The Bulgarian capital of Sofia is one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful cities, and one of its most charming too. With so much history and culture you’ll be spoilt for choice with the many things you can see and do whilst in the city. As with any trip though, there are things you won’t know about your destination until you’ve been there, which is why I’m sharing just a few of my secrets about Sofia to get you prepared for your visit. Be prepared to be amazed!…
It Wasn’t Always Called Sofia
Originally a Thracian settlement, the city of Sofia as we know it today was first known as Serdica. During the 4th century BC, Serdica was owned by Philip of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great. In 29 BC, the city was conquered by the Romans and renamed Ulpia Serdica. The city was destroyed in 447 by the Huns and renamed Triaditsa by Byzantine Emperor Justinian where it remained the same until 809. After this, it was known by the Bulgarian name Sredets until it was finally renamed as Sofia in 1376, after the Church of St Sophia.
It’s 6000 Years Old
With so many name changes and an abundance of rulers and emperors, it’s little wonder that there’s over 6000 incredible years of history to discover in Sofia — I had no idea it was that old! After Serdica was renamed the first time, expansions took place and the city became a municipium, or centre of administration. Extensive building took place meaning baths, fortresses and amphitheatres were built in different areas of the city, some of which can still be seen today. When the council were digging underground to implement Sofia’s new metro system in 1998, they found historical layers hidden underneath its central areas, exhibiting unearthed Thracian and Roman ruins and architecture. Head to the stop at Serdika station to see the ruins for yourself!
Its Got It’s Very Own Cheese
Ok so I know it looks like feta, it feels like feta and it kinda tastes like feta, but whatever you do, don’t call it Feta cheese! Sirene cheese is made exclusively in the Balkans and is one of the most popular dishes of the Bulgarian cuisine. It is used in a variety of different ways and tastes great in salads, pastas and pastries. The locals are known to get very offended if their beloved white cheese is compared to it’s Greek counterpart though, so be sure not to call it feta, ever!
It’s One Of The Cheapest Places In Europe
Its no surprise that Eastern European cities are notoriously inexpensive, but Sofia struck me as being one of the cheapest places I have ever been to. Everything was just so low cost, from food and drinks to souvenirs and public transport. A meal and a drink each for two people cost around £17, taxis to the airport 20 mins away were around £10 and keyrings and magnets were just £1 each. If you’re looking for a city that doesn’t break the bank, Sofia is a budget travellers paradise.
Its Statue Of It’s Patron Saint Wasn’t Received Very Well
The statue of Sveta Sofia was only unveiled in the year 2000 and wasn’t particularly well received at first, mainly because Bulgarians felt that the statue was dressed far too provocatively! With her bosom on show and her dress a little revealing, locals felt she was considered too erotic to be represented as a Saint. The statue replaced one of Russian Communist Vladimir Lenin which was pulled down in 1991 after spending almost 40 years in the centre of the city. When the Lenin Square was renamed as St Nedelya Square, the statue of Sveta Sofia was installed and is now widely accepted as part of the beautiful city skyline. I think you look great Sofia
Its Home To The Oldest Nature Park On The Balkan Peninsula
Just a short 20 min taxi ride from the city centre you’ll find the magnificent Mount Vitosha, a stunning beauty spot and the oldest nature park in the Balkans. Visible from every angle of the city, the volcanic mountain creates a dramatic landscape and offers tourists the chance to retreat from the hustle and bustle of central Sofia. In summer why not take a cable car to the summit, hike up a short way or take a picnic and just enjoy the surroundings. In winter, the mountain becomes a ski resort and is popular with locals and tourists alike. Whatever you do with your time at Vitosha you’re sure to have a wonderful day trip just outside of the Bulgarian capital.
So there we go, just a few hidden secrets about Sofia which suddenly don’t seem so secret anymore! Don’t worry though, I haven’t revealed everything about the city and have kept everything else under wraps — I don’t want to spoil the excitement for you. I absolutely adored my time in Sofia and I’m sure you will too… Get booking!