As travel opens up again in 2022, you might find you’re called away for important business to Sofia. If you are lucky enough to have your work take you to the capital of Bulgaria, here’s a guide to how to make the most of your time in the Land of the Roses.
Where to stay?
The centre of Sofia is replete with historic sites and gorgeous tree-lined streets. Cultural spots abound and you will likely find much of your downtime strolling through the wide pedestrianised Vitosha Boulevard or checking out the vibrant NDK area – which stands for National Palace of Culture.
These areas have a large range of convenient, affordable and delightful hotels and the centre is also known for its thriving nightlife. While this is definitely worth checking out, for the evenings when you have a morning meeting next day, there are plenty of exciting spots that quieten down a little earlier in the evening. We’d recommend looking into staying in the neighbouring districts of Oborishte and Lyuben Karavelov.
Both of these areas are within walking distance of the city centre and come with their own perks. Oborishte is the ideal place for someone who wants their stay to be surrounded by interesting parks like Zaimov Park, which has its own theatre, and Doctors’ Garden park with its sculpture garden.
For a more artistic stay, the area around Lyuben Karavelov spans from the NDK area to the trendy Lozenets. It’s an ideal spot to check out local galleries and picturesque cafes.
Taking a client to a fancy dinner?
Once the meetings are adjourned and the seminars brought to a close, it might be time to take a business partner out for a slap-up meal. If you’re still on the clock and want to impress – and who doesn’t, right? – then there’s one area that is home to some of the finest dining establishments.
Take a little walk outside the centre is the Monument to the Tsar Liberator. The Tsar Osvoboditel (as it’s known in Bulgarian) is an imposing memorial in the heart of the city’s political district and is opposite the National Assembly.
Walk around the wide streets near it and you’ll run into a number of top-class fine dining establishments. You’ll find everything from tasting menus with contemporary takes on traditional Bulgarian cuisine to exquisite modern European restaurants bringing in the best flavours from Italy to France.
Taking yourself out for a treat?
If you’re not attending a business dinner, you might want to explore the local gastronomy and take a bite of some authentic Bulgarian cuisine.
At any typical Bulgarian eatery, a meal hasn’t even started without a quick shot of rakia followed by a shopska salad made up of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and white sirene cheese. once you've washed that down, one of the many cafes in Oborishte will be able to serve you a whole host of classic Bulgarian culinary delights.
For meat-eaters, it’s essential that you check out Kebapche, which is Bulgaria’s answer to the meatball. The sausage-shaped meat and spice mix is often served with fries. Next we'd recommend a beer and you’ve got the perfect after work chill-out meal.
Vegetarians also shouldn’t miss out on a meat-free version of gyuveche. Served in the clay pot it’s cooked in, gyuveche is the ultimate brunch food. Baked peppers, onions and cheeses are topped with a layer of eggs. It’s hearty, delicious, and the perfect way to start a day off wandering around Sofia at your leisure.
What to do when you get some time off
Got the whole day to yourself? Sofia is filled with historical sites that date back to the Thracians.
Deep-diving into history, the Church of St. George is a must-see. Dating back to the 4th century, the red-brick rotunda is the oldest building in Sofia. Within its domed walls, you will find stunning frescoes, including a 10th century mural of an angel that exemplifies the golden age of the First Bulgarian Empire.
Much of Sofia’s history is tied to religion, and other fascinating sites to take in include the St. Nedelya Church, the Sofia Synagogue, and the Banya Bashi Mosque.
If you fancy a little excursion for a great view of the city, the Vitosha mountain is just to the south of Sofia. In the summer there’s great hiking, and in the winter you could even spend an afternoon skiing on the slopes. Ride the metro to Vitosha station in the south and you can catch a bus up to the peak of the mountain overlooking the city.
You may have travelled to Sofia for work, but by the time your trip ends you’ll be desperate for an extension to your stay. For one final bit of rest and relaxation, take advantage of the natural springs that Sofia lies above and check out one of the city's many spas.