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Sofia - the most ancient European capital after Athens

17 September 2014 / 12:09:38  GRReporter
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     Walking down the yellow brick road in the city centre, past the impressive buildings of the Largo complex, you find yourself near two of the most important cultural institutions in the city, the National Art Gallery and Ivan Vazov National Theatre. The gallery is housed in the former Royal Palace and it collects works by some of the most prominent Bulgarian artists and sculptors, and almost every month there is a foreign exhibition. The building was built in the middle of the 19th century and, over the years, functioned as a court, prison and hospital. Its reconstruction in a sumptuous royal palace began with the coming of the first Prince of Bulgaria after the Liberation, and during the communist regime, it became a gallery. The entrance of the National Art Gallery faces the oldest park in the capital where you can see the Ivan Vazov National Theatre that was built in the early 20th century by Austrian architects. Its troupe is the leading one in Bulgaria even today and involves some of the best Bulgarian actors from different generations.

     Recently, the popular travel and tourism website TripAdvisor declared the capital of Bulgaria the most accessible key tourist destination in the world. According to the ranking, compared to other world capitals, Sofia offers the most attractive prices for one overnight stay, dinner, cocktails and transport, as it is estimated that the cost of one overnight stay at a four-star hotel, including a luxurious dinner, is 112 euro for two persons. Tourists who are not looking for luxury but for the cordial and cosy reception of Bulgarians should turn to the small and neat hostels hidden in the city centre. Every tourist can experience the famous Bulgarian hospitality for 20-30 euro for a double room per night at hostels like Hostel Mostel and Art Hostel. The room interior also impresses with its diversity and anti-Ikea policy and everyone feels special in his or her room.
     When talking about bars and restaurants, there are always two types of tourists, namely those who go to a traditional restaurant furnished as an attraction and those who go to the ordinary restaurant that is visited by locals. If you are of the first type, then you should visit restaurants such as "Site bulgari zaedno" ("All Bulgarians Together") and "Veseloto selo" ("The Happy Village") that, in addition to traditional Bulgarian specialties, offer an attractive atmosphere and live music and dancing from all over Bulgaria. If you are of the second type, you can go to places like "Divaka" ("The Savage") and "Dvete halbi" "The Two Pints", which offer some of the most traditional Bulgarian dishes at affordable prices. Bear in mind that they are some of the favourite restaurants of the local people and you may have to wait for a table at some point. Wherever you go, it is important that you try two traditional dishes of the Sofia region, namely "Shopska Salad", which a few months ago won the "Taste of Europe" competition for the most popular dish in the European Union and "Shopsko Cheese".

     Fortunately, there is no significant separation between tourists in terms of bars and nightclubs - everyone wants to have fun "in the Bulgarian way" and the final choice depends on the music style alone. In Sofia there are numerous bars and restaurants and the most famous are not always the best. One of the lesser-known places in the city is "Rocket Brandy" bar that is fully furnished and decorated in the style of socialism in Bulgaria and offers visitors to try over 50 kinds of Bulgarian brandy. However, if you want to spend a quiet evening with a glass of wine in a cultural atmosphere, you should go to "Dada Cultural bar" or "Apartamenta" ("The Flat"), which generally play chill out and there is always a chance to meet someone with whom to talk about culture in each of its aspects.
     The capital of Bulgaria is rich in nightclubs and restaurants that differ both in terms of the music played and interior, and in prices. What attracts some foreign tourists are local pop-folk clubs that play Balkan music and where prices are such that it can be afforded more than once. The alternative to pop-folk clubs is the clubs that play retro and modern music such as "Once upon a time/Bibliotekata", which is attractive for its atmosphere, recreating the interior of the comics about Superman and Captain America. However, the most famous Bulgarian club is "Yalta". The most famous DJ Armin van Buuren is often its guest and it ranks 12th in the top 100 clubs in the world.
     If everything in this plan is fulfilled, then there is no way for the magic of Sofia to not have fascinated even the most extravagant tourist. Each year the capital of Bulgaria attracts an increasing number of tourists and almost one million visitors from the country and abroad have visited it over the past year. Some travellers continue to return repeatedly to Sofia, each year, because, as its motto says, "it grows but does not age."

Tags: SofiaSerdicaSredetsTriadicaSynagogueMosqueChristian churchesSocialist classicism
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