Heathrow and Gatwick: Pretty town 3 hours from London named Europe’s cheapest with £1.10 a pint and mountain skiing

Most people traveling to Bulgaria tend to overlook the bustling capital, instead flocking to the serene coastline and mountain ski resorts. Without wanting to put these fantastic places to shame, you might be missing out on one of Europe’s most beautiful and cheapest holiday destinations.

With pints of lager around four times cheaper than in London, Sofia is the perfect getaway for a ‘British Abroad’ holiday. It’s not just about beer. Sofia is home to an eclectic mix of churches, Ottoman mosques and Soviet-era architecture, against a youthful city with an array of bars and clubs. And there’s actually a mountain you can ski on – Vitosha Mountain on the outskirts of town – albeit with more limited facilities than Bulgarian ski resorts.

Built on the 2000 year old Roman ruins of Serdica, the modern city is still steeped in history with plenty of galleries and museums to learn about Bulgaria’s unique history. There are over 30 museums ranging from national treasures to quirky little spots like the Puppet Museum.

READ MORE: Latest travel rules for Albania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland and Romania

The city mixes beautiful Islamic and Christian architecture with Soviet-era brutalism

The town enjoys high temperatures during the summer, reaching up to 30°C. You can stay hydrated on the cheap, but there are also a host of fine dining restaurants to choose from. You can try traditional Bulgarian dishes in top restaurants like Pod Lipite, Moma and Izbata. Expect premium cheeses, meats, eggs and vegetables, some of which come from local farms and producers.

There are also hidden gems to explore and places known only to locals. For example, you can venture out of town to the nearby Boyana Waterfall or watch the Changing of the Guard at the Rotunda Church of St George. For those interested in Soviet history, there is the Red Army Monument, an Eastern Bloc brandy bar called Raketa Rakia, and the Socialist Art Museum.

People holding beer glasses
Even if you only go for the beer, you’ll find there’s so much more to this European gem

If you need a place to stay, there are the usual AirBnB options, hotels and hostels. If you’re backpacking you can’t really argue with hostel prices – at £6 a night you’ll be able to save your money for top quality food and outings. Direct flights from Heathrow cost around £200 this summer, but even cheaper from Gatwick with direct airfare around £100.

So if you want to soak up the sun, knock down the pints, and experience a unique intersection of Christianity, Islam, and Soviet Communism, head to Sofia.

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