What you need to know about Sofia
Language: Bulgarian is the local language and you will find that while many people can understand English if they work in the tourism sector, there is less fluency in the general population.
Currency: The Lev is the local currency.
Banking: ATMs are widespread and major bank cards are accepted with retailers.
Weather: The weather is highly contrasting depending on the time of year. In the summer it can easily reach over 30 degrees, but in winter it tends to be more than a little bit cold so you will need to wrap up warm.
What to expect in Sofia
At first sight Sofia – the capital of Bulgaria doesn't resemble a fascinating city. The piecemeal blend of buildings from different periods and the absence of major attractions no doubt leaves a few visitors disappointed at first look, however there is a lot to adore about the city once you begin exploring.
There are hidden gems to find, and also a couple of amazing churches, in addition to extremely delightful local food to sample.
Check it out, explore, discover and maybe you will leave thinking that Sofia is a great place to visit after all!
A real blend of styles
Sofia was established something like 2500 years ago. On account of its positon at the heart of the Balkans it was even at one point the capital of the Roman Empire. Nowadays there are just a couple of reminders of these extraordinary times, however it's not hard to discover them right in the middle of the city.
The Church of St. George is from the fourth century - the oldest building in Sofia - and together with vestiges of the Antic town Serdica presently is encompassed by the structures of the modern-day Presidential Palace which stands as a fine case of the Socialist engineering. This specific place is in itself a metaphor for Sofia on the whole.
The city is a total blend of styles. While different part of Bulgaria – Veliko Tarnovo or Plovdiv – rightly stand as examples of their Bulgarian Revival structures in Sofia it's a smidgen of everything: neorenaissance, neoclassical or Soviet engineering. Every one of these styles conflicts with the others and in the long run mix in together to make a one of a kind place that stands out as a collective anomaly of sorts architecturally.
Things to see in Sofia
To be straightforward there aren't numerous big attractions to find in Sofia and all the main places can be effortlessly observed in just couple of hours. You can see the city in a weekend break easily.
The main road – Vitosha Blvd – is a veritable showroom of the city's finest wares with extravagant shops, extravagant bistros and extravagant individuals. In the event that somebody needs to be seen – this is a place to be! Adjacent there are couple of pleasant looking structures in the Ivan Vazov National Theater or Public Mineral Baths.
The iconic image of the city is one that focuses on St. Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral – its famous green domes outside provide shelter for exquisitely curated icons, artwork, murals and holy adornments inside. Unquestionably the most impressive building in Sofia.
Sofia has a quirky side
Despite its lack of attractions all is not lost as Sofia may be the quirkiest capital in Europe! Taking a parallel road from the main throughway and getting off the beaten track unlocks a few of the previously mentioned hidden gems.
It's about the random points of interest in Sofia and in the event that you glance painstakingly around you will perceive how cool it is based on the little nook and cranny that have their own unique appeal! Lamp posts transform into blossoming blooms of colour, a corner that once housed a police box now resembles a home for bees, sculpture and unexpected mosaics on the sides of buildings spring up where you least expect it – there is loads to take in, especially for the budding photographer, if you go for an exploration through the city streets that are perfectly safe.
Street Art Central
Street art in Sofia is really astonishing as well. In the main part of the city there are just a small handful, yet at the same time those that are there are generally pretty great ones.
Very nearly 100 local authority boxes that are used to house electric cabling have become canvases for some astounding works of art that were the product of two street art celebrations (the first in 2011 with around 30 craftsmen was a major achievement and got such a positive reaction that in 2012 followed a second version that was even bigger).
Sofia's city walls are the place to discover some cool works of art, many of which are for sure Instagram-worthy if that's your thing!
Obviously there are some irregular graffiti around as well, those that simply ruin the entire look of the city, yet at the same time the Sofia scene was one of the most distinctive in terms of street art and certainly up there with the types of artwork seen elsewhere in the Balkans in places such as Sarajevo.
Soup, Soup, Soup
When in Sofia and looking to try local cuisine you should sample and cherish the most amazing selection of soups! There are places to eat that serve just soups in Sofia - Supa Star being the best – and it is a great little place to duck into if the weather turns nasty and they will feed you some delightfully tasty stuff from about half a dozen options (even vegetarian/vegans catered for) and all served by some wonderfully friendly staff. Tarator is the recommended dish to try which is a Bulgarian cucumber soup that is served cold, and tastes great!
Fun and Funky Parks
The other thing of note are the parks. These parts of Sofia have become great places to stop and relax with some incredible green spaces and terrific mountain views, yet two of them merit more consideration.
Park National Palace of Culture can be found after you travel down Vitosha Blvd. It's a wonderful place to relax yet there are two things that are most intriguing: an odd landmark that is not immediately clear as to what it represents as it looks futuristic & insane,like it is going to topple over at any moment, and the National Palace of Culture itself – an extraordinary instance of Socialist Modernism style.
The other option – Knyazhenska Garden – is the place you will locate some great Soviet landmarks, close to a place to try skating. Interestingly, in 2011 one of the landmarks got painted under cover of darkness by someone mischievous and fighters depicted in the monument were changed into comic books characters.
From that point forward it was painted over on a couple more occasions – to honour the scenes developing in Ukraine or the commemoration of the Prague Spring.
Sofia is a probably best seen as a stop over as part of a larger trip to the Balkans but worth checking out.