SOFIA

Bulgaria

Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. Sofia is the 15th largest city in the European Union with population of more than 1.2 million people. The city is located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain in the western part of the country, within less than 50 kilometres (31 mi) drive from the Serbian border.

Info Sofia

introduction

Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. Sofia is the 15th largest city in the European Union with population of more than 1.2 million people. The city is located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain in the western part of the country, within less than 50 kilometres (31 mi) drive from the Serbian border. Its location in the centre of the Balkan peninsula means that it is the midway between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea, whereas the Aegean Sea is the closest to it.

Sofia is a dynamic European capital, distinguished by its unique combination of European and Communist-style architecture as well as many beautiful Orthodox churches. Furthermore, it claims to be one of the few European capitals with beautiful scenery and a developed ski-resort so close to it - the Vitosha mountain.

Sofia has been an area of human habitation since at least 7000 BCE. Many of the major universities, cultural institutions and commercial companies of Bulgaria are concentrated in Sofia. Sofia is one of the top 10 best places for start-up business in the world, especially in IT technologies.Sofia is Europe's most affordable capital to visit.

info
POPULATION : 1,228,000
FOUNDED :  7000 BC
TIME ZONE : EET (UTC+2)   Summer: EEST (UTC+3)
LANGUAGE : Bulgarian 84.5%, Turkish 9.6%, Roma 4.1%, other and unspecified 1.8%
RELIGION : Bulgarian Orthodox 82.6%, Muslim 12.2%, other Christian 1.2%, other 4%
AREA : 492 km2 (190 sq mi)
ELEVATION : 500–800 m (1,707–2,888 ft)
COORDINATES : 42.70°N 23.33°E
SEX RATIO : Male: 48.60% 
 Female: 51.40%
ETHNIC : Bulgarian 76.9%, Turk 8%, Roma 4.4%, other 0.7%
AREA CODE :
POSTAL CODE : 1000
DIALING CODE : (+359) 02
WEBSITE : Official Website

Tourism

Sofia is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Bulgaria alongside coastal and mountain resorts. Among its highlights is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the symbols of Bulgaria, constructed in the late 19th century. It occupies an area of 3,170 square metres (34,100 sq ft) and can hold 10,000 people.

Sofia holds Bulgaria's largest museum collections, which attract tourists and students for practical studies. The National Historical Museum in Boyana district has a vast collection of more than 650,000 historical items dating from Prehistory to the modern era, although only 10,000 of them are permanently displayed due to the lack of space.

Vitosha Boulevard, also called Vitoshka, is a pedestrian zone with numerous cafes, restaurants, fashion boutiques, and luxury goods stores. Sofia's geographic location, in the foothills of the weekend retreat Vitosha mountain, further adds to the city's specific atmosphere.

History

Sofia has been an area of continuous human habitation since at least the 8th millennium BC. The city has a history of nearly 7000 years and it is the second oldest city in Europe according to the city's official website and other sources, though the meaning of the claim is unclear as in the world there were hardly any cities at the time.

In the Second Balkan War Bulgaria was warring alone against five neighboring countries and the Romanian Army entered Vrazhdebna in 1913, then a village seven miles from Sofia, now a suburb, which prompted Bulgaria to capitulate. In the following wars, Sofia was invaded by an at least nominally peaceful Soviet Red Army and was bombed by Allied US and UK aircraft in late 1943 and early 1944. Then 40,000 editions of books were destroyed along with the Capital Library and 12,656 more buildings, additionally over 2000 people died.

The transformations of Bulgaria into the People's Republic of Bulgaria in 1946 and into the Republic of Bulgaria in 1990 marked significant changes in the city's appearance. The population of Sofia expanded rapidly due to migration from the country. Whole new residential areas were built in the outskirts of the city, like Druzhba, Mladost and Lyulin.

Climate

Sofia has a humid continental climate with an average annual temperature of 10.6 °C (51.1 °F).

Winters are cold and snowy. In the coldest days temperatures can drop below −15 °C (5 °F), most notably in January.

Summers are warm and sunny. In summer, the city generally remains slightly cooler than other parts of Bulgaria, due to its higher altitude. However, the city is also subjected to heat waves with high temperatures reaching or exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) in the hottest days, particularly in July and August.

Springs and autumns in Sofia are relatively short with variable and dynamic weather.

Climate data for Sofia 

MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Record high °C (°F)19
(66)
23
(73)
27.5
(81.5)
31
(88)
34
(93)
38
(100)
41
(106)
39.4
(102.9)
36.1
(97)
33.9
(93)
25.5
(77.9)
23
(73)
41
(106)
Average high °C (°F)3.4
(38.1)
5.6
(42.1)
10.6
(51.1)
16.2
(61.2)
21.1
(70)
24.7
(76.5)
27.3
(81.1)
27.5
(81.5)
22.9
(73.2)
17.1
(62.8)
9.7
(49.5)
4.3
(39.7)
15.9
(60.6)
Daily mean °C (°F)−0.5
(31.1)
1.1
(34)
5.4
(41.7)
10.6
(51.1)
15.4
(59.7)
18.9
(66)
21.2
(70.2)
21
(70)
16.5
(61.7)
11.3
(52.3)
5.1
(41.2)
0.7
(33.3)
10.6
(51.1)
Average low °C (°F)−3.9
(25)
−2.9
(26.8)
0.8
(33.4)
5.4
(41.7)
9.8
(49.6)
13.2
(55.8)
15.1
(59.2)
14.9
(58.8)
11
(52)
6.6
(43.9)
1.4
(34.5)
−2.4
(27.7)
5.8
(42.4)
Record low °C (°F)−28.3
(−18.9)
−25
(−13)
−16.1
(3)
−6
(21)
−2.2
(28)
1.4
(34.5)
2
(36)
3.5
(38.3)
−2
(28)
−6
(21)
−15.3
(4.5)
−21.1
(−6)
−28.3
(−18.9)
              

