There are plenty of beautiful things to see and do in Sofia as a visitor. There are some spots that have a lot of great restaurants, bars, and shopping. And some parks attract a lot of families and dog walkers, like the large park (though it’s mostly concrete) in front of the National Palace of Culture. I love that the city is surrounded by mountains which is always a pretty view. And of course, the churches are beautiful inside and out, and they’re all free to visit.
But realistically speaking, I’m not going to live in the imposing and pristine National Assembly Building. And just a couple of blocks out of the nice area of the city, everything looks run down and dirty. I probably wouldn’t live upstairs from a nice cafe, but a shady hardware store. Or a casino at best. And that kind of atmosphere doesn’t really make me think of a comfortable lifestyle.
I’ve warmed up to the people of Sofia over the past couple of days. Though standoffish, they’re ultimately helpful, even though the language barrier is very strong in some cases. Usually you can just drop a couple of key words or gesture and you’ll understand each other. And in a lot of cases, they offer help without prompting. One exception is the taxi drivers, who are the shadiest, most awful people to walk the earth.
Another thing I love about the Bulgarians is that they love dogs. Not only are their pets taken care of, but also their strays who are all tagged and look well-fed. In fact, there was a doghouse for strays in the creepy alley leading up to our apartment. According to our city tour guide, Bulgarians also have a tendency to be late, which I find to be an odious quality. That being said, we didn’t personally experience any lateness.
Sofia has been very affordable. We stayed at what I think is one of the most beautiful studio apartments I’ve ever seen, and it was only $38 a night. If I never had to leave my house, I could live in that apartment forever. It’s beautiful and cozy. Public transportation is extremely cheap and efficient. The metro stations are extremely clean, if a little sterile looking. But there are no posted timetables for buses or trams, which is super annoying. You can’t look up routes on Google Maps. You just have to figure it out I guess, and use the transportation website any time you need to find a route somewhere.
The food is equally affordable, with amazing meals including a drink costing no more than $25 for two people. And everything has been delicious. I love traditional Bulgarian food like banitsa, which is a filled filo pastry, and their delicious meat with unique spices and seasonings. They also have plenty of amazing Middle Eastern and Mediterranean options, so their pasta and kebab options are authentic and delicious. Sofia is also famous for rose oils, so there are great sweets and alcoholic drinks that are rose flavored. Just prepare to wait an hour for your bill at every restaurant. They definitely let you sit there until you desperately flag them down.
I have a hard enough time with Czech without adding a whole other alphabet. I think the Bulgarian language would be a bit tough to deal with on a daily basis. Particularly because I can’t really rely on myself to get around the city on my own by public transport. And I never want to get in a Bulgarian taxi again. So I imagine it would be exhausting to try to just live your life. The weather has also been phenomenal the entire time, but for the past month or so, it had been rainy and miserably cold. And I imagine that dealing with that on a regular basis would be unpleasant to say the least.
Total Livability Score: 3/10
There are a lot of things that make Sofia a great place to visit, but it would be very low on my list of places to live.