• Spike

Sofia - Bulgaria

Updated: Jun 14, 2020

After being on several more exotic travels, I decided it was time to see a little more of Europe.

Sofia was a city I'd wanted to visit for quite some time. The flight and accommodation were cheap, so I visited for a long weekend.

For some reason the feel of the city reminded me of Vilnius, but I can't place my finger on why.

To explore the city I decided to join a free walking tour, on which I learnt quite a lot. Walking tours are now something I check out in various cities, and they have been mixed. Some positive and some negative, but the Sofia free walking tour was well worth it.

Sofia was a nice city to visit, and from here I was able to go on a day tour of Skopje in North Macedonia.

Bulgaria has a lot more to offer than just it's capital, and I wish I could have spent longer in the country to see some other places.

The city of Plodiv looks beautiful and I wish I'd spent a couple of day there. But the sight I'd love to see in Bulgaria is Magura Cave, an ancient cave with Neanderthal cave paintings!

St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral

The most popular sight in Sofia is it's beautiful cathedral. There are various beautiful churches in Sofia, of various different designs, but the cathedral is one of the most beautiful I've seen in any country. I'm sorry to say that I didn't visit the interior, but I believe it's just as beautiful inside too.

It's only just over 100 years old, which is quite surprising for such a grand structure.

It's better to visit during the day, but even during the night time, it's stunning when lit up against the darkness.

St. George Rotunda

The oldest building in Sofia is this 4th century Christian church. It can be found in a small courtyard behind the Presidency, as if hidden away from the rest of the city.

Despite it's age, both the exterior and interior are in quite good shape, but this is likely due to it's recent restoration.

If you join the free walking tour then this will be one of the stops and you'll be told quite a lot about the history behind it.

Sveta Sofia

A fairly recent addition to the city, being erected in 2000 to mark the millennium. A statue of Sofia, although she seems to share aspects of Athena too. Either way, they don't really have anything to do with the city per se, as the city was named after the church Hagia Sofia.

Her crown symbolises power, the wreath fame and the owl wisdom.

Roman Ruins

All over the city you'll find Roman ruins. Right in the centre of the city you'll come across an open air museum, completely free of charge of course, displaying ancient Serdica. You can walk around the foundations of ancient buildings and roads, which blend in with the modern day architecture.

There's also an Amphitheatre which was discovered in 2004 along with the other ruins.

Central Mineral Baths

Up until 1986 this impressive building housed the city's mineral baths. Nowadays it's a museum showcasing the regional history of Sofia.

It's worth passing by at least for a look at the building, but what's most interesting is that at the far sides you'll find small drinking fountains. These supply warm mineral spring water, which the locals regularly drink for their health. I recommend trying it, but it's tastes very strange, I think due to the lukewarmness of it.

Chalga Bars

Chalga is a form of folk pop music and dance. However most locals will warn you not to visit such bars or clubs, and for good reason.

They typically feature beautiful Bulgarian women, not wearing very much who will dance and sing to Chalga music. The men in the bar will then throw napkins at them, the more napkins the better and the girls will then join the men who throw the most napkins at them.

The real catch here is that the napkins cost money, ridiculous amounts of money, maybe something like 5 euros per napkin. So the men will buy overpriced napkins simply to throw on the girls to impress them. I think the record is for one customer to have spent somewhere around £1000 on napkins.

The appeal here for me though is just to throw a napkin. After the pub crawl the group and myself found a Chalga style bar, not quite the authentic style, as the napkins were on our table free of charge. So we just ended up throwing napkins at each other, much to the frustration of the owner of the bar.

Sofia Pub Crawl

Many cities offer guided pub crawls, and Sofia was the first time I tried one out. I've been on a few since, but none compared to this one. Put simply I had an awesome night!

When I arrived at the meeting point, I was alone, but thankfully the guide Joana turned up after a few minutes, and then gradually more people began to show. Throughout the night even more people joined and we visited various bars suggested by Joana.

It was a great way to meet locals and other tourists alike, so if you're looking for nightlife then I'd suggest giving this a try.

Vitosha Mountain

A sight I didn't get to see due to time and it being winter, but it can clearly be see overlooking the city in all it's grandeur.

During the warmer months it's great for hiking, but in the winter this can be more difficult, so there's also the options of taking the mountain lift.

There are plenty of winter sport activities to join in with during the winter. But I think it is said to be more beautiful during the summer months.

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