Sofia Adventures

Welcome to Sofia!

Sofia is an intriguing city, with corners that show at various times a glint of the splendor of Vienna, the charm of Istanbul, the quirkiness of Budapest, and the brutalism of Moscow. You’ll find Roman ruins in our subway stations, medieval icons in the church basements, and Thracian relics in the former presidential palace. Yet Sofia brings all of these seemingly disparate traditions together into one magical, inspiring city.

DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

DISCOVER SOFIA

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13 Magical Things to Do in Plovdiv at Night: A Plovdiv Nightlife Guide

Plovdiv is famous for its picturesque Old Town, its delicious restaurant scene, and its beautiful Roman ruins. But unlike some museum cities, Plovdiv doesn’t shut down after dark! In fact, Plovdiv nightlife is vibrant and easily accessible. Here are our picks for the best things to do in Plovdiv at night to make your trip even more enjoyable!

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13 Magical Things to Do in Plovdiv at Night: Plovdiv Nightlife Guide

Where to Stay in Plovdiv

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Stay Hotel

If you’re still not sure where to stay in Plovdiv, don’t worry – we’ve done the legwork for you! Here are our top picks for each budget category in Plovdiv.

Budget: When I stay at a hostel, there are a few things that I look for: privacy curtains, personal reading lights, and outlet space for each bed. Bonus points if the hotel lobby is modern and inviting – and if the kitchen is well-stocked and beautiful to cook in to boot, you might as well move in. Pijama Hostel has all of this and then some. Perks include board games, coffee and tea makers, and a central Kapana district location! 

>>Check reviews, prices, and availability here.<<

Mid-range: This is the hotel I chose for my most recent trip to Plovdiv, and I am obsessed with it! The Stay Hotel Plovdiv feels like a luxury hotel but at budget prices, and it’s located at what might be the single best spot in the city. The staff is friendly, the views are great, and the beds are comfortable. I’m seriously in love. My favorite part was that our room had a sleek couch that was a great place to relax after a long day of sightseeing and a long night out. 

>>Check reviews, prices, and availability here.<<

Luxury: The first five-star hotel in Plovdiv, if you’re seeking a spot of luxury in Europe’s 2019 Capital of Culture, you should check out the Residence City GardenThe rooms are refined and stylish – we’re talking spacious rooms and high ceilings (some rooms with chandeliers!), antique-style furnishings, and impeccable attention to detail. The bathrooms are beautiful and extremely modern, with lovely bathtubs that you can soak in to rest your feet after a long day of exploring Plovdiv. 

>>Check reviews, prices, and availability here.<<

The Best Things to Do in Plovdiv at Night

For such a small city, there are a surprising number of options for what to do in Plovdiv at night. Here are our favorites!

Go on a Pub Crawl

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Kapana Bar Plovdiv Nightlife

I’ve been a huge fan of the Sofia pub crawl for years, but the Plovdiv Cultural Pub Crawl just started. I was excited to see how it would compare to the one in Sofia. I’m happy to report that it was awesome. 

If you’ve never gone on an organized pub crawl on your travels, the concept might be unfamiliar. Basically, a local guide shows you four or five of the most interesting bars in the city, teaches you about local alcohol and drinking customs, and shows you how to have a good time in the city.

During the tour, you meet other travelers, so by the end of the night, you’ve made some new friends, learned a ton, and get to skip that awkward feeling of trying to figure out where to go in a new city at night. I

I have been on quite a few, but it was the first time my fiance went on one. He had a blast (especially playing Foozball). 

>>Book the Plovdiv Cultural Pub Crawl online or check tour reviews.<<

Watch the Sunset from Plovdiv’s Hills

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Hills

The city of Plovdiv is famous for having seven hills, which means there are seven different spots from which to watch a glorious Plovdiv sunset. You can walk up to the Alyosha Monument, see it from the ancient fortress, or even walk up Youth Hill. For a great overview of Plovdiv’s hills, check out this website which covers them in detail.

See a Show at the (Ancient Roman) Theater

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Roman Theater Performance - Pixabay

What could be a more unique way to enjoy your night in Plovdiv than by seeing a show at the world’s largest preserved Roman theater? While most who come here visit during the day to explore the ruins, there are performances held frequently here. 

To see if there’s a show that will match your travel dates, check out this calendar. Sometimes there are even free performances, so make sure to get tickets early!

Of course, the Roman amphitheater isn’t the only venue in town. You can also see if there’s a performance at the State Opera or one of Plovdiv’s other theaters by checking here.

Sip Craft Beer in the Kapana

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Bar and Diner Brick House

The Kapana is a great place to be at any time, and that includes night. Formerly the home to the artisans and craftworks of the city, the modern era left the neighborhood in neglect.

However, this has changed and the neighborhood has seen a more recent renaissance with the opening of craft beer bars, artisanal leather shops, and hip cafes.

Our favorite places to sip a beer and enjoy the night air are at Kotka & Mishka (Cat & Mouse in English) and Bar Craft. 

Watch the Singing Fountains 

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Singing Foutains in Plovdiv at Night

Tsar Simeon Gardens are a great place to explore during the day, but they’re just as beautiful as night! That’s because the Singing Fountains put on a beautiful water light show, 

The gardens have been newly restored to their late nineteenth-century glory, including the reconstruction of the original Viennese pavillion. 

There’s even a performance held every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 9 pm called “The Fountain’s Special Dance.” This is an especially great activity for anyone who wants something to do in Plovdiv at night with kids. 

