Look past the coastal holiday resorts and mountainous ski retreats of Bulgaria and you’ll find a charming city which is all too often discounted by those traveling through Europe. Sofia combines western European culture with ancient Eastern history, making a vibrant and enchanting city to visit.
Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city, is an eclectic mix of old meets new, east meets west. Ottoman-era religious buildings give way to contemporary hotels and entertainment venues, while Eastern-bloc relics and architecture provide a reminder of the country’s Soviet past. A cultural hub with a huge variety of things to see and do, Sofia is the place to visit for those with an interest in history, hiking, art and much, much more. Read on to discover your next European destination.
Sofia is awash with historical religious sites. Of Bulgaria’s most famous sites is the Alexander Nevski church, a commemorative piece of architectural beauty built to honor the memory of those Russian soldiers who died in the Russo-Turkish war, fighting for an independent Bulgaria.
This iconic church is a must-see for all visiting Bulgaria. Another famous religious landmark is the Sveta Nedalya cathedral, a medieval church which has been renovated many times. Its most recent incarnation was completed in the 20th century, following a terrorist attack from the Bulgarian Communist Party. Elsewhere in the city, remnants of Bulgaria’s Soviet history can be found. Be sure to visit the enormous monument to the soviet army – a statue built to honor the Red Army.
Things to Do
For those with an interest in medieval and Roman history, the National Archaeological Museum is not to be missed. Furnished in a 15th Century mosque in the heart of Sofia, the oldest mosque in the city and an Ottoman architectural delight in itself, the National Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove of artifacts dating back to the Thracian period.
If you’re the outdoor type, consider visiting Borisova Grandina, Sofia’s most famous and arguably most beautiful park.
For the more adventurous traveler, Bulgaria’s capital city also offers a number of hikes in the Balkan Mountains. The Central Balkan National Park is the ideal place for a long trek, and many companies offer pre-organised week long expeditions through the mountains. Don’t forget to book single trip travel insurance when traveling abroad, especially if you’re intending to take part in one such adventure trail.
Places to Stay
Sofia is home to a wide range of accommodation, ranging from ultra-modern hotels for the luxury traveler to boutique hostels for the budget backpacker.
Five star hotels including the Hilton Sofia and Grand Hotel Sofia immerse guests in style and elegance, offering everything from tennis courts to meeting and business rooms; however it is still possible to see Sofia in all its glory without splashing the cash.
Budget hostels such as Hostel Mostel and the Internet Hostel Sofia provide dorm rooms and private rooms in central locations, giving visitors easy access to all of the city’s best sites. Wherever you stay, make sure to surround yourself in the culture and history of Europe’s best kept secret, Sofia.
Roxanne Seabourne is the Marketing Executive at Avanti Travelcare, who specialize in travel insurance for those with pre-existing medical conditions, and are one of very few that have no upper age limit on their policies.