Sofia Guide

Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and its largest city with a population of over 1.4 million inhabitants. Situated in the western central part of the country it lies at the heart of the Sofia plateau, dominated by the Balkan mountains to the north and the Vitosha mountains to the south. Sofia is linked by road and rail with the capitals of Europe although most visitors from Western Europe and beyond arrive by air. The city centre is 10 km from the airport and can be reached in 15 minutes by taxi or 20 minutes by bus, depending on traffic conditions. The cost by taxi is not expensive but its best to take a yellow cab (with a meter) or otherwise to negotiate the price beforehand. The main tourist attractions in the city centre lie in the area between the Sveta Nedelya Plaza to the west and the Alexander Nevsky Plaza to the east and can easily be visited on foot. If you wish to go further afield there is an extensive network of buses and trams covering the whole city but you shouldn't be in a hurry as the transport is slow. The National Tourist Information Centre in Sveta Nedelya Plaza is open weekdays and provides comprehensive tourist information, whilst they do not make hotel bookings directly for you they do distribute guides with accommodation solutions to suit every pocket. All kinds of eating places are available in the city with anything from fast food to standard European fare to traditional Bulgarian cuisine.

As can be expected of a capital city Sofia offers many attractions, galleries, museums, theatres and restaurants but except for various Byzantine and Roman ruins and a few mosques little trace remains of it Sofia's colourful history.The most architecturally significant buildings post date Bulgaria's liberation from the Ottoman empire at the end of the 19th century. Today the main tourist attraction is the Alexander Nevskey Cathedral standing in a vast open plaza which is also home to a popular open-air market where icons, jewellery, embroidery, paintings, other crafts and antique objects are sold. Across the road from the market one can visit the Hagia Sofia Church from which the city takes it name.

Other tourist attractions within walking distance include: Banya Bashi Dzhamiya (Banya Bashi Mosque), Tsentralnata Banya (Central Baths), St. Georges Rotunda, Zhenski Pazar (Women's Market), the Church of Sveta Nedelya, the Russian Church of St Nicholas, the National History Museum, and the Alexandar Batenberg Square.

If you are out to shop just try walking along the Vitosha and the Maria Louiza boulevards where you should find whatever you are looking for.

The real charm of Sofia lies in its broad tree-lined boulevards linked by narrow side streets and with the occasional green area or square. The city's character, is to be found in its street life, locals meet for coffee at open-air cafes or just sit chatting in the parks where groups of men congregate around chess boards. So, if you are just on a mid-summer flight stopover on your way to a Black Sea resort why not just join the locals, find a shady cafe and enjoy a beer or an ice cream. Try not to miss visiting a traditional Taverna for a taste of local food and traditional music.

Sofia at a glance
  • Capital of Bulgaria
  • Commercial, political and cultural heart of the country
  • Well connected with European capitals by road, rail or air
  • Ideal central location for Vitosha mountain holidays
  • Attractions from markets to museums
  • More resort guides
Sofia hotels

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