I said my goodbyes to Romania, with 4 bottles of cognac in my bag, and made my way on the night bus to Sophia, Bulgaria. I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest, after the surprising beauty of Bucharest and the grittiness of Chisinau, I wasn’t feeling confident about my prediction skills, so I left this one to experience.
The night train from Bucharest (9 hours, $34) was a breeze, private cabin with 4 beds, me and 3 friends. Perfect. We arrived in the morning, dropped our bags in the hostel and hit the city for some serious sightseeing.
Sophia is actually a pretty small city, and although there is a subway, you can easily hit all the sights by foot, realistically in one full day. A walking tour will probably take you about 5 hours, here are the top 5 sights not to miss in Sophia:
Aleksander Nevski Memorial Church:
Sophia’s most famous sight, the huge 100 year old church was built to rememeber the 200, 000 Bulgarians who died fighting in the Russo –Turkish. It’s free to enter but if you want to go down to the crypt there’s a $4 charge.
A UNESCO world heritage site and almost a millennium old, the paintings adorning the walls inside are originals, you can only stay for 10 minutes each time.
Just to the south of the town, the mountain is great for summer hiking or winter skiing. Just jump on the year long chair lift and you’ll be 2km, escaping the madness of Sophia for the afternoon.
Sveta Sofia Church:
The oldest church in the city and although it may not be as grand as a few of the others, it’s hugely significant. It gave the name to the city and is revered by the locals.
Banya Bashi Mosque:
This is pretty understated as far as mosques go but I’ve been in Eastern Europe for months and it’s the first one I’ve come across, so it makes the list!
I have been underwhelmed by Sophia to be perfectly honest, it does however have subway sandwiches so that scored it a few extra points immediately. Happy travels!