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Best Things To Do in Sofia Bulgaria

There are several incredible things to do in Sofia, Bulgaria, that make the place one of the most rewarding destinations in the Balkans.

In town, the picturesque sights of the old town combine with ancient churches, interesting museums, and landmarks from the communist times making it an interesting city that you should not skip.

Down below, I bring you the most iconic attractions and the best things to do in Sofia for an epic trip.


Best things to do Sofia Bulgaria.


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Things To Do in Sofia Bulgaria

Where is Sofia and How to Get There

Both the capital and largest city in Bulgaria, Sofia stands at the foothills of the Vitosha Mountain, on a flat plain over the Sofia Valley.

Since the city grew on the banks of river Iskar, there are several mineral springs all over the area.

Located in the central Balkan region, Bulgaria shares borders with Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Turkey and Greece, making it a great place to stay if you want to explore more countries in the area as the road network is good and offers excellent alternatives for those interested in road trips across the Balkans.

The easiest way to reach Sofia from Europe is by plane since there are countless low-cost (and regular) airlines connecting Sofia to many other European capitals as the country has become one of the most popular destinations for short weekends away.

It is also possible to get to Bulgaria from Istanbul by flying with the popular Turkish Airlines. And Istanbul Airport is a popular hub for travelers coming from the US, so considering a layover in the biggest city in Turkey is not a bad idea.

If train travel is a romantic idea you would like to explore, then you can reach Bulgaria from the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, as well as from Romania and Serbia.

Even when train travel in the Balkans can be a fascinating experience, skip this option if you’re short on time as these are usually not high-speed trains.

Road travel from other European countries is also possible.

You can cross the border coming from Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Romania.

If you plan on renting a car for this adventure, remember to respect speed limits, wear a seatbelt, and drive safely.


Where to stay in Sofia.


Where to stay in Sofia

The city of Sofia offers plenty of accommodation for all kinds of budgets while, in general, most accommodation is pretty affordable.

If you’re traveling for the first time and want to make the most of walking and using some public transport, it is a good idea to stay close to the old town, the center of the city, and close to bus or train stations.

These are three hotels that I suggest checking out before booking your place to stay in Sofia.

Budget: Central Point Boutique Hotel is an affordable place situated a short walking distance from Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski and Ivan Vazov Theater.

Mid-range: Best Western Plus Bristol Hotel is close to Serdica Metro Station and a 10-minute walk from the central Vitosha Boulevard.

Luxury: Sofia Balkan Palace Hotel is a very affordable 5-star hotel in an ideal location in the heart of Sofia, next to Serdika Underground Station.


Sofia Bulgaria aerial with Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

Sofia Bulgaria


Best things to do in Sofia

This list includes the essential things to discover in Sofia during your visit to the old town and the city center that will be the highlight of your Bulgaria experience.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Probably the most visited place in the country, the iconic building with green domes of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the most famous sides in Sofia.

Although the cathedral was built in fairly recent years (1882-1912), it has become an icon of Bulgaria’s capital.

This impressive building could host up to 5,000 people, making it the biggest cathedral in the Balkan region.

The gorgeous exterior facade is adorned with impressive domes and turrets and is built in Neo-Byzantine style while its interiors feature beautiful carvings and mosaics, rich marble, and gold ornaments.

If you’re traveling on your own and want to meet other travelers during your Sofia experience, then consider joining this affordable walking tour in town that includes a visit to the cathedral.

Alternatively, a city bike tour is a great way to move from one place to the other while discovering the best that the city has to offer.


Alexander Nevsky Cathedral Sofia.

You won’t want to miss a visit to the impressive Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia


Ivan Vazov National Theater

Next, if iconic buildings are your cup of tea, head to Ivan Vazov National Theater to admire one of the most beautiful places to see in Sofia. 

Built back at the beginning of the 1900s, the theater has already gone through numerous renovations that have sought to preserve its beauty.

The building is surrounded by the lush landscape of the city garden, a gorgeous park that offers stunning photo opportunities.

The building was constructed by two remarkable Viennese architects that gave the theater its unique Classic style.


Ivan Vazov National Theater Sofia.

