Balkan Bliss in Bulgaria

For a few years now, I’ve been really interested in traveling to eastern Europe. What has attracted me to the region is that it’s a bit off the beaten tourist path (versus places like Paris), it’s cheaper than western Europe, and I had heard that the Balkan region in particular has beautiful scenery. So when it came time for Mark and I to pick somewhere to go for a long weekend, Bulgaria was brought up and we decided on that.

I’ll be honest that having never traveled to eastern Europe I was unsure of what to expect. What I found in Bulgaria though was a budget friendly destination, with beautiful scenery and genuinely friendly people (almost all of whom spoke English!).

What We Did

With help of Mark’s friend Graham, my friend Maria, and some of our own research, we found several fun activities and ways to relax during our trip to Bulgaria. Here’s what we did:

Food walking tour – We did the free Balkan Bites food walking tour (do tip though!) and visited five different restaurants for samples of food and how they relate to Bulgarian culture. Popular foods are yogurt, garlic, and cheese!

Day trip to Boyana Church and Rila Monastery – We did our day trip through Traventuria. Boyana Church is a Bulgarian Orthodox church that is famous for its  amazing original frescos from the 13th century. Rila Monastery, founded in the 10th century, is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria and is located in the Rila Mountains.

Enjoyed city views from Sense rooftop bar – Sense is the only rooftop bar in Sofia, and is located inside the high end Sense hotel. Drink costs are more on-par with London prices, but the view makes it worthwhile.

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Mark at the Sense Rooftop Bar

Ate traditional Bulgarian food at Hadjidraganovite Izbi – This was the last stop on our food walking tour, and my favorite. The waiters wore traditional Bulgarian clothes and the interior was decorated like a Bulgarian wine cellar. We liked it so much we went there two more times!

Enjoyed a meal and people watching on Vitosha Boulevard – Vitosha is the main pedestrian walking street in Sofia, with lots of restaurants and bars dotted on either side. It was only a block and half from our hotel, so the location was perfect to end our days.

Escape rooms – Mark really likes escape rooms, and I’ve now become a fan. We found that the cost of doing them in Sofia was about a third of the cost of London, so we decided to do two of them during our stay. We went to Hour Escape and Offline.

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Sipped on a drink in Krystal Gardens – Krystal Gardens is a park we passed through several times when going here and there, so we stopped at the bar in the park a few times for a beer and to relax. I tried Stolichno Weiss there which is my new favorite beer!

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My new favorite beer – Stolichno Weiss!

Walked around Sofia to admire the mix of European and communist-style architecture  – Sofia was a really pretty city, so we enjoyed just walking around and taking it all in.

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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – Sofia, Bulgaria

Typical costs in Sofia, Bulgaria

Bulgaria is also a good destination price-wise, and we really appreciate how far our money went there. Here are some typical costs in Sofia (Prices have been converted to USD):

  • Pint of beer: $1.70
  • Glass of wine: $2.30
  • Taxi ride from airport to hotel (20 minutes): $7
  • Dinner at a nice restaurant with two meals, a dessert, half bottle of wine, and a beer: $26
  • Escape room for two: $34
  • 4-star hotel in a prime tourist location with full hot breakfast included: $62/night (I highly recommend the Best Western Thracia Hotel, where we stayed, as it the accommodation was great and the staff was really friendly)

Sofia is a great city and was a perfect first eastern European country for me to cut my teeth into. I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a vacation destination, and honestly could have filled a full week there if we made it to another city or two.

Would you want to visit Bulgaria? Which of the activities that we did would you be interested to see?

 

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