Geography

Sofia has an area of 492 km2, while Sofia City Province has an area of 1344 km2

Sofia's development as a significant settlement owes much to its central position in the Balkans. It is situated in western Bulgaria, at the northern foot of the Vitosha mountain, in the Sofia Valley that is surrounded by the Balkan mountains to the north. The valley has an average altitude of 550 metres (1,800 ft). Unlike most European capitals, Sofia does not have any large rivers or bridges, but is surrounded by comparatively high mountains on all sides.

Economy

Sofia is the economic heart of Bulgaria and home to most major Bulgarian and international companies operating in the country, as well as the Bulgarian National Bank and the Bulgarian Stock Exchange.

After World War II and the era of industrialisation under socialism, the city and its surrounding areas expanded rapidly and became the most heavily industrialised region of the country.

Increasingly, Sofia is becoming an outsourcing destination for multinational companies, among them IBM, Hewlett-Packard, SAP, Siemens, Software AG. Bulgaria Air, PPD, the national airline of Bulgaria, has its head office on the grounds of Sofia Airport. From 2007 to 2011, the city attracted a cumulative total of $11,6 billion in foreign direct investment.

Subdivisions

Sofia is divided into 24 districts:
1. Sredets 

2. Krasno selo 

3. Vazrazhdane 

4. Oborishte 

5. Serdika 

6. Poduyane 

7. Slatina 

8. Izgrev 

9.Lozenets 

10. Triaditsa 

11. Krasna polyana 

12. Ilinden 

13. Nadezhda 

14. Iskar 

15. Mladost 

16. Studentski 

17. Vitosha 

18. Ovcha kupel 

19. Lyulin

20. Vrabnitsa 

21. Novi Iskar 

22. Kremikovtsi 

23. Pancharevo 

24. Bankya

Internet, Comunication

Internet cafes are available in Sofia. Computers are usually not available in libraries, or in public places such as train stations, but free wireless access is often available in such public places and in gas stations. Many pubs and hotels will also have WiFi that is free of charge to use. In recent years, wireless access has been growing.

The country calling code to Bulgaria is: 359. To make an international call from Bulgaria, the code is: 00

Prices in Sofia

PRICES LIST - USD

MARKET / SUPERMARKET

Milk1 liter€1.05
Tomatoes1 kg€1.18
Cheese0.5 kg€4.70
Apples1 kg€0.95
Oranges1 kg€1.10
Beer (domestic)0.5 l€0.63
Bottle of Wine1 bottle€4.10
Coca-Cola2 liters€1.15
Bread1 piece€0.50
Water1.5 l€0.45

PRICES LIST - USD

RESTAURANTS

Dinner (Low-range)for 2€11.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2€20.00
Dinner (High-range)for 2€31.00
Mac Meal or similar1 meal€4.10
Water0.33 l€0.51
Cappuccino1 cup€1.10
Beer (Imported)0.33 l€1.55
Beer (domestic)0.5 l€1.05
Coca-Cola0.33 l€0.82
Coctail drink1 drink€3.85

PRICES LIST - USD

ENTERTAINMENT

Cinema2 tickets€10.00
Gym1 month€27.00
Men’s Haircut1 haircut€6.00
Theatar2 tickets€13.00
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.€0.18
Pack of Marlboro1 pack€2.75

PRICES LIST - USD

PERSONAL CARE

Antibiotics1 pack€10.00
Tampons32 pieces€3.40
Deodorant50 ml.€3.45
Shampoo400 ml.€2.80
Toilet paper4 rolls€1.06
Toothpaste1 tube€1.70

PRICES LIST - USD

CLOTHES / SHOES

Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)1€48.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M)1€27.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)1€66.00
Leather shoes1€63.00

PRICES LIST - USD

TRANSPORTATION

Gasoline1 liter€1.14
TaxiStart€0.40
Taxi1 km€0.40
Local Transport1 ticket€0.51

Tourist (Backpacker)  

34 € per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • meals in cheap restaurant
  • public transport
  • cheap hotel

Tourist (business/regular)  

87 € per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • mid-range meals and drinks
  • transportation
  • hotel

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane

Sofia Airport (Летище София) is 9 km east of the city center. It is the busiest airport in Bulgaria, with annual passenger traffic of approximately 4 million.

Over 20 airlines operate service to/from Sofia, with direct flights to/from Athens, Paris,Vienna, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Munich, Warsaw and other European cities.

Along with traditional carriers, some low-cost companies traveling to Bulgaria are EasyJet (to/from London-Gatwick, Madrid, Manchester) and Wizz Air (to/from Paris-Beauvais, Barcelona, Brussels-Charleroi, Dortmund, Eindhoven, London-Luton, Milan-Bergamo, Rome-Fiumicino, Valencia). Bulgaria Air, the national carrier operates service to/from Alicante, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Beirut, Berlin - Tegel, Brussels, Bucharest- Otopeni, Frankfurt, Istanbul - Atatürk, Kiev - Boryspil, Larnaca, London - Gatwick, London- Heathrow, Madrid, Málaga, Manchester, Moscow - Sheremetyevo, Palma de Mallorca,Paphos, Paris - Charles de Gaulle, Rome - Fiumicino, Skopje, Tel Aviv, Tirana, Tripoli,Valencia, Vienna, Zürich.

