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Sofia Mini Guide
Introducing the Capital of Bulgaria
Sofia is the capital and largest city in Bulgaria. It is also the 14th most populous city in Europe. Declared a Beta World City for its quality of life and facilities, it is the only capital city in the world to have a ski resort in the middle of the city.
A Brief History Lesson
Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe dating back over 2,500 years. It was originally built by the Thracians to enable them to use the nearby hot springs which still function today. The city then became a thriving Roman city before being marginalised during the Ottoman rule. During the era of communism, it grew again in importance after being made capital of the country.
Options to get There
Sofia Airport is 7 miles outside of the city and served by a range of chartered, scheduled and budget airlines. Shuttle buses can take you into the city centre.
How you can Occupy Your Time in Sofia
As the oldest city in Europe, there’s history at nearly every turn and many ancient ruins dot the city centre. You need to see the Viennese yellow cobbled pavement that was laid as a bizarre wedding present for the Tsar Ferdinand from the Austro-Hungarian royal family. The National Museum of History is a very comprehensive exhibit of the development of the country in all aspects over the last 2,500 years. It’s well set out and a lot of the exhibits are labelled in English. Allow several hours for this fascinating visit. Finally, head for the cathedral, Hagia Sophia, from which the city got its name. It’s a stunning building that was a mosque during Ottoman rule.
What to see Outside the City
On the outskirts of the city is the Boyana Church, unusual in its design, and which contains reputedly the finest medieval paintings in Europe. Further out is the magnificent Rila Monastery, the most famous and fabulous in the country. Finally, if planning a longer trip out, head for the country’s second city, Plovdiv, for a more traditional look at Bulgarian city life.
Things to Do in Sofia
In the winter, take a day trip up Vitosha in the middle of the city for some skiing. The same area is also fabulous for walking and enjoying the natural surroundings when the city overheats in the summer. A great – and free – thing to do is to take the two hour walking tour of Sofia which starts from the Palace of Justice. You’ll see many things normally hidden to tourists and find out more about the city. Finally, you could visit the mineral springs to take the waters.
For Keen Shoppers
For traditional Bulgarian souvenirs and crafts head for the shop in the Ethnographic Museum whilst those looking for modern shopping experiences could try the SkyCity Mall or if you’re loaded, head for Vitosha Boulevard’s designer shops. It’s ranked as the 22nd most expensive street in the world.
Eat, Drink and be Merry
For great atmosphere, traditional Bulgarian cuisine cooked to perfection and a selection of the local alcohol products try Hadjidraganovite Kashti where a Bulgarian band entertains you whilst you eat. Bulgaria is renowned for its own form of pizza. The best place to try it is at Victoria Pizza.
Festivals and Events
Sofia is home to many rock and pop festivals and anyone who’s anyone has played there over the years. If heading for the city in the summer, check out the city’s website to see who’s at this year’s event. Religious festivals were frowned upon in the communist era and are only now beginning to take on the flamboyancy due to them. The other big event is the Sofia International Film Festival often graced by the occasional B list celebrity.
16/05/12 - From the 23rd of May to the 27th of June this year you'll be able to experience the delights of Sofia Music Weeks as part of the Sofia Music Festival. Many new pieces will be performed at venues across the city and further information can be found at www.sofiamusicweeks.com.