Sofia (София) is the capital of Bulgaria. It is also the biggest city in the country with about 1.4 million citizens (including suburbs). Today, Sofia is a dynamic European capital, distinguished by its unique combination of European and Communist-style architecture as well as many beautiful Orthodox churches. Furthermore, it claims to be one of the few European capitals with beautiful scenery and a developed ski-resort so close to it - the Vitosha mountain.

The month of October is characterized by rapidly falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs decreasing from 21°C to 15°C over the course of the month, exceeding 26°C or dropping below 9°C only one day in ten.

Daily High and Low Temperature in October
Sofia temperature
The daily average low (blue) and high (red) temperature with percentile bands (inner band from 25th to 75th percentile, outer band from 10th to 90th percentile).

Sofia was founded around 2,500 years ago. Over the centuries, it has been given several names — Serdika, Sredets and the remains of the old cities can still be viewed today.
Near Sofia lies Boyana church, which is one of the most valuable memorials of Bulgarian and European culture. The church has frescoes, acclaimed by specialists as the best examples of eastern medieval art during from the 13th Century AD.
The decline of Sofia during the Turkish Ottoman Empire was followed by the rejuvenation after the Russian liberation in 1878, when Sofia was chosen as the capital of Bulgaria at the First National Constituent Assembly, and followed by a brisk and straightforward period of construction.

Get in
By plane
Sofia Airport (IATA: SOF) is the busiest airport in Bulgaria and it was built around 1930. The new Airport terminal is now the main active one and was constructed in 2009. The airport is located only 10km from the city center, in the eastern part of Sofia.
Over 26 airlines fly in and out of Sofia Airport with daily flights linking Sofia with Athens, Paris, Vienna, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Munich, Warsaw, and other European cities.
Some of the traditional airlines with flights to/from Sofia are Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Czech Airlines, LOT, Lufthansa, Olympic Airways, Tarom and Turkish Airlines.
Also, low-cost carriers traveling to Bulgaria are EasyJet (to/from London-Gatwick, Madrid, Manchester), Germanwings (to/from Cologne-Bonn), Wizz Air (to/from Paris-Beauvais, Barcelona, Brussels-Charleroi, Dortmund, Eindhoven, London-Luton, Milan-Bergamo, Rome-Fiumicino, Valencia).
Bulgaria Air, the national carrier flies to Alicante, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Beirut, Berlin - Tegel, Brussels, Bucharest - Otopeni, Frankfurt, Istanbul - Atatürk, Kiev - Boryspil, Larnaca, London - Gatwick, London - Heathrow, Madrid, Málaga, Manchester, Moscow - Sheremetyevo, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Paris - Charles de Gaulle, Rome - Fiumicino, Skopje, Tel Aviv, Tirana, Tripoli, Valencia, Vienna, Zürich. Bulgaria Air operates domestic flights to Burgas and Varna.
Balkan Holidays operates direct regular flights between Sofia and Bristol, East Midlands, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow, Manchester and Newcastle during the winter months. There are a few domestic flights, from Sofia to Varna and Burgas, including some charter flights.

Airlines and terminals

Make sure you check the terminal that you are arriving at or departing from carefully.
Terminal 1 (T1) is used by budget airlines like EasyJet, Germanwings and Wizz Air; and by charter flight operators.
Terminal 2 (T2) handles all 'traditional' carriers, and serves as a hub to Bulgaria Air, the national carrier.

Terminal 1 (T1) has postal and banking services, a news stand, two coffee shops and one duty-free shop.
Terminal 2 (T2) is larger and has more duty-free shops, three coffee shops with some food offers. Before passport control there is only one coffee shop and a news stand.
Sofia Airport Terminal 2 has one Moneyexchange Office in the public Area with rates that are acceptable for an airport (Feb 2012). There is also an ATM next to it. There is also one small and very expensive Money Exchange Office in the Arrival Area, after Passport Control and before Baggage Claim, but with horrible Rates!!!

Transfer between terminals
There is a white shuttle bus running every 30 minutes between the two terminals, you should ask at the information about it. It is free. There are a few kilometers between the two terminals and they are not in a walking distance. Be aware that even if you decide to walk, you may get lost as the path is not marked and it could take you 20-30 minutes.