There are domestic flights to/from Varna and Burgas.

Budget airlines including EasyJet, Germanwings and Wizz Air operate from Terminal 1, while the traditional carriers including Bulgaria Air operate from Terminal 2.

There are shops, cafes, post offices, ATMs, and money exchange offices at the airport. For more details, see the airport website.

There is a free shuttle bus operating between the terminals every 30 minutes between 7:00AM and 7:00PM. Outside of those hours, a free shuttle bus can be requested at the information desk or you can use Bus #84 (see below).

To travel between the airport and the city centre:

  • Sofia Metro Line 1 (Red) operates service to the airport between 5:30 and 24:00. The stop is located in the eastern part of Terminal 2. The journey to the city centre takes 20-30 minutes. The journey to the central bus station takes approximately 30 minutes and a transfer is required. A single ticket costs 1 lev.
  • Public Bus #84 operates service between both terminals and the city centre. The journey takes 30-40 minutes. Tickets can be purchased from news stands or ticket machines in the airport. A single ticket costs 1 lev. If you are traveling with luggage bigger than 60х40х40, you will need to punch an additional ticket for each item or possibly pay a fine of 20 lev. The bus makes a stop at Orlov Most (Sofia University metro station), where you can transfer to the metro.
  • Taxi service from the airport is regulated. OK Supertrans AD is the contracted taxi operator from the airport. It is best to request a taxi either from the taxi stand or the taxi office. Beware of touts offering taxi service as well as fake taxis with the fake "OK" logo! A taxi to the city center will cost approximately 15 lev. The regulated taxi fare is: initial fee of 0.70 lev, price per km 0.79 lev in the day or 0.90 lev at night, price per minute of stay of 0.22 lev, price for ordering a taxi via phone of 0.50 lev.

Transportation - Get In

By Train

There are plenty of trains, both day- and overnight options, from all major cities in Bulgaria including the seaside cities of Burgas and Varna.

Sofia sees plenty of international trains, however most of them are slow and often overnight. There are two daily trains from Bucharest through the border cities of Giurgiu and Ruse, one daytime and one overnight. Passport control and customs takes place approximately mid-trip. After years of absence, trains between Thessaloniki and Sofia have restarted. There is one daytime train each day, with about seven hours of travel time. Also, an overnight train connects Sofia with Istanbul each night costing 70 leva, however recent track works have made this connection quite unreliable with cancellations on short notice and bus replacement. Things should however improve when upgrades are completed on the Turkish side. Russian RZD has a daily train from Moscow via Warsaw. Finally, an slow overnight train connects with Budapest daily

The main railway station, Sofia Central Station (Bulgarian: Централна железопътна гара София, Tsentralna zhelezopatna gara Sofiya) or simply Tsentralna Gara is located on the northern end of the city centre. The station can be somewhat confusing. Domestic departures go from the main terminal and that is where you can buy tickets for domestic travel. If you want to travel to an international destination, on entering the station from the front, turn to your left, walk past the heated waiting room on your left (and some small shops) and go to the office at the end of the wide corridor with "RILA" on it. It is straight ahead of you. They speak some English and to book a ticket, you will need your passport. They take credit cards. Platforms can be accessed from the main floor down the escalators at the far left corner. Platform numbering is somewhat confusing: Roman numerals indicate the platform number (I to VI), and Arabic numerals (1 to 12) indicate the actual track. Each platform is divided into East and West. Departures and arrivals are indicated on reliable electronic panels, but, beware, they indicate the track number, not the platform! In any case, leaving by train is mostly recommended if you want to travel overnight to destinations on the Black Sea, since trains for Varna and Burgas will leave late in the evening and get you there in the early morning (a couchette to Varna is 16 leva).

Timetables can be found at the website of Bulgarian State Railways.

Transportation - Get In

By Bus

Central bus station

Sofia Central Bus Station (Centralna Avtogara/Централна автогара) is in the north part of the city centre and is within walking distance to the central attractions. Schedules and fares are available in Bulgarian online.

Eurolines Bulgaria is the largest operator of international buses to/from Bulgaria. Buses operate to/from Belgrade (5 hours, €23) and other cities in Serbia, Vienna (15.5 hours, €59) and other cities in Austria, Paris (36 hours, €120) and other cities in France, Berlin(28 hours, €110) and other cities in Germany, Budapest (11-13 hours, €48), and Prague(21 hours, €63).

MATPU 96 is the largest operator of buses in Bulgaria. The schedule is available in Bulgarian online. Buses operate several times per day to/from Skopje (5.5 hours, €15).

Other bus stations

In addition, there are 3 smaller bus stations that serve only local destinations. The bus to Samokov operates from the south station (near Жолио Кюри Metro Station, also on the route of Bus #84 from the airport).

Transportation - Get In

By Car

All highways in Bulgaria are often under construction.

Access to Bulgaria's Capital is via several entry points:

1. From the North & South via E79/A6

2. From the East - via Thrace Highway E80/A1-A3 or from the old road paralelling the E80 Highway - Zlatitza - Pirdop - Pazardzhik route.

3. From the West - via A1/E80 Liking the city and the Bulgarian-Serbian Border point of Kalotina.

  • A1 connects Sofia to Burgas.
  • A2 is planned to be from Sofia to Varna, but ends around Pravets and continues from Shumen to Varna.
  • A3 is planned to be from Varna to Burgas, but currently has only a few kilometers built.

