Hostel Mostel – The most affordable and comfortable hostels in Sofia and Veliko Turnovo


Bulgaria is a small country offering white sandy beaches, white snowy mountains and lush green valeys. Million cities are pulsing with their night life and medieval villages are cuddling in high mountain folds. Food is amazing and value for money is just great.

Bulgaria Map


SofiaIn the past ten years Bulgaria’s ongoing, rapid transformation has been nothing short of amazing! Communism is now just a distant memory, as the country has accepted, unconditionally the values of democracy and market economy. In fact, Bulgaria is somewhat of a peaceful exception on a turbulent and ethnically divided Balkan Peninsula.

Downtown Sofia is one of the most amazing surprises you will find in Europe today! Essentially, it is a wild, out of control concentration of bars, fancy shops, nightclubs, beer pubs, and disco joints. Nobody really knows if they ever close, as the fun loving Bulgarians keep them busy seven days a week.

Walk around the ancient ruins, museums, churches, galleries and restaurants. Eat traditional Bulgarian cuisine (still organic). Then have a peek in small Bulgarian shops and end the day at one of the many night clubs where you can dance until morning.

"I arrived in Sofia one Friday night in October with a plan to spend most of two weeks visiting Bulgaria’s historic villages, riding the rails and rooming in mom-and-pop inns. I was in Bulgaria because I had heard it was cheap, pretty and fun. I started in Sofia only because that’s where the airport is.

After 24 hours here, I scrapped my plan. No trains, no historic villages. Just Sofia.

What captivated me was a lovely, vibrant, stylish city, filled with flowers, fountains, statues, monumental architecture, broad boulevards, richly landscaped parks, good restaurants, friendly people all for a bargain.

Prices were a third of what they were at home in Los Angeles, a fourth of what they were in most of Europe."

By Barry Zwick, Special to The Times


Some of Sofia’s popular tourist attractions include:

  • The late Roman Church of St George (4th century), situated in the courtyard of the Sheraton Sofia Hotel
  • The outdoor book-market on Slaveykov Square
  • The early Byzantine Church of St Sophia, built in the 6th century
  • The gold-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
  • St Nedelya Church
  • The tiny Church of St Petka of the Saddlers from the 14th century featuring some fine frescoes
  • Monument to the Tsar Liberator commemorating Alexander II of Russia
  • Banya Bashi Mosque
  • Sofia Synagogue, the largest one on the Balkans
  • Bulgarian National Historical Museum
  • The National Palace of Culture the largest multifunctional complex in Southeastern Europe, inaugurated in 1981
  • Ivan Vazov National Theatre
  • National Gallery of Foreign Arts
  • National Archaeological Museum
  • Sofia Public Mineral Baths, decorated with the finest majolica tiles and completed in 1911
  • TZUM, Sofia’s oldest and largest department store
  • Sofia’s central boulevards paved with Viennese yellow cobblestones
  • "Borisova gradina" – Sofia’s main and oldest garden, construction of which began in 1884
  • The Largo, an architectural complex in downtown Sofia which includes the headquarters of many national institutions
  • National Ethnographic Museum
  • National Museum of Natural History
  • Man and Earth Museum
  • Lady’s Market – the biggest open area market in Sofia
  • Pirotska street – busy shopping street
  • Graf Ignatiev street – one of the liveliest streets in Sofia
  • Communist Party Building
  • Monument Of Unknown Solider
  • Bulgarian Academy Of Science
  • Sofia University
  • Eagles Bridge
  • Soviet Army Monument

One Day Trips


Rila MonasteryIf you have to see only one thing in Bulgaria this has to be Rila Monastery.

This is the most impressive Bulgarian historical, cultural and religious place, embraced by the majestic slopes of Rila Mountain.

It is surrounded by high mountain peaks, covered with centuries-old forests. The nature is so gorgeous by itself that even without the monastery it is well worth going there.

Even today there’s a palpable sense of isolation, and it’s easy to see why John of Rila (Ivan Rilski) choose this valley to escape the savagery of feudal life and the laxity of the established monasteries at the end of the ninth century. To disciples drawn to his hermit’s cell, John preached that "he who would be chief among you must be as he that doth serve." What began as a hermitage became an important spiritual center after his death, and the Rila Monastery played a major role in Orthodox Christianity throughout the Middle Ages.