Hit the Clubs

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Pub Crawl

If you want to go dancing, there are a few different clubs to pick from. We stopped by No Sense, which had a metal-ish vibe. However, there are tons of clubs in this area to pick from, so you can either go bar hopping and then go to a club, or you can choose to go to a few clubs in a row. 

Stroll Knyaz Alexander I

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Plovdiv at Night Fire Performer

This boulevard is the main pedestrian street downtown, lined with beautiful buildings and shops. At night, you’ll find people walking up and down it, along with street performers and people headed to some of the bars on the street like Temple Bar.

If you’re longing to get a picture in front of the Together Monument with the statue of Milyo, this is a great time of day to come. While there might be a few people around, the crowds are much smaller than during the day!

This is also the starting place for the Plovdiv Cultural Pub Crawlso come a few minutes early to grab some pictures if you want to do both. 

Have a Drink on Stefan Stombolov Square

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Fountain Stephanie

The area around Stefan Stobolov Square is full almost all the time (especially when the weather is nice). However, you can enjoy a nice drink or a gelato here after dark when it’s a (tad) quieter. 

Some of my favorite buildings in the city are on the square, but really you come here for the Gelatto. If you come to Bulgaria and don’t go to a Raffy, did you really come to Bulgaria at all?

Find the Night’s Hot Karaoke Joint 

This one is a bit tricky since it changes from night to night. However, if you love karaoke, you’re never too far from a microphone in Plovdiv. Check with your accommodations or ask around at the different bars to find out which Plovdiv bar will be the home for karaoke that night. 

Drink Bulgarian Wine at Plovdiv’s Best Wine Bars

Bulgaria - Sofia - Rose wine at 33 Gastronauts

We love Bulgarian wine, and the region outside of Plovdiv is one of the best wine regions in Bulgaria!

If you’re looking to do some serious wine tourism, you’re going to have to start drinking during the day. However, if you’d like to just get a taste, then head to one of the city’s best wine bars, Vino Culture, or you can book a tasting at Enoteca Regional Wine.

Note: Planning a wine trip to Plovdiv? You’ll need to use at least an entire day. We recommend this wine tour that visits three wineries and includes a traditional Bulgarian lunch and transportation.

Enjoy Fabrica’s Beer Garden

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Fabric Bar Garden

Another craft beer bar, Fabrica is a bit outside of the center (but a very easy walk). The highlight here (beyond the delicious craft beer) is the beer garden. Cozy and intimate, it’s a great place if you want to be able to chat with your friends or if you’re traveling with your significant other. 

Make a Reservation at Japonica

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Stephanie Valentine Japonica Restaurant

If you want to eat something phenomenal, but you’re dying to get away from the other tourists, make a reservation for the garden at Japonica. Plovdiv’s newest (and only) Japanese restaurant, it’s full of locals every night.

While it’s away from the tourist centers of the city, getting here is an easy five leva cab ride (less than $3 USD), and you’ll be blissfully away from crowds. However, the staff here speak great English and can help you with anything you need.

I absolutely adored my gyoza and spider roll. If you want to eat something delicious, be surrounded by locals, and you need a break from Balkan cuisine, I highly recommend this place. 

Scarf Down Some Late Night Eats

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Doner Kebab

If you’re out late and need a quick bite to eat, there are a few places around that serve Doner kebab or Egyptian food. The key here is to have cash, as these quick places don’t tend to take a credit card. Also, hit the first one you see, since many of the spots that look like they might be open late actually close fairly early. 

If you get stuck for a late night snack, there are a few non-stop markets around, or you can ask your accommodations what’s open late nearby.

Plovdiv Nightlife Tours

The only nightlife tour we mentioned in this post is the Plovdiv Cultural Pub Crawlhowever, you’ll also want to plan ahead for any wine tours or performances you’d like to attend.

More Plovdiv Travel Resources

Bulgaria - Plovdiv - Roman Theater Stephanie

Headed to Plovdiv? If this will be your first time in the country, then start with our guide to planning a trip to Bulgaria.

Next, check out our guide to the best things to do in Plovdiv and our favorite Plovdiv Instagram spots. 

If you’ll also be visiting Sofia on your trip, we have guides on how to get from Sofia to Plovdiv and from Plovdiv to Sofia, plus recommendations for what to do in Sofia and the best Sofia nightlife and our favorite restaurants and bars.

You will also want to check out our overview of Balkan currency, which describes Bulgarian leva and how to tip in Bulgaria.

Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance

It’s always a good idea to travel to Bulgaria with a valid travel insurance policy. Travel here includes outdoor activities and travel to highly touristed sites. It’s great to be covered in case you have an accident or fall victim to theft. Travel insurance can help you recover your expenses and continue to enjoy your trip.

For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

Pin This Plovdiv Nightlife Guide for Your Trip to Bulgaria

13 Magical Things to Do in Plovdiv at Night: Plovdiv Nightlife Guide

How to Get from Sofia Airport to City Center, Easily & Hassle-Free

If you’re landing at Sofia Airport, you’re in luck: there are actually several ways to get from Sofia airport to the city center, and none are that expensive. In fact – the cheapest is less than one euro!

We’ll go over all the ways you can get from the Sofia airport to downtown Sofia, including metro, bus, taxi, and pickup service. Note that there is no Uber in Sofia.

Getting from Sofia Airport to City Center by Metro

It’s quite easy to take the metro from Sofia airport to the center, as there is a metro station right outside of Terminal 2, which is the main terminal at Sofia Airport (confusing, I know).

