In this Destination Guide you will find information for : Sofia
♦Currency: Lev (BGN)
♦Zone: +2 GMT
♦Phone Code: +359
♦Best time to visit: April to September
♦Must eat: Shopska salata
♦Must drink: Infusions
♦Don't miss: National Museum of History
Number of times visited: 1
Getting there and transportation: Arriving to Bulgaria from within Europe is simple thanks to the number of growing low cost airlines offering cheap and frequent flights to Bulgaria now. You can fly there from most European capitals, using national or legacy airlines which fly into the country's main gateway, Sofia.
The national airline is Bulgaria Air, which flies from domestic destinations within Bulgaria to Sofia and onwards to many European capitals. Alternatively you can take low cost airlines like Easyjet, Wizzair or Ryanair.
If coming outside Europe, there are very limited direct connections. So a transit stop will be required in some major European city normally.
Another option in getting to Bulgaria is by Bus or train from other countries. If you're travelling around and don't want to spend lots of money on plane tickets then getting Eurolines coaches is the best answer. You can more info on routes and prices at Eurolines.bg
By train you can reach Sofia from neighbouring counties.Cities like Belgrade, Istanbul, Bucharest, Athens, Ljubljana, or Vienna have direct services to Sofia.
Within the country, public transportation is somewhat still old fashioned when compared to other cities. However since Bulgaria is now part of the European Union it's improving its transport infrastructure. Sofia has a good and reliable public transport system, however, the rest of the country can offer limited services when in smaller cities.
Travelling domestically you will find plenty of busses and trains linking other cities. It's not expensive to travel by them and tickets can always be bought on the day of departure costing the same as bought in advance.
Weather and temperature: Bulgaria has continental weather which brings hot summer's and very cold winter's (often snow). The appeal is double, as many travellers opt for Winter to ski in the nearby mountains, which have the benefit of being much cheaper then other ski resorts like France or Switzerland.In winter temperatures can drop to -5 in the mountains, but +3 on the planes. On the opposite side Summer's are very enjoyable with temperatures reaching the high 30's and plenty of blue sky. For tourism in the country, culture and nature it's probably best to visit Bulgaria from April to September. Taking in mind that the months of July and August are more expensive. If you want to visit for Winter sports then the best time is January.
What to eat and drink: Dinner is a social occasion, with traditional music and dancing in many restaurants, especially in resorts and in some Sofia eateries. Food is hearty and good. Meals usually start with a salad, from which there are many to choose from on the menu. There is a wide variety of national dishes, as well as Western European standard dishes. There are many attractive folk-style restaurants and cafés throughout the country.
Specialities include: Tarator , cold soup made from cucumber, walnuts and yoghurt. Shopska salata, huge salad starter with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and white cheese. Kavarma ,individual casseroles of pork or veal, onions and mushrooms. Surmi, stuffed vine or cabbage leaves stuffed with meat. Kebapche, small, strongly spiced, minced meat rolls.
Drinks: Coffee is very popular, specially served espresso style. Infusions, made from herbs and dried leaves, particularly lime. White wines include Evksinograde, Karlouski Misket and Tamianka. Heavy red wines include Mavroud and Trakia. As for liquors, mastika (aniseed spirit, usually diluted) and rakia (local brandy) are local favourites.
Transportation: Arriving to Sofia from the airport is easy. Sofia Metro Line 1 connects Sofia Airport to the city centre and provides direct connection from the airport to the large residential complexes in close proximity. The trip takes 18 min. There is also public busses (84 and 384) which connect to the city, depending where you go it might be a good option. You need to buy tickets at the airport terminal before boarding the service.
Once in the city, Sofia is easy to walk around if you stay within the city centre. But if you need to get public transport, it's very handy and reasonable. To download the below map follow this link: Sofia Transport Map.
What to see and do: There is a a lot of culture to discover in Sofia, however, there is also scenery and nature and it's very popular as a sport's destination.
The highlights of the city are summarised below:
Tip: One of the best ways of discovering the city is by "free walking tour". These tours are organised by locals or foreign students who study in the city and can show you around, explain key aspects of the city, architecture and culture and tell you curious things about it too. They are totally free and only require a donation at the end if you consider it worth it. It's a great way of meeting other travellers as well if you travel solo. For more info check this site: Sofia Walking tour.
Accommodation: It's a very easy city to find all kinds of accommodation. From the high-end luxury hotels, to more budget hostels and even Airbnb is quite popular with local hosts taking up the idea more and more. The city is not expensive, however, there are plenty of normal Hotels which offer good prices and conveniently located. These hotels which are not part of any chains or big names, might be a little antique in regards to decoration and style. But it can be curious to stay here as it's like travelling back in time. Prices are from €25 per night per room within walking distance to the city. Sofia is safe, most Hotels have good security. However don't expose valuables or personal belongings at the hotel after leaving your room and lock your luggage just to be secure.
Recommended duration: Staying in Sofia is ideal for a short stay whilst you are visiting other cities or countries within the region. If you coming to ski then you might want to take a few more days but for general tourism in Sofia 3 nights would be enough.