Tuesday, 27 September 2016

When to go

As a capital city, Sofia offers an array of things to do throughout the year. It is at its most pleasant between late spring and early autumn (May-September), when the streets, parks and outdoor venues fill up and give the city a vibrant feel. During the colder months, Sofia itself gets a little drab, but the snowy slopes of the nearby Vitosha Mountain allow for a quick escape.

How to get there


BOOK A FLIGHT

By Air


Sofia’s recently renovated airport is conveniently located at less than 10 km and a quick car ride from the city centre (5 to 8 euros in local currency, BGN, by cab). International and Bulgarian airlines connect it to most of the major Western European destination by direct flights, from where farther destinations can be reached. Traditional airlines and low cost carriers share the market. The national carrier, Bulgaria Air, usually offers quite cheap flights, low cost flights connect Sofia to over 20 European cities, including London, Manchester, Rome, Venice, Milan, Brussels, Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Paris, Frankfurt and others.


By Rail


Sofia’s Central Station, about a 20-minute walk from the city centre, was also recently renovated but a certain shadiness typical of central train stations remains. Trains are used more often for transportation within the country, but international lines from Sofia are also available. Though it is the slowest option, (the single exception being Thessaloniki-Sofia, which is a fast and efficient connection between the two cities), Sofia is connected by rail to most of the Balkan capitals and other bigger cities in the region, and through them, to the rest of Europe. Those who are more adventurous, romantically-inclined or simply have a lot of time on their hands can also reach Moscow and St. Petersburg by rail.


By Road


Partly because there are no direct flights between Sofia and most of the capitals and bigger cities of the neighboring Balkan countries and partly because of their relative proximity, road travel is the cheapest and fastest way to reach them. Though there are no proper highways, the roads are relatively decent and currently improving. They link Sofia to Belgrade (5-6 hours) and the rest of Central and Western Europe through it, Skopije (4-5 hours), Bucharest (5 hours), Thessaloniki (5 hours) and Istanbul (7 hours).


Where to stay


Though the majority of Sofia’s hotels are refurbished Communist-era establishments, often with a corresponding customer service quality, the situation is changing rapidly. In recent years, the city has witnessed the springing up of modern hotels – international chains, as well as boutique-type ones. Budget travellers now have the option of staying in the cheap but decent, centrally-located hostels, boasting a nice atmosphere and friendly staff. Prices vary greatly and travellers could pay anything from 10 euros for a bed in a hostel to 200 euros in the international chain, five-star hotels.


Where to eat


Sofia offers a range of eating venues and even the most upscale and fancy restaurants are quite cheap compared to other European capitals. A quick bite on the street, such as a pizza slice, is a cheap and easy option. Fast food chains are widespread.

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The most popular venue type among Bulgarians are birarias and pitsarias, or beer and pizza places, which offer a good selection of Bulgarian meals at decent prices and a good service. International cuisine is also available – from downtrodden Chinese takeout and döner kebab places to fancy French restaurants, swanky fusion venues and sushi bars.