East-meets-west in this dynamic city…
Bulgaria’s capital has blossomed in recent years. No longer the staid, somber place of communist times, it is now a youthful, vital city with plenty to offer its visitors. Sofia’s history under Soviet rule is clearly visible in many of its buildings, most apparent in the neo-classical Stalinist architecture in the city centre and the block-housing in the suburbs. Coming in from outside Sofia for the first time can be a mood-zapping experience, but delve deeper and the austere style of architecture is softened by the opulent neo-Byzantine Orthodox churches, stunning Ottoman Mosques, fine balconied buildings and attractive tree-lined boulevards. It’s a cultured city with museums, art galleries, good restaurants and theatres plus plenty of five-star hotels and some impressive shopping. It’s also compact and walkable, and time spent wandering around its streets gives you a real taste of east-meets-west.
The architecture in Sofia is both incredibly interesting and impressive. There are lots of good bars and restaurants and the scenery around the capital is stunning. It has some delightful parks and its compactness makes it possible to explore the city by foot.
When to Go?
Temperatures in Sofia tend to be cooler than other parts of Bulgaria in summer due to the high altitude of the valley in which it is situated. However, during the hottest months of July and August, Sofia temperatures still regularly hit 35ºC. Late spring and early autumn are pleasant times to visit when the weather is mild and flights are cheaper than in the cold of winter when the skiers come flocking in.
How to get there?
Direct flights are available from London Gatwick, London Heathrow and Manchester to Sofia Airport, located about 10km from the city center. Taxis at the airport are regulated and only the OK Taxi company is officially allowed to service the airport. Use them - the rest of the taxis touting for business will overcharge you.
Eat at Sasa Sushi on the 20th floor of the Hemus Hotel. The views are wonderful, the restaurant is nicely designed, and the food’s delicious. Visit the extremely impressive Alexander Nevski cathedral and then hop to the flea market out in front. If you can, go the Rila Monastery. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the chapel and art are truly arresting. It’s possible to do the trip via tram and bus, but far easier to hire a car or take a tour if time is short.