|Written by: Anita Lišková & Todd Shaw
Photo by: Tomáš Kubeš
Dramatically ringed by the Balkan mountains to the north and the Vitosha mountains to the south, this former Ottoman stronghold offers the visitor everything from thermal springs and tree-lined boulevards to street bazaars and a vast array of architectural styles.
Press and cultural attaché, Bulgarian embassy
Favorite hotels: Kempinski Hotel Zografski, 100 James Bourchier Blvd., tel.: +359 2 62 518
Hilton Sofia, 1, Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: +359 2 933 5000,
Radisson SAS, 4 Narodno Sabranie Square 1000, tel.: +359 2 9334 334
Favorite restaurant: Pod Lipite, 1 Elin Pelin Str. Lozenec, tel.: +359 2 668 214
Favorite night clubs: Biblioteka, Vasil Levski 100, tel.: +359 2 943 39 78
Caramba, 4 Tzar Osvoboditel Blvd., tel.: +359 2 978 07 78
Favorite attraction: Sofialand for children and adults.
Favorite shops: Vitosha street – lots of expensive stores.
Advice: Visit Vitosha mountain range and the Russian cathedral “Alexander Nevski”.
general manager, Hilton Prague Favorite hotel: Hilton Sofia, 1, Bulgaria Blvd., tel.: +359 2 933 5000
Favorite restaurant: Una Enoteca, 45 Vassil Levski Blvd., tel.: +359 2 983 55 81
Favorite night clubs: Chervilo, Tzar Osvoboditel 9, tel.: +359 2 981 66 33
Biblioteka, Vasil Levski 100, tel.: +359 2 943 39 78
Favorite attraction: Vitosha mountain
Best-kept secret: Bulgarian red wines
Advice: Don’t use your credit card outside of the hotel, pay cash.
director, Pernica – Business centerFavorite hotel: Hrankov Castle Hotel, 53 Krusheva Gradina St., Dragaleutzi, tel.: +359 2 967 29 29
This is a luxury hotel located in an attractive part of the city, in Dragalevec, next to the Vitosha mountains.
Favorite restaurant: Captain Cook, 12 Pencho Slaveikov Blvd., tel.: +359 2 954 90 98
Newly opened luxury restaurant offering seafood specialities. Some meals are prepared directly in front of costumers. This restaurant is well-known throughout the country.
Favorite night club: Dali, 6 Shipka St., tel.: +359 2 465 129
Fantastic night club with live Latin-American music. The show is presented by popular Bulgarian actors and singers.
Favorite attractions: The biggest attraction of Sophia and all the Balkan peninsula is Sofialand. It is fashioned after Disneyland in the US or the Pratter in Vienna.
Best-kept secret: Pristine areas in the Vitosha mountain range with splendid vistas over the Bulgarian capital.
Favorite shops: The ideal place for shopping is Boulevard Vitosha, where you can find luxury (but not too expensive) stores selling basically everything.
Advice: Sophia is a city of many faces. It is worth several days to explore its spirit, history and very warm people. Then you realize the truth of the motto: “It grows but it’s not getting older.”
|Basic factsLocation: Western Bulgaria
Country dialing code: 359
Ethnic mix: 90% Bulgarian, 10% Romanian
Religion: 95% Bulgarian Orthodox, 5% Muslim, Jewish and other
Time zone: GMT + 2
Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50 Hz; round two-pin or three-pin plugs
Average January temp: – 2° C (28.5° F)
Average July temp: 22° C (71.5° F)
Annual rainfall: 645 mm (25.4 inches)
Where on the web?
For further information, we suggest the following websites dedicated to Sofia:
http://www.explore-sofia.com/ -includes city overview, info on nightlife, hotels, culture, maps, major attractions and more
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/europe/bulgaria/attractions.htm -the folks from Lonely Planet travel guides have plenty of online information for Bulgaria
http://www.hotelsbulgaria.com/ -as the name implies, this page is basically a search engine for hotel rates and availability
http://www.utell.travel-guides.com/data/Sofia/cityoverview.asp -all-in-one city guide, brought to you by the Utell hotel network
http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/15614.html -a great site for weather forecasts to help you plan your packing
http://www.virtualtourist.com/vt/5ca44/ -a strong focus on accommodation, but also info and an interesting discussion forum for insider’s views.
· 1.5-liter bottle of mineral water: BGL 0.5
· 33-cl bottle of beer: BGL 0.9
· Noviny Financial Times / Financial Times newspaper: BGL 4
· 36-exposure color film: BGL 8
· city-center bus ticket: BGL 0.4
· adult football ticket: BGL 5
· three-course meal with wine/beer: BGL 15
1 bulharské leva / Bulgarian Lev (BGL) = CZK 16.20; EUR 0.52; USD 0.60
(currency conversion rates as of press time)
· Bulgaria is among one of the most industrialized former Eastern Bloc countries. The main industries based in Sofia are machinery, including farm machinery and car assembly, as well as textiles and food products. The city was also the center of former Soviet Bloc high-tech industry and excels in electronics, particularly computers, software development and the creation of some very nasty viruses – due to a cadre of young tech-heads with too much free time.
· Bulgaria is working hard to align its laws with European Union standards, in the hope of gaining EU membership, although this looks a long way off. The Bulgarian government is keen to attract foreign investors and has passed new laws to protect and assist foreign businesses, attracted primarily by a highly qualified, computer literate and cheap labor force. The main business districts in Sofia are located on Vitosha Boulevard and in the Sveta Nedelya area.
· Bulgarian business people are reserved and often highly suspicious of an outsider’s intentions until the proper introductions and contacts have been established. Business visitors should request meetings well in advance – in writing or by fax – and arm themselves with documents detailing interest and position. People in the higher ranks are likely to be former Communist party members and thus stiff officiousness should be prepared for.
· Bulgarians pride themselves on their IT development, and visitors will be expected to scrutinize the company’s website before questions are entertained. Dress code is standard suit and tie for men, while women are allowed to dress more daringly – short skirts and plunged necklines are not uncommon. English is generally well understood, although it is important for visitors to note that nodding the head means “no”, while shaking the head means “yes”.
· Standard office hours are 09:00-18:00. Arrangements should be kept and punctuality is important. Bureaucracy tends to be slow and complicated, so patience is essential. However, Bulgarian after-hours socializing is lively indeed, with a prodigious intake of food and alcohol – foreigners are advised not to attempt to keep up.