Sofia Travel Guide
With its strategic location at the heart of the Balkans, nestled between the Central Balkan Mountains and Vitosha Mountain, Sofia, the Capital of Bulgaria is one of Europe’s most affordable cities yet rich in its history and attractions, with a laid-back atmosphere, relaxed pace and some amazing sights.
Despite the fact that the majority of buildings were built post 1945, due to the battering the city took during WW2, its rich history -dating back thousands of years -makes Sofia’s architecture quite the mélange of various styles ranging from Roman, Medieval, Ottoman, to Russian Orthodox and communist, standing in the midst of free-lined avenues and charming little streets that feature small artistic cafes, mini flee-markets and Bulgarian musicians playing their fiddles on street corners.
Because of its location surrounded by mountains and because of its relatively high altitude, the winters here are cooler than other parts of Bulgaria but summers are warm and pleasant, especially in July and August which are great for hiking, while winters are perfect for skiing in some of city’s surrounding mountain resorts.
Bulgaria is a hidden gem in Europe, with a blend of beautiful countryside scenery, bustling cities, sun-kissed coastline beaches, and a decent art scene. Sofia is the perfect example of that, so here are a few of the top things to do there:
Things to do and see
The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It was built in the beginning of 20th century and stands as a memorial to the 200,000 soldiers who laid down their lives for the independence of Bulgaria in the Russo-Turkish war.
The outstanding Roman ruins and the walls of the ancient city of Serdika alongside the old Roman road which linked the Balkans with the City of Constantinople, back then the seat of the Eastern Roman Empire.
The Central Mineral Bath; which is currently not working as a public bath unfortunately, but its colorful mosaics, architecture and fantastic surrounding puts it in the list of top places to visit in Sofia.
The National Opera and Ballet. Eastern Europe is famed for its love for this particular type of art. Now it might not be as fascinating as Paris Opera house, but the very atmosphere of this Opera House is one of opulence and splendor.
The Boyana Church houses an impressive collection of medieval European art. No wonder it’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Church has frescoes which date back as far as the 11th century.
Relax in one of the city’s many parks such as the Borisova Gradina Park. This park has plenty of green spaces and a small lake together with plenty of statues of prominent Bulgarians.
Stroll along Vitosha Boulevard; the main pedestrian street dotted with cafes, restaurants, gelato vendors and various shops to feel the pulse of charming Sofia.
Recommended things to do
Free Sofia Tour: A fun 2 hour tour of the city guided by young locals, which takes you around the main sites of the city center while listening to some entertaining stories.
The New Sofia Pub Crawl: A fun and affordable way to meet locals and other travelers while exploring the local night life, running through several spots and ending at a nightclub, with free shots and discounted drinks all the way through.
Balkan Bites – Sofia’s Free Food Tour: For a couple of hours you’ll get a taste of Sofia’s best kept culinary secrets such as the famous Banisas… completely free!
Museum of Socialist Art: It’s a museum of art which covers the history of the communist regime in Bulgaria from 1944 till 1989, and includes a small park full of statues and sculptures from the communist era.
Recommended places to eat
Happy Bar & Grill: a successful and popular local chain with an extensive international and local menu which includes a Sushi bar. Great price to quality ratio!
Recommended places to stay:
Hostel Mostel: an incredibly friendly and social place that offers its guests free breakfast and dinner paired with a glass of beer!
Nightlife in Sofia
Vibrant nightlife is alive and well in Sofia, and even though the majority of Sofians don’t boast massive incomes, they still love to party! As a result, there are a great number of affordable bars, cafes and clubs dotted around the city catering to a wide range and tastes and interests, with pints often costing mere cents!
Sofia is the perfect example of how good things come in small packages.. the entire city is very manageable as all its attractions are within walking distance. I actually never had to use public transport while I was there!
So if you’re looking for something pleasantly different, come and bask in the city’s history and relive the awesome cultural variations it has witnessed…