Going to conferences is always a bittersweet experience. You learn new things, make new friends and partners. You get to travel to a different place and sometimes you even have enough time to sightsee. That’s definitely the sweet part.
However, events are always fast-paced, overload you with new information, and you just don’t have enough time to soak in all the goodness. You usually arrive tired and leave on the brink of collapse. That’s where it gets bitter.
We’ve got some event veterans on the BGPHP team – we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Naturally, we started thinking about what could make the event experience better. The answer we all agree on: make a trip out of it. In other words, give yourself a few extra days before and after the conference.
What is more, Sofia must be one of the best destinations for such an endeavor. Accommodation, food, drink and everything else is very affordable; there is a vibrant tech community and coworking spaces; and, there’s plenty of sightseeing to do.
To make it even more accessible, we’ve compiled a list with everything you need to know to plan the perfect Sofia trip. It’s link-packed to save you the research and even has a sample schedule/budget at the end. Enjoy!
As trips go, the first thing you have to decide is where you are going to stay and for how long. As already said, Sofia is a pretty affordable option when compared to other European capitals. Hostels are probably the cheapest option, ranging from 15 to 35EUR per night. Apartments on airbnb.com range from 20 to 60EUR per night, but could be significantly cheaper if you have someone to share with. Hotel rooms are in the 35 to 100EUR range.
Sofia is a great place to work from. It’s an even better place not to work from, but if you really have to, be sure that you’ll find all the necessities here. Bulgaria boasts some of the fastest internet in the world and Wi-Fi connections are easy to find in pretty much any coffee shop out there. If you prefer to be connected at all times, a prepaid SIM card with 5GB of 4G internet costs just 5EUR.
Speaking of the tech community, Sofia has a lively one and it’s a great place to make new work friends. There’s a silicon drinkabout happening every Friday, and there are also plenty of other regular meetups on topics like: startups, various programming languages, internet of things, WordPress, UX and many more.
Now it starts to get fun. Sofia has a bit of something for every taste: street-food adventures, the usual wine and dine, and some fancier options. You can eat on a budget for about 5EUR/meal, eat like a king for 10-15EUR/meal or get real fancy for about 25-30EUR/meal.
The food itself is also a plethora of options, given Bulgaria’s crossroad location and its proximity to Greece and Turkey. Apart from the traditional cuisine, you’ll find lots of other Balkan and Asian restaurant options across Sofia. Whenever you’re in need of a quick bite, you can try one of Sofia’s hip bakeries and coffee shops. Two things that you can try for some extra street credit among your friends are: Shkembe Chorba (Tripe Soup) and Döner (Turkish/Arabic wrap made on the street).
Now it starts to get fun. Whoops! Already said that about the food. You’ll start forgetting things too, once you let Sofia’s awesome nightlife absorb you. The bars and clubs are among the trendiest in Europe, and once again, we have to say that it’s cheap: club/bar prices range 1-2.5EUR per beer, 2-3EUR per 50ml of hard liquor, 3-5EUR per cocktail.
It’s hard to highlight one or two bars, since there is so many to choose from, but check out a list of our favorite places.
There’s much to explore in Sofia and its outskirts. You definitely need to start with a Free Sofia Tour. That will get most of the city’s landmarks out of the way, and you are guaranteed to make a few new friends, because they often go for drinks after the tours.
Once you cover the city, you can move to the outskirts. Sofia is gifted with the wonderful Vitosha mountain, which is just 20 minutes away from the city center. A Free Hiking Tour will show you how to get there, will walk you by the Boyana church, and the Boyana waterfall and lake. The mountain has great panoramic views toward the city, and for the more adventurous, its highest peak – Cherni Vrah – sits at 2925m above sea level.
If that’s not enough, there’s a lot more to see and do with a day trip from Sofia. If you’re more of an urban explorer, you should jump on a bus to Plovdiv; if smaller, historic towns sound more attractive, you could try Koprivshtitsa; lastly, if hiking to a beautiful mountain view is your thing, definitely go up to the 7 Rila Lakes.
You could do all of the above on a daily basis with a week’s trip to Sofia. You’ll also have an awesome event to attend to, which of course is Bulgaria PHP. In summary, we’d like to put all of the above into a sample schedule and budget.
|Monday – Oct 3||Arrive in Sofia
|Plane ticket: 200EUR
Airbnb 7 days: 210EUR
Food and drink: 20EUR
|Tuesday – Oct 4||Coworking
Free Sofia Tour (6PM)
Drinks with the tour group
Food and drink: 30EUR
|Wednesday – Oct 5||Free Hiking Tour (11AM-4PM)
|Food and drink: 30EUR
|Thursday – Oct 6||Plovdiv/Koprivshtica/7 Rila Lakes||Food and drink: 30EUR
|Friday – Oct 7||Bulgaria PHP Workshops
|Food and drink: 30EUR|
|Saturday – Oct 8||Conference Day 1
|Food and drink: 10EUR|
|Sunday – Oct 9||Conference Day 2
|Food and drink: 10EUR|
|Monday – Oct 10||Fly out||Food and drink: 30EUR|