After Plovdiv I only had three short days in Sofia, the capital, but even there it was more of the same. I probably wouldn’t have either, had I not been trying to run away from Turkey just next door.
But as I’ve learned, places like this are always the most fun to explore – few hustlers, low prices, and a genuine look into the country without a sparkling tourist façade.
The free walking tours in Sofia and Plovdiv only collected around 6-8 people per day (in bigger cities, you can get up to 30 or 40 ) and even the free Sofia food tour, where we ate for free in some of Sofia’s hippest joints, only had about 12.
The foreigners you do meet will generally be Erasmus students or people just passing through.
After being part of several empires, there is so much history here and you will notice this instantly in the architecture and layout of the cities.
Plovdiv is considered the most ancient city in Europe, and the free walking tours in both Plovdiv and Sofia will open your eyes to how many layers of history are hidden here.
Yet despite all that, the drinking culture doesn’t seem to be a bingey, ‘get f*cked up as fast as possible’ type gig; it’s more of a ‘enjoy your drinks and enjoy the night until the early morning’ type thing. Whatever your flavour, just know you’ll never be drinking alone in Bulgaria.
I managed to get great Airbnbs, bang in the city centre in both Plovdiv and Sofia, for around - a night.That means for a cab ride, for a restaurant meal and for a movie ticket.My hostel in Plovdiv was beautiful; we had real beds instead of bunks, ultra-fast wifi, and a daily breakfast of salami, ham, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, cheese, fruit, toast, jam, muesli, tea and coffee (most hostels just give you bread and jam). Gin and tonics at the bars rarely cost more than .Yet during the walk home I bumped into two friends who refused to let me head home early for the night.Until the final hour, I was in good company in Plovdiv. Other than Sunny Beach and Varna on the east coast, not many people seem to visit Bulgaria.