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Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria. It is also the biggest city in the country with about 1.4 million citizens (including suburbs). Today, Sofia is a dynamic European capital, distinguished by its unique combination of European and Communist-style architecture as well as many beautiful Orthodox churches. Furthermore, it claims to be one of the few European capitals with beautiful scenery and a developed ski-resort so close to it - the Vitosha mountain.
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Points of Interest in Sofia
Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe with ruins spread across the city center. It was founded because of the quality of its mineral waters. In the city alone there are 7 independent mineral water springs. One of the springs is in the central area of the city and is accessible for everybody - cross the square behind the mosque, next to TSUM (the intersection of Iskar and Ekzarh Yosif streets).
In the administrative center of Sofia the streets are covered with a specific yellow pavement. It was laid in the beginning of the 20th century and were a present to the Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand for his wedding from the Austria-Hungarian royal family.
- National Assembly of Bulgaria, 2 Narodno Sabranie Sq., ☎ +359 2 939 39, fax: +359 2 981 31 31, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sofia University, 15 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd., ☎ +359 2 9308, fax: +359 2 946 02 55.
- Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 1 15 November Str., ☎ +359 2 979 53 33, fax: +359 2 981 72 62.
- Ivan Vazov National Theatre, 5 Dyakon Ignatiy Str., ☎ +359 2 811 92 19, fax: +359 2 987 70 66, e-mail: email@example.com.
- SS. Cyril and Methodius National Library, 88 Vasil Levski Str., ☎ + 359 2 988 28 11, fax: + 359 2 843 54 95. 08:30 to 20:30.
- National Palace of Culture, 1 Bulgaria Sq., ☎ +359 2 916 63 00, fax: +359 2 865 70 53. The biggest congress center in the Balkans (a massive monolithic communist-style building). If asking for directions, ask for NDK (en-de-ka), as most Bulgarians refer to it by this acronym.
- Central Military Club. It`s a multi-purpose monument of culture building in the city center.
- National Museum of Military History, 92 Cherkovna Str., ☎ +359 2 946 18 05, fax: + 359 2 946 18 06, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10.00 to 18.00. ticket price for adults 8 leva (on march-15-2012)
- Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with Ethnographic Museum, 6A Moskovska Str., ☎ +359 2 988 41 91, fax: +359 2 980 11 62, e-mail: email@example.com. Has a permanent collection of traditional Bulgarian costumes as well as a changing exhibition.
- Earth and Man National Museum (Национален музей), 4 Cherni Vruh Blvd., ☎ +359 2 865 66 39, fax: +359 2 866 14 57, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10.00 to 18.00. Has the biggest collection of gigantic minerals in the World. 2 leva.
- National Museum of History, 16 Vitoshko lale str. (Take trolley #2 southwest from the corner of Praga Blvd. and Patriarh Eftimiy Blvd. Get off at the roundabout at the end of the bus line. Cross the busy Okolovrustino Shosse (ring road) and walk through the trees. The museum is not visible from the road, nor are there any signs.), ☎ +359 2 955 42 80;, fax: +359 2 955 76 02, e-mail: email@example.com. The National Museum of History in Sofia contains more than 650,000 exhibits and is one of the largest history museums on the Balkans. The aim of the museum is to provide a comprehensive view on Bulgarian history from the prehistory to present, in as broad an European context as possible. Be prepared to spend several hours as the museum is quite large. About half of the exhibits have English captions. 4 leva.
- National Institute of Archaeology and Museum, 2 Saborna Str., ☎ +359 2 988 24 06, fax: +359 2 988 24 05, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00 to 18:00. ticket price for adults 10 leva (on march-15-2012)
- National Polytechnic Museum, 66 Opalchenska Str., ☎ +359 2 831 30 04, fax: +359 2 931 40 46, e-mail: email@example.com. 09.00 to 17.00.
- National Museum of Natural History, 1, Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd., ☎ + 359 2 987 41 95, fax: + 359 2 988 28 94. 10.00 to 18.00. Has four floors of everything from rocks and minerals to insects and stuffed bison. It is a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon.
- House-Museum of Ivan Vazov (On the corner of the streets G. Rakovski and Ivan Vazov.).
- Museum of Sport, 1A Bulgaria Blvd. (National Stadium Vasil Levski), ☎ +359 2 930 07 61. 09:00 to 17:00.
