Bulgaria is one of our must-visit travel destinations for 2020. While the southern summer resort of Sunny Beach is popular with budget sun-seekers, it would be a mistake to overlook the capital, Sofia.
This small but intriguing city is packed with Ottoman-era mosques, elaborate domed churches, busy boulevards, vast parks, manicured gardens and some of Bulgaria’s top museums, galleries and restaurants.
A stay here is pretty affordable so don’t be afraid to splash out on luxury accommodation, like InterContinental Sofia. Located in the heart of the city, it overlooks the Narodno Sabranie Square and some rooms offer breathtaking views of St Alexandar Nevski Cathedral, one of the city’s major landmarks.
To sample the finest traditional Bulgarian food, head to Shtastliveca for dishes like katuk (a creamy, sour and salty cheese dip), shopska salad and meshena skara, a classic Bulgarian mixed grill.
Before & After is a reasonably-priced restaurant set in a house that offers a unique dining experience, while Skapto Iskar 11A is the best place to go for tasty and juicy burgers that come loaded with extras.
Sofia is teeming with lovely bars offering very competitive prices, especially when it comes to beer. Visit the Ale House and you’ll never have to leave your table as each one has its very own beer tap and a counter that helpfully keeps track of how many you’ve had.
Across from Sofia’s beautiful Park Zaimov you’ll find Raketa Rakia Bar, which specialises in Bulgaria’s unofficial national drink, rakia, a fermented fruit brandy.
A walk around the capital will reveal some truly grand architecture. Prize among them is the impressive St Alexandar Nevski Cathedral, the second-largest cathedral in the Balkan region which dates back to the 1880s. And the St George Rotunda, a red brick church built in the 300s. For a spot of shopping, take a stroll down the Vitosha Boulevard, which is lined with boutique shops and outdoor cafes. The street has incredible views of the distant Vitosha Mountain, home to Bulgaria’s top ski resort.