Worth seeing and doing in the area around Sofia
I’m very happy when my readers write to me in search for more information and details before leaving to Sofia (even thanks to the incredibly low cost offers from Europe that make it easier to go visit this extremely peculiar city).
See my Sofia in 30 seconds
The most frequently asked question is, at the moment, where to go and what to do in the surroundings of Sofia for stays longer that 3-4 days.
So, as I reeeally care for you, I’ve decided to gather some info I gave this morning to a female traveller who found me online.
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Let’s begin with one of the worthier and slightly closer locations. Only 17 kms from Sofia, meaning… you can take a taxi there at a very low cost.
Clearly, you can also take a bus, leaving from the bus station in town.
The place is particularly famous for its thermal baths, I suggest spending a day to combine your thermal bath with a relaxin visit to the public parl (quite small to be honest, especially when compared with the green areas of Sofia… unforgettable!).
Even a day and a half would do, if you really want to have a full thermal treatment plunging into / with waters and vapours that are good for almost everything.
If you want to see something that resembles the idea of cultural capital, Plovdiv is a discovery! But a real one, I swear it!
Behind the colourful houses of its historic centre, Unesco heritage site, dating back to the XVIII and XIX centuries, end of the Ottoman domination, there’s a story and even an architectural style called “Plovdiv house”.
Plenty of theatres around as well as music academies and cultural centres; there’s a lot yet to be discovered about the history of this town and the archeological sites scattered here and there are a clear sign of it (this place is older that Athens and Rome… so, you tell me).
Just like in Sofia, even here the most important catholic cathedrals, jewish synagogues, orthodox mosques and churches are close to one another. Plus they are, as pointed out by Carlo Vulpio in a great report published on Il Corriere della Sera magazine, one of the only places where people from the suburbs can forget about the burden of poverty, that is still a widespread problem in Bulgaria.
You can get to Plovdiv from Sofia by bus, the ride lasts from 1,5 hours to 2,5 hours depending on the stops, for a price of 3 to 7 euros.
Before heading to the bus station, always try asking your hotel/hostel manager too: I’ve found very helpful people who will give you the best information if they can, even considering what day of the week it is or if there are any organized tours.
note: Plovdiv is capital of culture 2019, so you should really plan to go visit it.
A bit farther from Sofia, at 240 kms there’s Veliko Tarnovo, whichi is considered as the capital of culture of the Balkans, so worth seeing. 500 years of history in this crossroads of important economi centres of the area.
From the medieval citadel of Tsarevets, on top of the hill with the same name, you can see the historic centre and the three rivers surrounding it. The town centre is really peculiar, full of workshops and restaurants, and it reminds me a bit of Mostar, in Bosnia.
There are several trekking tours leaving from Veliko Tarnovo to see monuments, historical worship sites and ancient villages in the green countryside.
Black Sea coasts
They asked me about Sunny Beach.
It’s six hours by bus from Sofia. The Black Sea is worth seeing, for goodness sake… but Sunny Beach (the american name speaks for it) is a tourist village in a ghost town. A kind water park of in the middle of nothing.
Satisfatory night life, can’t deny it, really like Ibiza but at lower costs. The introduction was required though.
I’d rather choose Varna for the wonderful sea and beaches combined with night and cultural life, including its beautiful architecture.
From Sofia you can reach Varna by bus at a price of 6 to 8 euros, and the ride lasts not less than 7 hours.
Land in Sofia and stay for 2 days. Then move by bus/train to Varna and stay there a couple of days stopping in Veliko Tarnovo on your way back. If you can travel by car, it’s clearly easier.
If you’re planning to stay less than 10 days, my suggestion is to make a choice and enjoy either Varna or Vellico Tarnovo besides Sofia. End of the day, there’s always time to come back