Vitosha Mountains whilst grabbing a beer from the bar which sits in the lido itself. You can also see the Pancharevo lake from Korali, here you can hire water sports equipment and enjoy in the shade of the mountains. Korali is a fifteen-minute taxi ride from the city centre at around 15 Lev, for more information visit here.
I think one reason that some people in the UK and Western Europe are reluctant to visit Eastern European countries is because they perceive them to be unsafe or that they just won’t enjoy themselves. Sofia was actually anything but that, not once did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Everyone who we interacted with was genuinely friendly and helpful nullify any preconceived stereotypes.
The food on offer in Sofia provides a great mix that will please everyone, from more western styles to traditional Bulgarian dishes there is something for all. We enjoyed a traditional Bulgarian meal at Lubimoto, a picturesque wooden restaurant sandwiched in a courtyard surrounded by high rise buildings. I’d also recommend a visit to Supa Star, a trendy soup cafe with a fantastic mix of freshly made soups including a few traditional Bulgarian recipes.
I think everyone’s experiences of cities around the world is going to be very different but I can honestly I came away from Sofia with nothing but positive feelings and memories. I enjoyed myself a lot more than I expected and I can say that I would definitely recommend people making a visit.
At the end of all my travel related blogs I’m going to rate the cities I’ve visited, check out Sofia’s rating below:
Value ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Safety ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Sightseeing ♥ ♥ ♥
Atmosphere ♥ ♥ ♥
Location ♥ ♥ ♥
Overall ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
P.S. Now I couldn’t write a blog without a mention of coffee, whilst we were away we were introduced to Full Circle Roasters, an independent coffee company in Dublin. Run by a group of young graduates doing good things with coffee beans, if you could support Mark and his team by liking their Facebook page I’m sure they’d appreciate it. You can visit it here.