Sofia – a weekend city trip to Bulgaria

When I have recently been looking for destinations for a short city trip, I had the idea to fly to Sofia. It’s not a city as famous as Rome or Paris, but in the past I always have been exploring cities in Eastern Europe to be not only cheap options to travel to, but also really interesting ones. So was Sofia.

As I was travelling alone, I tried to keep my costs low, but nonetheless I chose the flights with the times suiting my plan better: travelling from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon. Only a short trip, but it was the perfect time for me in this city. I flew there on Wizz Air and back on Ryanair and stayed at the easyHotel (Tripadvisor), which made it an all-around low cost trip.

As I already said, I had a great stay here, in the following I’ll show you what you can do on a three day trip to Sofia:

Day 1

Best is to book a hotel near a metro station in the city center. After arrival at Sofia Airport, you can take the metro to the city center, which costs only 1,60 BGN per way. It’s not only the cheapest and easiest way to the city, but you can also avoid to be ripped-off by fraudulent taxi drivers. At the airport there are two machines to buy your ticket from, one is only accepting cash money, the other one also gives the option to pay contactless by credit card. In some stations in the city center you also have both machines, but not in all stations, what makes having a few coins for a metro ticket in your pocket always makes sense.

The first day is perfect for first explorations in the city. As Sofia has a lot of history to offer, a trip to the Largo, right in the city center is a good point to get started at. An impressive building that is used to house administrative bureaus. You can get here by metro, bus or tram, just get off at the Serdika station.

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Buildings from the Socialist Past of Bulgaria are shaping the streetscape of Sofia, every now and then you will find some.

Above the Sadika Metro station, you will also find an important landmark of the city: the statue of Sofia,  which has been erected in the place where you once found a Lenin Statue before 1990. It is meant to watch over the city and defend it.

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On the opposite side of the street you also find the Archeaological Complex Serdika, where ruins and excavations of the ancient Sofia are preserved. Serdika was the name of the Roman settlemend which was located where you find the city of Sofia today. Parts of the excavations are dating back to that time.

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If you walk down the Bulevard Aleksandr Stamboliyski, starting from the Saint Nedelya Church, you will not only find several shops and bars along this street, but you will end up at the Mall of Sofia. If you like shopping, you can be sure to find something here. The largest shopping mall in the city offers a lot for every taste. Even if you’re just hungry, you can grab something to eat at the food court.

If you are looking for somewhere to have dinner at, near the Saint Nedelya Church you’ll find several restaurants.

Day 2

Something you shouldn’t miss when in Sofia is the Borisova Gradina (Boris’ Garden). It is a huge park which is great for some recreation. You can not only walk through it and enjoy the nature within the city, you can also do some sightseeing here. You find the Vasil Levski National Stadium, Bulgaria’s second largest stadium and the home of the Bulgarian Soccer National Team right next to the park. You actually can’t miss it, you can see the floodlights from far away.

You also find the Bratska Mogila, a memorial for the communist guerillas and the fallen of the September Uprising in 1923.

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Besides many areas to sit down and relax, you also find the Sofia Zoo on the southern End of the Park

You can reach the park easily by metro, just go to the St. Kliment Ohridski Sofia University or Vasil Levski Stadium station for example.

You should definitely plan some time to explore the park. After you did so, you can walk over to the National Palast of Culture (NDK). It is the largest Congress Center in Southeast Europe and a landmark of the city. Important meetings of international companies and politics take place here as well as concerts, dances and works of art. From the fountain in front of it, you have a great view onto this huge building.

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Opposite of the building you find the entrance to the Vitosha Boulevard, the well-known shopping street and pedestrian zone of Sofia. You find many shops, cafés and restaurants in the surrounding, don’t miss out on exploring the side roads, they also have a lot to offer.

Day 3

Before leaving Sofia again, you should not miss out on the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Churches in the world and possibly the most famous landmark of Sofia. It is a beautiful building, the golden domes are making it stand out from the other cathedrals in the city. Also on the inside, only best materials from all over the world have been used to build this cathedral, it is definitely worth a visit.

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Right next to it you find the Saint Sofia Church, the eponym of the city (and the statue previously described). The second oldest church of the city has been started to be built in the 4th century.

To complete the tour of the most important churches of the city, you can find the Russian Church of Sofia nearby. After Bulgaria was freed from the Ottoman Empire in 1882, this church was built on the site of the destroyed Saray Mosque. Supervisor of the building process was Alexander Smirnov, who also was involved in the designing the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

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From here you can walk back into the direction of the Serdika Station again, where you can find Sofia’s oldest building. Right behind the Sofia Hotel Balkan there is the Church of St. George Rotunda. It is estimated that this building is from the 4th century. The building was used as site for different religiouns over the past centuries and it is famous for the frescoes on the inside. Those frescoes have been restored in the last century as the have been overpainted during this building was used as a mosque.

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Depending on how much time you have still left, you can either have lunch in a nearby restaurant on the Vitosha Boulevard, or you can take a Central Synagogue right next to the Cedral Market Hall on Ekzarh Yosif Street and Knyaginya Maria Luzia Boulevard.

From here you can also easily get back to the airport by metro (Serdika Station), as the short trip is already about to end.

As I am sure you will be looking for some culinary highlights during your trip, and you might want to have some drinks or coffee, here are some recommendations:

 

Hot to get to Sofia?

Sofia is easily accessible by plane. The National Airline Bulgaria Air offers flights here from big cities all over Europe and from Tel Aviv. The low cost carrier Wizz Air and Ryanair are also offering flight from different European Cities as well as from Dubai and Tel Aviv (both by Wizz Air) to Sofia.

If those airlines are not serving an airport near you or you come from farther away, here are some airlines also serving Sofia: Aegean Airlines (via Athens), Aeroflot (via Moscow), Austrian Airlines (via Vienna), British Airways (via London), flydubai (via Dubai), LOT Polish Airlines (via Warsaw), Lufthansa (via Frankfurt and Munich), Qatar Airways (via Doha) and Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul).

To get the cheapest prices, either check on the airlines homepages, or use a searching tool such as www.skyscanner.com or www.kayak.com.

Besides that, you can also go to Sofia by bus, train or car from all over Europe.

Thank you for reading, we hope we were able to give you some interesting insight for your next trip.

You can contact us by commenting below or just dropping an e-mail to thealterlookout@freenet.de in case you have any questions or suggestions. Also don’t forget to follow our Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/thealterlookout) and Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/thealterlookout) to be always up to date about our blog posts and to see some pictures even while we are travelling.

 

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