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Sofia has a history of housing people from all walks of life, with synagogues and Russian Orthodox churches sitting close to mosques. Nowadays, the city continues to embrace diversity, with a growing number of international restaurants popping up. There's also plenty of variety when it comes to sights. A stay in Bulgaria's historic capital will see you strolling through leafy parks one minute and checking out Soviet monuments the next.
Hostels in Sofia are often housed in handsome 19th-century buildings, or for a quirky alternative you can even settle down in an Orient Express-themed home-away-from-home. Others have free breakfasts with waffles and veggie dinners washed down with beer in the evenings. Look out for a Sofia hostel that puts on day trips to spots outside the city, like Rila Monastery, Seven Lakes and Eyes of God cave. Hostels with shared kitchens, courtyards and balconies mean there's always a place to meet new people.
Centrum district is the capital's oldest section, with the remains of an old Roman city in its midst. You'll be close to some of the top cultural sights, from the Bulgarian National Art Gallery to the National Archaeological Museum. Lozenets, south of the centre, is a peaceful neighbourhood sandwiched between grassy areas including Borisova gradina – the oldest park in the city. A little to the east, Studentski Grad is the city's student hub, with a buzzing party atmosphere.
No visit to Sofia is complete without a tour of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and its imposing domes. At the small flea market in the square, you can also browse items ranging from Soviet-era signs to intricately crafted lace. Check out the Saint Sofia Church to step back in time to the 4th century, and the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, the oldest in the country. To explore the growing art scene, stroll down Tsar Ivan Shishman Street. Graffiti covers the walls – even the electric transformer boxes are decorated with colourful painted murals.
Sofia has good public transport, with trams, trolleybuses, buses and a metro to help you get around. Pick up a day ticket to use on all forms of transport except the subway. If you're arriving at Sofia Airport, the metro will take you into town in less than 20 minutes. To explore further afield, a bus will take you to Vitosha mountain on the outskirts of the city within about 30 minutes.