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Sofia tours and excursions

Sofia tours

Free tours

Free Sofia Tour is a non-profit organisation offering free, English-language sightseeing tours of the Bulgarian capital by volunteers. The tours start at the corner of the Palace of Justice and finish at National Assembly Square. The two-hour tours run Monday-Sunday at 1000, 1100, and 1800 in April-October, and at 1100 and 1800 in November-March.

Tel: +359 988 920 461
Website: http://www.freesofiatour.com

Bus tours

The Sofia Sightseeing double-decker bus tour is a hop-on, hop-off circular trip where tickets are valid for 24 hours. Commentary is provided in many languages, and the official starting point is at 1200 from St Alexander Nevski Memorial Church. The main downside is that there is only one bus every hour.

Tel: For reservations - 0878 864 160; 0878 575 200; 02 980 5610
Website: http://citysightseeing.bg/home-eng

Sofia excursions

Mount Vitosha

Packed at weekends with Sofia-dwellers, the highest ski resort in Bulgaria at Vitosha, 1,800m (5,905ft) above sea level, is perfect for skiing in winter and trekking in summer. The region is also famous for its rock formations, especially the moreni, or stone rivers, at Zlatnite Mostove (the Golden Bridges). Although not possessing the infrastructure of the main ski resorts in the country, with few well-maintained hotels and restaurants, nonetheless this makes a popular Sofia excursion - stick to weekdays if you want to avoid the crowds. The ski runs are of various lengths and difficulties, with chair and drag lifts and a gondola lift. Vitosha is easy to get to by public transport and is only 10km (6 miles) from Sofia.

Website: http://www.bulgariaski.com/vitosha/index.shtml

Rilski Manastir (Rila Monastery)

Located 120km (75 miles) south of Sofia, the Rila Monastery is one of the most significant cultural monuments in Bulgaria, set dramatically within the beautiful alpine mountains of Rila National Park. The first monastery was founded by followers of the Bulgarian hermit St John of Rila in the 10th century. Monastic life continued at Rila throughout five centuries of Ottoman domination, but extensive fire damage means most of the buildings date from the 19th century. The central church's outer walls are richly decorated with colourful scenes from the Bible, with well-detailed accounts of the torments of sinners in hell. Visitors can stay overnight in a sparse ‘cell' before setting off to explore Rila National Park, where clearly marked mountain paths take walkers through dense pine forests. A bus to Dupnitza village leaves every day at 0800, from the central bus station in Sofia. Connecting buses to Rila village depart at 1000 and 1100, departing from Rila village for the monastery at 1240.

Tel: +359 705 422 08
Website: http://www.rilamonastery.pmg-blg.com

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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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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.

Hotel Maria Luisa

In a graceful, early 20th-century apartment building on Sofia's main road, the Hotel Maria Luisa offers simple and quiet rooms, with flatscreen TV and tea and coffee-making facilities. Apartments occupy the corner rooms, with good views over the busy shopping street - with double-glazing throughout ensuring a peaceful stay. With standard rooms on the small side, the suites are worth the extra.

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.