Between the airport and the city
  • By bus: Public bus line 84 travels to both terminals - the route is T1 -> T2 - Sofia University (metro station). Allow 30 to 40 minutes to reach the city, depending on traffic. You can get tickets from the news stands in both terminals, do not rely on buying tickets from the driver! Please make sure to purchase and punch your ticket after you board. You will need an additional ticket for any large piece of luggage/baggage (larger than 40/40/60 cm). If you forget to buy additional ticket for your large luggage/baggage, the fine is 20 lev or €10. The best place to change from bus 84 to the metro is Orlov Most (Sofia University metro station). There is also a transit bus line 384, on the route Mladost I metro station > T1 > T2 > Mladost I metro station. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes between Mladost and the airport as the bus makes only a few stops in the airport area. It is very convenient for transfers to Mladost and anywhere close to a metro station. The bus currently (Sept 2011) runs two to three times per hour between 5 and 9AM and 4 and 8PM. The schedule can be seen here [1] (only in Bulgarian).
  • By shuttle: Various companies run shuttle services to the hotel and back. These can be found at the airport arrival halls.
  • By taxi: Taxis in the airport are "regulated" and there are only companies, that are allowed to service the airport :"OK Taxi and "91280". The fare to the city center should be about 10-12 leva. More information here: [2]. Unfortunately there are many touts that will try to ask you if you need a taxi as you exit the departures area. These guys will seriously overcharge you. When you exit the customs/declarations door, turn to your right. You will see an office for OK Taxis in front of you. They speak English so the best thing is to give the person your destination. They will check it and then print out a slip with your taxi number on it. This saves having to explain to the taxi driver! The taxis are out the doors to your right. Go through these and a taxi controller will point you to your taxi. To reassure you, you'll see a big queue of "OK" taxis lined up with "O.K. (973 2121)" written on them in blue writing with the two dots in red. However, if you go straight out to the roadway rather than right, there are unregulated taxis. You should be careful, because there are taxis, which imitate the logo of the O.K. and the phone number. Before hiring a taxi look at the right-front-door window - there should be a tariff. The normal tariffs are: initial fee (about 0.70 lv), daily price per km (about 0.77 lv), night price per km (about 0.88 lv), price per minute of stay (about 0.20 lv), price for ordering a taxi via phone (about 0.70 lv). Please, check these figures and if you see ANY figure greater than 1.00 lv, do not take this taxi!

By bus
The Central Bus Station (Centralna Avtogara/Централна автогара) [3] is located near the city center. The website gives a listing of all domestic and international departure & arrival times and costs. Bear in mind that there are three other bus stations for minor destinations.
  • Many Bulgarian and International bus operators maintain scheduled lines covering all major domestic and European cities, like many cities in Greece and Macedonia, Istanbul(Turkey), Vienna (Austria), Belgrade and Niš (Serbia) and several times a week to different cities in Western Europe all the way to Portugal.
Timetable of International bus by major bus company MATPU 96: [4] in Bulgarian.
By train
International trains provide a large number of routes to Sofia, arriving from such places as Kiev, Istanbul, Vienna, Belgrade, Bucharest, Moscow and other common cities.
The primary trains from Bucharest to Sofia, and back, run twice daily through the border cities of Giurgiu and Ruse. For example, recent trains are scheduled from Bucharest to Sofia in the daytime departing 12:16/arriving 21:33 and a night train departing 20:04/arriving 06:00. From Sofia to Bucharest there are also two trains: a) Sofia 07:45 - Bucharest17:19 and b) Sofia 19:30 - Bucharest 05:44. One way ticket is around €25up. Passport control and customs takes place in Giurgiu (RO) and Ruse (BG), approximately mid-trip. Check local train stations for more up to date information.
After three years of no railway connection, in 2014 trains between Thessaloniki and Sofia started again. There is one train each day and it takes about 7 hours to travel between these cities.
To Istanbul, the train costs 70 leva, the train departs at around 18:30 and arrives at 9:00.
All services are operated by the Bulgarian State Railways, whose schedules are available on the internet in English.
The main railway station (Tsentralna Gara) can be somewhat confusing. Domestic departures go from the main terminal and that is where you can buy tickets for domestic travel. If you want to travel to an international destination, on entering the station from the front, turn to your left, walk past the heated waiting room on your left (and some small shops) and go to the office at the end of the wide corridor with "RILA" on it. It is straight ahead of you. They speak some English and to book a ticket, you will need your passport. They take cr cards.
Platforms can be accessed from the main floor down the escalators at the far left corner. Platform numbering is somewhat confusing: Roman numerals indicate the platform number (I to VI), and Arabic numerals (1 to 12) indicate the actual track. Each platform is divided into East and West. Departures and arrivals are indicated on reliable electronic panels, but, beware, they indicate the track number, not the platform! In any case, leaving by train is mostly recommended if you want to travel overnight to destinations on the Black Sea, since trains for Varna and Burgas will leave late in the evening and get you there in the early morning (a couchette to Varna is 16 leva).

