One thing Covid has made us do is rethink our travel destinations, encouraging us to discover what is close to Spain yet still unknown to us. While it is always nice to travel to Lisbon or Milan, it is also satisfying to look for more unique travelling spots that will certainly amaze and surprise you. In this article, let us present you with the beauty of one of Europe’s oldest cities which you have probably never visited: Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Commonly known as the “Triangle of Religious Tolerance” due to the presence of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, Sofia has also been marked by its communist republic who ruled over the country from 1946 to 1990, allowing the city to possess a diversified and very surprising culture.
From must-do visits to Instagram hotspots, including restaurants and bars, let me be your guide for the lapse of 48 hours in Sofia!
Wander off in Sofia
Price of 1 metro ticket: 1.60lev/0.8€
Price of a 10min taxi drive: 10lev/5 euros
First and foremost, what could be more enjoyable than simply wandering off in a city you don’t know yet? Just feeling the excitement of discovering something new every next street corner. Sofia’s architecture could be described as a mix of early European style similar to Vienna, and socialist influence which led to the construction of huge concrete public buildings. You can also observe the aftermath of bombings that happened during WW2, leaving ruins in some of the neighborhoods of the city. While Sofia is among the 15 biggest European cities with approximately 1.24 million inhabitants, you don’t have to use many transport means as the city center is the prettiest part of the city with most of the monuments and visits. In case of necessity though, we recommend you to use taxis as they are relatively cheap and very easy to access.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Place Sveti Aleksandar Nevski
Entry price: free
Sofia’s shining symbol is a must-do. This 45-meter high cathedral was built with the efforts of the Bulgarians to honour their memory, as well as Russians, Ukrainians, Moldavian, Finnish and Romanian who sacrificed their lives to fight for the country’s liberation from the Ottoman Empire. Even now, you can still feel locals’ emotion when they are coming inside to pray daily. In a 500 meter range, you can also visit the Banya Bashi Mosque and the Sofia Synagogue.
2 main dishes + 2 desserts = 80lev/40€
Out of the few restaurants that we have tried, this one has definitely been the best, as well as being the greatest quality/price ratio that we have ever seen in our lives. Located on Vitosha Boulevard, Constantinoff is a great gastronomic experience mixing foreign food with touches of traditional Bulgarian cuisine, in a very kitsch atmosphere. We loved it so much we even had to come back!
Red Flat Museum
24 Ivan Dengloku Street
Entry price: 18lev/9€ for one ticket
In terms of culture, this visit was the most informative one we had in Sofia. The Red Flat museum is an immersive experience into a traditional Bulgarian apartment during the Cold War in the 80s. The visit is very detailed and the apartment’s conservation in its authentic shape is simply incredible. For example, we had the chance to look at the scholarly books of the younger child filled with propaganda, but also the parent’s bed in the living room, sacrificing themselves to give the one bedroom to their child as a testimony of their harsh living conditions.
Also, the museum’s boutique is full of very nice souvenirs, in case you want to bring something home!
Entry price: free
The Borisova Garden is a very nice park a bit outside the city, but nonetheless very pretty. It is definitely recommended to go during a sunny day, and even better, during the Autumn season to benefit from incredible shades of orange and green.
Ozone Sky Lounge bar
Grand Hotel Millenium Sofia
Sushi assortment + 4 cocktails : 120 lev/60€
Located on the 29th floor of the Grand Hotel Millenium Sofia, this place is a bar serving sophisticated cocktails as well as original fusion sushi and makis. The view from up there is breathtaking and offers one of the highest spots in the city. As it is usual here to smoke inside restaurants and bars, the bar still provided a very comfortable non-smoking area.
The skybar wraps up our 48 hour escape from Madrid in a very nostalgic tone, sad that we were not able to do everything we wanted to do, especially the Sofia National Art Gallery, exceptionally closed. Overall, travelling to Bulgaria was an amazing experience and I will definitely consider coming back or discovering another eastern European culture.
Here’s some other things to visit:
- National Art Gallery
- National Museum of Military History
- Vitosha Mountain National Park
- Dimcho Debelyanov House, Koprivshtitsa
- City Garden
- Nebo Restaurant and Bar
- Tenebris Restaurant
- Chef’s Restaurant
- Varna City: beautiful city by the sea, 380km away from Sofia
Thank you very much for reading! Stay tuned for other Autumn in Madrid articles very soon! and make sure to share with us your favorite unusual travel destinations via @ieustork !