In February I went to the Bulgarian capital for a day. I spotted a 6 Euro round trip to Sofia with Ryanair, a budget carrier in Europe. Good luck finding a reason to say no to cheap travel to a new country! I couldn’t. The day before I left, I checked the weather to make sure I packed for the circumstances. Well, I was surprised. Turned out it had been snowing for days and the average temperatures were around -15 C. Rather cold for what I am used to.
So off I went, to Sofia, packed with warm clothing and kind of scared as I never experienced temperatures like these before. Upon arriving, we landed at a bus gate so we had a nice and chilly walk across the tarmac. Snowploughs were keeping the runway free of snow, and mountains were starting to shape up at both sides of the taxiways.
The snow and cold caused the streets to be eerily quiet. Many people stayed indoors and we literally had some big streets to ourselves. This gave everything a somewhat strange, abandoned vibe, especially in the poorer areas where streets were completely covered in snow and walls were half painted half exposed brick.
Let me tell you about how to make the most of 24 hours in a snowy Sofia, while on a budget.
When you arrive at the Airport in the airport, there are literal lines on the floor, leading you to where you need to be. Follow the blue line, and it will bring you right to the metro stop right outside of the terminal. Trains run every 10 minutes from Sofia Airport into the City Centre, and a single ticket runs at 1.60 BGN, which is equal to about 0.80 Euro. Sofia uses a ticketing system similar to New York City, where you pay the same flat fare regardless of where you go.
If you plan on using public transportation to get around in Sofia, consider getting either a one or three day unlimited pass. The one day card will cost 4 BGN (2.05 EUR) while the three day version will cost you 10 BGN (5.11 EUR) plus a onetime fee of 2 BGN (1.02 EUR) for the electronic card. These unlimited passes are valid for Metro, Trolleybus and tram.
Things to do
Upon arriving in Central Sofia, head to your hotel or Airbnb, leave your bulky stuff and head into town. We recommend starting your exploration from the Central Metro Station, Serdika (Сердика).
From here, head towards the central market hall for a Coffee and some local pastries. From there, head back outside, and walk to the St. George Cathedral, Sofia’s oldest building. It was built in the 4th century!
Just a block away from the cathedral is Sofia’s City Garden. This is a big park with impressive buildings like the National Art Gallery, National Theatre, and the Russian Orthodox Church. If you feel like it, hop into the national art gallery for 6 BGN (3.06 EUR), or 3 BGN if you are a student.
After having explored the park and the museum, walk past the Russian Church to get to the Alexander Nevski Cathedral. This is a massive cathedral, with a roundabout built around it. Entrance is free and its definitely worth a peek inside. After this, head back towards the city centre and start exploring into random directions. In our experience, the best experiences arise unexpectedly.
Where to stay
We stayed in the COOP Hotel, a very affordable 4 star hotel a short walk away from Serdika. They also offer a good, free breakfast. There are plenty of hotel options in Sofia, in many price classes. See for yourself here!
Another option is AirBnb. While we did not try this option, I’ve seen nice places for dirt cheap, which would allow for a super-budget trip to Sofia.
Finally, what is a travel blog without advice on food. Eating in Sofia is very affordable. For example, we ate 2 full meals at McDonalds for a grand total of 4 Euros. – I know, travel is not complete without trying the local cuisine – but we were very tired and hungry so the “Макдоналдс” sign right across the metro station exit looked very inviting.
As we only stayed for a day, this was our only meal outside of the hotel. We grabbed some Bulgarian pastries from the market hall on the way to the airport, but apart from this we did not experience the local cuisine. We saw a Bulgarian café / restaurant in the market hall, have a peek on their menu!
Let us know if you go, and what you thought of Sofia if you went!
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