The bohemian nation of Bulgaria offers a kaleidoscope of culture and fun activities. The country shares its northern border with Romania, its southern border with Greece and Turkey, and has direct access to the Black Sea via the East. The proximity of these various cultures ensures that the country has a steady stream of local and international tourists throughout the year.
A visit to the nation’s capital Sofia will reveal a rich architectural heritage evident at the Archaeological Museum and the Alexander Nevski Church.
Nature lovers can enjoy an array of outdoor activities just a few miles away from the city center. Nestled six miles away, the rugged slopes of Vitosha Mountain come into view. Visitors can enjoy hours of hiking in the summer and skiing on powdery slopes during the winter. There are plenty of activities for the novice and the experienced skiers alike, as well as lessons for children.
Farther afield and to the south, expect to be greeted by long stretches of picturesque woodlands that unfold into the Rhodope Mountains. For a more relaxing time, enjoy a therapeutic massage after a dip in one of Devin’s famous hot springs.
No vacation is complete without an extensive sampling of the local cuisine, and Sofia promises to impress in this regard. Its multi-ethnic population ensures a diverse range of culinary delights whose recipes have been perfected over several generations. Manastirska Magernitsa is one such place where large portions of authentic Bulgarian dishes are served.
The Pri Yafata is another food locale where you can sample delicious duck, rabbit and chicken recipes while you listen to vibrant bohemian live music. Other notable restaurants are Happy Bar and Grill, BESO bar and grill and Victoria Restaurants.
Sofia is home to a number of highly regarded Muslim-owned halal restaurants. Examples include Awadh at Ulitsa Cherkovna 41 in Sofia which offers a full halal menu and opens daily from 10AM to 10PM. Phoenicia at Kompleks Zona B5, ulitsa Osogovo, blok 5 in Sofia has Turkish, Lebanese and Arabic influences and offers a full halal menu.
With strong Turkish influences, T&M Restaurant is situated in central Sofia at Ulitsa Yuri Venelin 34 and serves a full halal menu in a welcoming, traditional atmosphere.
Live bands are popular in Sofia, and you can catch a performance almost every night at local hotspots. Bulgarians have an ear for music; you can find clubs that play blues, electronica, metal, and even reggae. A unique treat for many revelers is the presence of piano bars such as the Big Apple, Sinatra and Lime Light.
Shopaholics will be in for a treat at the hundreds of retailers in the upscale Pirtoska Shopping Street and the TZUM mall. Being on vacation can lead to poor eating habits, but thankfully traditional shopping places like the Zhenski Pazar’s open air market sell copious amounts of fresh, colorful produce to help you stick to your healthy diet.
If you are the type to curl up with a book, Sofia has just the place for you. The Borisova Gradina’s colorful flower beds, juxtaposed against numerous grey statues, offer the perfect atmosphere for light reading or a relaxing stroll. The park also has play areas and eateries that can serve as a good distraction for children if they become fidgety.
There are plenty of other ways to keep children entertained in Sofia. A visit to the Sofia Zoo is free for children under seven years old and is just what they need to let their inner Tarzan shine. Join in on the fun at Kokolandia adventure park for some rope climbing and obstacle courses.
Other places that young children may find enjoyable are the Oboristhe Park and Sofia Garden City while their older siblings may like bowling at Mega Extreme Bowling or go-carting at Karting Sport.
The vibrant city of Sofia has a unique, welcoming and ethnically diverse atmosphere, boasting a fascinating history, dramatic mountain scenery, world-class shopping districts and almost every cuisine imaginable. Bringing together Lebanese, Turkish, Arabic and indigenous Bulgarian influences, it’s of little wonder that Sofia has become such a popular destination with many GCC residents.
Students of history will enjoy the communist monument at the east end of the park, which stands as a testament to decades of communist rule in the nation. Mingle with the occasional war veteran who comes to pay homage to fellow comrades lost during World War II.
For more information make sure you read our Sofia Destination Guide.
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