Sofia is the Bulgarian Capital city and one of the most ancient european cities.
For the second year in a row my beloved hubby chose the perfect birthday gift.
Many of you are thinking of clothes, jewelry, perfumes, watches …. etc, and instead, the perfect gift for my first 37 years has been a journey: a weekend to discover the Bulgarian capital.
The flight was booked well in advance and we flew with Wizzair, from Orio al Serio, for € 60.00 return for two adults and one child.
It was our first time with this low cost airline which, to be honest, has pleasantly surprised us. The airplanes are clean comfortable seats, moreover, the staff is friendly and not intrusive.
We arrived in Sofia around 17:00 and we opted for a taxi to reach our apartment in the city center.
Here, with hindsight, I suggest you use the subway, undoubtedly the fastest and most convenient way to reach the city center.
The apartment we booked through Booking.com at the Orange Flower Appartaments is located in a strategic position, just a few minutes walk from the main places of interest.
I must admit that it is huge, clean and equipped with every comfort (washing machine, microwave, kettle, coffee machine, TV) and characterized by a cheerful orange color!
The cost for two nights is € 85.00.
After leaving the suitcases and after a short and regenerating pit stop, we have bigellonato for the city center and in particular we walked to the famous Vitosha Boulevard, a symbolic street of nightlife, full of shops and numerous bars open all day. The avenue is made even more suggestive by the numerous typical Christmas lights.
For dinner we tried the Hadjidraganov’s Cellars restaurant, located in a side street of Vitosha Boulevard.
The place is super popular, not just for tourists, especially on weekends, which is why I recommend you book.
The cuisine is typical Bulgarian, the atmosphere also, the dishes are abundant and well balanced tastes.
For the little ones it is possible to order grilled chicken fillet and excellent baked potatoes.
Upon arrival we were offered an appetizer based on a selection of cheeses and croutons and for Jacopo, a set for coloring.
Prices are definitely below the Italian average. After dinner we made a short stop at the supermarket (about 200mt from our apartment, and open until 22:00) to buy the essential for breakfast, water, and fruit.
Saturday morning the alarm is relentless, at 08:00 we are all three outside, ready to face a day with a fast pace.
The impact with the cold temperature is not really pleasant, but the desire to discover Sofia and a coffe to go make everything simpler.
CATTEDRALE DI SANTA DOMENICA
First stop of the day is the Orthodox Cathedral of Santa Domenica which rises majestically at the beginning of Vitosha Boulevard.
The entrance is free, the interior is very rich and the walls completely frescoed.
CHIESA DI SAN GIORGIO
From the cathedral of Santa Domenica, a few meters away, is the church of San Giorgio (the Rotunda), the oldest building in Sofia, which over the years has gone from being a Christian church, a mosque and finally, a museum.
Our tour continues to the Palace of the President of the Republic; worthy of note is the changing of the guard which, as a rule, takes place every hour.
TEATRO IVAN VAZOV
Sofia is also very appreciated for its green spaces, connected by 20km of bike path.
We have crossed the Sofia City Garden, the central park of the Bulgarian capital to reach the National Theater Ivan Vazov, known for its beautiful neoclassical pediment, completely renovated in 2006.
CHIESA RUSSA DI SAN NICOLA
After about 10 minutes walk we see the small Russian church of St. Nicholas.
You can not but be fascinated by its green and gold bulbs, in my opinion, a prelude to the majestic Cathedral of Alexander Nevskij, the undisputed symbol of Sofia.
It is said that if you go down into the basement of the Russian church to write your own wishes, they will come true.
CATTEDRALE DI ALEXANDER NEVSKJI
Around 11:30 we reach the cathedral of Alexander Nevski, the most representative building in Sofia.
The cathedral is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world.
The style, purely Byzantine, fascinates by the grandeur of the structure on multiple architectural levels and for the color contrasts between the white of the stone and the gold and green water domes.
If the exterior looks impressive, wait to visit the interior to remain airy before countless frescoes and beautiful iconostasis.
There are decorative finishes in Carrara marble, alabaster, onyx and gold
I MERCATINI DELLE PULCI
In Sofia there are plenty of opportunities to make excellent purchases in one of the many markets located in different parts of the city.
We strolled through the stalls of the antiques market located in the square near the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Here you can buy old war relics (gas masks, military documents of the time) sacred icons, and for fans, old cameras.
Needless to say that at the end of a short bargaining we bought a very good Zeiss Jena Tessar, 50m, f / 2.8 of 1965 and a Pentacon, Praktica L2.
For lunch we stayed at the Raketa Rakia Bar.
The environment is very characteristic in full Soviet style 70-80 years; recalls the setting of the television series “The Americans”.
You can not leave without trying Rakia, a brandy and vodka hard liquor, they have over 150 varieties.
MOSCHEA BANIA BAZI DZAMIJA
In the afternoon we head towards the Bania Bazi Dzamija mosque, designed by the same architect of the Bosphorus Meschings, Sinan, known as the “Michelangelo of the Middle East”.
Around 17:00 we returned home in the “vain” hope that Jacopo took a short nap.
At 7:30 pm we had a table booked at Moma Bulgarian Food and Wine Even for the second dinner we chose the typical Bulgarian cuisine, but unlike the previous one, the atmosphere at the Moma is definitely more elegant.
The selection of dishes offered, while representing the Bulgarian culinary tradition, has a modern reinterpretation.
Let yourself be advised by the dining room staff, you will not regret it.
After dinner, driven by the young and sparkling climate of Vitosha Boulevard, and not at all intimidated by the cold, we sipped an excellent local beer in one of the many clubs that characterize and animate Sofia’s most famous street.
LE NOSTRE CONSIDERAZIONI
On Sunday morning we reached the airport by subway (tickets are daily and can be purchased on the day of their use) and as usual, we are left to impressions and budgets.
Sofia is a city that is certainly worth visiting, either for its ancient origins, for the different culture and tradition, or for its economy.
It is, however, a destination not invaded by mass tourism, despite being fully included among the cheaper destinations, if compared to other European capitals.
It’s worth spending a weekend, more than enough time to visit it far and wide, taking advantage of, of course, affordable air fares through low cost airlines such as Wizzair and Ryanair.