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Flights Nice Sofia

Destination Bulgaria: why not head to Sofia?

At the heart of the Balkans, surrounded by mountains, forests and splendid beaches, Bulgaria is well worth discovering. With a rich and fascinating history as well as a magnificent natural heritage, at the crossroads between West and East, its capital, Sofia, invites you to discover some unexpected treasures.

Sofia, many avenues of exploration

A stay in Sofia is the perfect opportunity to make the most of many different experiences all at once.
Advice for art lovers: the city is home to a wide variety of beautiful museums. In addition to the fascinating National History Museum, with its Thracian treasures, and the magnificent Gallery of Fine Arts which holds the largest collection of Bulgarian art, you can visit the Ethnography Museum or even the Archaeological Museum, which features the richest Balkan collection.
But if you prefer to wander through the streets and discover the city's history from the outside, its many religious monuments retrace its incredible past.
Built in Neo-Byzantine style, both impressive from the top of its 76 m and very typical for 19th century Russian churches, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral commemorates the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire in 1878.
Just opposite, Saint Sofia Basilica, the Bulgarian capital's second oldest church, gave its name to the city in the 14th century.
Last but not least, the Great Sofia Mosque is also amongst the monuments not to be missed and forms, along with the synagogue and the cathedral, that which the Sofiotes like to call the “crossroads of tolerance".
After such a journey, and to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre, what better than a relaxing break in the peaceful setting of the beautiful Borisova Gradina Park (King Boris' garden)? With its many chestnut trees, conifers, elms, oaks and sycamores, the park bears some resemblance to a small wood. The ideal place for a calm walk, picnic or bike ride.
But the discoveries also go well beyond the boundaries of the city. Vrana Park, Lake Pancharevo, as well as the snow-covered slopes of Mount Vitosha in winter, or the fine sand beaches of Golden Sands in summer; the region certainly doesn't lack any wonderful sites nestled in the heart of breathtaking nature.

Sofia - Top 10 must-sees

  • National History Museum: Located in a former government residence, it covers all periods of Bulgarian history, from Paleolithic to the Modern Age. Go along especially to admire the incredibly detailed gold Thracian treasures, in particular the Panagyurishte Treasure, with its glassworks in gold or in the form of humans and animals.
  • National Gallery of Fine Arts: This museum, Bulgaria's largest and richest, offers a complete panorama of modern Bulgarian art. Located in the building of Sofia's former Royal Palace (classified as a cultural monument in 1978), it was built in 1882. The crypt of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral houses an important collection of Orthodox icons.
  • Saint Sofia Basilica: This imposing red brick church, the largest religious Byzantine building built outside of Istanbul, gave its name to the city. It was built between the 4th and 6th century on the foundations of another church, of which you can see fragments of mosaic or wall paintings.
  • Alexander Nevsky Cathedral: It is one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the world, of which the huge golden domes constitute a unique part of the city centre landscape. Richly decorated in a Neo-Byzantine style, it impresses by its imposing size. It took 30 years, from 1882 to 1912, to build this cathedral, which today is the main place of worship for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
  • Boyana Church: Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this small church is composed of three buildings considered “the most perfect and best preserved of Eastern European Medieval Art”. People mainly come to see its murals, of which the most famous, from the 13th century, are realistic and absolutely beautiful.
  • Great Mosque of Sofia (Banja Baši: “a lot of baths”): Built in 1576, it is one of the oldest mosques in Europe. It is the only mosque still in operation in Sofia, used by some 8,000 people who make up the city's Muslim community.
  • Tsar Boris' Garden: Open since the 1880s, it is one of the city's oldest parks. A picturesque urban garden perfect for walking, cycling or jogging along its paths that are lined with trees and statues. In good weather, the extensive lawns welcome visitors who come to enjoy a picnic or play sports.
  • Roman Amphitheatre in Plovdiv: The second Bulgarian city offers a great cultural richness, particularly with this Roman theatre built by Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century, one of the country's most famous monuments. In summer, it becomes a theatre for concerts and festivals.
  • Mount Vitosha: A few bus stops from the city centre, ski slopes and hiking trails lead you to the heart of the Balkan wilderness. An absolutely beautiful asset for a European capital!
  • Golden Sands: The Bulgarian coasts are famous for their beauty and magnificent beaches. With its 3.5 km of fine sand, palaces and breathtaking views of the Black Sea, this seaside resort promises a heavenly stay.

A well asserted culinary identity

Neither really Greek, Russian, or Turkish, Bulgarian cuisine nevertheless draws its inspiration from its neighbours, and adds its own Eastern touch.
A real institution, chopska salad is a mixture of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions, and sirene is a cheese in white brine from South-Eastern Europe. Another classic in summer is tarator, a cold yoghurt-based soup with cucumber and dill.The more adventurous can try chkembe tchorba, a soup made with tripe cooked in milk, peppers, garlic and vinegar. Meats and sa usages, most often based on goat meat rather than beef, are also found on all tables. But the less carnivorous, or complete vegetarians, can try delicious eggplant appetizers (kyopolou), roasted peppers and lentil or white bean soups.
Sweets and desserts include pastries in syrup (baklava, kadaïf, touloumbitchki), and of course, the famous Bulgarian yoghurt (kisselo mliako), which will delight all taste buds.

Events Calendar

January: Surva, the International Festival of Masquerade Games in Pernik

It is the largest cultural event in the region, a Bulgarian tradition in honour of the God Dionysos, God of wine and pleasure. Bulgarian and European artists dress in exuberant sparkling coloured costumes and fantastic masks before taking part in a wild dance through the streets of Pernik, intended, according to legend, to ward off evil spirits…

14 February: Vine Festival (Trifon Zarezan)

This festival of vineyards, wine and wine-growers is celebrated on Valentine's Day throughout the wine-growing regions. A distant echo of the worship of Dionysos, Greek God of vines and wine.

March: Martenitsa

On 1st March, to chase away the winter and speed up the arrival of spring, the Bulgarians offer pompoms or small red and white coloured dolls made of wool. Worn on the wrist or chest, these small charms can only be removed if the wearer sees a stork, swallow or blossoming tree, signs indicating that spring is on its way. The martenitsi are very popular decorative motifs in Bulgaria.

March: National Liberation Day

Each year Bulgaria celebrates its liberation from the Ottoman Empire in 1878. It is the most important date in Bulgarian history. After dark, people gather around monuments representing freedom or a revolutionary hero to participate in an official ceremony closed by a national anthem and festivities.

May: Saint George's Day (Gergiovden)

Saint George's Day is one of the largest popular Bulgarian festivals, which marks the start of the summer. The celebration of the Patron Saint of Bulgaria gives rise to a very popular and warmly implemented Orthodox feast. Parades are organised in several cities.

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