Terminal 1 is the old airport, and it’s quite far from the other terminal – you definitely wouldn’t want to walk, but instead avail yourself of the free transfer bus between Terminal 1 and 2 which runs every 30 minutes and takes about 15 minutes to drive between the terminals.

Bulgaria - Sofia - Airport Souvenir Shop

Personally, if I fly into Terminal 1, I almost never take the metro because the commute into the city center from the airport becomes almost 1.5 or 2 hours once I factor in the transfer bus plus the metro ride into the center.

You can take the metro all the way to Serdika, which is the main central station of Sofia and also a transfer hub. You can transfer here to another station that is closer to your hotel: NDK and Lavov Most are two places where many hotels are clustered, and some may find that the Sofia University metro is closer to their hotel. When it doubt about what station to depart at, ask your hotel or consult the free transportation app Moovit as Google Maps in Bulgaria is pretty crappy.

You will need Bulgarian leva to pay for the metro (cards are not accepted) so I recommend getting some cash out at the ATM and then breaking a bill somewhere at the airport – buying a bottle of water or espresso or something – to get small coins. A ticket costs 1.60 leva, which is less than one euro (80 euro cents, to be precise!)

The metro from Sofia airport to Serdika takes roughly 20-25 minutes, and if you’re staying in the center and don’t mind walking – especially if your flight arrives at the convenient Terminal 2 – this is the route I would recommend as it’s really quite hassle-free. The signage is clear and easy to follow and the metro is quite easy to understand.

One note, though: the metro only runs from 5:30 am to midnight, so if you’re arriving outside of these times, you’ll need to plan for a taxi or pre-arrange a driver.

Getting from Sofia Airport to the City Center by Bus

While I’ve taken the metro to and from the Sofia airport a handful of times, I’ve yet to take the bus.

Three buses connect Sofia airport to the city center: the 84 and 184, which goes to General Gurko Street in the center, also making stops at Orlov Most and Sofia University along the way. Bus 384 goes to Druzhba, but that is a very residential area that I doubt any tourists will need to visit.

Bulgaria - Sofia - Airport Chairs Sofia Airport
An eerily empty Sofia Airport

Personally, I don’t see any advantages to taking the bus over the metro. They are the same price and the metro can take you to all the same places faster and more efficiently. However, if you’re dying to see Sofia’s city buses, you can definitely give the 84 or 184 a ride!

Tickets can be bought from the driver (small coins appreciated though they can often make change for a 5 leva note). It will cost the same as the metro, 1.60 leva, and take about 45 minutes to get downtown. It does not run all night, so it’s not an option for arrivals past midnight unless you want to wait for the first bus around 4:30 or 4:50 AM.

Getting from Sofia Airport to the City Center by Taxi

This is my personal favorite way to get to the city center from Sofia airport. It’s highly regulated, it’s cheap, and it’s efficient. Generally I pay about 12 leva to get to the center during the day; at night when the fares are slightly higher, I usually pay about 15. That’s 6 euro to 7.50 euro for an easy, hassle-free ride door to door and not having to worry about schlepping my bag — sold! And if there are a few of you traveling together, it’s literally just a few euros per person.

However, one note of caution: do not go with any random person offering you a taxi! These are surely to be scammers, as the Sofia airport has a regulated system for taxi drivers and there’s a registered taxi line. Here is how you can get a registered taxi hassle-free, step by step!

Bulgaria - Sofia - OK Taxi
You’ll find a similar stand like this at the airport (this is the bus station)

Before leaving the terminal, find the taxi booth for OK Supertrans (near the rental car booths) and request a ride directly with the office. They will give you a slip of paper with your registration on it. The people at the taxi desk speak good English and they can make sure your address is clearly listed on the registration form, to smooth over any communication gaps with your taxi driver.

There’s a small surcharge (.70 leva, which is 35 euro cents) for booking a taxi ahead of time, but you’re guaranteed to have a registered ride. If there are any issues with the taxi ride, you can call the office and complain, as they’ll have details of both your car number and driver. This makes it much less likely that your taxi driver will try any funny business. I’ve never once had a problem with getting a taxi from the airport like this, even arriving at 2 AM.

You can also request a car that takes credit cards, but even when I’ve done this sometimes I’ve had issues getting a taxi to take my card. I always recommend having cash on you instead to pay for your taxi when possible – there are ATMs in both terminals, so you can easily withdraw cash before getting in your cab.

For a ride into the center, I wouldn’t expect it to be more than 15 leva, maybe 20 leva at night, unless there was some sort of significant delay or re-routing. Be sure to tip your driver – I recommend 1-2 leva at a minimum. I generally tip 2 leva when I have a hassle-free ride, and more on holidays or really late nights.

Getting from Sofia Airport to City Center by Private Transfer

The most hassle-free by a long shot, but also the most expensive, way to get to Sofia Airport to the center is by private transfer.

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Taxi to Heraklion Airport
We’ve used transfer services in other cities and highly recommend it when you feel uncomfortable figuring out transit!

For about 25 euros, you can pre-book your transfer with a professional, highly-rated transportation company. They will await you with a placard with your name on it, help you with your luggage, and ensure you get to your destination quickly and safely. This is the professional transfer company we recommend.

Personally, I’ve never felt the need to book a private transfer in Sofia, because I’m comfortable with how the taxis work and speak enough Bulgarian to smooth over any communication issues with drivers, but if I was less comfortable this would certainly be an option I’d consider. If you’re a nervous traveler or just prefer to have a smooth arrival option, a transfer is worth its weight in gold when it comes to peace of mind.

