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Travel Guide to Sofia: The historic Bulgarian capital

 

Standard ice cream shot whilst on a sunny city break 🍦🍦 Look at those blue skies 😍😍 #Sofia #Bulgaria #visitsofia

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OK so this is post is waaaaaayy overdue, but better late than never, right?! I visited Sofia back in May after snapping up flights with Ryanair for Β£30 return. Yep, you heard correctly, Β£15 each way for the 3hours it took to get from Birmingham to Bulgaria. This trip was totally unintentional and completely unplanned, but when my lovely friend Toni and I decided to frantically browse Skyscanner for cheap flights to anywhere, we realised this bargain was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Fast forward seven days and we were sat on our flight heading across to the furthest Eastern European country I have ever visited! Here’s what we got up to during our time in Bulgaria, and I’ve listed my top highlights for this cultural capital city…

 

Take a FREE walking tour

 

 

I absolutely LOVE free walking tours and feel they are the best way to discover a new city for the first time, especially as they help to get your bearings when you’re wandering around like a crazy person trying to find out where everything is. The free walking tour in Sofia begins outside the Palace of Justice, right in front of the steps, and departs every day at 11am. Our tour guide, Vasil, was so friendly and informative throughout the whole event, which lasted around an hour. Within that time we saw pretty much every important landmark within the city centre, and got to make some brilliant photo stops along the way. Although we didn’t have time to go inside the churches etc during the tour, we got a good idea of the places we wanted to come back to and explore a little later on. Thank you Vasil for an amazing first couple of hours in Sofia!

 

Visit the Alexander Nevsky cathedral at night

 

 

This is probably the most famous landmark in Sofia and, in my opinion, definitely the most beautiful! As soon as I knew I was heading over to the city I made it my mission to visit the Alexander Nevsky cathedral as soon as possible. We actually walked past that place a number of times during our stay, it’s an incredible piece of architecture and looks good from every angle, especially from the inside. I particularly loved it when it was lit up at night though, as it literally glowed in the dark and made for the most beautiful picture! Sadly my camera couldn’t do it justice, so this picture is from my lovely friend and fellow travel blogger Allison who is currently spending some time in Sofia and calling it her temporary home… Thanks Allison!

 

See the ancient remains of Serdica

 

 

If you’re in to your history, you will LOVE ancient ruins, artefacts and crumbling remains as much as I do. Did you know that Sofia is over 6000 years old?!?! Nope, I didn’t either until I got there and took the fantastic walking tour. The city was known by many names until it became the Sofia we know and love today, and the ancient remains of Serdica date back thousands of years. Wander towards the metro station and you’ll find ruins that were discovered when the council started digging and building the metro line back in 1998. There’s also a brand new hotel (Arena de Serdica) that has just opened and original Roman ruins that were discovered during excavation can be found in the lobby, where an exclusive exhibition housing the 3rd century Roman Ampitheatre has been made. Learning about the history of Sofia was one of my favourite things to do in the city and it made me fall in love with it even more!

 

Explore the many different religions of the city

 

 

There aren’t many cities where you can find a Mosque next to a Catholic Church, but in Sofia it’s something that’s pretty normal! The city is home to a whole host of different religions, from Muslim and Jewish to Catholic and Protestant, but there is no divide present in the city whatsoever, it feels very united and everyone really seems to come together, no matter what their religion. We spent time wandering around the churches and admiring them from every angle. My particular favourite was the Church of St Nicholas, with it’s tiny crypt underneath welcoming visitors into it’s Wishing Room. I did make some wishes, and I do hope they come true!

 

Climb Mount Vitosha

 

 

So we didn’t exactly climb Mount Vitosha, and the tale of how we got up there in the first place is a pretty ridiculous one!! To cut a long story short, we got in a taxi hoping to head towards a rooftop bar with panoramic views for drinks and cakes before our flight home, but the taxi driver got a bit lost, didn’t speak good English and wasn’t sure where he was going. After an hour we arrived at said rooftop bar, only to find that it was CLOSED and was most definitely not in use! Luckily there were a few staff members on site who allowed us to access the roof terrace in exchange for a few Bulgarian Lev – I am sooo glad we did this as it was well worth the hours taxi and the views from the top were INCREDIBLE. Obviously I would have liked to have climbed it properly, but it was an adventure and an experience and was worth all the taxi hassle. If we had more time we would have actually hiked the mountain, and explored the nearby Stone River and Golden Bridges too as this looked super cool, but there’s always another excuse to come back!

