A Glimpse of Sofia

Fred gives a summary of his enjoyable visit to Sofia, Bulgaria

When I shared that I wanted to visit Sofia or that it is in Bulgaria, the common responses include ‘Where?!”, and the Europeans also asked “Why?!”

I first heard of Bulgaria because the tennis player Grigor Dimitrov is Bulgarian. After spending a few days in Sofia, I found it enjoyable and I am considering a longer stay should I revisit. The city is generally affordable and the transport usable. The food is suited to my palate and the people seem friendly and hospitable.

Using the Hotel Balkan as my base, I could visit many of the famous attractions on foot, with several of them right outside the hotel, including the monument to Saint Sofia.

Monument to Saint Sofia

A church ‘hidden’ in the hotel but open to public

The metro stop Serdica is named after the ruins found at the site.

Walking towards, perhaps the most famous symbol of Sofia, the St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral was relatively safe, with well-paved roads and several shops.

The famous St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral

Russian Church

There are some branded boutiques at the city centre and the prices are not too bad due to the exchange rate of the Bulgarian Lev.

I particularly liked walking along the main shopping street with the hills in the background.

I also visited the Mall of Sofia which wouldn’t look out of place in Singapore, except for the exotic pets on sale.

Is that a crocodile or an alligator?

Bulgaria is famous for her rose products and I bought some to try and as gifts. The reviews from the recipients were very good and I would certainly buy more back the next time.

Actually I tried some and when I wanted to get more at the airport, I found them more than triple the price compared to the stores in the city.

I noticed Japanese food is very popular in Sofia and there were quite a number of restaurants selling Jap food.

I ate at this Happy Grill chain which was not bad, and I saw that the chef was Asian.

One of the most popular casual restaurants, the Spaghetti Kitchen and Bar, also located near the Hotel Balkan, is frequently visited by local celebrities as the staff said.

I was advised by the hotel staff that this place is expensive, but with an exchange rate of 1 Bulgarian Lev to about 0.8 SGD, it is more affordable than many places in Singapore.

I tried the traditional cuisine and I didn’t mind it.

Their take on other types of cuisine was a little strange, so I wouldn’t try it again. Make a guess what they are…

I tried other food in Sofia, including this pizza which I shared with an elderly man digging the trash bin for food.

I wonder if the pizza this guy was eating was from the same store.

He saw me taking photos and he starting making his dog pose for me. So sweet of him.

As it was spring, red-and-white ornaments were hung all over the city to welcome the change of seasons.

Selling Art
Walk around the neighbourhood
Book Fair

I noticed this person holding a board along the shopping street and asking people to sign it. I suspected it could be a petition scam and I stayed away.

On the whole, I felt Sofia was pretty safe as a male visitor.

Return fares to Sofia are usually on the low side with LOT going for $900 and $4000 for Economy and Business, and hence can be used as a base to explore other parts of Europe. I would actually buy a one way Business back from Sofia which goes for less than $2k. My idea is to end a long Europe trip in Sofia to chill and relax before the long flight back to Singapore.

Happy and Healthy Travels to all!

Fred Ee
Fred Ee
Dr Frederick Ee is a medical doctor, author, blogger and traveler. He discovered his passion for travel on his first long-haul trip to New York City in 2012. His quest for premium travel experiences started on that very same flight as he endured a smelly foot beside him from the passenger behind him for the 24 hours of flight from Singapore to New York. He blogs at goodhotelreview.blogspot.com, focusing on hotel experiences. His most memorable moment of travel was to participate in the resuscitation of a collapsed patient during a long flight to Paris. Feel free to add him on Facebook with a message and his Instagram at @drfrederickee. He would like to thank MileLion for having him as a guest writer and hope readers would enjoy his writings and musings.

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