»» Check out transfers here ««

More Sofia Travel Resources

We have blog posts all about Sofia Airport and also a complete Sofia taxi guide if this blog post left you with any unanswered questions!

Other helpful practical information includes where to stay in Sofia, how to get a SIM card in Bulgaria, and things to do in Sofia.

We also have bar guides and restaurant guides for Sofia!

If Sofia is not the only place you’ll visit in Bulgaria, check out our post on the best places to visit in Bulgaria for more inspiration. The most popular cities to visit are Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, and we have posts on things to do in Plovdiv as well as what to do in Veliko Tarnovo.

Planning a Trip to Bulgaria? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

We recommend you travel to Bulgaria with a valid travel insurance policy. While Bulgaria is a safe country, traveling anywhere has an inherent risk to it. You need to be covered in case you have an accident or run into any troubles in your travels. Travel insurance will help you recover your expenses and continue to enjoy your trip.

For travel insurance, Stephanie and I use World Nomads. We’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

How To Get from Ohrid to Tirana (The Easy Way & the Hard Way)

In the past, getting from Ohrid to Tirana has been a struggle, a half-day process at best and longer at worse.

Now, crossing the border between North Macedonia and Albania is actually quite easy thanks to regular shuttles which have started running between Ohrid and Tirana.

However, those shuttles (which I took on my most recent trip from Ohrid to Tirana) are seasonal and depend on demand. If you are doing a Balkans trip in the off-season, and you are trying to get between Ohrid and Tirana, the easy shuttle option may not be available.

That’s why I’ll explain both ways of getting from Ohrid to Tirana – the most direct and simplest option and the more complicated, timely option – just because one or the other may work better for you depending on your timing and schedule.

Tirana’s Skanderbeg Square

How to Get from Ohrid to Tirana (Easily) by Private Shuttle

This is by far the easiest option to get between Ohrid and Tirana and it’s not even that expensive. My ticket was 925 MKD, about 15 euro or $17 USD.

You can buy your tickets in the Old Town on Tsar Samoil Street, the main street that goes from the old bazaar and fountain area all the way up to St. Sophia Church. I bought mine at Kompas Travel at the following address: Tsar Samoil 8.

The bus leaves at 7 AM from the giant Macedonian flagpole near the city square with all of its cafés and restaurants. If there’s a small number of people, it’ll just be a simple minivan – a larger number and they have a larger bus.

Traveling in mid-May, a bit before high season, I and one other girl were the only two tourists in the parking lot! We later picked up another traveler in Struga on our way to the border.

This shuttle departs daily at 7 AM and reaches the border around 8 AM, about an hour later. The border formalities were pretty standard, and I think it took us about 30 minutes to pass between Macedonia and Albania.

In total, the trip took us about 3.5 hours, including border crossing and a short coffee and bathroom break on the other side of the Albanian border, about halfway through our trip.

Our driver offered to drive us directly to our hotels/hostels for an additional 2 euro / 120 MKD each, as the bus station where you normally get dropped off is quite a bit outside of the center of town – I believe we would have gotten dropped off at the Tirana International Bus Station, near Zogu I Zi Square.

I chose to take up our driver on his offer as I knew I’d be unlikely to get a better deal from a taxi driver at the bus station. I’d save quite a bit of time, effort, and money by paying the extra for the direct door-to-door service. However, it’s up to you, and I’m not sure the driver would offer this option to a full bus or if it’s something he only does if he has a smaller number of passengers.

For less than $20 USD for basically door-to-door cross-border service, I was super satisfied and would definitely recommend using this shuttle service via Kompas Travel (aka Euro Bus) to reduce stress and have an easy, hassle-free trip from Ohrid to Tirana.

I won the Balkan bus lottery with this seat!

How to Get from Ohrid to Tirana (The Hard Way)

If you’re traveling in the off-season there may be a chance that these shuttles between Ohrid and Tirana aren’t running. In that case, you’re going to have to get yourself to Struga first, where there are buses to Tirana.

To get to Struga, expect to pay about 300-400 MKD, or you can take a minibus from Ohrid’s bus station to Struga which leaves a few times an hour and only cost 40 MKD. As far as I can find, there is one bus from Struga to Tirana per day, and I think it leaves at 9:30 AM and is run by Durmo Tours, costing 12 euro / 740 MKD.

I’ve also heard that there’s a 4:30 AM direct bus from Ohrid to Sofia, but I can’t confirm this, nor could my guesthouse owner.

Combining that bus with the cost of getting to Struga, you are much better off taking the shuttle option offered by Kompas Travel / Euro Bus!

Where to Stay in Ohrid

If you’ve yet to settle your Ohrid accommodations, here are our recommendations for each budget category.

