SOFIA

 GOOD TO KNOW

Sofia is one of Europe’s youngest national capitals. It only became the Bulgarian capital in 1879, when the country broke away from the Ottoman Empire after 500years of foreign rule.

  • Borisova Gradina, largest of Sofia’s numerous parks, covers an incredible 90.5 hectares, roughly equivalent to 127 football fields.

-In 2010, more than 400,000 viewers went to the cinema to watch “Mission London”, the screen version of Alek Popov’s angry satire about the political classes in Bulgaria: that’s 5.4% of the entire population.

HOTEL

The trendiest hotel in town is the designer hotel Les Fleurs (Vitosha Boulevard 21, T +359/2/810 08 00), located at the very heart of the city. This is particularly true of the luxurious Panorama Suite up on the 7th Floor, which boasts its own vast roof terrace; there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in Sofia. As well as this, the hotel is home to the highly recommendable restaurant Le Bouquet.

RESTAURANTS, CAFES & CLUBS

Generally you can eat very well (and amazingly cheaply) in Sofia. The Pri Orlite (Dyakon Ignatiy ll/17th Floor, T +359/2/98150 00) serves excellent lamb, and the amazing view is a highlight in its own right.

You can eat very elegantly at Opera (GeorgiS. Rakovski 113, T+359/2/988 2141). For a lighter break, we recommend the guest gardens of the Flocafes (Sveta Nedelya Sq. 3, T +359/2/950 66 45), the Art Club Museum (Saborna 2, T +359/2/980 66 64) or Toba&Co (Moskovska 6, T +359/2/98946 96), behind the National Art Gallery, which mutates into a good dub in the evenings. Another classic for night owls is the Yalta (Tzar Osvoboditel 20, T+359/897/870230).

SHOPPING

Sofia is a shoppers’paradise, thanks not so much to the shopping centres that have sprung up everywhere in recent years as the numerous small boutiques and original shops in the districts sandwiched between ulica Tzar Asen and Boulevard Tzar Osvoboditel.

A handful of interesting addresses: Octopus Industries (Tzar Asen 69,T +359/889/038 809,); Paradise Garage (Karnigradska/corner of Tzar Asen, T +359/889/438 815); and Chaika (Georgi 5. Rakovski 122, T +359/898/471467,  Another interesting shop if you’re after Bulgarian designer fashion is Ivan Asen 22 (Ivan Asen 22, T +359/888/399506). The collections of Garderob can be purchased in Sofia directly from the designers by appointment (T +359/899/878207).

ART SCENE

The Sofia Art Gallery (Gen. Gurko 1, T+359/2/9872181) exhibits some interesting positions on contemporary art, as does its offshoot, the Vaska Emanouilova Gallery (Boulevard Y. Sakazov 15/to the rear of the park, T +359/2/94411 75, ). Also recommended is the ICA (Boulevard Vasil Levski 134/entrance via Ekzar Josif, T +359/887/510 585), run by Nedko Soiakov and others, and artspace The Fridge (Ovche Pole 122,T +359/889/858 088, ). You can also see works by Levko Soiakov in Vienna in May: the well-known Bulgarian artist opens his exhibition on 12 May at the Georg Kargl Box.

READING

To set the mood for a trip to Sofia in the most entertaining way, read “AdvancedLevel”, Alek Popov’s collection of angry short stories, published by Residenz.

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