To add more on the Bulgaria Travel Guide, I thought to share some useful tips and facts about Sofia and the best time to visit Bulgaria. Tips that will help first-time visitors and not only!
Facts about Sofia
Sofia is a city of contradiction –ancient yet modern, mysterious yet accessible. It is nevertheless a charming and green capital city with plenty of tourist attractions. First-time visitors will love its culture-rich atmosphere and the many brilliant sights of interest that has to present.
The city is perfect for solo travellers, couples and history buffs. Some people love Sofia from a first sight while others grow to love it when they get to know its beauty and secrets.
A trip to Sofia is by now much more accessible than years before due to International airlines and the growing number of low-cost carriers that fly from Europe. Lodging rates are reasonable too.
Location and Parks
Located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, Sofia makes a unique destination compared to other capitals around the world. A short bus drive from the city centre to the two cable cars will take you up to several hiking trails, ski-runs and slopes. What’s more, one of them remains open for night skiing as well. Several professionals often end the day skiing up the mountain.
Sofia has a lovely greenbelt with several large and nicely kept parks and gardens, while off the beaten track you will come across charming streets, you will see a police post turned into a beehive, art installations of various kind, even street poles turned into blooming flowers!
There is always something hidden that draws attention to the small streets in the city centre. People exercise a lot here, families are out in the parks with their kids, while elderly enjoy their morning strolls in snowy paths no matter weather conditions.
The City Center enjoys the unique atmosphere of its own with stylish restaurants, buzzing nightclubs, chic bars, outlets and Malls, theatres and cinemas. A visitor can never get bored here!
Best time to visit Bulgaria
- Of course, this depends entirely on what you plan to do. Spring months are normally a bit chilly. The grey of winter turns to greenery and the trees are in full blossom.
- July and August is peak time for heat. If you find yourself in Sofia this time of year, you can seek refuge in the beautiful parks.
- Autumn is a lovely time to visit. Trees are starting to turn into the most beautiful colours of reds, orange, and yellows.
- In November, come for the International Jazz Festival if you are a jazz fan.
- If you are a winter sports enthusiast, definitely December and January are the best. It is when snow is thick on the Vitosha Mountain. Personally, I love visiting Sofia in winter as I love snow. However, winter months are freezing with several degrees below zero. The icy streets send people to a hospital with injuries from the falling pieces of ice from roofs and because of the slippery ice in streets.
Your trip to Sofia won’t be full without trying the local food. The Bulgarian food and traditional cuisine are quite tasty and the choice of restaurants, impressive, with options for every taste and budget. There is a free Sofia Food Tour that you can join and learn about the regional cooking traditions.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Besides traditional crafts, you can find the excellent quality of cosmetics. One of these is the Bulgarian Rose Tarnovo Cosmetic Company. It is the unique place where you can buy authentic Bulgarian Rose gifts, and the range of products here will surprise you. Note that there are a lot of tourist traps with fake rose cosmetics around the city, so be careful where you purchase yours.
Day trip to Plovdiv
Plovdiv Philippopolis is one of the most popular destinations to visit. It will take only a few minutes inside the historical old town of Plovdiv (Philippopolis) to realize how unique this town is. Traventuria –Day Tours is a reliable agency, a fully bonded Bulgarian tour operator with an experience of over ten years in the field of tourism in Bulgaria and the Balkans.
Staying Alert for Scams
- Take the minimum precautions, as Sofia might be a safe place to be, with, however, specific dangers. In any case, the emergency number is 112.
- Don’t flash large amounts of money
- Pickpockets easily approach tourists -not locals.
- Keep valuables secured and avoid wearing flashy jewellery.
- Be aware of missing man-hole covers, open holes, streets with the poor or icy pavement.
- Be careful with your wallets, purses, and bags, especially if using public transport.
- Avoid making yourself a target and be careful when you are out and about at night.
- If somebody approaches you asking for anything that you might need to get from inside your bag (money or a cigarette) merely ignore them.
- Money exchange should be done only in the banks and money withdrawal – only by well-lit ATM machines.
- Besides pickpocketing, there is the chance that you could be mugged. Again, this typically happens in cities.
- Be careful when you cross the street as the drivers are oblivious or aggressive even at the pedestrian crossings.
Tourist Information Offices
It is advisable to get to a tourist information centre right from the first day of visiting Sofia. From the one indicated below, you can book a day tour to Rila Monastery or other destination beyond the capital. You will get all the information you need, plus free maps and brochure for local restaurants, public transport as well as advice on your Bulgaria itinerary. The staff are amiable and attentive and will do their best to make the most of your trip to Sofia.
Tourist Information Centre – Sofia
22 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd. (in the underpass of St Kliment Ohridski Sofia University)
Tel.: +359 2 491 83 44; +359 2 491 83 45
The Largo Tourist Information Centre
Tel: +359 889 599 240; +359 885 921 627; +359 2 49 49 315
July – Sept: Mon – Fri: 8 am – 8 pm and Sat – Sunday: 10: am – 6 p.m
Oct – May: Mon – Fri: 9:30 am – 6:30 pm
Closed during weekends.
National Tourist Information Center
Address: 1 St. Nedelia Square