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Last Updated: Apr 5, 2016
Sofia On a Budget
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and also its largest city. Some people have tried to compare it to Budapest, but the cities are actually quite different. In Sofia you will find wonderful European style architecture intertwined with Communist style buildings. It's fascinating to see the two dramatically different building styles immediately next to each other. There are also many Orthodox Churches around town, with their beautiful domes and intricate details.
Sofia is also conveniently located in close proximity to a popular ski resort at Vitosha mountain. It is jumping off distance to explore and enjoy some beautiful countryside and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The climate in Sofia is humid continental and the winters are cold and snowy while the summers are warm and sunny. At it's coldest, the city can reach around -15 degrees Celsius. It's not uncommon for there to be fog during the winter and there are on average 60 days with snow cover a year. Even during the summer months, Sofia is usually a little cooler than the rest of Bulgaria because of its high altitude. During heat waves though, temperatures can reach 35 degrees Celsius. During the spring and fall months temperatures and weather conditions can vary widely.
The city itself has some wonderful museums, galleries, parks and gardens. Popular sights include the National Assembly of Bulgaria, Sofia University, the National Palace of Culture, the National Museum of Military History, St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Boyana Church and the Church of St. George, among others.
If you're in town on a weekend you can easily find an interesting street market. Booths will line the street with vendors selling knickknacks of varying quality. Some items are fascinating representations of the Communist era and can make for a unique souvenir.
There are 24 districts to Sofia, which include three other towns and 34 villages. Some notable districts include Oborishte, Sredets, Vazrazhdane, Mladost and Vitosha. Oborishte is at the heart of the city and where you'll find the majority of the landmarks and monuments. The architecture is predominantly neo-Renaissance and Viennese in style. There is also an impressive green belt. Sredets is next to Oborishte and it has similar architecture. This is where the Gardens of Boris is located as well as the Vasil Levski National Stadium. Vazrazhdane is the economic center of the city. There are many banks, manufacturing companies as well as the Central Sofia Market Hall and St. Nedelya Church. Mladost is a rapidly developing part of the city. A large portion of the population resides here and there are great transportation connections. Vitosha is at the foot of the Vitosha Mountain. There are many luxury estates and villas here, and there are many transportation connections to the city center.
Activities in Sofia include the opera and ballet, citywide tours, swimming areas and spas. Popular festivals include the Sofia Film Festival, Sofia Design Week, and the Water Tower Art Fest, among others. Do take note that during major national holidays such as Christmas or Orthodox Easter, the city is completely deserted and many places are closed.
Food and Dining
There are plenty of restaurants in Sofia, and it easily has the best food selection in all of Bulgaria. If you're on a particularly tight budget, fast food options are abundant and many places offer a convenient take away service. Pizza is ubiquitous in Sofia and is often one of the cheapest options available. Also consider trying some of the interesting pastry options available around town, many of which are filled with a hearty meat filling. Salads are another great option in Sofia. They usually do not include lettuce, but instead have an impressive diversity of ingredients that are fresh and delicious. The feta style cheese in particular is quite good. You can find some more traditional restaurants around Sofia as well. Many are more expensive, but have a fun atmosphere with folk music or some form of live entertainment. International restaurants are often more expensive than you might expect, but the food is usually good and a nice break from the options available elsewhere in Bulgaria.
Public transportation in Sofia is well established and efficient. There are buses, trolleys, trams, and a subway. In all, there are 15 tram lines, 9 trolley lines, 93 bus lines and two metro lines. It is helpful to know that bus #84 runs from the airport to the city center. There is also a subway line that connects to the airport. The entire public transportation system operates between the hours of 5 am and 12 am. After that time you must take a taxi. The city's taxi's are yellow and they can be flagged down on the street or called by phone. They are usually fast, reliable, and affordable.
1 Categories averaged on a per-item basis.
2 Categories averaged on a per-day basis.
For example, the Food2 daily average is for all meals for an entire day, while Entertainment1 is for each individual purchase.