The capital of Bulgaria might not be the first destination that comes to your mind when you think about spending a couple of exciting days in one of Europe’s many beautiful cities. Since I don’t want you to miss out on this exceptional city I recently spent three days there and will share everything you need to know in a few posts on this blog. Let’s start with the basics!
Travel to Sofia Within Europe Sofia is definitely one of the most affordable cities to travel to. Ryanair offers flights as cheap as 25 Euros there and back from many airports throughout the continent. Sofia airport is located very near to the city centre so that you won’t have to invest more than 10 Euros to reach the centre comfortably in a taxi. If you are a passionate fan of traveling by train, you could also include Sofia on your Interrail adventure throughout Sotheastern Europe.
Accomodation in Sofia When it comes to finding a comfortable bed in Sofia, you won’t have to spend a crazy amount of money. Hostel Mostel offers a variety of rooms, from dorms to private double rooms. The hostel is very clean and offers a pretty great breakfast ,dinner and a variety of fun activities. The best thing about staying here is the beautiful common area, where guests spend their evenings chatting away, playing pool and preparing for a pub crawl. I met some very interesting people from all over the world there and would definitely choose it again!
The cityscape With a population of 1.26 million inhabitants Sofia is Bulgaria’s largest city and therefore its cultural centre. Thanks to its crazy history of being controlled by very different empires, such as the Ottomans and the Soviets, the cityscape is very diverse: Ottoman magnificent buildings, such as Banya Bashi Mosque, a cathedral built in Neo-Byzantine style and very typical Soviet buildings create a fascinating mix of architecture. When you allow yourself to see through the rough edges on Sofia’s streets you will find it to be very lively and modern. Hipster bars, a variety of theatres and many parks turn this place into a city well worth seeing.
Must see sights Thankfully, all the beautiful things Sofia has to offer are situated in walking distance. Here is a list of my favourite things to visit:
- Aleksander Nevski Cathedral: I can’t recall being so impressed by a cathedral before. It was built in memory of the Russian soldiers who fought for Bulgaria’s independence during the Russo-Turkish war and was designed to remind us of classic Byzantine style. Make sure to walk around the entire building; you will find many fascinating details in its facade.
- Sofia University: Have you ever dreamed about attending Hogwarts? Well, Harry Potter’s school obviously cannot be found in Bulgaria but the university of Sofia reminds me a lot of Hogwarts. It was constructed in the early 20th century and is full of very charming, old hallways and classrooms. At the top floor you will find a very unexpected, beastly surprise!
- Banya Bashi Mosque on a Friday: Unfortunately I didn’t manage to see this Ottoman mosque from the inside but when I passed by on Friday I couldn’t help but notice the colourful prayer mats outside the building. Since the place of worship is too small for its community, Muslims take a seat in the streets of Sofia and take part in the traditional Friday prayer. That is for sure an unusual and interesting sight! In the current political dispute about our fellow Muslim citizens it was quite refreshing to witness how naturally Bulgarian muslims formed a part of the city’s landscape.
- Open-Air Bookmarket: I am a book nerd with a special preference for old, second-hand books. The widespread bookmarket in the city centre is filled with Bulgarian and foreign language books and a great place to discover some real treasures.
- Sveti Nikolai Russian Church: The golden domes of this church from 1914 can be seen from far away and create an almost magical image.