 

Stay in a central hotelΒ 

 

Central Hotel Sofia

 

We stayed in a brilliant hotel. right in the heart of the city, and it had everything we needed and more. As the name suggests, Central Hotel Sofia was exactly that, slap bang in the middle of everything and the location couldn’t have been more perfect. The hotel is a 4* and has all modern amenities you could wish for. It was clean, smart, and excellent value for money. We paid Β£30pp per night for a good size twin room with en-suite bathroom and had a really comfortable stay. I’d highly recommend this hotel to anyone looking to stay somewhere central, modern and affordable in the heart of Sofia.

 

Eat just outside of the city

 

 

Everything is so cheap in Sofia, that meal times are an absolute steal and you can taste some wonderful food without paying a small fortune. Although the central boulevard is brimming with restaurants, bars and cafe’s, I’d recommend getting a taxi a little further out of town to see where else you can eat. After a recommendation from a local friend, Toni and I decided to jump in a cab and make our way over to Pod Lipite, a small restaurant just 5 minutes from the city centre that serves traditional Bulgarian food and hosts traditional Bulgarian singers and dancers who play every night for their guests. This place was super cute and cosy and served the most amazing food from salads and soups to chicken and beef dishes. We both had an incredible meal, with an alcoholic drink each, and the bill came to just Β£17!! It’s little places like Pod Lipite which really allow you to take in the culture that a city has to offer, and this meal out was definitely one of the highlights from our trip to Sofia.

 

So there we have it, my Sofia travel guide in a nutshell! Despite spending just 2 nights/3 days here, we saw pretty much everything we wanted to see and I definitely think it was enough time. Obviously we could have spent hours more properly exploring each of the churches, or taken a full day to hike Mount Vitosha, but a 2 night stay will give you enough time to see a lot of the city and worked really well for us. Hopefully this post inspires you to think about choosing Sofia for your next city break, even though it might not be an obvious choice it’s a real hidden European gem. Have you ever been to Sofia before? Tell me what you thought of it, I’d love to hear your comments on this charming place!

Love Jess x

 

Had the best time exploring the beautiful city of #Sofia with my wonderful friend of 10 years πŸ’–

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May Newsletter

 

 

Hi everyone,

It’s the last day of May and it’s been one hell of a month for me over the past few weeks! I’m quite impressed I’ve been able to get this newsletter out on time, given that I’ve barely been in the country this month and have been here there and everywhere! As you’d expect, this newsletter is almost completely travel related because of my recent trips and here’s what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks…

I took a spontaneous city break to Sofia

 

Had the best time exploring the beautiful city of #Sofia with my wonderful friend of 10 years πŸ’–

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This was super spontaneous, very unplanned and it almost didn’t happen as we very nearly missed our flights!! My lovely friend Toni and I wanted to do a last minute city break to an underrated European city and, after frantically scrolling through Skyscanner, we found return flights to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia for a bargain Β£30! How could we say no?! We only had 2 nights to explore but quickly fell in love with Sofia’s history, charm and beauty. We took a walking tour, ticked off all the big landmarks, enjoyed some of the local cuisine and drove into the mountains for spectacular panoramic views. I’ll be posting my travel guide to Sofia over the coming weeks so watch this space!

I went on my first group press trip to Menorca

 

So this was totally unexpected and even more last minute than my Sofia trip but I was completely shocked and delighted to have been selected to attend my first ever group press trip with the teams at Jet2, Spain, Traverse and Turismo Menorca. I spent a whole week exploring this beautiful island, taking part in all the fantastic activities that had been put together for us and learning so many new skills at the 2 day conference. The best thing about this trip though was all the new friends I made, and for that alone I feel so so lucky to have been selected to attend this trip. Thanks to everyone who made my week in Menorca so amazing, can’t wait for a reunion in June!!