Otherwise coming from Greece the road E79/A6 is in very good shape, so the 300 km from Thessaloniki are done fairly fast if you don't happen to fall into Friday/Sunday traffic jams in the area of Sofia or Pernik.

Coming from the Republic of Macedonia, via Kyustendil the roads are relatively good but driving within speed limits would avoid you much hassle caused either by traffic police, or road conditions. From Central Europe you can drive almost the whole length on highways (via Slovenia-Croatia-Serbia or Hungary-Serbia), with only the last 100 km between Niš in Southern Serbia and Sofia being heavily trafficked mountain roads around the Nishava ravine in not the best shape.


Transportation - Get Around

Transportation - Get Around

By Public Transport

Sofia has a well-developed, cheap, and efficient public transport system [www] that consists of buses, trolleys, trams, subway line. Be sure to ask for directions, because the transport network can be confusing for visitors who do not know it well. The public transport operates from 5AM to about 11PM. Taxis are the only transport option in the night.

The price of a single ticket is 1.00 lev (~ €0.50) only paid in the local currency. There are also 10-ticket carnets for one passenger (8.00lv), and daily travel cards (4lv). Tickets and daily cards can be bought at most newspaper stands especially ones adjacent to public transport stops. If you can't find any, you can also buy tickets from the driver if he has any available, though this is not guaranteed. Punch a ticket immediately after you enter the vehicle. The inspectors rarely understand English and you might have problems with them if you travel without a ticket or if you forget to punch it. Inspectors ambush and board buses and trams in groups (and their attitude is generally not friendly at all), sometimes accompanied by police, and make no exceptions. The fine is 20 lv (about €10).

If you are traveling by tram with a large suitcase or backpack, be sure to buy a separate ticket for your bag/case or you might be fined!

There are 15 tram lines, 9 trolley lines, 93 bus lines and 2 metro lines. Some of the buses cover the area outside the city center including neighboring villages. Useful routes are bus #84 from both terminals of the airport to the center; from the train/bus station to Orlov most - bus #213 or #214 or tram #1, #7 and #18 to Vitosha Street and Sv. Nedelya Square, #1, #6, #7 to the National Palace of Culture, #18 to Slaveykov square or #6 to Macedonia square.

The subway in Sofia [www] is still under construction and more lines will be available in the next years. Currently there are two lines - one that crosses from the western edge of town (Lulin, Obelya) through the city center, the southeast (Mladost) and the airport, and a second one, that crosses from Obelya to Lozenets.

Transportation - Get Around

By Taxi

Taxis in Sofia are yellow. Taxis can be caught on the streets or can be ordered by phone, they arrive fast and are reliable. A drive inside Sofia will rarely exceed 10lv and a trip from the airport to the city center between 8 lv and 15 lv. There are many companies offering taxi services, some of them are OK Supertrans taxi (973 2121), €1 Taxi, "962-22-26", Yellow Taxi (91119) and Radio CV Taxi (91263) with fares around 0,80 leva (€0,40) per kilometer. Please check the phone number and the prices before you board, because there are some taxis trying to imitate the most popular ones, but having outrageous prices (up to 5,90 leva (€3,00) per kilometer) on them and usually hang around hotels and tourist spots picking on unsuspecting customers, its the top line for the per km fares and bottom line for time you need to look at. The general rule is that if a taxi driver comes to you and offers you a drive, never accept it because they will try to rip you off. Some taxi companies have smartphone apps available that allow you to register and order taxis to your specific address in real time, thus eliminating the risk of falling prey to scams.

Transportation - Get Around

By Car

Renting a car is possible, but not necessarily a good idea if your plans are restricted to visiting only Sofia and not travelling elsewhere in the country. Driving here can be strenuous for those with less experience behind the wheel - be prepared for traffic jams and disorganized traffic. Those of you who plan on visiting more of the country can rent a car from a local company (much cheaper than the big brands) or use a broker ([www]) as some of the local companies do not even have websites.

If you need to park your car, you are recommended to do it in a paid guarded lot. Parking in the center is difficult and you may be parked illegally without knowing it; foreign license plates may attract unwelcome attention of Bulgarian police and of criminals. Even if there are other cars parked in the area, double check that there are no signs or pavement markings prohibiting it. Parking in the central city area on working days is paid [www], it is divided in a so-called Blue Zone ("Синя зона") - 2lv per hour, and a Green Zone ("Зелена зона") - 1lv per hour. If you have a Bulgarian mobile number, you can also pay by SMS - send the vehicle registration plate number to "1302" for the "Green zone" or 1303 for the "Blue zone". This will charge parking for an hour through your phone bill. Five minutes before the prepaid time is up you will receive a warning sms. You can either send another message for another hour or move your car.

Pay attention to trams or buses stopping in the middle of the road. If you see a stopped tram or bus on your left, you must stop and let the passengers get on/off, according to the Bulgarian traffic code. Failing to stop in this manner may be very dangerous.

If you drive out of the city (or enter the country by road) you must have a toll sticker - vignette ("vinetka" in Bulgarian). Buy it right away at the border or before leaving Sofia from any fuel station. The price is 10 leva and the sticker is valid for one week (one-month and one-year vignettes are also available). You must place it on the front window, in the bottom right corner. The fine, if you forget the sticker, is about 200 leva.

Driving with your lights on is compulsory, day and night, all year long.