- Museum of Paleontology and historical geology, 15 Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd. (Inside Sofia University.), ☎ +359 2 930 82 00.
- National Literature Museum, 138 G. S. Rakovski Str., floor 2, ☎ +359 2 988 24 93.
- National Agricultural Museum, 30 Suhodolska Str., ☎ +359 2 929 67 53.
- National Ecclesiastical History-Archeological Museum, 19 Sveta Nedelya Sq., ☎ +359 2 988 13 43. 09:00 to 17:00.
- National Gallery for Foreign Art, 1 St. Aleksander Nevski Square, ☎ +359 2 988 49 22, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:00 to 18:00. 4 leva.
- National Art Gallery, 1 Batenberg Sq., ☎ +359 2 980 00 93. 10:30 to 18:00. Has old Bulgarian art, icons, etc. 4 leva.
- Sofia Art Gallery, 1, Gen. Gurko Str. (The entrance is from Kniaz Al. Batenberg Str.), ☎ +359 2 987 21 81. 10:00 to 19:00. free.
- Sofia City Art Gallery (Софийска градска художествена галерия), 1 General Gurko St (ул. Ген. Гурко 1), ☎ +359 2 987 2181.
- St. Aleksander Nevski Cathedral. One of the largest orthodox churches worldwide and the largest in the Balkan Peninsula.
- Boyana Church, 1-3 Boyansko Ezero Str. (Getting here is quite difficult. Take tram #9 or #10 from the stop underneath NDK (National Palace of Culture) to Hladilnika neighborhood (the last stop). Then catch bus #64. The bus stop is just 50 meters away but you better ask someone for directions because there are several different stops in the vicinity. The stop for the church is a small plaza with a few shops near the end of the #64 bus line. Ask the driver or the other passengers where to get off and then walk uphill and turn left.), ☎ +359 2 959 09 39, fax: +359 2 959 29 66, e-mail: email@example.com. 09:00 to 17:00. This small 14th-century church and garden is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church contains some very well preserved murals. It is located at the foot of Vitosha mountain and is a good starting point for day trips in the mountain. Entrance is 10 Lev, or 2 Lev for students.
- Church of St. George (It`s situated behind the Sheraton Hotel.).
- Hagia Sophia Church, 2 Paris str.. It is located just across the square and to the right from the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral. It was built in the 6th century over an even older church. It is a witness of the whole Bulgarian history and is a valued cultural monument. In the 14th century it gave its name to the city of Sofia. It was destroyed several times and during the Ottoman rule it was used as a mosque.
- Catholic cathedral St. Joseph, 125, Knjaz Boris I (next 2 Sheraton Hotel), ☎ 02/9815548. Holy Masses: SAT 5,30pm & SUN 10,30am bulgarian; 12,00pm latin; 6pm bulgarian
- St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
Other places of worship
- Banya Bashi Mosque.
- Sofia Synagogue. 09:00 to 16:30. One of the largest in Europe.
- Amphitheatre of Serdica (Located in the geographical center of the city under the flags of the EU.).
- Battenberg Mausoleum. The mausoleum and final resting place of Prince Alexander I of Bulgaria (1857–1893), the first Head of State of modern Bulgaria.
- Monument to Vasil Levski. It commemorates the hanging of Bulgarian national hero and major revolutionary figure Vasil Levski in the city on 18 February 1873.
- Monument to the Tsar Liberator. Representing the power of freedom and across from it are the National Assembly and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
- Monument to the Unknown Soldier. Across from Aleksandar Nevski cathedral; on the side of Hagia Sofia's Church.
- Knyaz Battenberg's Palace (Right in front of the city garden.).
- Sofia Public Mineral Baths. It is an old building of interest, although it is in process of renovation at the moment.
- Borisova gradina. It`s the "lungs" of the city, with the Ariana Lake
- City Garden. It`s the oldest and most central public garden, in existence since 1872.
- Orlov Most. It`s a bridge over the Perlovska River in the centre of Sofia
- Prince Alexander of Battenberg Square.
- Petko R. Slaveykov Square (along Graf Ignatiev Str. , between Solunska Str. and Rakovski Str.). 0 - 24. A Famous Square, real Sofia center with a monument of writers father and son Slaveykov's. It`s a biggest open-air book market in the Balkans.There are round benches and street musicians act very often. 0.
