“Sofia was a really pleasant surprise for me, and I think it’s a perfect destination for a weekend or a long weekend trip. It has interesting sights, but not too many, so you don’t leave feeling disappointed that you didn’t see them all (I mean that in a positive sense – not that it’s boring, but you don’t have to rush around in the way you would if you wanted to see the sights of, say, London in two days).
Every evening at 6pm there are free walking tours of the city, led by young Bulgarians, and these allow you to see practically all the interesting sights in just a few hours. You can also get some interesting local knowledge you won’t find in the guidebooks, so it’s a worthwhile experience if you like this kind of guided tour.
When it comes to the sights themselves, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral alone made the trip worthwhile for me, but besides that what really drew me in, and the reason why I personally would highly recommend the city, was the incredibly relaxed, friendly atmosphere I felt in Sofia. I’m not even sure what big city I’d compare it to – perhaps Berlin? I felt as though, ok, it doesn’t have the romance of Venice or Paris or Amsterdam, and strikes the visitor as a much more ‘industrial’ city, but that youthful, relaxed, open atmosphere is so captivating that I haven’t met anyone who isn’t charmed by it. That, more or less, is my impression of Sofia.
Parks, sunsets, everyone out of doors, cozy bars and restaurants, funny street art, and a host of tiny gems. It’s a very walkable city, with a fantastic atmosphere that makes it a pleasure to just hang out. I particularly recommend the Sredets district, which has a lot of super cute spots. My top discovery was a great little restaurant called Made in Blue, with an all-blue terrace.
“We spent two days in Sofia. In Sofia, the subway extends to the airport ... but only to Terminal 2. Budget flights arrive at Terminal 1. Bulgaria is not a Schengen country, so there is a passport/identity check, which can be a bit time-consuming.
From Terminal 1, the free shuttle bus takes five or six minutes to bring you to Terminal 2 (where the subway terminus is). The free shuttle bus runs every 15 minutes from 07:00 to 19:00, and every 30 minutes at other times.
The metro ticket costs 1.6 levs and can be purchased from the vending machines with cash or by card. The subway has a gate system, and we never saw a ticket inspector. By metro, it takes 15-20 minutes to reach the city center (Serdica stop - where you can transfer to the other metro line).
The center of Sofia is quite small, and the sights are all concentrated here. That's why you should go on one for a free tour that takes you around all of them. (https://freesofiatour.com/) The tour lasts 2-2.5 hours, the tour guides are pleasant and speak English very well, so it’s a really interesting and informative way to spend an afternoon.
You can visit the churches of all the various denominations for free. Sofia has the second largest Orthodox church in the Balkans: the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral. It's worth taking a look inside since it's free, but it costs 10 levs to take photographs (although I don't know who checks, or how.: D).
It is also worth checking out some local restaurants since the food is cheap and delicious. Also, the waiters are very friendly and know English! (The restaurants we went to were the Happy Bar & Grill, The Hajidragana Tavern, and Godzilla)
Above the town rises beautiful Mount Vitosha (more than 2000m high), which unfortunately we couldn’t get to due to lack of time. It is a popular excursion destination, and if you have the time, don’t miss it!
You can pay with a card almost anywhere, so it’s not worth changing a lot of cash.
Sofia was a really pleasant surprise for us. It’s an undiscovered, small, historic city within the EU. Cheap, not crowded, rich in history, and completely safe, with delicious food and nice locals. I can only recommend it to everyone! (l.l., 2020)
“In this city, the Balkan atmosphere immediately captures the heard. I think Bulgarian probably has the most smokers per capita in Europe, and every minute someone coughs or hacks. Here you’ll find the gloomiest faces on the subway, and I’ve never seen so many bearded (or at least mustachioed) ladies in one place before.
Sofia is not a fashion capital, and going out in a T-shirt and beach flip-flops is completely normal. I have to mention that in my experience, people aren’t the friendliest or most helpful here, and you really do have to pay attention to the opposite meanings of shaking and nodding your head. My favorites were the information desks at the train stations, where, with one or two exceptions, they look at you like something dubious they just stepped in.” (2017)