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A couple of years ago Sofia's headline was something along the lines of 'Cheapest European Capital', but as well as moving out from behind the Iron curtain, and moving on from its reputation of being run by ex-Olympic-wrestlers turned drug smugglers, Sofia has moved on from low prices being a selling point. The best places to stay in Sofia are no longer the cheap dives that cost you next to nothing!
Bulgaria's biggest city, but still delightfully compact for walking around, Sofia is pushing forwards like a young, vibrant butterfly, and is a city full of new, trendy developments and well stocked museums and galleries.
Sofia hasn't totally shed its Soviet era uniform, and the remnants of this period, the neo-classical Stalinist civic buildings, Red Army monuments and concrete tower blocks, add to the exciting east-meets-west feeling.
The pre-Soviet architecture tells many tales of its own, there are wonderfully ornate onion domed churches around the corner from a mosque built by the Ottomans and a graceful tree-lined, balconied building built by a 19th Century Viennese architect. This beautiful spot, ringed dramatically by the Balkan Mountains to the north and the Vitosha Mountains to the south, and with its own source of natural mineral waters, has been fought over a number of times, and it still shows.
Maybe it's this proximity to the mountains, but Sofia has plenty of green space as well, and in season people can drive up to the ski slopes of Mt. Vitosha for the day. One of the city's best parks is Borisova Gradina, which also has some gigantic Soviet Military monuments.
An unmissable sight of Sofia is the Aleksander Nevski church. You won't miss it because it's a vast, awe-inspiring piece of neo-Byzantine architecture decorated with golden domes and ornate mosaics. But you also won't want to miss it. Commemorating the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died in Bulgaria's war of independence against the Turks, it houses most of Bulgaria's religious treasures.
It's also worth dropping in on the Royal Palace, the Archaeological Museum, the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral, the Turkish Baths, and taking a trip up to the Vitosha Nature Park. If this looks like it'll take you more than a few days, you'd be right, and that's before you pack in Sofia's lively eating, drinking and dancing scenes.
For city centre luxury
- The Sense Hotel is one of the best places to stay in sofia if you want to be right in the historic centre. A minimalist, luxurious haven when all around are ancient treasures. The views from the roof terrace are unbeatable, there's a spa to relax off all that walking, and the food is supposed to be excellent.
Best Hotels in Sofia
Sense Hotel 71 rooms from $78Sofia
A fantastic design hotel in the Sofia's historic centre. Contemporary chic and subtle minimalism throughout. Glamorous rooms and suites combine glass, teak, and all the mod cons to luxurious effect. Fabulous fusion Mediterranean restaurant, roof top bar, and spa.Roof terrace - Panormamic views from the roof top bar.LuxuryCity StyleSights nearby - St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral, St. Sofia Statue, National Art Gallery, Sofia University.Recommended by - CN Traveller