Dress – Vans Shoes – c/o Just Fab
I recently visited Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, with Karl as a surprise for his 25th. Sofia is a city we both wanted to visit for a while so I was SO excited to finally to go there.
Like I’ve said before with other European cities I’ve visited, so many people were asking me “But why Sofia??”. But WHY NOT Sofia!? I love to visit many of Europe’s top tourist destinations such as Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and Rome, but I also like to venture out to Europe’s lesser known cities and find those wonderful hidden gems. Travelling is all about the senses – the sounds, the tastes, the sights and the scents of a city. I love going somewhere different and experiencing a completely different culture, everywhere has a story to tell and I wanted to find out Sofia’s…
1. Vitosha Boulevard
Vitosha Boulevard is the main street in the centre of Sofia and it happened to be right where we were staying so we stumbled across it on the hunt for food. Vitosha Boulevard is a tourist hotspot and I did read to avoid it as its overpriced but we didn’t find this at all. It is full of shops, bars and restaurants – 24 hour restaurants! We didn’t land in Sofia until 9.30pm so it was perfect for us to catch a 11pm dinner.
Vitosha Boulevard was always buzzing and had wonderful views of Vitosha Mountain. Our favourite places along the boulevard included:
- Raffy Bar & Gelato – a lovely modern restaurant where we enjoyed pizza during the day and then went back in the evening for sangria
- Pizza Palace – which we actually didn’t have pizza at but enjoyed a really lovely goats cheese salad and the most amazing cider called Orchard Thieves
- Confetti – This became our usual pitstop on our way home for ice cream. The flavours change daily, my favourite had to be Sesame!
- UGO – We went here on the night we arrived for our late dinner. It’s great for traditional food and Bulgarian wine – a half bottle of wine is about £6.
We also enjoyed Bottega (above) which is located just off Vitosha Boulevard and on the same street we were staying on. Here you can try Italian dishes as well as traditional Bulgarian dishes and very good wine, hence the name.
Bulgarian wine shouldn’t be missed – it is absolutely delicious and very affordable. Every restaurant we went to offered a good selection of Bulgarian wines so it’s not hard to find.
2. Boyana Waterfall
For me holidays are all about eating and drinking and not doing very much apart from the odd bit of sightseeing. But seeing as it was Karl’s birthday trip, I suggested we visited Boyana Waterfall (I regretted it a little bit…but it was totally worth it…)
Sofia is fortunate that it is located a 20-30 minute drive from Boyana Waterfall (plus an hour walk). We got a cab from Vitosha Boulevard which cost around £15-20. Remember to take a taxi number for the way back or have the number of your hotel/hostel to help you get one back as there won’t be any taxis waiting and we were told some drivers don’t like going there to pick you up. Alternatively you can get the 64 bus to neighbourhood of Boyana.
Since our trip I’ve read that there’s a choice of two paths, one that is easy to walk but takes two hours, and one that is steep but takes just an hour. It appears we took the short path because it was so steep and quite a shock for a lazy person who never goes on hikes! But it was great fun and so worth it for the beautiful views of Sofia and the waterfall, it was one of the highlights of our trip.
3. The Architecture
The buildings in Sofia are absolutely gorgeous – everywhere is so picture perfect!
Here’s some of my favourite buildings we saw:
The top of my Sofia to-do list was to see Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (below) which is an extremely impressive building. We visited late on a Sunday morning and it was so quiet which was fantastic, it was perfect for photos and so peaceful unlike any London landmark you would visit!
The Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the second biggest Orthodox church in the Balkans. It was built to honour of the Russian soldiers who died in the Russo-Turkish (1877-78) war which resulted in Bulgaria being free from Ottoman rule.
The Russian Saint Nicholas Church (below) is another beautiful building. The colourful church is just a few minutes walk from Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Sofia is an absolutely fascinating city for those looking to see some history during their trip as it is one of Europe’s oldest cities.
While walking around Sofia one evening we stumbled across roman ruins. The restored Ancient Roman complex of Serdica – which is located in the centre of Sofia – opened in 2016. The ruins are located by the Government Office and the Sheraton Hotel. Amongst the ruins is the St George Rotunda which dates back to 4th century A.D. and is the oldest and best preserved Roman building in Sofia.
4. You can visit on a tight budget
Sofia is ideal for those looking to visit on a budget. With £6 bottles of wine and £2.50 for a Kir Royale, of course Sofia stole my heart…
Not only is Sofia very affordable when it comes to accommodation, taxis, food and drink, it also offers plenty of free things to do.
There’s a free food tour – Balkan Bites – which appears to be really popular with tourists. The tours run daily and they are completely free, you just need to tip. The tour leaves at 2pm every day (except national holidays) from Park Crystal. The tour lasts 2.5 hours but there are limited spaces so arrive early. We planned to go but didn’t get round to it in the end…an excuse to go back! There’s also plenty of free walking tours to take advantage of, and if you don’t want to go on a guided tour then you can easily walk around the city centre in a few hours and see all of the top sights and not spend a penny. You can even visit buildings such as The Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral at no cost too. There’s also free/cheap graffiti tours and pub crawls available.
For more freebie things to do in Sofia scroll down for information on our accommodation.
Sofia is a city for everyone. It’s suitable for any budget, there’s 24 hour bars and restaurants, the city is full of history and for the adventurous ones, the city is so close to Vitosha Mountain and Boyana Waterfall.
I would definitely go back to Sofia and I would say it’s one of my favourite places I visited in recent years. There’s plenty of reasons why you should visit Sofia but these are juts four of my favourite things we experienced in the 48 hours we were there.
Where to stay
Before booking this trip I searched the internet for travel guides but there aren’t many out there. But of the ones I did find, almost every one recommended Hostel Mostel (what a name!). I was won over this by place not only because of the name and the amazing price (it cost £10 per person per night for our own private room) but because I read that free breakfast, dinner and beer was included.
Booking a private room meant we were about a 10 minute walk from the actual hostel so we didn’t even take advantage of the breakfast, dinner and beer. But it had its perks because our new location was much better as we were just off Vitosha Boulevard. I would definitely recommend Hostel Mostel for those looking to book a trip on a budget.
How to get there
We flew from London Stansted with Ryanair and flew back from Wizzair to Luton for around £110 each return. We visited at the end of April and the weather was perfect – so warm, sunny and dry at 29 degrees.