- Patriarh Evtimiy Square.
- Sofia Zoo, 1 Srebarna Str.. 09:00 to 17:00.
- South Park. Yes, and it's not the cartoon series. A nice park in the south-east part of the city, although a bit too crowded on weekends.
Sofia was founded around 2,500 years ago. Over the centuries, it has been given several names — Serdika, Sredets and the remains of the old cities can still be viewed today. Because of its strategic place in the middle of Balkans for a while it had been selected for a new capital of Roman Empire.
Near Sofia lies Boyana church, which is one of the most valuable memorials of Bulgarian and European culture. The church has frescoes, acclaimed by specialists as “the best examples of eastern medieval art during its twelve century history”.
The decline of Sofia during the Turkish Ottoman Empire was followed by the rejuvenation after the Russian liberation in 1878, when Sofia was chosen as the capital of Bulgaria at the First National Constituent Assembly, and followed by a brisk and straight-forward period of construction.
- Cafes and restaurants. Sofia is full of trendy cafes with outdoor seating in the summer and good-quality restaurants.
- National Opera and Ballet.
- Arena Cinema. It`s one of the biggest Bulgarian cinema multiplex. Cinemas in Sofia play all films except children's films in their original language with Bulgarian subtitles.
- Free Sofia Tour (The free English-language sightseeing walking tour of Bulgaria’s capital), Corner of Alabin Str. and 2 Vitosha Blvd., ☎ +359 886 993 977. The free English-language sightseeing walking tour of Bulgaria’s capital. Every day, twice a day - both at 11AM & 6PM. No reservation required - just show up! Starting point - the corner of the Palace of Justice (Sudebna Palata).
- Sofia Bike Tour (National Theatre Ivan Vazov), Dyacon Ignatiy, 5, ☎ +359 885523630. Visit the greenest capital of Europe on a Bike. Every day Free Bike Tour (12 April-November) at 11AM & 5PM. Escape from the city and join to the Bike Countryside Tour around Sofia. Start Point: National Theater "Ivan Vazov"
- Sofia Run Tour (English speaking sightseeing running tours), Sveta Nedelya square (St.Nedelya Church), ☎ +359 885 523630. The Guided Sightseeing Running Tours experience offers the runners who travel for leisure or business to have a good chance to discover Sofia. Learn about the city's history and landmarks with a local Guide runner, without interrupting training. Workdays - FEE. Weekends - FREE. Every Day! Please book online. Start Point: front of the Sveta Nedelya church
- Sofia Hike Tour (English speaking hiking tours), National Theater Ivan Vazov (5, Dyakon Ignatiy str.), ☎ +359 885 523630. Join an Experienced Guide and spend a day of healthy hiking from the protected by UNESCO Boyana church to the Boyana waterfalls and Boyana lake. Every Day free Boyana hiking tour (12 April - November) at 11AM. Meeting point: National Theater "Ivan Vazov". In total more that 10 different hiking tours around Sofia available.
- Kid playgrounds. If you're traveling with kids, they might love playgrounds. The "rich" one is in the park that holds Vasil Levski stadium (close to the corner with Orlov Most; there are actually two playgrounds close to this corner and you'd look for the one more inside the park).
You can easily find take away food in Sofia. For less than 2 leva you can get a slice of pizza, a hot-dog or a sandwich. You can get more traditional Bulgarian food in bakeries, offering banitsa and other kinds of pastry. This food is often consumed with ayran or boza . Another possibility is to get a katma, which is a big pancake filled with cheese, ham, jelly or chocolate.
Pizzeria-type restaurants and snack bars can be found all over Sofia. Although many are very uninteresting for the traveler looking for a meal with a local flavor, some include excellent Bulgarian dishes.
- Mr.Pizza, 44 Neofit Rilski Str., ☎ +359 2 988 82 58. Popular in Sofia, get there early or reserve if you want a table in their courtyard. 10 to 15 leva per person..
- Baаlbek (Near Slaveykov Square.). This is great Arab food. Downstairs is take-away kebabs and falafels, and upstairs a small eat-in. Excellent hummus and salads, etc., and cold beer.
- Trops House. It`s a fast-food type of place, offering traditional Bulgarian meals and drinks. It can be found in several locations throughout the city center.