By car
All highways in Bulgaria are often under construction.
Access to Bulgaria's Capital is via several entry points:
  1. From the North & South via E79/A6
  2. From the East - via Thrace Highway E80/A1-A3 or from the old road paralelling the E80 Highway - Zlatitza - Pirdop - Pazardzhik route.
  3. From the West - via A1/E80 Liking the city and the Bulgarian-Serbian Border point of Kalotina.
  • A1 connects Sofia to Burgas.
  • A2 is planned to be from Sofia to Varna, but ends around Pravets and continues from Shumen to Varna.
  • A3 is planned to be from Varna to Burgas, but currently has only a few kilometers built.
Otherwise coming from Greece the road E79/A6 is in very good shape, so the 300 km from Thessaloniki are done fairly fast if you don't happen to fall into Friday/Sunday traffic jams in the area of Sofia or Pernik.
Coming from the Republic of Macedonia, via Kyustendil the roads are relatively good but driving within speed limits would avoid you much hassle caused either by traffic police, or road conditions. From Central Europe you can drive almost the whole length on highways (via Slovenia-Croatia-Serbia or Hungary-Serbia), with only the last 100 km between Niš in Southern Serbia and Sofia being heavily trafficked mountain roads around the Nishava ravine in not the best shape.

Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe with ruins spread across the city center. It was founded because of the quality of its mineral waters. In the city alone there are 7 independent mineral water springs. One of the springs is in the central area of the city and is accessible for everybody - cross the square behind the mosque, next to TSUM (the intersection of Iskar and Ekzarh Yosif streets).
In the administrative center of Sofia the streets are covered with a specific yellow pavement. It was laid in the beginning of the 20th century and were a present to the Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand for his wedding from the Austria-Hungarian royal family.

Popular attractions
National assembly of Bulgaria
  • National Assembly of Bulgaria, 2 Narodno Sabranie Sq., ☎ +359 2 939 39, fax: +359 2 981 31 31, e-mail: infocenter@parliament.bg.
  • Sofia University, 15 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd, ☎ +359 2 9308, fax: +359 2 946 02 55.
  • Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1 15 November Str., ☎ +359 2 979 53 33, fax: +359 2 981 72 62.
  • Ivan Vazov National Theatre, 5 Dyakon Ignatiy Str., ☎ +359 2 811 92 19, fax: +359 2 987 70 66, e-mail: info@nationaltheatre.bg.
  • SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library, 88 Vasil Levski Str., ☎ +359 2 988 28 11, fax: +359 2 843 54 95. 08:30 to 20:30.
  • National Palace of Culture, 1 Bulgaria Sq., ☎ +359 2 916 63 00, fax: +359 2 865 70 53. The biggest congress center in the Balkans (a massive monolithic communist-style building). If asking for directions, ask for NDK (en-de-ka), as most Bulgarians refer to it by this acronym.
  • Central Military Club. It`s a multi-purpose monument of culture building in the city center.