Transportation - Get Around

By Bicycle

Sofia is one of the greenest capitals in Europe, with the big park zones ideal for biking. Slow traffic in downtown is perfect for cycling. On a bike you will save time and will enjoy sport activity. Sofia also has the few bike paths around the downtown area and districts such as Mladost, Nadezhda, Hipodruma. Rent a bike ([www]) Bike rental operates from 10AM to about 8PM (April to November). Discover Sofia by bike map or joint to an experienced bike guide.

Transportation - Get Around

On foot

Streets have adequate tiled pavements, especially in the city centre. However, they are frequently uneven and potholed, and walking is further made difficult by parked cars, street vendors and cafes. Except for areas in the very centre, pavements rarely have slopes for wheelchair access or designated lanes for bicycle riders. Pedestrian crossings are numerous and are relatively respected by drivers. Use pedestrian underpasses to cross large intersections, though avoid ones in the suburbs as these are usually derelict.

Hotels

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Shopping

The currency in Bulgaria is the Lev, plural Leva. You will also see the abbreviation lv. (лв.) or the ISO code - BGN. The currency exchange rate is fixed at 1 EUR = 1.95583 BGN. Exchange rate to USD is not fixed directly, but published by the Bulgarian National Bank and is used for a benchmark in the exchange offices and banks.

Currency exchange offices and most banks offer a buy rate of 1.95 BGN and a sell rate of 1.96 BGN to €1. It is strongly advisable to skip exchange offices on the street and use exclusively banks for exchanging money. Some exchange stalls will try to scam you by buying your currency at very unfavorable rates. It's also possible to change money at a good rate in casinos if you play there.

ATMs are widely available and accept all major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Diner's, etc.), although you have to check your daily limit with your bank. ATMs will let you withdraw at most 400 lv in one go, but if your card limit allows it, you can make two or more withdrawals.

Credit cards are widely accepted in larger stores and supermarkets, but in small souvenir shops or restaurants you will definitely need to carry some cash.

Souvenirs can be bought many small shops in the subways in front of the old Party House and in the metro station at the Largo. The Ethnographic Museum has a small shop tightly crammed with souvenirs of all kinds from all over Bulgaria (on the right, just as you enter the main entrance). Antiques and souvenirs can also be found in Aleksandar Nevski square, in stalls just opposite the church.

  • Vitosha Boulevard. It`s the main commercial street in the centre of Sofia. Its pedestrian part is a popular place for walks. It is known as the most expensive street in Sofia.
  • The Mall115 Tzarigradsko Shose Blvd (Many bus lines stop at THE MALL. Choose between bus no. 1, 3, 5, 6, 76, 84, 114, 204, 213, 214, 284, 305, 306, 313 and 604.). 10:00 to 22:00. a convenience store, Largest shopping mall in Bulgaria; contains also a Carrefour store, large Arena cinema, a lot of cafes and restaurants, etc.
  • Central Sofia Market HallKnyaginya Maria Luiza Blvd (Opposite the Banya Bashi mosque.). Has many stalls selling all kinds of food, drink and cosmetics. The second floor has various fast-food cafés.
  • Mall of Sofia101, Aleksander Stamboliyski Blvd,  +359 2 929 33 77fax:+359 2 929 33 00. Contains a Piccadilly store and a Cinema City multiplex.
  • SkyCity Mall52 Kosta Lulchev Str. (You can get there by tram No 20, bus No 9, and Route Taxi No 1, 19 and 21.),  +359 2 971 02 13fax: +359 2 971 01 89, e-mail: . 10:00 to 22:00. Also has an entertainment center.
  • Serdika Center Sofia. Contains a Piccadilly store.
  • Sofia Outlet Center.
  • Bulgaria Mall.
  • Paradise Center. Largest shopping mall in Bulgaria; contains also a Carrefour store, large Arena cinema, a lot of cafes and restaurants, etc.
  • Sofia Ring Mall. Contains a karting track and a Cinema City multiplex.

Restaurants


Fast food

You can easily find take away food in Sofia. For less than 2 leva you can get a slice of pizza, a hot-dog or a sandwich. You can get more traditional Bulgarian food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. This food is often consumed with ayran or boza . Another possibility is to get a katma, which is a big pancake filled with cheese, ham, jelly or chocolate.


Budget

Pizzeria-type restaurants and snack bars can be found all over Sofia. Although many are very uninteresting for the traveler looking for a meal with a local flavor, some include excellent Bulgarian dishes.

  • Mr.Pizza44 Neofit Rilski Str.,  +359 2 988 82 58. Popular in Sofia, get there early or reserve if you want a table in their courtyard. 10 to 15 leva per person.
  • Baаlbek (Near Slaveykov Square.). This is great Arab food. Downstairs is take-away kebabs and falafels, and upstairs a small eat-in. Excellent hummus and salads, etc., and cold beer.
  • Trops House. It`s a fast-food type of place, offering traditional Bulgarian meals and drinks. It can be found in several locations throughout the city center.