Every year about a million of pilgrims, tourists, scholars and men of art from different parts of world visit the Rila Monastery to enjoy its beauty and get familiar with the fine art and religious collections. Now they arrive by bus or car rather than on foot or riding a mule, as did the pilgrims in the old days.

In 1980, the International Federation of Travel Writers and Journalists (FIJET) distinguished the Rila Monastery with Golden Apple, the highest award for familiarization and cultural tourism.

In 1983 because of its cultural value, the Rila Monastery was put on the List of the World Cultural Heritage Sites.


Mountain VitoshaNot many of the world’s capitals are blessed with a high mountain massif as their natural decor. Mountain Vitosha is just 20 km (12 miles) away from downtown Sofia. Its highest peak rises to 2290 m ( 7000 feet)

Locals and the tourists come to Vitosha mountain to picnic, gather wild herbs and berries, savour magnificent views or to ski in the winter. The ascent of its highest peak, Cherni Vrah (The Black Peak), has become a traditional test of stamina for hikers.

Two gondola and a chair lift take up to the ridge which commands a majestic view of Sofia. Walking in summer will take visitors to the cool woods, rippling brooks and sunny meadows strewn with flowers and berries. In winter Vitosha is excellent for skiing, with a good network of lifts and rope-tows, and a renowned ski school .

There are two main tourist centres – Aleko and Zlatnite Mostove (The Golden Bridges). The first is at about 1800 m above sea level in the eastern part of the mountain and is one of Bulgaria’s biggest ski-centres. Aleko is the starting point of the Bulgarian section of European hiking route E-4. Above it is the huge slope Stenata – the biggest natural ski-track in Bulgaria. Aleko is also the starting point for climbing the Cherni Vrah. The steep climb, at a difference in altitude of approximately 500 m typically takes 1.30 hours, and for those who think it is difficult, there is a lift to Mt. Malak Rezen, from where they can proceed along a flat route and reach the dreamed peak in 30 minutes only. All routes to the peak are marked by high metal pickets or pass by skiing facilities, thus reducing to the maximum the possibility of one getting lost. Still it is not recommended to climb the peak in bad weather!

A unique natural phenomenon are the so-called "stone rivers " (moreni) – piles of huge rounded granite stones along many of the river valleys, reaching up to 2 km in length and 50 m in width. Especially expressive and beautiful are the moreni in the Zlatni Mostove area (Golden Bridges) . In old times this was a place where gold was washed out of the sands, hence the name of the place. Zlatnite Mostove is also a starting point to Cherni Vrah (about 3 hrs.), which route passes by one of the oldest and most beautiful chalets – Kumata (1 hr.).


KoprivshtitsaWhite stone walls, overgrown with ivy and wild geranium, fence in gardens full of flowers. Vaulted stone bridges run across the bubbly Topolnitsa river. Heavy, iron-studded gates hide blue, yellow and red houses with verandas, bay windows and eaves and the spacious rooms are lit up by brightly coloured rugs and cushions, carved ceilings and cupboards, copper vessels and ceramics. Architects say that every house in Koprivshtitsa is a work of art.

The small town of Koprivshtitsa is reachable in about 2 hours. The town is a true ethnographical museum of Bulgarian Renaissance architecture.

Koprivshtitsa’s charm and ancient spirit has hardly any rivals in Bulgaria, probably except for the seaside town of Sozopol. Yet the two towns’ similarities end with their narrow and steep cobbled streets. Koprivshtitsa’ old houses are all painted in different vivid colours (yellow, orange, red, blue, green) with their stone walls rising high above the ground. Walls were built thick and high for purely practical reasons – i.e. during the Ottoman rule, this was done in order to prevent Bulgarian women from being beheld by Turkish soldiers. The walls’ height was also ensuring that any plots or revolutionary gatherings against the Turkish authorities were not to be heard or seen by the latter.

Once being a crafts and trading centre, at present the town of Koprishtitsa lives primarily on tourism with most of its houses being turned into cozy family hotels with welcoming mehanas and restaurants on their ground floors or in their cellars. Accommodation and pub prices are relatively cheap, while the atmosphere including the cuisine are traditionally Bulgarian. This makes the town a favourite weekend destination for guests of Sofia and Plovdiv.


