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The silhouettes of onion-domed churches mingle well in a skyline rapidly filling with modern, vibrant buildings and malls...
In order to get the most out of Sofia, you're going to need a reliable and comfortable hire car, as public transport in the capital of Bulgaria is below par and punctuality is uncommon.
In central Sofia city, the Alexander Nevski Cathedral is a neo-Byzantine honorary memorial to the Russian soldiers who helped free the Bulgarians from Ottoman rule. It is arguably Sofia's most photographed tourist attraction with copper and gold-tipped domes, which was finally finished in 1912. There is also an abundance of museums and galleries to explore, notably the National Institute of Archaeology which has won many awards for excellence.
Sofia also has a rising culinary scene, with many of its award-winning city centre restaurants putting Bulgaria on the food map. A wave of new restaurants and fashionable bars now sit comfortably alongside the city’s many churches and mosques. Although compact, it’s a place that demands to be explored by car as well as on foot. Make the most of Sofia car rental to get yourself to the places you want to see.
For instance, the Royal Palace is easy to reach by car. It was built as the headquarters of the Ottoman Police Force and had a chequered history with the execution of Bulgarian national hero Vasil Levski. It now houses the Bulgarian National Art Gallery. Not too far away, and arguably the highlight of Sofia’s many museums, you’ll find the Archaeological Museum. It hosts a wonderful collection of Thracian gold and many other artefacts dating back to the 4th century BC.
When you rent a car, Sofia will provide some great memories for you. By pre-booking, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll be able to choose where to pick up your vehicle. Opt for collection from Sofia Airport or a convenient downtown location.
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Use your car to give you reliable transport around Sofia and then look at exploring further afield...
Sofia makes the ideal base for day trips to other Bulgarian attractions. Rila Monastery, the pretty world heritage Unesco site, is the largest monastery in Bulgaria and lies 73 miles away in the Rila Mountains, a tranquil escape from the bustling city of Sofia. Orthodox monks still maintain the monastery, keeping 10th century traditions alive and well today, making Rila one of Bulgaria's top tourist attractions. It's possible to stay overnight at the monastery and it makes a great base for hiking in the nearby mountains.
The Bansko skiing region is only two hours away, should you fancy a day on the slopes, while a trip to the seaside port city of Burgas is more of a trek at four hours, but definitely worth it. Closer attractions include a 10th-century castle in Penrik, picturesque walks in the town of Godech and a Roman Fortress in Mezrda. All of these are under an hour’s drive away from Sofia.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take the short drive up to the mountains of Vitosha, which overlook Sofia. Not only will you get unrivalled views of the Bulgarian capital, you’ll also have the opportunity for some superb walks. From here you can also visit the stone rivers and the Dhulata cave.