Mid to High End
- Happy's Bar and Grill (Just across the street from the Sveta Nedelya church.). Happy's is the Bulgarian equivalent of an American diner, and the Sofia representative of a nationwide chain. There are English-language menus, and the staff (all microskirted young girls, who apparently have to be smiling when they serve you) all seem to have at least some English as well. Portions are generally huge and represent a sort of "watered down" version of their traditional Bulgarian equivalents, although more Western fare is also available.
- Pizza Victoria. One of the best Bulgarian pizzas.
- Pod Lipite. Very good traditional food. Reservation is required.
- Motto, 18 Aksakov str. (Motto is on the street right behind the Radisson hotel, and then two blocks East (turn to the right on the first small street behind the Radisson if you are walking from the big horse statue) - it's kind of hard to find as the sign is a small black sign with white lettering.), ☎ +359 2 987 27 23. This place is always fairly busy with a trendy crowd. The decor is modern and cool, and the people typically good looking. The service here is usually pretty nice, and many of the wait-staff speak English. The food is consistent and enjoyable. 5 to 15 leva per dish..
- Carrera, 4 Golo Bardo Str., ☎ +359 2 960 28 66, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A fairly modern restaurant over in the Lozenetz area. The decor is well done, the service good, and the food very good. Prices are in line with the quality and style of the place. The wine selection is excellent. They also have a nice summer/winter garden area.
- Maison Godet – French Wine & Dinner, 17 Al. Stamboliyski Blvd. (Just 100 m west from the Sveta Nedelya church.), ☎ +359 2 980 74 77. French gourmet cuisine with excellent French wines, own production of the house. Modern and cosy atmosphere with a nice ancient Roman wall inside the restaurant. Reservations are recommended. About 12 lev average per dish.
- Hadjidraganovite kashti (Traditional Bulgarian Cuisine), 75 Kozloduy ((2 minutes walking distance from the Lion Bridge, around the corner from Ramses II Casino)), ☎ +359 (2) 931 31 48. 11.30 a.m. - 2.00 a.m.. Amazing restaurant just off one of Sofia's main streets. The decor is old-style Bulgarian and the food is traditional Bulgarian, plentiful and very, very tasty. Entertainment includes a Bulgarian walking band and guests are primarily locals. Staff is very friendly and most speak English. Reservations are necessary, even on weeknights. 10€-30€.
- Mehana Karajata (Mehana Karajata), Bul.Ovcha kupel and ul.Zhitnitsa crossroad, ☎ +359 2 8558804. Try Bulgarian national cuisine - in a traditional Bulgarian home atmosphere. Nicely decorated restaurant with beautiful open garden, typical folk music. €10.
- Old Days (English version of the name) (Go to Orlov Most corner of the park that holds Vasil Levski stadium. The restaurant is on the "island" in the middle of the "lake" that is on this corner.). Bulgarian national cuisine.
- Palachinkova Kashta (The Bulgarian pancake house), Dragalevtsi district, ☎ +359 88 66 207 66.
- Starbucks, Corner of Vasil Levski Blvd & Gurko Blvd.
- Onda Coffee Break, ☎ +359 2 980 49 40, fax: +359 2 980 19 39, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Pchela Sweet Shop.
- Nedelya Sweet Shop, ☎ +359 88 560 08 30.
- Costa Coffee.
- Art Club since 1991, 6 Tsar Ivan Asen II Str..
- JJ Murphys Irish pub 
- Clubhouse 19th Hole, Str. Hristo Belchev 6. New Irish bar with a big variety of drinks, great food and good company. In the summer there is a nice outside garden to enjoy your drinks. Also shows every important sports event on TV.
- Apartment. Popular among locals as well as foreigners is the "apartamenta", some sort of private club in the second floor of a turn of the 19th century mansion where you find a series of rooms, all in different styles and wall-drawings, colourful tapestries, etc. Go to the right, get a drink in the kitchen (everything non-alcoholic is 4 lv), and just pick and choose a room which looks cozy enough (shouldn't be too hard to find one with all the couches lying around). If you love the music, there are Mac computers in most of the rooms where you can pick something out of the playlist. Have a game of chess. There is also a Cinema room, if there is nothing running just go in, pick a movie out of the list and start the projection. There is also home-made chocolate and cream and all different kinds of organic drinks like Himalayan tea or Kiwi nectar.
