Sofia City Breaks
As the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia is also the cultural and industrial centre of the country and a place in which tourism from other European countries is on the rise. With great walking opportunities through the nearby forests and around the Vitosha, Verila and Lulin mountains and plenty of chances to ski in the winter, a Sofia city break is a good choice all year round.
As you walk around the city, it is clear to see that the architecture involves a mix of historic monuments and buildings with modern edifices that represent contemporary life in Bulgaria. There are actually over two hundred and fifty landmarks in total, including the Monument to the Tsar Liberator, the Georgi Dimitrov Mausoleum and the beautiful Sveti Sedmochislenitsi church.
Families can enjoy the Sofia zoo for a day out that satisfies people of all ages. Alternatively, a step away from the sometimes harsh-looking city centre can land you in a number of peaceful gardens and parks where the relaxing sound of birdsong will soothe your ears after the time spent in the traffic-dense central areas.
- Flight time from London: 3 hour 10 min
- Sofia International Airport: 12km from the city centre; transfer time about 25 min
- Nearest railway station: Sofia Central Station
- Currency: Bulgarian Lev
The Tsentralni Hali (Central Food Halls), on boulevard Maria Luiza, is open daily and is a well-organised bazaar. Zhenski Pazar (Women's Market) situated on Stefan Stambolov boulevard is also open daily. There is a large book market at Ploshtad Slaveykov, near the National Theatre.
Gleaming shopping malls have been the latest trend to transform Sofia's shopping culture. The Mall of Sofia, on Boulevard Stamboliiski, is the largest, complete with bookshops, a food court and international brands. CCS, on Boulevard Arsenalski, has six levels of bars, restaurants, an IMAX cinema, plus French fashions and Turkish homeware. Following a costly facelift, TsUM, on the Largo, now operates as a Western-style shopping mall, with privately rented boutiques and cafés on three levels.
The main shopping areas in Sofia centre are on boulevard Vitosha, Graf Ignatiev Street and Georgi Rakovski Street. Outlet shops are the newest craze in Sofia, with many small shops selling designer labels at cheaper prices, especially along boulevard Vitosha.
Most shops in Sofia are open either 0900-1830 or 1000-1900, Monday to Saturday. An increasing number of shops are now also open on Sundays.
Bulgarian cuisine is delicious, organic and hard to resist, whilst the local wine is fantastic and available at very affordable prices. Sofia has a number of restaurants which serve regional as well as international cuisine. A popular area for dining in Sofia is close to Boyana Church.
After ten o'clock at night, the streets of Sofia come to life as groups of young people go out to have fun in dance clubs. It is popular to start the night in one club, then move on to another and at five in the morning to have a late dinner (or early breakfast) in one of many non-stop pizza restaurants.
The biggest concentration of bars and cafés in Sofia lies around boulevard Vitosha, and the increasingly hip Georgi Rakovski Street. Recently, the unassuming Neofit Rilski has quietly become a popular street for nightlife and the streets behind the Sheraton have very plush and trendy bar-clubs.