I recently found myself in the sunny city of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. I must admit, I hadn’t had much time to prepare myself (thanks wedding stress) and I had no idea where I was staying in relation to all of the top sights and sounds. As usual, it was going to be a flying visit so I wanted to maximise the short amount of free time I had before I was confined to a conference room. Getting to my hotel at about 2:30 pm didn’t leave me much of the afternoon left, so I gave myself a quick half hour to sit on Google maps and headed off into town, sunglasses and bottle of water in tow! So what did I discover in my few hours exploring and what did I find to love in Sofia?
1. There is so much green space in the city centre
Honestly, almost every corner I came to brought a different lush green area to relax and watch the world go by from. The flower beds were full of blooms and the areas were clean and well kept.
2. Incredible architecture
Everywhere you turn, there are beautiful old buildings and striking places of worship. One of my favourite was the Alexander Nevski Cathedral that I walked through one of those lovely little parks to get to. There is also the University building and the Russian Church that are both stunning to look at.
3. People get out and about
Even though I was wandering around on a Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm, people weren’t holed up in their office blocks slaving away in front of screens. There were people meandering everywhere (and boy, do Bulgarians walk slowly!) and it gave the city a really upbeat atmosphere.
4. Sunshine in April
Need I say more?! When I arrived it was a wonderful 29°, giving me a much-needed Vitamin D boost coming from unpredictable and rainy England in Spring. It was tshirt and sunglasses weather and I loved every second of it.
5. Cheap food and drinks
Eating and drinking out seems to be a big part of the culture in Sofia (as does smoking!) and the main pedestrianised street, Vitosha Boulevard, is full of cafes and bars that spill out onto the streets. It probably helps that I found the food and drink to be very reasonably priced while I was there, so there’s really no excuse to not head out and enjoy the cuisine.
6. Mountains overlooking the city
The Vitosha mountain range was one of the first things I noticed when I emerged from Sofia airport – they sit proudly to the South of the city and overlook you as you walk around. They are easily visible from almost anywhere and their snow-capped peaks added a certain charm to the city. Apparently they are also great for skiing in the winter – perfect!
7. Cheap and efficient public transport
I often find myself having to navigate my way around a city’s public transport system – whether it is a Myki card in Melbourne, an Octopus card in Hong Kong or the good old Oyster on the tube. In Sofia, it was remarkably easy. 1 Lev (approximately 44p) will get you a single ticket that’s valid for 20 minutes travel on the metro system. Plenty long enough to get me from Sofia Business Park, where my hotel was, to the centre of town. Cheap, regular and efficient. Very impressive.
So that’s what I learned in my whistle stop tour of the city – have you ever been to Bulgaria? What did you think to Sofia?