A city trip to Sofia in Bulgaria - All you need to know
City trip to
We have just returned from a wonderful city trip to Sofia in Bulgaria. This city has 1.2 million inhabitants and is not (yet) very popular in Belgium. It seemed like the ideal city for us to explore since we had never spent a vacation in the Balkans before. Sofia is not only impressive, but you imagine yourself back in time for a while. Find out what you need to know before you leave and why Sofia could be the ideal city break for you!
Sofia is just over a two-hour flight from Belgium. We flew with Wizz Air from Charleroi to Sofia. This is, next to Ryanair, a very cheap airline and we had never flown with it before. We have to admit that our experience with this airline has been good! The flights were punctual and there was no less “luxury” or legroom than on any other cheap flight. So as a city trip, Sofia is ideally located. The city is easy to reach and you get there very quickly.
Sofia is beautifully situated among the mountains. The most famous mountain range bordering Sofia is Mount Vitosja. From the main shopping street in Sofia, you can see this mountain clearly. It gives a stunning picture! Actually, you can see mountains almost from every corner in Sofia and that makes this great city unique. For hikers and nature lovers, Sofia is the perfect place to take trips to the mountains. It is truly beautiful there! Note: This really requires you to be a practiced hiker with the right equipment!
When you arrive in Sofia, you immediately notice the diverse architecture. From the airport, you’ll drive past old, sometimes dilapidated apartments located just outside the busy center of Sofia. It’s as if you’ve landed in another continent. Yet this is still Europe, and that was a fairly surprising picture for us.
In the center of Sofia, things are a little different. Here you will also see old apartment blocks but in between also beautiful buildings and churches. Yet all the “ordinary” buildings seem dilapidated and from another era. It seems like there was no rebuilding of some places after World War II. More than once a row house has “disappeared” from the street scene and its ruins lie languishing. Maybe this seems a little creepy, but it actually has something. The wonderful churches, cathedrals, mosques, etc. brighten up the street view throughout Sofia.
Sofia is a city characterized by different beliefs and political influences. Protestantism and Islam, in particular, are the most prevalent religions. You can find a mosque, but also very traditional (Orthodox) churches and even a Russian Orthodox church. Various images of communism also emerge. For example, sometimes you see an image or picture of Stalin appear. The former Soviet Union clearly still plays into today’s society. We haven’t talked about it openly or extensively with the Bulgarians, but we think there are still some supporters of communism to be found. The buildings, as well as the locals, certainly still carry the effects of an eventful time. Anyway, this makes Sofia very diverse and surprising to discover.
Sofia, and Bulgaria in general, is a very cheap country. People there are poorer than in Belgium and pay with the Bulgarian lev. The amount you pay in lev should be roughly divided by two to calculate it in euro. So 10 leva (plural of lev) is about 5 euros. And an average meal is also 10 leva. For drinks you pay about 3 leva at restaurant. A cab ride from the airport to the city center is about 15 leva. Souvenirs and clothing are also spot on.
For those who love flowers, Sofia is definitely the place to be. It is “the city of the rose” (actually Bulgaria is the “land of rose cultivation”) and you can see this very well in the streets. Wild roses of all colors grow everywhere. Simply beautiful! And also in the souvenir stores the rose appears several times processed in perfumes, soap, candles and even in drinks. Aside from roses, sunflowers are also typically Bulgarian. Miles of sunflower fields can be found outside the center of Sofia. So in the summer it is magnificent to see! The sunflower is also incorporated into paintings and souvenirs. In addition, you will see a number of parks appear all over Sofia with beautiful carpets of flowers. All the greenery there is also very well maintained!
Bulgaria has an ancient traditional culture in several areas. From famous opera singers to typical Bulgarian cuisine. Not everything captivated us, but a few things definitely stood out for us.
We can appreciate the folk dance of Bulgaria because its music encourages you to participate. We can also appreciate the beautiful works of art, which you will find mostly from local street artists. These colorful works of art often include flowers, but also ballerinas and animals. Art is also always found in the numerous churches.
Bulgarian cuisine didn’t quite convince us. Especially meat dishes and pastries are on the menu. We tried a traditional pastry, and it tasted just like oil balls. Actually, most dishes are greasy or prepared with lots of garlic. This isn’t really our thing. Of course, in Sofia you will also find restaurants with different choices of pasta or seafood dishes.
And finally, language is perhaps the biggest stumbling block when going to Bulgaria. Because they have a different alphabet, we cannot make out anything from their language. We tried, as we do in every country, to learn a few basic words like “hello” and “thank you” but this was almost impossible to remember (not to mention the correct pronunciation!). Fortunately, much of the population in Sofia can speak a word of English!
Would you like to go on a city trip to Sofia in Bulgaria?
All these things make Sofia in Bulgaria a surprisingly interesting city trip with lots of variety. Would you like to go on a city trip to Sofia? We’ll be listing our favorite activities and sights in Sofia, Bulgaria for you next week! Bet you want to leave right away.
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