A guide to visiting Sofia
Note:- This is a guest post by Kieran Chapman.
As one of the EU’s newest capitals, Sofia manages to combine its growing cosmopolitanism with a charming traditionalism. The compact city is easy to navigate on foot, and has plenty of green spaces to offset some of the busier streets. As something of a culture vulture, I particularly love Sofia’s museums, art galleries and theaters, which are the best in Bulgaria.
Photo credit : Lauras
Numerous low-cost airlines offer Sofia as a destination. You can compare flights to find the best deals. I got a return to Sofia for £120 with easyJet. For those who prefer to go overland, Eurolines run a bus service between Sofia and London. Trains arrive in Sofia’s central train station from all major European destinations.
For travel around the city, I used the trams wherever possible to get an idea of where I was going. Other options include buses, minibuses, trolleybuses and the underground metro. These all run from between 5am and 11.30pm every day. For late nights, the city has plenty of relatively low cost taxis.
The Sofia region was settled as long ago as the 8th century BC, but it wasn’t until the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185–1396) that the city got its name. The Ottomans captured the city in 1382 and held it for nearly five centuries. The Banya Bashi Mosque is a beautiful example of the architecture from this period.
Sofia became Communist after its ‘liberation’ by the Red Army in 1944. This lasted 45 years, during which time the Communists built their usual swathe of high-rise residential blocks and monstrous monuments. The city became a member of the EU in 2007, bringing with it a new sense of prosperity and hope for the future.
One of Sofia’s best museums is the National Museum of Military History. It tells the fascinating history of warfare in Bulgaria, and is packed with uniforms and weaponry. When I say weaponry, I mean tanks and MiG fighters. Usefully for me (as I don’t speak Bulgarian), the information boards and labels all have English translations.
Another of my favourites is the National Art Gallery, which is packed with 19th and 20th century paintings and sculptures. I particularly enjoyed the works of Vladimir Dimitrov, Goshka Datsov, Georgi Mashev and Anton Mitov.