Macedonia - Lake Ohrid - Boat

Budget: For people wanting to stay in Ohrid on a budget but not wanting to sacrifice their privacy and stay in a hostel, Vila Dudinka is perfect. It’s where I ended up staying during my time in Ohrid and it’s a great place for budget travelers. The host, Zarko, is insanely nice and the rooms are basic but warm and welcoming. For the price and hospitality, you can’t beat it in Ohrid. The location on a quiet side street off of the main ‘road’ of Old Town Ohrid, Tsar Samoil, is quite literally perfect. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: For an affordable 4-star hotel in the heart of old town Ohrid, I recommend Villa Sofija right next to the gorgeous St. Sofia Church. It’s a short walk to all the best restaurants of Ohrid and its location on top of a hilly part of Ohrid means that you have unparalleled lake views while still being situated in the Old Town – the best of both worlds, in my opinion. Rooms are cozy and modern, with recently redone bathrooms, in keeping with the slightly elevated price point compared to other places in town. It’s still a steal for the quality to price ratio! Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: Most of the luxury hotels of Ohrid aren’t located in the old town of Ohrid itself, because since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site they can’t exactly bulldoze old houses and erect a 5-star hotel right in the middle of it. Because of that, most of the luxury hotels you’ll find are located in other villages around Ohrid, namely Lagadin and Trpjeca. Lagadin is quite close to Ohrid (I stayed there, though not at this hotel, my first time in Ohrid) and it’s great if you want a lake escape and don’t mind being outside of town. Hotel Dva Bisera is probably the fanciest hotel on Lake Ohrid, with an excellent restaurant, private beach with sunbeds, and if you want to get to Ohrid, a taxi is about 300 MKD (~$6 USD) away! Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Where to Stay in Tirana

Our Tirana recommendations are coming up soon, so stay tuned!

Albania Travel Resources

We are in the middle of updating our Albania travel resources, but for now, you can check out this list of places to visit in Albania and our favorite Instagram spots in Tirana.

Finally, Make Sure You Come to Tirana with Travel Insurance

I’m sure you’re aware that getting travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While North Macedonia is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here. <<

How To Get From Skopje to Ohrid By Bus, Quickly & Easily

Many people who are on a trip throughout the Balkans tend to want to make two stops in North Macedonia, Skopje and Ohrid.

And while we’d argue that there are plenty of beautiful places to visit in North Macedonia, we’re also sensitive to the fact that many people are on a fast-paced trip and have limited time to explore the country at leisure.

Therefore, getting from Skopje to Ohrid in a quick and efficient manner is doubly essential. But, as often happens with Balkan transportation, there is limited information out there on the internet.

That’s why we’re writing this series of guides on how to get between major transportation hubs in the Balkans every time we make one of these journeys, as we want to provide the most complete and up-to-date information out there, so you can plan a stress-free trip.

Luckily… getting from Skopje to Ohrid is actually quite painless, taking only 3.5 hours and costing less than $10 USD.

How to Get from Skopje to Ohrid

Skopje’s central bus station is the same as its train station and is easy to walk to from the center of town.

Note that there is no train to Ohrid, so you are going to have to take a bus (unless you rent a car and drive, which is also an option but we won’t be covering that in this guide).

A taxi from most parts of Skopje should cost about 100-200 MKD to the central bus station, but it could be higher if you are staying outside the center. For reference, I paid about 130 MKD (just over $2 USD) for my taxi to the bus station from near the Debar Maalo area.

Surprisingly, Skopje’s central bus station now has a well-functioning website with an English site, which makes it pretty easy to list all the bus times – pretty cool!

I was coming from Sofia, and I didn’t plan my transfer from Skopje to Ohrid in advance since I wasn’t sure exactly when my bus would arrive. I figured I’d just wing it when I arrived at Skopje’s bus station and see what the next bus I could get would be. I actually only had to wait 20 minutes for the next bus, luckily (just enough time to snag my favorite bus snacks from my favorite Skopje bus station store, ‘Top Gun’ – side note: you know you travel too much when you have a designated favorite bus snacks store)

The main bus company which services the Skopje to Ohrid route is Galeb. I used them both times I traveled to Ohrid from Skopje and they’re definitely the company I would recommend for travelers, as their buses are comfortable, clean, and efficient.

As of summer 2019, there are departures from Skopje to Ohrid on Galeb at the following times: 6 AM, 8 AM, 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, 4:30 PM, and 6:30 PM, costing 520 denars (about $10 USD exactly).

According to Skopje’s website timetable, there is also a company called Delfina Turs with departures at 5:30 AM, 7 AM, 9 AM, 2:45 PM, and 4 PM, costing 500 denars, basically the same as Galeb.

Finally, there is also Klasik Kompani at 11 AM, 12:30 PM, and 7:30 PM, costing 450 denars ($8 USD) – good to note if you are on a budget.

I haven’t taken a bus with either Delfina or Klasik, so I can’t speak to their cleanliness, comfort, or safety standards, and given only the small price differential I am inclined to recommend Galeb as I found them to be one of the better Balkan bus companies I’ve used (and I’ve taken a lot!)

The Ride From Skopje to Ohrid

This bus ride is quite pleasant and I don’t have too much to report from it, mostly because I was lost in an audiobook my whole time.

While the distance isn’t that great, a good portion of it goes through the mountains near Mavrovo National Park, and this part can get quite winding. For that reason, if you’re prone to motion sickness, I suggest you take some sort of pill like Dramamine to help you. I didn’t find it too bad, but others more sensitive than I am may struggle a bit with the winding roads.

Keep an eye out as you pass Tetovo – this town is especially gorgeous and its striking mosque against the backdrop of mountains would make an excellent photo if you are prepared for it. I, alas, was not, but plan to return to Tetovo sometime to see their beautiful painted mosque.

Arriving in Ohrid

The bus station in Ohrid is about 2 kilometers out of town, about a 30 or 40 minute walk to the old town. If that’s not something you want to do with your luggage, I definitely recommend getting a cab.

I paid 200 MKD (nearly $4 USD) to get from the Ohrid bus station to the city center, knowing full well I was getting fleeced a bit but I wasn’t really in the mood to argue since I had been on the road for 9 hours since leaving Sofia early that morning, and there was only one cab driver by the time I got to the front of the bus station so I didn’t have any room to shop around.