Mid to High End

  • Happy's Bar and Grill (Just across the street from the Sveta Nedelya church.).Happy's is the Bulgarian equivalent of an American diner, and the Sofia representative of a nationwide chain. There are English-language menus, and the staff (all microskirted young girls, who apparently have to be smiling when they serve you) all seem to have at least some English as well. Portions are generally huge and represent a sort of "watered down" version of their traditional Bulgarian equivalents, although more Western fare is also available.
  • GODZILA (Under the Sofia's sport palace with entrance from Gen. Gurko street.), e-mail: . GODZILA's first restaurant opened in 1999 in the sea capital of Bulgaria - Varna . There you can try some fresh salads, juicy barbecue, delicious pizza and various other dishes. The menus are also written in English and the staff speaks English as well. There are traditional Bulgarian cuisine and Western cuisine as well.
  • Pod Lipite. Very good traditional food. Reservation is required.
  • Motto18 Aksakov str. (Motto is on the street right behind the Radisson hotel, and then two blocks East (turn to the right on the first small street behind the Radisson if you are walking from the big horse statue) - it's kind of hard to find as the sign is a small black sign with white lettering.),  +359 2 987 27 23. This place is always fairly busy with a trendy crowd. The decor is modern and cool, and the people typically good looking. The service here is usually pretty nice, and many of the wait-staff speak English. The food is consistent and enjoyable. 5 to 15 leva per dish.
  • Carrera4 Golo Bardo Str.,  +359 2 960 28 66, e-mail: .A fairly modern restaurant over in the Lozenetz area. The decor is well done, the service good, and the food very good. Prices are in line with the quality and style of the place. The wine selection is excellent. They also have a nice summer/winter garden area.
  • Hadjidraganovite kashti (Traditional Bulgarian Cuisine), 75 Kozloduy (2 minutes walking distance from the Lion Bridge, around the corner from Ramses II Casino),  +359 (2) 931 31 48. 11:30AM - 2AM. Amazing restaurant just off one of Sofia's main streets. The decor is old-style Bulgarian and the food is traditional Bulgarian, plentiful and very, very tasty. Entertainment includes a Bulgarian walking band and guests are primarily locals. Staff is very friendly and most speak English. Reservations are necessary, even on weeknights. 10€-30€.
  • Mehana Karajata (Mehana Karajata), Bul.Ovcha kupel and ul.Zhitnitsa crossroad,  +359 2 8558804. Try Bulgarian national cuisine - in a traditional Bulgarian home atmosphere. Nicely decorated restaurant with beautiful open garden, typical folk music. €10.
  • Old Days (English version of the name) (Go to Orlov Most corner of the park that holds Vasil Levski stadium. The restaurant is on the "island" in the middle of the "lake" that is on this corner.). Bulgarian national cuisine.

Coffe & Drink


Cafés

  • StarbucksCorner of Vasil Levski Blvd & Gurko Blvd.
  • Art Club since 19916 Tsar Ivan Asen II Str.

Sights & Landmarks

Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has ancient ruins throughout the city center.

In the administrative center of Sofia, the streets are covered with a specific yellow pavement. It was laid in the beginning of the 20th century and were a present to the Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand for his wedding from the Austria-Hungarian royal family.


Mineral springs

Sofia was founded because of the quality of its mineral waters. In the city, there are 7 independent mineral water springs. One of the springs is in the central area of the city and is accessible for everybody - cross the square behind the mosque, next to TSUM (the intersection of Iskar and Ekzarh Yosif streets).

  • Sofia Public Mineral Baths. It is an old building of interest. It was renovated and is now a museum of the history of Sofia.

Churches

  • St. Aleksander Nevski Cathedral.One of the largest orthodox churches worldwide and the largest in the Balkan Peninsula.
  • Boyana Church1-3 Boyansko Ezero Str. (Getting here is quite difficult. Take tram #9 or #10 from the stop underneath NDK (National Palace of Culture) to Hladilnika neighborhood (the last stop). Then catch bus #64. The bus stop is just 50 meters away but you better ask someone for directions because there are several different stops in the vicinity. The stop for the church is a small plaza with a few shops near the end of the #64 bus line. Ask the driver or the other passengers where to get off and then walk uphill and turn left.), +359 2 959 09 39fax: +359 2 959 29 66, e-mail:. 09:00 to 17:00.This small 14th-century church and garden is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church contains some very well preserved murals. It is located at the foot of Vitosha mountain and is a good starting point for day trips in the mountain. Entrance is 10 Lev, or 2 Lev for students.
  • Church of St. George (Behind the Sheraton Hotel).
  • Hagia Sophia Church2 Paris str.. It is located just across the square and to the right from the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral. It was built in the 6th century over an even older church. It is a witness of the whole Bulgarian history and is a valued cultural monument. In the 14th century it gave its name to the city of Sofia. It was destroyed several times and during the Ottoman rule it was used as a mosque.
  • Catholic cathedral St. Joseph125, Knjaz Boris I (next to Sheraton Hotel),  +359 2 9815548. Holy Masses: SAT 5,30pm & SUN 10,30am bulgarian; 12,00pm latin; 6PM bulgarian
  • St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
  • Saint Nedelya.

Other places of worship

  • Banya Bashi Mosque.
  • Sofia Synagogue. 09:00 to 16:30. One of the largest in Europe.

Historical buildings

  • Amphitheatre of Serdica (Located in the geographical center of the city under the flags of the EU.).
  • Battenberg Mausoleum. The mausoleum and final resting place of Prince Alexander I of Bulgaria (1857–1893), the first Head of State of modern Bulgaria.
  • Knyaz Battenberg's Palace (Right in front of the city garden.).

Monuments

  • Monument to Vasil Levski. It commemorates the hanging of Bulgarian national hero and major revolutionary figure Vasil Levski in the city on 18 February 1873.
  • Monument to the Tsar Liberator. Representing the power of freedom and across from it are the National Assembly and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
  • Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Across from Aleksandar Nevski cathedral; on the side of Hagia Sofia's Church.
  • Tsar Samuil Monument. A statue of the bulgarian warlord and tsar Samuil, who ruled Bulgaria between 997 and 1014.
  • Russian Monument. An obelisk built by the Russians.