Occupying the former Communist leader residency where on November 10 th, 1989 the last communist leader Todor Zh ivkov was removed from power, the National History Museum undoubtedly has the finest collection in whole Bulgaria . It was assembled in 1981 to celebrate 1300 years of the Bulgarian State. Thracian gold treasures, for which wide space was made, are displayed so they can be fully appreciated.

Artefacts such as bas-reliefs, ceramics and silverware reveal the achievements of the medieval capitals, and there is a rich collection of material from the National Revival period, including folk costumes, carpets and domestic items. The museum consists of relics from the earliest period up to the Middle Ages and includes gold and silver treasures (the Panagyurishte treasure), ceramics and archaeological remains.

It is worth seeing the unique findings of the Varna halcolite necropolis known as the oldest gold treasure of humankind ever found (4000 years B.C.), the Panagiurishte gold treasure (4th century B.C.), the Letnitsa treasure made of gilded silver, a column with text from the time of the Bulgarian Chan Omurtag , icons, jewellery, a gold ring which once belonged to the Bulgarian King Kaloyan (12th century), golden seals, etc.

At present the National History Museum collection consists of 650,000 items from different historical periods.


This famous church is located in the foothills of Vitosha Mountain, in what is now a suburb of Sofia. Due to its exceptional historical and artistic significance, the church is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. During the Middle Ages, Boyana was one of the 35 Bulgarian fortresses forming the fortification systems of the city of Sredets (now Sofia). The Boyana Church was built within the fortress and is a magnificent example of medieval architecture and monumental art.

The 900-year-old c hurch is best known for its world-famous frescoes. According to many leading experts, the flawless technique, the psychological depth, complexity and the realism developed by the Boyana artists played an important role in the development of medieval Bulgarian and European painting. Boyana is the only and the most impressive entirely preserved monument of the Turnovo school of painting from the 13th Century. .htm


The first settlers of these lands, according to historical documents, were a Thracian tribe named ‘Serdi’ that gave Sofia its first name – Serdika. Around 500 BC another tribe, called ‘Odrissi’, settled there. For a short period of time in the 4th century BC the city was ruled by Philip of Macedonia and his son, Alexander the Great. In the year 29 AC, the city was conquered by Roman legions, while during the rule of Emperor Trayan, it became the centre of an administrative unit of the Roman Empire. At that time, the city expanded, while many buildings such as a large amphitheater and public baths were built. In the 2nd century AC, the city became a centre of the lower Dacia province, while Constantine the Great called it ‘My Rome’. Later, the city continued to flourish during the reign of Emperor Justinian. Even if the chief of the Huns, Attila, raided and conquered it in the 5th century AC, the Byzantine Empire returned it to its dominion after his death. The city remained within the boundaries of the Eastern Roman empire until the 9th century, even if most other pats of present-day Bulgaria were already included in the newly established Bulgarian state (681 AC).

In 809, the Bulgarian Khan Kroum conquered the city and changed its name to Sredets (meaning ‘middle land’) for its being considered the centre of the Balkan Peninsula. In 1018, the Bulgarian state fell under Byzantine rule, wihle Sredets was renamed into Triaditsa, which meant ‘between mountains’. Later, the city was renamed Sofia after the St Sofia Church, which currently stands right next to the landmark Alexander Nevski cathedral. Sofia was conquered by the Ottoman troops in 1382, while during the five centuries of Ottoman rule, it was changed beyond recognition with mosques, covered markets and public baths rising in the place of churches and Roman buildings. During the 17th century, the city grew into the biggest marketplace of the Balkan region, while in the 18th century, a stone-paved road linked the city with Europe and Asia Minor. During the 19th century, the first railway crossing the Balkans reached Sofia as a part of the famous Orient Express.

Sofia was liberated from Ottoman rule on January 4, 1978, while it became capital of the Bulgarian state in April 1979 due to its strategic location, even if its population numbered just 12,000 at that time. During the 20es of the 20th century, it acquired a true European outlook. Regretfully, a large part of the then-downtown area was destroyed by bombings during WW2. During the communist regime that started in 1944, a number of Stalinist-style buildings were constructed (such as the headquarters of the communist party, the TZUM central store, the National Palace of Culture, etc) and can be still seen among modern buildings. At present, the city is a nice urban place to live it as it still has a lot of green areas and relatively small traffic, though the latter has seen a great increase in the last couple of years.

Sofia News Agency
Sofia’s English-language daily newspaper.

Sofia Echo
Sofia’s English-language weekly

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