So, summer is almost over, and in case you’re suffering from Post-Travel Blues and need a weekend city trip to cure your ills, I’m here to help! But where…?
Want to get away from the cliché European capitals? Well, look not further than Sofia.
Not just a star/dot on a map of Eastern Europe, this place has tons of stuff to do, but the best of it is just about crammable into only a few days. I like to think of Sofia as having an old soul witha modern heart.
YES – THE THINGS TO DO IN SOFIA
Put on your best sneakers/trainers/shoes for the two-hour free walking tour. I actually came upon Sofia as it was cheaper to fly there then get the bus to Istanbul (my proper destination), but I had time to wander and it was well worth it. It takes you everywhere you need to be to satisfy your eyes and any history cravings. I had no idea on any landmarks, but I turned out one of the main ones, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, I’d seen before in pictures, it’s definitely a memorable vista!
A place for communist-era sculpture and art? Check out go to the Museum of Socialist Art and explore the history of Soviet occupation through art in this quirky-like (I’m saying quirky as it might look like that for West Europeans, but I can imagine people who suffered during the occupation see it as a dark place) museum. Large blocky sculptures fill the garden give you a good impression of the atmosphere at that time.
Dive into the city’s largest market, Jenski Pazar with a bunch of things to stimulate your senses topped off with a wonderfully chaotic atmosphere. Visiting here without feasting on the Bulgarian food should be a crime. Try some Banitsa, drink some wine, and then finish your taste buds off with jam filled cookies.
Be prepared that some people will try and get the max amount money out of you. As in all tourist areas. Definitely inquire at the airport about other means of transportation, radio taxis or fix a price with the driver before going. Just think of it as a challenge!
Don’t think you can spend a full week exploring the city. If you are staying longer definitely combine your stay with for example Belgrade, you can take the night train at around 20:30, arriving Belgrade around 05:00. Or take the train for a day trip to Plovdiv – the second biggest Bulgarian city where you’ll find lots of Greek influences that has Instagram written all over it.
I didn’t get to explore the nightlife as much as I wanted, but the place has a good rep for partying. There’s bars/pubs everywhere where tourists and locals get together to share laughs over drinks. Should make for a great story for the people at home.
If you have a hangover the next day the perfect place to visit would be Boyana Church, a gorgeous little spot where you can admire its quite spectacular murals with lots of detailing AND it should be rather quiet.
If the tour raised your curiosity levels and you want to learn more about the Bulgaria’s history, the National History Museum should be the place to head. It specialises in showing you the city’s intricate past, which has been marked by the presence of some of the world’s most powerful empires (if I remember correctly this is what the brochure said).
Have you been to Sofia?