 

It was time to celebrate my sisters 22nd birthday

 

family

 

The middle of the month brought my sister Hannah’s 22nd birthday and we had a big family meal to look forward to as my nan, grandad and great aunty all from Liverpool came down to stay with us for a few days. We hadn’t seen each other since January so it was really nice to catch up and spend some quality time with people who mean such a lot to me. We went for a lovely meal out to celebrate Han’s 22nd and picked a little pub in the Cotswold town of Burford to spend the evening. Family time is so important and it was so lovely to take a little break from work, I just wish mine didn’t live so far from me!

 

I’m still in shock after the Manchester Terror Attack

 

Waking up to the news from #Manchester this morning hit me really hard. Maybe because it's just closer to home, or maybe because it's the real loss of innocent, young, beautiful life that has been so cruelly snatched away. And for what? How can it be that you can take your kids to a concert and not return? This world is beautiful but this world is also evil- we must not let that take over and shadow everything that is good. I'm not sure what to think or say, but I found a little bit of peace sat in this spot in #menorca this afternoon just watching the waves crash against the rocks and trying to blur out everything that has happened over the past 24 hours. But we must not forget, and we must still keep the people of #manchester in our thoughts πŸ’”

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I still can’t believe this has happened and I still don’t really know what to say about it. I was in Menorca when I found out and it still doesn’t feel real. I went to bed that night after seeing a Sky News alert on my phone that simply just read ‘incident in Manchester’. I didn’t really know what had happened, and didn’t think too much of it at first so I switched my phone off and tried to get to sleep, but there was something that was bugging me and keeping me awake. I can’t explain what it was but I felt this sickness in the pit of my stomach and I laid awake in bed for hours trying to dismiss it. When I woke up the next morning and read the news headlines I instantly burst into tears. I couldn’t believe it, I had really hoped and prayed that the word ‘incident’ I’d seen before bed wouldn’t have turned into the word ‘terror attack’ the next morning. But it had. And it was horrendous. I have no words for this appalling, senseless attack on 22 of our own beautiful men, women and children, all of whom were attending a concert and all of whom didn’t return. My heart is still breaking and I have thought of those innocent, wonderful people every second of every day since that fateful day. <3

I celebrated three years of blogging

 

Onto a happier note now, and one of my biggest personal achievements. If you read my most recent blog post you’ll know that I recently celebrated my 3 year blogiversary which was kind of a big deal for me! Three years is actually quite a long time, and I could never have imagined three years ago that my little blog would be where it is now. I’m forever grateful for the opportunities, friends and new found love for travel that my blog has brought me and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me, and for Journeys with Jessica. As always, thank you so much for your continued support, it really does mean the absolute world! 🌏

I won tickets to visit The Shard

 


So this was rather exciting and, again, totally unexpected! There’s a bit of a theme running with this months newsletter, can you tell?! I entered a competition during #Traverse17 to try and win tickets to The Shard in London – it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visited but sadly never been able to! I thought I’d chance my arm and enter the competition, and little did I know that I’d been named as the winner and received my VIP tickets through the post! I’ll be taking my sister with me later on in the summer and we both can’t wait to visit – a big thank you to Circular Cruises and Thames River Services for sending my prize, and congrats to the lovely Nicola who also won tickets – it was fate that we met each other on the Menorca trip too, don’t you think?!

And I’m currently en route to Tenerife!

 

tenerife

As if this month hasn’t been crazy enough I’m just about to leave for the airport to head off on my final trip for May. I’m going on a girly holiday to Tenerife with my sisters and am so excited just to chill out on the beach, lay by the pool and soak up some sunshine. The last few trips have been a bit hectic and I’ve taken my work away with me both times, so this week I’m looking forward to completely switching off and taking some time out. Hitting ‘out of office’ on your emails is the best feeling ever, right?! We’re staying right at the heart of the action in Playa de Las Americas so send your tips, tricks and blog posts my way please!

So there we have it, just a short update on the places I’ve visited this month! Given that all I’ve done is travel I haven’t got much other news to report but I’ll be in Tenerife for the next week and am then hoping for a quiet month in June to give me chance to catch up with everything and get my blog content back on track – please do bear with me as I have travel guides to Vienna, Sofia and Menorca to post and want to get them published as soon as physically possible. I’ll be back from Tenerife soon, but in the meantime you can follow my adventures over on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! Was your month of May as busy as mine? What did you get up to? See y’all soon!

Love Jess X