Sofia

Stay in Sofia and savour 2,000 years of history and an outstanding variety of religious architecture!

The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia is a city of 1.3 million inhabitants with a history that stretches back 2,400 years. It has been ruled by Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantine Empire, the Bulgars and the Ottomans. It can be reached in as little as a 15 hour journey with Air France's regular flights from Johannesburg.

With Bulgaria being a member of the European Union but not the Schengen Area, specific travel regulations
may apply to overseas visitors.

The local currency is the Bulgarian Lev. Sofia's continental climate, characterized by cold Winters and warm, sunny Summers makes it a good skiing holiday destination or Summer getaway. For more economical airplane tickets, keep an eye on Air France's special offers .

Sofia's varied architecture bears testament to its long history as an important urban centre. Here you can find everything from Roman remains, (the Amphitheatre of Serdica, discovered in 2004 and the remarkably intact 4th century Church of Saint George), a full range of 19th century architectural expressions, many dating from Sofia's enshrinement as the Bulgarian capital in 1879 (Neo-Baroque, Neo-Rococo, Neoclassicism, Vienna Secession), to Stalinist buildings like the Largo, which houses government buildings, department stores and hotels.

The city is especially rich in religious architecture, mostly Orthodox, although Sofia is also home to Roman Catholic churches, mosques and the largest synagogue in southeast Europe. A must-see during your stay is the enormous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which can hold 10,000 worshippers. Nearby is the St. Sofia church, a superb example of early (6th century) Christian architecture. The Boyana Church, meanwhile, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, particularly noteworthy for its frescoes, some of which date from the 11th century.

A stay in Sofia can be as much escape to the country as city break, with the nearby Vitosha Nature Park

Vitosha Nature Park, the oldest national park in the Balkans, is just 10 km from the city centre of Sofia. A great place for hiking and skiing, the park contains no fewer than ten mountain peaks over 2,000 metres high, as well as a number of 'stone rivers', an unusual type of rock landform.

Once you're back in the city, make sure you visit some of Sofia's museums before catching your return flight. The most visited museums in the capital include the National Museum of Military History, featuring missiles, artillery pieces, tanks, armoured vehicles and fighter jets; the National Archaeological Museum, housed in an old Ottoman mosque, (one of the star exhibits is the Valchitran Treasure, a collection of 3,300 year old Thracian gold objects) and the National Historical Museum, Bulgaria's largest museum.

Art-lovers will also find lots to interest them in Sofia. The Museum of Socialist Art offers a fascinating insight into a lost era of Bulgarian history, with statues and monuments to Communist leaders and a gallery of propaganda art. Then there's the National Gallery for Foreign Art (being refurbished as of early 2015, Asian and African art and paintings and drawing by artists such as Dürer and Rembrandt), and the National Art Gallery, which is housed in the former royal palace. It displays Bulgarian medieval paintings and over 4,000 icons.

For other practical information on Sofia, why not consult Air France's accommodation and car hire website pages?

Make sure you see the sights that matter in Sofia - consult the following websites before you travel

Sofia sightseeing made easy thanks to these online tourism resources!
mfa.bg/embassies/southafrica/en/1644/index
Sofiatraffic.bg

Militarymuseum.bg