I had heard a lot of good things about Bulgaria and during this trip I thought I’d stop by Sofia, which is one of the oldest cities in Europe. What I can say is that although this place seems rough around the edges, it’s a fantastic and affordable destination.
The Night Bus Journey From Hell
If I had any advice on taking a night bus, I’d say don’t do it. It seemed that the only bus I could get from Bucharest to Sofia was at 11:30PM and it was horrible. I felt so uncomfortable that I did not get any sleep and I arrived in Sofia at 6AM and had to find somewhere to keep warm for a few hours.
Staying at Ivory Tower Hostel
This hostel I stayed in was quite good, the price was very agreeable and the location was very central. It was more or less right in the middle of the city and although it was very basic accommodation, I could not complain.
The National Military History Museum
This place is in itself reason enough to visit Sofia and is a little bit outside of the centre of the city. Although Sofia is quite a walkable city, I recommend taking the bus to get here which takes about half an hour. It’s an open-air museum mostly and there is also a fairly small indoor exhibition about the history of Bulgaria and the many wars involving this country. It costs 2 lev (90p) and you are free to look at all the incredible military vehicles.
The vast majority of the vehicles on display in this museum are from the communist era and were supplied by the Soviet Union to the Bulgarian military. It ranges from infantry vehicles, to tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This is one of the buildings which is easily associated with Sofia, this church was built in honour of Bulgaria’s independence from the Ottomans in 1878 and is one of the biggest orthodox churches I have ever seen. To go inside as well is quite interesting and it feels like a very holy site.
St George Rotunda
Right in the middle of a courtyard of what looks like some government offices, lies an Orthodox church which dates back to the 4th century. It is located in a hole in the ground and is one of the most unusual churches I have ever seen. You are free to go in, but it is a rather small church and there isn’t too much to see inside.
Walking Down Vitosha Boulevard
This place is the main pedestrian street of Sofia and is home to bars, restaurants and coffee shops. I recommend stopping for a coffee at Cafe Memento, the prices are decent and it has a very nice setting for having a morning coffee. There are also some good places to grab a beer such as Trafa Beerhouse nearby and you can’t miss eating some baklava that can be found in many of the places there such as Beyzade.
Looking at The Serdica Ancient Complex
This place has quite a fascinating story to it, in 2004, the Sofia metro was undergoing expansion and by digging into the ground, a large area of ruins dating back to Roman times had been discovered. Around the metro station you can find information about of the ancient artefacts that had been discovered and the ruins of a whole amphitheatre can be seen.
Walking Around the “Women’s Market”
This place isn’t too remarkable as it is simply just a market, however it is relatively big, it’s not just fruit and vegetables you can find here. You can see locals going about doing their daily shop, I even saw a TV up to a window broadcasting an old football game.
Drinking From the Mineral Water Springs
What made Sofia such an inhabitable city back in the day was its incredible source of mineral and to this day there are fountains nearby which you can drink from. The building next to these fountains is now the Sofia Regional History museum and used to be the site of a Turkish bath.
Banya Bashi Mosque
This place is the only functioning mosque in Sofia and was built all the way back in 1566 when Bulgaria was under Ottoman rule. It’s incredible that this place has stood the tests of time and has been through so many wars unscathed. It is completely open to the public and it was first time I had been inside of a mosque.
Final Thoughts on Sofia
Sofia is an affordable city to visit and I enjoyed being exposed to so much history. Unfortunately, my last day there was a Monday meaning all the museums were closed and there were a few other museums I had wanted to visit. In saying that, I definitely want to come back to Sofia for this reason and also see a few other places in Bulgaria.