Macedonia - Lake Ohrid - Sunset
No photos of arriving at Ohrid bus station because I was too tired to remember to snap anything

Supposedly you could pay less, something like 120 MKD, but I haven’t tested it! If you have better negotation skills, or are simply less tired than I was, you may be able to haggle a better rate. Keep in mind that you never have less leverage than when you arrive at a bus station in another country and pick your battles.

If you’re staying somewhere outside the center, like in Lagadin, you will pay more – I’d estimate somewhere around 300-400 MKD.

Where to Stay in Skopje

If you haven’t yet picked out your accommodations in Skopje, here are our top picks for each budget category.

Macedonia - Skopje - Main Square - Pixabay

Budget: The lovely Clover Hostel right near the center of town is great for solo travelers who want a social environment with a bit of privacy, and it’s inexpensive enough that you can enjoy some peace (and nights without snoring soundtracks) without it breaking the bank. It’s located near the center as well as Skopje’s co-working spaces so if you are planning an extended stay in Skopje and need to work as well, it’s a great choice. Check out prices, availability, and reviews here.

Mid-range: For an affordable option that offers way more privacy than a hostel, I stayed at and highly recommend Boutique Hotel Rose Diplomatique. The rooms were comfortable and spacious (though admittedly furnished a bit oddly – mine for some inexplicable reason had an exercise bike in the bedroom). The breakfast spread was tasty and super generous, and I loved getting to eat in the lovely patio every morning. The staff was really friendly, even when we arrived late in the evening, and generally I just felt really welcome here. It’s a short walk from the center and an even shorter walk to the trendy, leafy hipster neighborhood of Debar Maalo. One note: there is no elevator so if you have trouble with stairs this may not be the right place for you. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: Skopje has a number of 5-star hotels, but our top pick is the Marriott for one main reason: location, location, location! Literally overlooking the famous “Warrior on a Horse” statue, this hotel in the center of town couldn’t be more central. The rooms are spacious and well-designed with flatscreen TVs and stunning TV views, the in-house hotel bar is sleek and trendy, and travelers rave about the delicious breakfast. There’s a luxurious in-house spa with an indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna, masseuses, and a fitness center – so if you want a bit of TLC while in Skopje, you don’t even have to leave your hotel’s front door. If you want to stay in the most luxe hotel in Skopje – and not pay an arm and a leg for a 5-star hotel – this is certainly it. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Where to Stay in Ohrid

If you’re looking for tips on where to stay in Ohrid, here are our top choices.

Macedonia - Lake Ohrid - Church of St. John at Kaneo

Budget: For people wanting to stay in Ohrid on a budget but not wanting to sacrifice their privacy and stay in a hostel, Vila Dudinka is perfect. It’s where I ended up staying during my time in Ohrid and it’s a great place for budget travelers. The host, Zarko, is insanely nice and the rooms are basic but warm and welcoming. For the price and hospitality, you can’t beat it in Ohrid. The location on a quiet side street off of the main ‘road’ of Old Town Ohrid, Tsar Samoil, is quite literally perfect. Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Mid-Range: For an affordable 4-star hotel in the heart of old town Ohrid, I recommend Villa Sofija right next to the gorgeous St. Sofia Church. It’s a short walk to all the best restaurants of Ohrid and its location on top of a hilly part of Ohrid means that you have unparalleled lake views while still being situated in the Old Town – the best of both worlds, in my opinion. Rooms are cozy and modern, with recently redone bathrooms, in keeping with the slightly elevated price point compared to other places in town. It’s still a steal for the quality to price ratio! Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Luxury: Most of the luxury hotels of Ohrid aren’t located in the old town of Ohrid itself, because since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site they can’t exactly bulldoze old houses and erect a 5-star hotel right in the middle of it. Because of that, most of the luxury hotels you’ll find are located in other villages around Ohrid, namely Lagadin and Trpjeca. Lagadin is quite close to Ohrid (I stayed there, though not at this hotel, my first time in Ohrid) and it’s great if you want a lake escape and don’t mind being outside of town. Hotel Dva Bisera is probably the fanciest hotel on Lake Ohrid, with an excellent restaurant, private beach with sunbeds, and if you want to get to Ohrid, a taxi is about 300 MKD (~$6 USD) away! Check prices, reviews, and availability here.

Macedonia Travel Resources

We have guides covering quite a bit of the country! Start with this guide to planning a trip to North Macedonia, and then peruse our guide to the best places to visit in Macedonia to get your ideas flowing.

For Skopje, we have a guide to the best things to do, the best Instagram spots, and where to stay in the city.

We’re creating more content for Ohrid, but you can start with our Instagram guide to Ohrid!

Finally, we have a primer on Macedonian food and some tips for the top Macedonian souvenirs to bring home with you.

Finally, Make Sure You Come to Ohrid with Travel Insurance

I’m sure you’re aware that getting travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! Stephanie and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While North Macedonia is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe.

>> Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here. <<

Photos from Pope Francis’s Visit to Sofia

Pope Francis visited Sofia, Bulgaria today, giving a public prayer at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and holding a full public Mass in Prince Alexander of Battenberg Square. Which, full disclosure, even after being in Sofia for so long I had no idea that the wide portion of the street in front of the National Art Gallery was a square or that it had a name. Also, my Google Maps took me to an entirely different place at first, so that was fun. 

