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Things to do in Sofia

Get thrashed at chess in Gradska Gradina

The bustling Gradska Gradina is the best place in the city to people watch. For a unique experience, get a drink from Spetama Caffe and take on the local chess wizard who resides next to the benches. What he lacks in teeth, he makes up for in imperious chess ability.

Haggle for historical memorabilia at the Antique Market

Just outside the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, two rows of stalls facing each other sell memorabilia diverse enough to delight war enthusiasts and fashionistas alike. Military garb is to the fore, and while some may question the authenticity it gives hagglers a great reason to bat down the already low prices.

Shop with the locals at the Zhenski Pazar (Woman’s Market)

For years Zhenski Pazar was Sofia's busiest market. It still sells a fantastic range of fruit and vegetables, cheese, cured meats, delicious homemade halva (a local sweet desert) and other Turkish-inspired goodies. Construction work is modernising the market, so squeeze in a visit before it's dragged into the 21st century.

Take in the churches, waterfalls and peaks of Vitosha Mountain

The sprawling Vitosha Mountain outside Sofia, where endless trails and walks await, is only 30 minutes away by car. Sofia Green Tour (tel: +359 8855 23630; www.sofiagreentour.com) organise trips to the hills that take in the Boyana Church, Boyana Waterfall and the imposing Kamen Del peak. Their 15km (9 miles) route takes around seven hours.

Watch a Levski Sofia football match

Bulgaria's best-known football club, Levski Sofia (www.levski.bg), may be short of success recently but they remain the team to watch. The Georgi Asparuhov stadium is ten minutes away from the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, so join supporters for drinks in the city centre before taking a slow wander to the ground.

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City Highlight: Sofia

A city as beautiful as its name, Sofia boasts onion-domed churches and Soviet-era monuments interspaced with manicured gardens and wide cobblestone avenues plied by rattling trolley buses.

Featured Hotels

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Holiday Inn Sofia

This spectacular contemporary 5-star hotel nestles under Mount Vitosha and is adjacent to Business Park Sofia, Bulgaria's largest business park. With excellent meeting rooms and conference facilities it attracts business visitors, but its proximity to the mountain region and a luxury spa, treatment and fitness centre means plenty of leisure visitors also. The hotel's shuttle bus takes around 20 minutes to the city centre, 11km to the north.

Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan

In a prime location, the imposing Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan is a landmark in itself, and the city's leading 5-star hotel with Italian marble and ornate chandeliers. The 184 elegant rooms, including 18 suites, were recently refurbished, with classic furniture and tasteful colours plus a vast new ballroom. All rooms have free Wi-Fi internet access, and there is a small fitness centre and sauna.

Scotty's Boutique Hotel

In a central location, opposite the synagogue, Scotty's Boutique Hotel is built in a graceful four-storey renovated house (no elevator). Its rooms are spacious and modern, each one different in décor but all enjoying a quirky and contemporary look. Rooms are uncluttered and bright, with wooden floorboards, most with a private balcony.

Central Hotel Sofia

This modern hotel with a good central location has 70 well-furnished rooms, each with free Wi-Fi Internet access and most with a balcony. Facilities include spa, sauna, meeting rooms and conference halls, and a large restaurant with a terrace. The 'apartment' (more like a suite) has room for up to four people.

Hotel Cheap

An unfortunate name for a hotel that, while great value for money, doesn’t feel stingy or like a place that prioritises savings over services and good quality. Located near the train station, a ten-minute walk from central Sofia, Hotel Cheap’s 18 rooms offer everything you need for a short or long stay. Free Wi-Fi throughout, breakfast is extra.

Sense Hotel

Billed as Sofia’s first upscale design hotel, Sense, which opened in 2013, offers stylish design and a great location. The hotels 71 rooms and suites come with all mod cons, and feature large windows commanding impressive views out over the city. Together with the hotel’s rooftop bar, it makes for a great place to get a feel for the city below.