This little Eastern Bloc city rocks. A compact city with a cacophony of architectural styles, rich in history, culture and tradition. Despite being on economically shaky ground with high unemployment and many hardships, the inhabitants of Sofia are renowned for being some of the most ‘upferit' nocturnal party starters in the whole of Europe. Bulgarian cuisine is hearty, tasty and has ‘hangover cure' written all over it, with rich cheeses, dumplings, stews and salads as far as the eye can see. Bulgarian wine and spirits are some of the finest and most affordable around, look out for Melnik reds from the South West and a seriously potent plum-based spirit called Rakia, buy a bottle - or ten - and if you can't hack it then use it as a cheap alternative to paint stripper.
There are some times when a soak in a bubble bath with candles and a glass of wine is just the ticket. Your hen weekend is not one of those times. If you have yet to really burn the candle at both ends and live it large with your friends then - for the love of God - hurry up and get on with it. Sofian nightlife is the ultimate hen destination. The biggest concentration of bars and cafes lie on either side of the Vitosha Boulevard and the bars are rammed until midnight, after which heavy duty revellers move on to nightclubs. The absence of licensing laws mean that drinking is possible at all hour for all ages though you must be over 16 to purchase alcohol. Table wine will set you back about £4 and a top-end reserve will clock in around £8. Tobacco is one of Bulgaria's chief exports so cigarettes are unbelievably cheap - about £1 for the national brand ‘Victory'. Nightclub admission is cheap compared to UK at around £2 - 10 so pre-booking is advisable to guarantee entry.
Sofia is a city with limited public transport: there is only a short underground line, busses and tramways are mainly old and far from covering the whole metropolitan area. It may be relatively easier to travel through the city by taxi, which tends to be cheaper than in other capitals, provided you bump into an honest driver, which is not exactly to be taken for granted. It is also advisable, especially if you have to go to the airport, to have your taxi booked in advance rather than stopping the first one in the street. Presently, all taxis in Bulgaria are yellow according to a law approved a few years ago.
Flights to Sofia depart from Bristol, Manchester and London. Approximate flight time from London is 3hrs 20 mins.
Ex- London see: British Airways, BH Air and Bulgaria Air and Wizzair
Ex - Bristol see: First Choice Airways
Ex- Manchester see: Bulgaria Air
Sofia's principal airport is located just 10km East of the city centre and having been recently renovated it is now bright, modern and smoke-free.
Spring and autumn sees Sofia at her glorious best. Green tree-shaded avenues add colour and life to a city that can verge on the drab during the winter months. Expect January to fall well below zero and summer to reach heights of 35 degrees. Spring hovers around 19 degrees and Autumn is a pleasant 10 degrees.
Currency: Bulgarian LEV (Lv). Currently the exchange rate is roughly 2.87 (Lv) to the pound.
Time Zone: GMT + 2. Set your watches forward two hours.
Dialling code: + 359
Daylight saving: Starts last Sunday in March and ends last Sunday in October.
Language: Bulgarian and Russian with few but a growing number of locals understanding and speaking good English.