Surprised by Sofia, Bulgaria
SOFIA, Bulgaria’s Capital City
Onward to the mostly unknown capital of Bulgaria, the city of Sofia. Truth be told the initial reason I added Sofia to our itinerary was as part of an intricate attempt to maximize all of our hotel rewards points during this trip. In the travel hacking world there are always sweet spots and Starwood’s Sofia Balkan Hotel, one of their Luxury Collection properties, for a mere 3000 points per night seemed like it might just be one of those sweet spots as their Luxury Collection properties typically go for 12,000+. A strange reason, but hey, it’s how we manage to travel far and wide and with so many interesting places in to see, it’s nice to sometimes have a starting point, no matter how silly the reason.
Which brings us to Sofia! A perfectly dynamic city with great walkability, the city is full of parks and gardens and green space and snow capped mountains can be spotted off in the distance. They have an interesting up-and-coming food scene and a few fun areas for night life. Some aspects of the city seem quite modern, yet the entire city center is full of ancient ruins from its days as a part of both the Roman and Turkish Ottoman Empires.
A self guided walking tour
A quick glance at the typical tourist brochures and we agreed that there really wasn’t anything on the typical tourist circuit that we felt we just had to see. There are many museums, galleries and churches to tour. Sofia has a day spa culture that lures visitors with splendid hot springs and healing mineral baths. And there are a few half-day trips offered into the nearby mountains. But we weren’t really feeling any of that. Instead, our 48 hour Sofia stop was just about walking and exploring on our own, stopping for a drink or a snack or a few minutes on a park bench whenever the inspiration struck.
Beautiful Orthodox Churches
One of the delights of our self guided walking tour through Sofia was coming across many of the impressive churches that fill this city. From the mammoth Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to smaller structures tucked into busy city blocks, there are a lot of beautiful churches in this city. As we found to be common in the region many had been converted from mosques, with interesting architectural results.
A Blend of Eastern European and Communist-style Architecture
While many of the streets and neighborhoods are colorful and cheery, there are also a lot of Communist-style buildings and structures scattered throughout the city center.
Sofia, an Underrated Eastern European Capital
Granted, 48 hours is hardly enough time to get the full picture of a place but I think Sofia is a bit overlooked and underrated. Inexpensive. Good and varied food options. Close to the mountains and a ski area. Friendly. Lots of parks and families out enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. An all around good place!