Open spaces

  • Largo. 3 buildings of Socialist Classicism architecture.
  • Prince Alexander of Battenberg Square. The largest square in Sofia. Includes the National Art Gallery.
  • Petko R. Slaveykov Square (along Graf Ignatiev Str. , between Solunska Str. and Rakovski Str.). 0 - 24. A Famous Square, real Sofia center with a monument of writers father and son Slaveykov's. It`s a biggest open-air book market in the Balkans.There are round benches and street musicians act very often. 0.
  • Patriarh Evtimiy Square. A popular meeting place.
  • Park National Palace of Culture

Parks and gardens

  • Borisova Gradina (Boris Garden). The oldest and best known park in the city. Includes the Ariana Lake.
  • City Garden. It's the oldest and most central public garden, in existence since 1872.
  • Sofia Zoo1 Srebarna Str.. 09:00 to 17:00
  • Yuzhen Park (South Park). A nice park in the south-east part of the city, although a bit too crowded on weekends. Vibrant with open area cafes, entertainment for children and grown-ups, and a few ponds with ducks.
  • Oborishte ParkYanko Sakazov blvd.A park near the center of the city with places to eat and drink. Also known as "Zaimov Park".

Bridges

  • Orlov Most. A bridge over the Perlovska River near the centre of Sofia
  • Lavov Most. A bridge over the Vladayska River near the central train station.

Other sights

  • Sofia University, 15 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd,  +359 2 9308fax:+359 2 946 02 55.
  • National Palace of Culture1 Bulgaria Sq.+359 2 916 63 00fax:+359 2 865 70 53. The biggest congress center in the Balkans (a massive monolithic communist-style building). If asking for directions, ask for NDK (en-de-ka), as most Bulgarians refer to it by this acronym.
  • Central Military Club. It`s a multi-purpose monument of culture building in the city center. Also known under the name Kristal.

Museums & Galleries


Museums

  • Earth and Man National Museum (Национален музей), 4 Cherni Vruh Blvd,  +359 2 865 66 39fax: +359 2 866 14 57, e-mail:. 10AM-6PM. Has the biggest collection of gigantic minerals in the World. 2 leva.
  • National Museum of History16 Vitoshko lale str. (ул. Витошко лале 16)(Take trolley #2 southwest from the corner of Praga Blvd. and Patriarh Eftimiy Blvd. Get off at the roundabout at the end of the bus line. Cross the busy Okolovrustino Shosse (ring road) and walk through the trees. The museum is not visible from the road, nor are there any signs.), +359 2 955 42 80fax: +359 2 955 76 02, e-mail: . 09:30-18:00. The National Museum of History (Национален исторически музей) in the Rezidentsia Boyana in Sofia contains more than 650,000 exhibits and is one of the largest history museums on the Balkans, so be prepared to spend several hours. The aim of the museum is to provide a comprehensive view on Bulgarian history from the prehistory to present, in as broad of a European context as possible. One main attraction are golden or silver mugs and jewelery that date from Thracian (around 4th century BC) and roman periods. About half of the exhibits have English captions. 10 leva.
  • National Museum of Natural History1, Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd,  +359 2 987 41 95fax: +359 2 988 28 94. 10.00 to 18.00. Has four floors of everything from rocks and minerals to insects and stuffed bison. It is a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon.
  • House-Museum of Ivan Vazov (On the corner of the streets G. Rakovski and Ivan Vazov.).
  • Museum of Sport1A Bulgaria Blvd (National Stadium Vasil Levski), +359 2 930 07 61. 09:00 to 17:00.
  • Museum of Paleontology and historical geology15 Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd(Inside Sofia University.),  +359 2 930 82 00.
  • National Literature Museum138 G. S. Rakovski Str., floor 2,  +359 2 988 24 93.
  • National Agricultural Museum30 Suhodolska Str.+359 2 929 67 53.
  • National Ecclesiastical History-Archeological Museum19 Sveta Nedelya Sq.,  +359 2 988 13 43. 09:00 to 17:00.

Galleries

  • National Art Gallery1 Batenberg Sq.,  +359 2 980 00 93. 10:30 to 18:00. Has old Bulgarian art, icons, etc. 4 leva.
  • Sofia Art Gallery1, Gen. Gurko Str. (The entrance is from Kniaz Al. Batenberg Str.), +359 2 987 21 81. 10:00 to 19:00. free.
  • Sofia City Art Gallery (Софийска градска художествена галерия), 1 General Gurko St (ул. Ген. Гурко 1),  +359 2 987 2181.

Things to do

  • Cafes and restaurants. Sofia is full of trendy cafes with outdoor seating in the summer and good-quality restaurants.
  • Arena Cinema. One of the biggest Bulgarian cinema multiplex. Cinemas in Sofia play all films except children's films in their original language with Bulgarian subtitles.
  • Sofia Bike Tour (National Theatre Ivan Vazov), Dyacon Ignatiy, 5,  +359 885523630. Visit the greenest capital of Europe on a bike. Every day Free Bike Tour (12 April–November) at 11AM & 5PM. Escape from the city and join to the Bike Countryside Tour around Sofia. Start Point: National Theater "Ivan Vazov"
  • Playgrounds. If you're traveling with kids, they might love playgrounds. The "rich" one is in the park that holds Vasil Levski stadium (close to the corner with Orlov Most; there are actually two playgrounds close to this corner and you'd look for the one more inside the park).
  • Eat with a local Bulgarian Host (BonAppetour), ulitsa "Krasna kitka" 5, Sofia, Bulgaria,  +359 82885950, toll-free: +1 760-230-0542, e-mail:. Experience a complete 4 course authentic Bulgarian food with a local chef at her private garden in Sofia city. Get a taste of local culture and authentic food. US$20.

