Bulgaria’s modern capital is one of Europe’s best-kept travel secrets. Fly to Sofia from Glasgow Airport and discover an appealingly understated and affordable city with genuinely welcoming locals, a vibrant nightlife scene and layers of fascinating history dating from the 6th century.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Built on the ruins of an ancient Roman city, Sofia’s compact historic centre reflects a turbulent past that includes Roman occupation, 500 years under the Ottoman Empire and, more recently, decades of communist rule. A walking tour is a popular way to see all the sights; a yellow brick road literally leads you to the Neo-Byzantine Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Aleksander Nevski Square) and the well-preserved 4th-century redbrick Church of St George (bul. Kniaz Aleksandar Dondukov 2) - the oldest building in Sofia. The National Archaeological Museum (ul. "Saborna" 2), set in a 15th-century former mosque, displays the country’s ancient treasures.
Dance the night away
Soak up the vibrant atmosphere and people watch at one of the numerous open-air cafes and restaurants on Vitosha Boulevard. To experience traditional Bulgarian food and culture, Hadriganov’s Houses (ul. Hristo Belchev 18) is a restaurant set in four restored houses – sample some rakia, the potent local tipple made from fermented fruit. When it comes to late night entertainment, you’ll be spoilt for choice, with an abundance of live music, dance clubs and jazz performances.
Parks and recreation
Vitosha National Park, located to the south of the city, is easily accessible by bus, car or taxi. Hike to the summit of Vitosha Mountain in summer or enjoy the views from the comfort of a ski lift in winter. A trail of large boulders called the Zlatnite Mostove (Golden Bridges) is a popular Vitosha picnicking and sunbathing spot in summer and nearby the tiny UNESCO-listed medieval Boyana Church (ul. "Boyansko ezero" 3) boasts stunning 13th-century frescoes.