- Lodkite. In the huge "Borisova gradina" park near the stadium (just ask you way around) you'll find this open-air place, located in an old leisure-park parcour (you know, that type of small water-channels where kid can drive around in little gondolas). The boats have gone and the channels serve as improvised sitting places (basic tables made out of wood planks put between the two sides of the channel). There are also some tables on the court and lights decorating the trees illuminate the scene. The public sound system has experimental electronic music, ambiance, progressive rock, or whatever the DJs feel like. The later it gets, the more you'll find people sitting everywhere on the floor on the trees. On warm summer nights, this place is a must-be.
- The largest discos in Sofia are concentrated in Students' town (Studentski grad) in the southern part of the city and can be reached by buses #94 (from Sofia university and Culture palace), #280 (from Sofia University, Orlov most) and #102. The last bus to Studentski grad departs from the city center at about 11.30 PM (from Sofia University and Culture Palace). The entrance fee for most discos is between 1 and 5 leva (€0.5 - 2.5). Discos that can be visited there include: Avenue, Tantra, Orient 33, Jeam Beam, Maskata, Stroezha.
The currency in Bulgaria is the Lev, plural Leva. You will also see the abbreviation lv. (лв.) or the ISO code - BGN. The currency exchange rate is fixed at 1 EUR = 1.95583 BGN. Exchange rate to USD is not fixed directly, but published by the Bulgarian National Bank  and is used for a benchmark in the exchange offices and banks.
Currency exchange offices and most banks offer a buy rate of 1.95 BGN and a sell rate of 1.96 BGN to €1. However, at the airport and train station the rates may differ substantially. During business days, it is strongly advisable to use banks for exchanging money. Although there are some really good exchange stalls giving you up to 1.955BGN/EUR, be aware of those who switch the digits giving you 1.59BGN/EUR. It's also possible to change money 24/7 in casinos where rate is good, but you are required to play even some. ATMs on all major credit card issuers (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Diner's, etc.) are widely available, although you have to watch for your daily withdrawal limit imposed by your card-issuing bank. Credit cards are widely accepted, but in small souvenir stores or restaurants; you will definitely need to carry some cash.
Souvenirs can be bought many small shops in the subways in front of the old Party House and in the metro station at the Largo. The Ethnographic Museum has a small shop tightly crammed with souvenirs of all kinds from all over Bulgaria (on the right, just as you enter the main entrance). Antiques and souvenirs can also be found in Aleksandar Nevski square, in stalls just opposite the church.
- Vitosha Boulevard. It`s the main commercial street in the centre of Sofia. It is known as the most expensive street in Sofia.
- The Mall, 115 Tzarigradsko Shose Blvd. (Many bus lines stop at THE MALL. Choose between bus no. 1, 3, 5, 6, 76, 84, 114, 204, 213, 214, 284, 305, 306, 313 and 604.). 10:00 to 22:00. a convenience store, Largest shopping mall in Bulgaria; contains also a Carrefour store, large Arena cinema, a lot of cafes and restaurants, etc.
- Central Sofia Market Hall, Knyaginya Maria Luiza Blvd (Opposite the Banya Bashi mosque.). Has many stalls selling all kinds of food, drink and cosmetics. The second floor has various fast-food cafés.
- TZUM, 2, Knyaginya Maria Luiza Blvd., ☎ +359 2 926 07 00, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00 to 21:00.
- Mall of Sofia, 101, Aleksander Stamboliyski Blvd., ☎ +359 2 929 33 77, fax: +359 2 929 33 00.
- City Center Sofia, 2 Arsenalski Blvd., floor 3, ☎ + 359 2 865 72 85, fax: +359 2 865 71 37, e-mail: email@example.com.
- SkyCity Mall, 52 Kosta Lulchev Str. (You can get there by tram No 20, bus No 9, and Route Taxi No 1, 19 and 21.), ☎ +359 2 971 02 13, fax: +359 2 971 01 89, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00 to 22:00. Also has an entertainment center.
- Serdika Center Sofia.
- Sofia Outlet Center.
- Bulgaria Mall.
- Paradise Center. Largest shopping mall in Bulgaria; contains also a Carrefour store, large Arena cinema, a lot of cafes and restaurants, etc.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Sofia on Wikivoyage.