Festivals and events

Sofia, the Bulgaria capital featuring numerous colorful Sofia Festivals, is an evergreen city that grows with time, yet never ages. Although the city was established 7,000 years ago, it has all modern amenities and a simple charm--which is a rare combination indeed. The city features a number of monuments bearing the cultural and architectural legacy of Ottoman, Thracian, Bulgarian and Roman history. At the same time, the modern edifices contribute to the elegant layout of Sofia. Travelers find this place a great destination to explore. Those who would like to get a feel for the Bulgarian culture should visit Sofia during a festival time. Below is a list of festivals that attract many people to Sofia each year.


Sofia Music Week

The "Sofia Music Week" is one of the most popular festivals in the city. It attracts numerous visitors across the world, and offers a great portrayal of Bulgarian music and culture. This famous festival of traditional and contemporary Bulgarian music is held in the months of May to July. The venues are the National Palace of Culture (NDK) and Bulgaria Music Hall.


Sofia Film Festival

Sofia Film Festival is considered one of the most prestigious and well acclaimed festivals in Southeastern Europe. It was initiated in 1997 and is held in the month of March every year. The festival continues for 11 days, during which the most meaningful and well made films are screened at different venues across the city. 

Nightlife


Bars

  • JJ Murphys Irish pub [www]
  • Clubhouse 19th Hole, Str. Hristo Belchev 6. New Irish bar with a big variety of drinks, great food and good company. In the summer there is a nice outside garden to enjoy your drinks. Also shows every important sports event on TV.

Nightlife

  • Apartment. Popular among locals as well as foreigners is the "apartamenta", some sort of private club in the second floor of a turn of the 19th century mansion where you find a series of rooms, all in different styles and wall-drawings, colourful tapestries, etc. Go to the right, get a drink in the kitchen (everything non-alcoholic is 4 lv), and just pick and choose a room which looks cozy enough (shouldn't be too hard to find one with all the couches lying around). If you love the music, there are Mac computers in most of the rooms where you can pick something out of the playlist. Have a game of chess. There is also a Cinema room, if there is nothing running just go in, pick a movie out of the list and start the projection. There is also home-made chocolate and cream and all different kinds of organic drinks like Himalayan tea or Kiwi nectar.
  • Lodkite. In the huge "Borisova gradina" park near the stadium (just ask you way around) you'll find this open-air place, located in an old leisure-park parcour (you know, that type of small water-channels where kid can drive around in little gondolas). The boats have gone and the channels serve as improvised sitting places (basic tables made out of wood planks put between the two sides of the channel). There are also some tables on the court and lights decorating the trees illuminate the scene. The public sound system has experimental electronic music, ambiance, progressive rock, or whatever the DJs feel like. The later it gets, the more you'll find people sitting everywhere on the floor on the trees. On warm summer nights, this place is a must-be.
  • The largest discos in Sofia are concentrated in Students' town (Studentski grad) in the southern part of the city and can be reached by buses #94 (from Sofia university and Culture palace), #280 (from Sofia University, Orlov most) and #102. The last bus to Studentski grad departs from the city center at about 11:30PM (from Sofia University and Culture Palace). The entrance fee for most discos is between 1 and 5 leva (€0.5 - 2.5). Discos that can be visited there include: Avenue, Tantra, Orient 33, Jeam Beam, Maskata, Stroezha.
  • 4kmboulevard Tsarigradsko shose 111 (Take metro line 1 to G.M.Dimitrov Metro Station and walk ~15 min. through Dimitrov boulevard to the big roundabout). This place plays mostly drum&bass and dubstep music. Entrance is ~€10, but slightly cheaper if you arrive before midnight.

Safety in Sofia

Stay Safe

Generally, Sofia is a very safe and walkable city, even at night. Nevertheless, you should avoid poorly lit areas and use your common sense. Avoid the area around the central Bus and Rail Station, Maria Luiza Blvd, the dark areas of the city parks and the Lions' Bridge (Lavov Most). Single women and girls should be especially careful. Junkies get high in these areas, prostitutes (both female and transsexual) offer their "services", some people might want to tempt you with touts of contraband (stolen, illegal, etc.) and/or try to mug you. These areas are also frequented by the homeless and the drunk. If your hotel is in the area you'll be alright, just don't hang around it unnecessarily. Try to act like you are familiar with the area (and familiarize yourself during the day) and look like a local. It is wise to choose a hotel/hostel in a good, central location.

Pedestrians should be careful since many Bulgarian drivers do not yield right of way to those on foot.

Do not get into conflict with locals especially if they seem aggressive or drunk. Avoid football fan groups, they tend to be drunk and aggressive. Avoid wearing football shirts or scarves of the Sofia-based football teams, especially on match days.

If you get in legal trouble with some of the locals, the Bulgarian police and judiciary may not protect you adequately because of corruption and nepotism.

Be careful with taxis, make sure you check the prices first before you get in (the fare is per kilometer and it should be something like 0.79 during the day and 0.90 during the night, avoid cabs that display their fare as above 1.00), also make sure the cab has the driver's card on the front with his name.

Also, be wary of money exchange offices. Some of them exchange money for generally lower rates than displayed on the exchange rate panel. Go to a bank instead.

Very High / 8.6

Safety (Walking alone - day)

Mid. / 5.5

Safety (Walking alone - night)

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