I started by trying to go to see the prayer at Alexander Nevsky. I kept getting diverted down different streets due to all the security guards and barricades. 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Security guard in front of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral during Pope Francis’s visit.

Unfortunately, the prayer was pretty short and I missed it. I did get to see some of the crowds afterward. Everyone was so excited. 

There are Catholics in Sofia (obviously) but I have never seen a nun here, just Orthodox clergy members. Seeing so many Catholic nuns in front of an Orthodox Cathedral was pretty cool.

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

One of the many Catholic nuns hanging out after the prayer at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

Here are some shots of the area. I just love this part of Sofia in the spring!

 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church

 

 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

Volunteers moving the Icon of Mary and Jesus from Alexander Nevsky to Battenberg Square.

 

 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Russian Church

The Russian Church St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker.

About three hours before the Mass was supposed to start I got in line to enter. Tons of security lines to stand in, but actually going was easier than I thought it would be.

 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

So. Many. Bulgarian. Flags.

 

I call these next three photos cute kids sitting on their parent’s shoulders.

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

Rocking those braids and killing it.

 

Aerial view of the crowds waiting for the Pope.

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

I’m standing on the middle of the left right behind the empty space between the fences.

Standing in the same spot for three hours gives you a lot of time to look at rooftops (and literally everything else).

The Pope arrives in his Pope Mobile. Okay, this part was pretty cool.

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

The man knows how to wave.

 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

The crowds waiting some more as he drives up to the stage.

 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

Pretty cool being only two people back from the car!

 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

Pushing my cell phone’s zoom capabilities.

The Mass was in Latin, with Bulgarian translations on the screens and an English booklet handed out for those who speak neither Latin nor Bulgarian. So it was basically made for me. 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

Pope Francis performing the Mass in Sofia

 

Bulgaria - Sofia - Pope Francis Visits Sofia, Bulgaria

I’m pretty impressed that this shot isn’t more blurry.

Leaving Mass, the city was so empty because the streets were all closed. 

So that was what it was like to see Pope Francis during his visit to Sofia today! It was awesome, and my feet are sore. 

If the idea of traveling to Sofia intrigues you (though Pope Francis won’t be here still, obviously) you should check out some of our awesome Bulgaria information.

Bulgaria Travel Resources

If you’re thinking about a visit here, check out our posts on the best places to visit in Bulgaria and photos of Sofia that will make you fall in love (and thus, book your ticket asap). We also have a collection of the best quotes about Bulgaria and the most Instagrammable places in Sofia.

If this will be your first time in Bulgaria, we have some resources to help make your first trip here a breeze. Check out our guide on how to plan your trip to Bulgaria, which goes over everything from visas to ground transportation to budgeting your trip.

You should start with our guides on what to do in SofiaPlovdiv, and Veliko Tarnovo, which are the most popular destinations in Bulgaria you are likely to visit.

You may also want to check out our overview of Balkan currency, which describes Bulgarian leva (easy – it’s pegged at 2:1 to the euro!) and what to tip in Bulgaria.

Where to Stay in Sofia

Accommodations in Sofia offer great value compared to other cities in Europe. Here is a general range of what we mean by each budget category:

  • Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $5-12 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $40 for a double.
  • Mid-range: Around $40-80
  • Luxury: Around $100 per night or more

 

Budget: For a hostel, we always recommend Hostel Mostel. I have never stayed at the Sofia location but several of my friends have and have always spoken highly of it. I stayed at the one in Veliko Tarnovo and it was excellent. Perks include a free vegetarian dinner in addition to breakfast included in your stay! Check rates and availability here. If you are traveling in peak season, be sure to book online, as Hostel Mostel is popular and tends to get booked up.

Mid-range: For a trendy new boutique hotel that is shockingly affordable, we recommend R34 Boutique Hotel. The location is fantastic, near the Ivan Vazov National Theater in central Sofia. It has gorgeous, loft-inspired details like exposed brick, giant windows, and streamlined but modern décor. It’s a great bargain, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.

Luxury: As far as we see it, there’s only one option for the best hotel in town: Sense Hotel. We go to their upscale, beautiful rooftop bar all the time when we have guests in town – it has one of the best views in the entire city and they make fantastic cocktails. With beautiful views over Alexander Nevsky, Sofia’s most iconic landmark, the hotel couldn’t be in a better location. Sense Hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, an art gallery in the lobby, an excellent spa with luxe treatments, and an indoor pool. It’s truly the best choice in town. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.

Looking for more hotel options in Sofia? Check out our full Sofia Hotel and Hostel Guide. 

Finally, Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!

No trip preparation is complete until you have a valid travel insurance policy. Bulgaria is a safe place to travel, but unexpected things can happen anywhere. You want to be able to get your stuff replaced if it’s lost or stolen, or if you get injured you while you’re enjoying hiking or taking a scenic drive throughout the region.

For travel insurance, I use World NomadsI’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.

Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chania or Heraklion: Which City in Crete is Right for You?

Trying to decide whether you should visit Chania or Heraklion on your trip to Crete? Both cities have advantages and similarities, but they are very different places. If you stay within Heraklion or Chania proper, you will have drastically different experiences. I love both cities, but you should pick the one that’s right for you. Here are twelve important points to help you decide whether to visit Heraklion or Chania.

Choose Chania for…

Here are four reasons to pick Chania over Heraklion. 