Earth and Man museum
  • National Museum of Military History, 92 Cherkovna Str., ☎ +359 2 946 18 05, fax: +359 2 946 18 06, e-mail:m.museum@bol.bg. 10.00 to 18.00. ticket price for adults 8 leva (on March-15-2012)
  • Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum, 6A Moskovska Str., ☎ +359 2 988 41 91, fax: +359 2 980 11 62, e-mail: eim_bas@mail.bg. Has a permanent collection of traditional Bulgarian costumes as well as a changing exhibition.
  • Earth and Man National Museum (Национален музей), 4 Cherni Vruh Blvd, ☎ +359 2 865 66 39, fax: +359 2 866 14 57, e-mail: earth.and.man@gmail.com. 10.00 to 18.00. Has the biggest collection of gigantic minerals in the World. 2 leva.
  • National Museum of History, 16 Vitoshko lale str. (Take trolley #2 southwest from the corner of Praga Blvd. and Patriarh Eftimiy Blvd. Get off at the roundabout at the end of the bus line. Cross the busy Okolovrustino Shosse (ring road) and walk through the trees. The museum is not visible from the road, nor are there any signs.), ☎ +359 2 955 42 80;, fax: +359 2 955 76 02, e-mail:nim1973@abv.bg. The National Museum of History in Sofia contains more than 650,000 exhibits and is one of the largest history museums on the Balkans. The aim of the museum is to provide a comprehensive view on Bulgarian history from the prehistory to present, in as broad of a European context as possible. Be prepared to spend several hours as the museum is quite large. About half of the exhibits have English captions. 4 leva.
  • National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, 2 Saborna Str., ☎ +359 2 988 24 06, fax: +359 2 988 24 05, e-mail: aim-bas@aclubcable.com. 10:00 to 18:00. ticket price for adults 10 leva (on March-15-2012)
  • National Polytechnic Museum, 66 Opalchenska Str., ☎ +359 2 831 30 04, fax: +359 2 931 40 46, e-mail: polytechnic@abv.bg. 09.00 to 17.00.
  • National Museum of Natural History, 1, Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd, ☎ +359 2 987 41 95, fax: +359 2 988 28 94. 10.00 to 18.00. Has four floors of everything from rocks and minerals to insects and stuffed bison. It is a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon.
  • House-Museum of Ivan Vazov (On the corner of the streets G. Rakovski and Ivan Vazov.).
  • Museum of Sport, 1A Bulgaria Blvd (National Stadium Vasil Levski), ☎ +359 2 930 07 61. 09:00 to 17:00.
  • Museum of Paleontology and historical geology, 15 Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd (Inside Sofia University.), ☎ +359 2 930 82 00.
  • National Literature Museum, 138 G. S. Rakovski Str., floor 2, ☎ +359 2 988 24 93.
  • National Agricultural Museum, 30 Suhodolska Str., ☎ +359 2 929 67 53.
  • National Ecclesiastical History-Archeological Museum, 19 Sveta Nedelya Sq., ☎ +359 2 988 13 43. 09:00 to 17:00.

  • National Gallery for Foreign Art, 1 St. Aleksander Nevski Square, ☎ +359 2 988 49 22, e-mail: ngfa@abv.bg. 11:00 to 18:00. 4 leva.
  • National Art Gallery, 1 Batenberg Sq., ☎ +359 2 980 00 93. 10:30 to 18:00. Has old Bulgarian art, icons, etc. 4 leva.
  • Sofia Art Gallery, 1, Gen. Gurko Str. (The entrance is from Kniaz Al. Batenberg Str.), ☎ +359 2 987 21 81. 10:00 to 19:00. free.
  • Sofia City Art Gallery (Софийска градска художествена галерия), 1 General Gurko St (ул. Ген. Гурко 1), ☎ +359 2 987 2181.

Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral
Boyana church
  • St. Aleksander Nevski Cathedral. One of the largest orthodox churches worldwide and the largest in the Balkan Peninsula.
  • Boyana Church, 1-3 Boyansko Ezero Str. (Getting here is quite difficult. Take tram #9 or #10 from the stop underneath NDK (National Palace of Culture) to Hladilnika neighborhood (the last stop). Then catch bus #64. The bus stop is just 50 meters away but you better ask someone for directions because there are several different stops in the vicinity. The stop for the church is a small plaza with a few shops near the end of the #64 bus line. Ask the driver or the other passengers where to get off and then walk uphill and turn left.), ☎ +359 2 959 09 39, fax: +359 2 959 29 66, e-mail: nmbc@nmbc.orbitel.bg. 09:00 to 17:00. This small 14th-century church and garden is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church contains some very well preserved murals. It is located at the foot of Vitosha mountain and is a good starting point for day trips in the mountain. Entrance is 10 Lev, or 2 Lev for students.
  • Church of St. George (It`s situated behind the Sheraton Hotel.).
  • Hagia Sophia Church, 2 Paris str.. It is located just across the square and to the right from the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral. It was built in the 6th century over an even older church. It is a witness of the whole Bulgarian history and is a valued cultural monument. In the 14th century it gave its name to the city of Sofia. It was destroyed several times and during the Ottoman rule it was used as a mosque.
  • Catholic cathedral St. Joseph, 125, Knjaz Boris I (next 2 Sheraton Hotel), ☎ 02/9815548. Holy Masses: SAT 5,30pm & SUN 10,30am bulgarian; 12,00pm latin; 6PM bulgarian
  • St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

To do
  • Cafes and restaurants. Sofia is full of trendy cafes with outdoor seating in the summer and good-quality restaurants.
  • National Opera and Ballet.
  • Arena Cinema. It`s one of the biggest Bulgarian cinema multiplex. Cinemas in Sofia play all films except children's films in their original language with Bulgarian subtitles.
  • Free Sofia Tour (The free English-language sightseeing walking tour of Bulgaria’s capital), Corner of Alabin Str. and 2 Vitosha Blvd, ☎ +359 886 993 977. The free English-language sightseeing walking tour of Bulgaria’s capital. Every day, twice a day - both at 11AM & 6PM. No reservation required - just show up! Starting point - the corner of the Palace of Justice (Sudebna Palata).
  • Sofia Bike Tour (National Theatre Ivan Vazov), Dyacon Ignatiy, 5, ☎ +359 885523630. Visit the greenest capital of Europe on a Bike. Every day Free Bike Tour (12 April–November) at 11AM & 5PM. Escape from the city and join to the Bike Countryside Tour around Sofia. Start Point: National Theater "Ivan Vazov"
  • Sofia Run Tour (English speaking sightseeing running tours), Sveta Nedelya square (St.Nedelya Church), ☎ +359 885 523630. The Guided Sightseeing Running Tours experience offers the runners who travel for leisure or business to have a good chance to discover Sofia. Learn about the city's history and landmarks with a local Guide runner, without interrupting training. Workdays - FEE. Weekends - FREE. Every Day! Please book online. Start Point: front of the Sveta Nedelya church
  • Sofia Hike Tour (English speaking hiking tours), National Theater Ivan Vazov (5, Dyakon Ignatiy str.), ☎ +359 885 523630. Join an Experienced Guide and spend a day of healthy hiking from the protected by UNESCO Boyana church to the Boyana waterfalls and Boyana lake. Every Day free Boyana hiking tour (12 April - November) at 11AM. Meeting point: National Theater "Ivan Vazov". In total more that 10 different hiking tours around Sofia available.
  • Kid playgrounds. If you're traveling with kids, they might love playgrounds. The "rich" one is in the park that holds Vasil Levski stadium (close to the corner with Orlov Most; there are actually two playgrounds close to this corner and you'd look for the one more inside the park).

The currency in Bulgaria is the Lev, plural Leva. You will also see the abbreviation lv. (лв.) or the ISO code - BGN. The currency exchange rate is fixed at 1 EUR = 1.95583 BGN. Exchange rate to USD is not fixed directly, but published by the Bulgarian National Bank and is used for a benchmark in the exchange offices and banks.
Currency exchange offices and most banks offer a buy rate of 1.95 BGN and a sell rate of 1.96 BGN to €1. However, at the airport and train station the rates may differ substantially. During business days, it is strongly advisable to use banks for exchanging money. Although there are some really good exchange stalls giving you up to 1.955BGN/EUR, be aware of those who switch the digits giving you 1.59BGN/EUR. It's also possible to change money 24/7 in casinos where rate is good, but you are required to play even some. ATMs on all major cr card issuers (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Diner's, etc.) are widely available, although you have to watch for your daily withdrawal limit imposed by your card-issuing bank. Cr cards are widely accepted, but in small souvenir stores or restaurants; you will definitely need to carry some cash.

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