As one of Europe’s oldest capital cities, Sofia is a destination where you’ll find the old jostling with the new, where the ancient and the innovative collide. In its 7,000 years of urban history, Sofia has been inhabited and shaped by the Greeks and Romans, Ottomans, and Slavic tribes. It is a heady, diverse brew of Balkan and Mediterrean cultures. Whether you orientate your travels around food, culture, outdoor activities, or ways to relax, you’ll find a wealth of activities to enjoy in Sofia. Join us as we explore our top 5 reasons why you should visit Sofia at least once in your life. And while you are here, be sure to check out our range of Private Bulgaria Day Trips.
Sofia is a Truly Green City
Sofia is a city of airy, wide boulevards and an array of parks and leafy squares. In Borisova Gradina (Boris’s Garden), the city’s largest park, visitors can explore woodland and forget the bustle of the surrounding city. In the summer months the park hosts outdoor theatre and musical concerts, while the winter sees the park’s central lake turned into a skating rink. City Garden is the city’s oldest park and sits within walking distance of several attractions, including The National Art Gallery and the Sofia City Art Gallery. This historic park is dotted with fountains and makes for a splendid place to stop and watch the world go by; look out for the city’s chess players who come here to compete each day. Nature lovers will not want to miss Sofia’s Yuzhen Park (South Park), located in the south of the city. Popular with local birdwatchers, the Yuzhen Park is a place of tranquility which offers streams, meadowland, and perhaps the best views in the city of the nearby Vitosha Mountain. Sofia is a city that presents travellers with a winning mix of big-city culture and strong green credentials.
Sofia’s History Stretches Back a Long Way
In the 4th century AD, the Roman emperor Constantine the Great referred to Sofia, then known as Ulpia Serdica, as “my Rome”. Its history, however, goes back much further with evidence of neolithic peoples settling here around 3,000 BC. Located strategically in the centre of the Balkan peninsula through which ancient trade routes would run, Sofia boasts a historical depth rivalled by few other European cities. When Sofia began to build its Metro system in the 1990s, work was halted many times as archeological discoveries were made. Today, as you stroll through the city, you will encounter the exposed excavation sites, revealing layers of the city’s past. Sofia’s buildings also reveal the multi-faceted nature of her past, visit The Square of Tolerance where you’ll find a quartet of religious buildings: a mosque, a synagogue, a Catholic church, and an Orthodox church. History enthusiasts can delve further by paying a visit to some of the city’s world-class museums, including the National Museum of History and the National Archeology Museum.
Sofia Offers Rest and Relaxation
In just 30 minutes, you can make your way from the centre of Sofia to the Vitosha Nature Park, the oldest nature reserve in the Balkans. Whenever you are in Sofia, the Vitosha mountain is never far from sight, and it provides residents and visitors with opportunities to hike, climb, ski, or simply enjoy a leisurely walk in a stunning woodland setting. There are surely few capital cities that can boast of such close proximity to a mountain and it’s a characteristic that leads many to fall in love with the city. For those wishing to stay and relax in the heart of the city, we recommend exploring Sofia’s burgeoning specialist coffee scene. Since 2008 DABOV have been leading the charge, roasting their own expertly sourced beans and running two cafes where you can treat yourself to their exquisite brews. Other exciting businesses in this buzzing coffee culture are Fabrika Daga (Rainbow Factory), Drekka, and Chucky’s Coffee House. If your trip is time limited, or you wish to root your trip in the city centre, consider taking our dedicated Sofia Walking Tour where you’ll enjoy all the main attractions in the company of an expert guide.
Sofia is a Gateway to Further Treasures
The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place of enormous cultural and spiritual significance in Bulgaria. Nestled in the valley of the Rilska River, this 10th century monastery offers magical architecture in an equally enchanting natural landscape. Also located in this region are the Seven Rila Lakes, a group of glacial lakes that make for some of the most picturesque scenery to be found in the whole of Europe and beyond. Both sites can be visited on day tours from Sofia and we offer trips to each as part of our Private Bulgaria Day Trips. Lovers of wildlife and history will not want to miss these magnificent places of beauty.
Sofia is a Uniquely International City
In recent years the number of international visitors to Sofia has increased by over 12%. It is unsurprising that more travellers are recognising Sofia as one of Europe’s most exciting destinations, the city’s geographic location and history make it a wonderful melting pot of cultures. The local cuisine is recognisably Balkan, but with a Mediterranean twist. The architecture dances, almost from building to building, between styles. And most significantly, the population is drawn from a variety of countries and cultures. This diversity of people who choose to live and work in Sofia is a big part of the magic behind all the city has to offer. This is an especially vibrant city that warmly invites you to explore the wealth of experiences on offer.
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