…stunning lighthouse views

Greece - Crete - Chania - Lighthouse

Crete has a lot of lighthouses (over a dozen!) by my two favorites are in Chania and Rethymnon. If you want to see a beautiful Venetian lighthouse, you should pick Chania. Sometimes the lighthouse is referred to as Egyptian because of the period of reconstruction. Make sure to visit at golden hour for the best light.

…charming city streets

Greece - Crete - Chania - Streets

Both cities have pretty corners, but Chania is more consistently pretty than Heraklion is. I know where to find the pretty spots in Heraklion, but in Chania, the town is gorgeous pretty much no matter where you are. If you want to spend hours wandering around a charming city, pick Chania. 

…colorful architecture

Greece - Crete - Chania - Colorful Shops

A lot of Chania’s charm comes from its beautiful architecture, but another element is its beautiful storefronts. If you want to see buildings that pop with color (or perhaps…Instagram them) then pick Chania. 

…day tripping to Seitan Limania beach

Greece - Crete - Seitan Limania

After spending weeks in Crete, I can confidently say that Seitan Limania beach is my absolute favorite Cretan beach. You have to do a bit of walking/climbing down the steep cliff sides to get to the bottom, but once you’re down there’s it’s absolutely stunning. 

If you’re curious about how to visit Seitan Limania, check out our guide to visiting Seitan Limania from Chania.

Choose Heraklion for…

While Chania is the more charming of the two, there are a few reasons you should pick Heraklion over Chania.

…visiting the Palace of Knossos

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Palace of Knossos

If you’re interested in learning about Minoan history and culture, then you need to pick Heraklion. You can take a trip out to the Palace of Knossos and visit the archeology museum to see amazing artifacts from this period of Crete’s history.

…thought-provoking street art

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Street Art

Heraklion is more of a city than Chania, and that means that it has some city amenities that Chania does not. One of these is a thriving street art scene, centered around the historic Lakkos district. This former red-light area of Heraklion has been revitalized, with a self-guided walking tour of the area’s most important sites and an artist-in-residence program that produces amazing street art to appreciate.

…you like the quirky and mysterious

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Bembo Fountain

Chania is charming, but Heraklion is quirky. If you’re more likely to travel for Atlas Obscura than for Instagram, then Heraklion is the right place for you. For example, the city’s most famous fountain was built with a headless Roman statue at its center. If you like places like Pristina, Skopje, Thessaloniki, and Athen’s Exarchia neighborhood, then you will feel right at home in Heraklion. 

…you love Greek literature

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Grave Monument of Kazantzakis Tafos Kazantzaki

If you love Greek literature, then come to Heraklion to see the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of Zorba the Greek. His grave is high up on the city walls because when he died he was at odds with the Orthodox church which banned (and burned) his books.

He nearly won the Nobel Prize in Literature, barely losing out to Albert Camus. So if you’re a fan of great literature and you want to explore Greek literature further, pick Heraklion. 

Choose Both for…

Whether you choose Chania or Heraklion, you can expect a warm Cretan welcome. There are a few things about the Cretan culture that make both of these cities fantastic places to visit. Here are four things you can count on whether Heraklion or Chania win you over. 

…delicious Cretan cuisine

Greece - Heraklion - Peskesi Potato Salad Cretan Food Restaurants

I love Cretan cuisine, which is similar to Greek cuisine. However, it has some dishes that all its own that you simply must have while on the island. I love dakos, kaltsounia, and they do absolute wonders with lamb. 

…beautiful Venetian harbors

Greece - Crete - Chania - Venetian Harbor

While I adore the lighthouse in Chania, if you want to spend time walking around beautiful Venetian harbors, you can choose Chania or Heraklion. They’re the highlight of both cities. While there are more restaurants and bars sitting on Chania’s harbor, Heraklion’s harbor is more peaceful with fewer tourists. They’re both a complete delight.

…great cafe culture

Greece - Heraklion Crete - Cafe

You can’t go one day in Crete without someone asking you to have a coffee. Whether you’re in Heraklion or Chania, you can expect to (and you should) spend hours whiling away your time in the beautiful and chill cafes of each city. 

…all you can drink Raki

Greece - Heraklion - Restaurants Greek Food Loukamades and Raki Crete Food Greek Food Ligo Krasi Ligo Thalassa

No matter which tavern or rakadiko you choose, prepare to be offered raki at the conclusion of your meal. Many places will give you an entire mini-carafe of the liquor, even you’re traveling solo. And then, should you be strong enough to finish it, happily offer you more. Basically, Crete is a giant all you can drink raki bar, and you can’t keep up. 

Crete Travel Resources

Headed to Crete? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Greece, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Greece and local tipping customs.

If you’ll be spending a few days in Chania, here is our guide to visiting Seitan Limania from Chania (which is our favorite beach in Crete) and the Chania’s best Instagram spots. 

If you will be spending time in Heraklion, check out our guides to the best Instagram spots in Heraklion and the city’s best restaurants and cafes. 

If you’re interested in taking a day trip to Rethymnon, check out our Instagram guide to Rethymnon next, and perhaps our guide to things to do in Rethymnon and the best Rethymnon hotels.

If this will be one of your first trip to the Greek islands, check out our massive Greek Island hopping guide as well as our recommendations for where to go in Greece and when is the best time to visit. 

We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Greece and the Balkans, bookmark our Greece and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.

Finally, Make Sure You Come to Crete with Travel Insurance

I’m sure you’re aware that getting travel insurance is a good idea for traveling in Greece, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.

While Crete is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!

 

>>Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.<<

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Planning a trip to Sofia? Check out our best free trip planning resources