Chances are Sofia, Bulgaria only really ended up on your radar because of that budget airline flight. I’ll admit, it’s not a place I had heard much about. Sofia is not as mainstream as other capital cities in Europe, so you’ll find less tourists and more affordable prices. Their batting average is also pretty high in the food and drink category. We had amazing cocktails and Bulgarian white cheese all weekend long. In this travel guide to Sofia, you’ll find my tips for where to stay, what to eat, where to get an amazing cocktail and how to see the best of Sofia.
What to See and Do:
I’m usually not into free walking tours. I prefer to explore and research on my own, but I had heard that this was THE THING to do in Sofia. And it is. I have no regrets about taking not one, but two tours in Sofia.
Both the Free Sofia Tour and the food tour by Balkan Bites are free, but be sure to tip at the end. Both of our guides were fun, engaging and gave excellent tours. The Free Sofia Tour will cover all the tourist spots and famous buildings around the city. Not only do you get free samples at several restaurants on the food tour, you’ll also learn about traditional Bulgarian food and the history of their cuisine.
Most attractions are centrally located and you can easily see most of Sofia by foot. Along with food and accommodation, transportation is very affordable. A cab to and from the airport should be about 15 lev each way (~ 8 euro).
The Bulgarian currency (lev) is almost two to one to the euro, making Sofia a very affordable city escape. Dinner for two with drinks and an appetizer was never more than 50 lev and the most expensive cocktails we got were 15 lev.
Where to Stay:
I’m usually Team Airbnb all the way, but lately I’m starting to be a hotel convert (I was really missing our hotels in Slovenia). Of course, the best choice depends on the destination and personal budget. We ended up having to wait about an hour in the freezing cold because the lock box had been tampered with. Also the hot water was also broken for over a day. If I could do it again, I’d check into Sense Hotel Sofia or Grand Hotel Sofia.
Where to Eat:
We had dinner our first night at Rakia Raketa Bar. Rakia is pretty strong for me, but you should at least get one to sample the Balkan specialty.
Have an early lunch on the main pedestrian street, Vitosha Blvd. Shtastliveca might seem a bit touristy, but this place is always busy and they’re Bulgarian version of shakshuka was memorable.
Made in Blue had a cozy, inviting atmosphere along with really fresh, home cooked meals. I couldn’t decide what to get because everything on the menu looked delicious (so I got two things)!
We stopped at Supa Star on the Balkan Bites food tour and sampled the Bulgarian specialty tarator. The cold yogurt based soup with cucumbers and garlic might not be for everyone, but I think it’d be perfect on a hot day. The tiny soup shop was packed every time we walked by.
Where to Drink Coffee:
We arrived at The Rainbow Factory promptly when they opened and the place was already packed. We got a few plates for breakfast too.
Social Café is also on Vitsha Blvd and is a great spot to stop and recharge with a coffee between tours.
Where to Drink (Not Coffee):
Check out Hotel Sense Rooftop Bar for a great view of the Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski. These were the most expensive drinks we had in Sofia and still only cost about 8 euro.
I loved the atmosphere of The Cocktail Bar. It’s located in a glass pavilion in the middle of charming courtyard.
One more is never enough at the aptly named, One More Bar. They had the best cocktails we had the whole trip.
While Sofia might not be as picturesque or charming as Cinque Terre, visiting Bulgaria is certainly an affordable weekend trip with interesting and historical sites. While we enjoyed the Christmas market and being cozy inside, I’d recommend visiting in the spring. I’ve heard the roses bloom all over Sofia and you can really take advantage of the outdoor patios.
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