Sofia is the largest and capital city of Bulgaria. The city was formerly referred to as Serdica. In fact, it was the Celtic tribe "Serdi" that first founded this town way back in the 5th century BC. Until 1879, it stayed as a small settlement and later on attained the status of capital city. The city holds the 15th rank amongst the largest cities of the European Union and has an approximate population of 1.3 million people. The Globalization and World Cities Research Network has declared the city as a Beta city. Sofia is also home to various significant universities, business centers, and cultural institutions.
Located in the foothills of Mount Vitosha, this city occupies an integral position in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula. The city is located on the western side of Bulgaria in the Sofia Valley and is sprawled over an approximate area of 1,344 sq kms. This valley has an approximate altitude of 550 meters and is engulfed by mountains on all sides.
How to reach :
- By air : When talking about the busiest airport of Bulgaria, Sofia Airport makes a mark for sure. This airport was built in 1930 and lies at a distance of 10 kms from the city’s center. The airport serves as a host to more than 25 airlines that fly to and fro from here. You can also avail direct flights to/from Rome, Amsterdam, Paris, Athens, London, Vienna, Munich as well as other European cities. Besides the conventional carriers, you can also avail low-cost airlines like EasyJet, Germanwings, and Wizz Air to name a few. Once you reach the airport, there are several options to reach the city including:
- By bus : Through public bus line 84 line, you can travel to both the terminals. Usually it takes somewhere between 30-40 minutes depending on the traffic to reach the city center. The major bus station - the Sofia Bus Station - lies close to the city center. Besides, there are three other stations from where you can avail buses for nearby destinations.
- By shuttle : There are several companies that run shuttle service to and from the airport to your desired location. You will find them at the arrival halls of the airport. You can also rent a personal cab, though this is a bit expensive option.
- By train : International trains offer various routes to Sofia. In other words, you can reach Sofia by train from destinations like Bucharest, Istanbul, Kiev, Belgrade, Vienna, and Moscow, to name a few. Presently, trains from Istanbul are not available as they are under renovation; however, this problem is anticipated to be resolved from the start of New Year. Trains to/from Bucharest run twice a day via the border cities of Ruse and Giurgiu. The Bulgarian State Railways operates all train services.
The city enjoys a humid continental climate and records an approximate annual temperature of 10.1°C. Winters are usually extremely cold and you can expect snowfall during the coldest days. During extreme winters (usually in January), the temperature can drop down to −15°C. Summers in Sofia are usually warm and sunny, wherein the temperature can rise up to 35°C, especially in the months of July and August. Autumn and spring are comparatively short and enjoy a variable weather.
Culture (fairs and festivals) and traditions :
Some of the fairs and festival that you can enjoy on your tour to Sophia are as follows :
- Puppet Fair : This international puppet fair is held biannually. Professional troupes from Bulgaria as well as other global destinations participate in this fair. Age and language are certainly not a bar out here, rather the only thing that counts is real talent among the participants.
- International Tourist Fair Holiday and Expo : This tourist fair welcomes travel agencies, tour operators, travel media representatives, and other people associated with this domain. Both the locals as well as international guests are invited to participate here.
- Sihre Interiors : This three-day event is usually held at the Inter Expo Center Sofia and showcases various products like tablecloths, table, textile, curtains, wallpapers, and glass paintings.
- Bulgaria Building Week : This fair is exclusively meant for the traders. Local and international architects, building merchants, builders, financiers, planners, and property developers participate in this fair.
The must visit attractions of Sophia include :
- Maria Luisa Pool : If it's an expanse of greenery that you are eyeing, then make your way towards the Maria Luisa Pool. The nearby attractions include the Vasil Levski Stadium and the CSKA Stadium.
- Aleksander Nevski Church : This is a famous church of Bulgaria. The church was constructed in between 1882-1912 in order to honor the 2,000,000 Russian soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the independence of the country.
- Museum of Socialist Art : The Museum of Socialist Art is renowned for its precious statues of Lenin and some of the finest collections of paintings, etc.
- Royal Palace : Initially, this palace served as the headquarters of the Ottoman police force. However, post-liberation the palace was renovated in the Viennese style and designated as the official residence of the royal families of Bulgaria. Today, it is home to the Ethnographical Museum and National Art Gallery.
When you are all set to go for a vacation, make sure you’ve chosen a great accommodation as well. If budget is not a constraint for you, then look for hotels like the Grand Hotel Sofia, Hilton Sofia, Arena di Serdica Residence Hotel, Sense Hotel Sofia, Holiday Inn Sofia, Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan, and Kempinski Hotel Zografski Sofia. On the flip side, people running on a tight budget can look for options like the Orient Express Guest House, Sofia Guesthouse or Galiani Hostel.
Last Updated : January 03, 2014