Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, and is also one of the oldest capital cities in Europe. With its roots dating back to the 8th Century BC this city has some history and tradition to fall back on. Even though it was heavily bombed during World War II, Sofia is still one of the nicer looking cities in this part of the world. There are beautiful Orthodox churches all over town, but the city’s setting itself – nestled in a lush valley at the foot of Vitosha Mountain – makes it extremely photogenic.

What To Do

Speaking of Orthodox churches, the enormous Aleksander Nevski Memorial Church is the best-known site in the whole country. It was built over the turn of the last century, but it houses items from the last millennium and should not be missed. The Sveta Nedelya Cathedral is not as large or quite as famous, but is also well worth a visit. It’s about 40 years older than the Nevski church and is particularly noted for the murals on its interior.

The city is famous for its many mineral water and thermal springs. There are seven independent mineral springs in the city alone and a visit to a local spa can be a great way to relax. After that you’ll have enough energy to check out some of the city’s more interesting museums, including the National Palace of Culture, the Sofia City Art Gallery, and the National Archaeological Museum.

Getting There

If you are in one of the larger cities nearby you can get to Sofia by train, but Bulgaria is not known for having super-efficient rail service. You can also book a flight into Sofia Airport (code: SOF), but it’s not a major destination so good deals can sometimes be hard to come by. The nearest huge city is Istanbul so you might want to check out prices for tickets there and consider taking the train the rest of the way.

Where To Stay

There are several hostels in Sofia and the usual assortment of hotels in Sofia as well. The budget rooms in this part of Europe can be more Spartan than you are used to elsewhere so sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more for a more comfortable place. During the summer peak season the better places can be book well in advance so it pays to plan ahead.