Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. The city has a population of 1,26 million, while 1,68 million people live in its metropolitan area. The city is located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain in the western part of the country, within less than 50 kilometres drive from the Serbian border. Its location in the centre of the Balkan peninsula means that it is the midway between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea, whereas the Aegean Sea is the closest to it.
Sofia has been an area of human habitation since at least 7000 BC. Being Bulgaria’s primate city, Sofia is a hometown of many of the major local universities, cultural institutions and commercial companies. Sofia is one of the top 10 best places for start-up business in the world, especially in IT technologies. Sofia is Europe’s most affordable capital to visit as of 2013. Sofia has an area of 492 km2, while Sofia City Province has an area of 1344 km2. Sofia’s development as a significant settlement owes much to its central position in the Balkans. A number of low rivers cross the city, including the Vladayska and the Perlovska. The Iskar River in its upper course flows near eastern Sofia. The city is known for its 49 mineral and thermal springs. Artificial and dam lakes were built in the twentieth century.
Sofia has a humid continental climate with an average annual temperature of 10.6 °C (51.1 °F). Summers are warm and sunny. In summer, the city generally remains slightly cooler than other parts of Bulgaria, due to its higher altitude. However, the city is also subjected to heat waves with high temperatures reaching or exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) in the hottest days, particularly in July and August.
The currency in Bulgaria is the Lev, plural Leva. You will also see the abbreviation lv. (лв.) or the ISO code – BGN. The currency exchange rate is fixed at 1 EUR = 1.95583 BGN. ATMs on all major credit card issuers (Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Diner’s, etc.) are widely available, although you have to watch for your daily withdrawal limit imposed by your card-issuing bank. Credit cards are widely accepted, but in small souvenir stores or restaurants; you will definitely need to carry some cash. Souvenirs can be bought in many small shops.
In your leisure time you can visit:
- Vitosha Boulevard. It`s the main commercial street in the centre of Sofia. It is known as the most expensive street in Sofia.
- The Mall, 115 Tzarigradsko Shousse Blvd. (Many bus lines stop at THE MALL. Choose between bus no. 1, 3, 5, 6, 76, 84, 114, 204, 213, 214, 284, 305, 306, 313 and 604.) 10:00 to 22:00. Largest shopping mall in Bulgaria; contains also a Carrefour store, large Arena cinema, a lot of cafes and restaurants, etc
- Central Sofia Market Hall, Marie Louise Boulevard. Has many stalls selling all kinds of food, drink and cosmetics. The second floor has various fast-food cafés.
- TZUM, 2, Knyaginya Maria Luiza Blvd.
- Mall of Sofia, 101, Alexander Stamboliiski Blvd., It is centrally located. IMAX cinema.
- Serdika Mall, 48 Sitnyakovo Blvd. (You can get there by tram No 20 and 23, buses No 9, 72, 305).
- Paradise Mall, 100 Cherni Vrah Blvd. (You can get there by tram No 10, bus No 120), Large shopping center with an effort to make you feel like being in nature and many fountains. The entertainment includes climbing zone Boulderland, cinema, bowling and game zone for kids.
- Pirotska Str.. The street starts at the market hall near the Banya Bashi Mosque and ends in the dodgy area of Zhenski Pazar (Women’s Market). There are many shops for clothes, shoes and cheap Chinese decoration.
- Ekzarh Yosif Str.. The street runs parallel to the Pirotska Street and is popular for its many shoe shops.
- Zhenski Pazar, Stefan Stambolov Str. It is said to be the largest open air market in Sofia. It is popular with its stalls for goods and notorious with the fact that the sellers rarely let you choose your fruits and vegetables but instead along with the good always sneak into your bag some bad ones. Cheap low quality clothes, underwear and shoes, fake brands, and some second hand shops.
- The market in font of Nevski, Oborishte Str., in front of Alexander Nevski Cathedral (Trolleybus No 9). Popular for the antiques from the communist era, icons and hand made home decoration. The place is absolutely touristic and unavoidable if you visit the tourist attractions nearby.