One of Europe’s youngest capitals, Sofia also happens to be among its oldest settlements, stretching back several millennia from ancient Thracian and Celtic tribes through the Romans, Slavs and Ottomans to the present day. This impressive heritage lends the city a highbrow historical element to accompany the great food, drink and party vibe Sofia has always been known for. The full extent of the city’s ancient foundations only became clear in the past decade with the building of the metro. As bulldozers worked to lay rail, they unearthed whole streets, intact houses, baths and churches dating back almost 2000 years when Sofia was a Roman provincial capital, Serdica. Some excavation sites are now open to the public. Of course, having served as Bulgaria’s capital since the late 19th century (after the country gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire), Sofia offers a wealth of other historical and cultural attractions. Two days should suffice for taking in the highlights. Day 1 Morning Get an early start with coffee at Fabrika Daga (ul Veslets 10), a trendy, third-generation roaster that blends beans from around the world. It’s a short walk to the Ancient Serdica complex, the heart of the old Roman city. Attached to the Serdika metro station, the remains … Continue reading 48 hours in Sofia

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For some travellers, Bulgaria brings to mind only the cheap-and-cheerful beach and ski resort boom of recent decades. They couldn’t be more wrong: the land of wine and roses unravels layers of history, epicurean tradition and unspoilt outdoors that make it a great all-round adventure travel destination. Here are our top suggestions for a vintage road trip in Bulgaria’s backcountry. Tipple like the Thracians Not many nations can rival Bulgaria in winemaking history stakes, as grape growing in its fertile valleys can be traced back to Thracian times. The Struma River Valley beneath the rugged Pirin Mountains – one of Bulgaria’s five official wine regions – is home to Melnik, a tiny village of grand National Revival–style houses overlooked by soaring sandstone pyramids. Get acquainted with the region’s viticulture at Melnik’s small Museum of Wine: oenophiles in the know will want to try the signature strong red, Shiroka Melnishka Loza, once Winston Churchill’s favourite tipple. The Kordopulov House provides a fantastic insight into the life of Bulgaria’s prosperous 18th-century wine merchants. The house’s stained-glass windows and carved wooden ceilings, not to mention the 200m-long, labyrinthine wine cellar with massive barrels, will leave you gobsmacked. To learn more about the terroir of the Melnik region, … Continue reading Exploring Bulgaria’s backcountry

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