When planning a European vacation, certain cities and countries immediately spring to mind, others might be considered briefly, and yet and a few often go entirely unnoticed. While cities like Berlin, Paris, and Prague attract millions of annual visitors, other important historical cities do not receive the recognition they rightly deserve. A prime example is Sofia in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria may not even come up on your radar while you’re deciding on which European countries you would like to visit, but if you dig a little deeper, you may find yourself considering it.
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria, and it is steeped in a history of nearly 2500 years, making it one of Europe’s oldest cities. Sofia has seen Europe through some of its most monumental moments, including Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Soviet occupation. It even acted as the capital of the Roman empire for a short while, thanks to its location in the heart of the Balkans.
Sofia has endured the effects of many different historical occurrences throughout various eras, and this is evident in its unique and eclectic culture. A brief stroll through the city will showcase an assortment of diverse architectural influences that won’t fail to impress.
The city has more to offer than its rich history. Sofia’s vibrant and quirky arts scene can be taken in as you go from street to street, soaking up the creativity on display. Some consider Sofia to be comparable to cities such as Berlin and Budapest, with its expressive visual arts, mosaics, and murals located all over the city. Between the architecture and the street art, Sofia is bound to keep your senses engaged.
All that perusing will work up an appetite, and there may be no better city in which to be hungry. Bulgaria lays claim to diverse gastronomy that draws influences from other Eastern European countries, and shares many similarities to nearby Turkish, Greek, Russian, and even Middle Eastern cuisines. Filled pastries called banitsa are among the most notable Bulgarian dishes, along with various grilled meats, hearty soups and dairy products like yogurt; in fact, Bulgarians are said to make the best yogurt in the world!
Wine is always a popular drink, along with a fruity brandy called rakia that could add hair to any chest. Rakia is the national alcoholic beverage, and Bulgarians are very proud of it. Whatever your appetite, Sofia will leave you satisfied and will keep your taste buds tingling long after you’ve finished eating.
Bulgaria is known for having lovely, mild springs and pleasant summers, especially along the coastline. However, if you’re looking for winter ski weather, the country is blanketed in snow from October onward. Bulgaria’s skiing is lesser known than surrounding countries, but the slopes are just as good, and a skiing vacation will cost you less than it would elsewhere.
If you’re planning to travel through Bulgaria, hiring your own vehicle is the best possible way to explore the country. Just bear in mind that infrastructure and road quality can vary greatly. Driving in the countryside is a beautiful sensory experience, but roads are of variable quality.
It may be worth purchasing a SIM card so that you can make phone calls or contact local officials if there is an emergency or unforeseen event. Bulgaria does have extremely fast internet speed, and it’s inexpensive to access, so take advantage and make sure you are always connected.
Overall, Bulgaria is a very inexpensive country and the cost to rent a vehicle is quite reasonable. Of course, the longer you rent the car, the lower the daily price. A 7-day rental with a return to the same location begins at around $4 per day, and with a different drop-off location starts at $9 per day. Some of the most reasonable rental companies from the Sofia International Airport are Alamo, Economy Bookings, Enterprise, and National.