Visit the Ivan Vazov National Theater and if you’re timing is right attend a performance


Central Baths – Regional History Museum Sofia

When in Sofia, do pay a visit to the mineral baths located in the core of the old town.

This imposing building, among the most captured images in the city, was built in Vienna style with some eclectic elements from Bulgaria and Neo-Byzantine architectural styles.

The place was built in 1913 on top of a former Turkish hammam from the sixteenth century as public baths have always been common all over the country.

The baths closed to the public back in 1986 and the building now houses the Regional History Museum housing both temporary and permanent exhibitions in eight halls that a historic period from the Neolithic to the 1940s.


Central Baths Sofia.

Now the Regional History Museum the building was once the Central Mineral Baths


Saint Sofia Church

Don’t skip a visit to the church that gave its name to the city, another remarkable landmark in town.

Also known as Sveta Sofia, the Saint Sofia Church is among the oldest church buildings in Europe, dating back to the fourth century. It was built on the site of several earlier churches.

Since the church also stands on what used to be a very ancient necropolis from the ancient Roman city of Serdica, many decorated tombs have been found under the building and in the nearby premises.

Ancient Serdica Archaeological Complex

As you’ve just learned, Sofia was founded on the Ancient Roman city of Serdica, and it will make perfect sense to visit the Ancient Serdica Archaeological Complex which is next to the Serdica metro station.

The city dates back to approximately the second century and it has been preserved in great condition. Access to the ruins is free.

Serdica Amphitheater

If you’re still fascinated about the ancient past of Sofia, you can explore the magnificent Amphitheater of Serdica which probably dates from the third century.

This Roman theater which could sit up to 25,000 spectators was a place for gladiator battles and blood sports.

During a visit, it is possible to check out the ruins as well as a small exhibition with artifacts and animal prints that were uncovered at the site.

Büyük Mosque and National Archaeological Museum

If you’re looking for more information about Sofia’s ancient history, then the National Archaeological Museum is the logical next stop during your visit. 

The museum houses a rich exhibition of objects from the Stone Age as well as a Bronze Age collection.

Among the highlights of the exhibitions, you will find pottery and statues, impressive mosaics, and ancient jewelry.

Banya Bashi Mosque

Completed back in 1566, during Ottoman rule, the only active mosque in the city serves Sofia’s large Muslim community.

The mosque is also a curious attraction that was built on natural thermal springs, thus receiving its current name Banya Bashi or Main Bath.

Still today, steam can be seen coming out from the vents located on the floor of the mosque, provoking a bizarre effect.

One of the most attractive highlights of the building is the fantastic minaret, built a year after the mosque itself.

Visits are allowed provided you do not access during the time of the prayer.


Banya Bashi Mosque Sofia.

Banya Bashi Mosque is built on top of thermal springs


Saint George Rotunda

Another impressive church in Sofia, this is an early Christian church entirely built in red brick, quite a unique trait that has turned the building into one of the most characteristic landmarks in the capital of Bulgaria.

Standing over a former Early Christian church, which was also built on top of an ancient Roman pagan temple, Saint George Rotunda is situated in a beautiful courtyard sandwiched between the Presidential seat of Bulgaria and the Sofia Hotel.


St George Rotunda Church Sofia.

Right next to the Sofia Hotel you’ll find the historic St George Rotunda


Central Market Hall

Sofia’s central public market is the best place for a stop during your itinerary to unwind and hunt for unforgettable gastronomic souvenirs as well as for an affordable lunch if you’re interested in sampling the best of the national cuisine.

Located in the old town, this building dates from 1909 and is among the most charming markets in the Balkans.

Built in Neo-Renaissance style, the building features a bell tower and different clocks that were put in place a few years after the opening.

At the market, you can learn about local products, purchase local trinkets and handicrafts, and taste typical Bulgarian dishes, rose and lavender oil (two of Bulgaria’s national products), famous Bulgarian wines, and strong local spirits.

Vitosha Boulevard, Sofia’s Main Street

Often considered the most visited shopping street in the city, Vitosha Boulevard is the largest promenade where locals and tourists alike love to walk and spend time together.

Named after the imposing Vitosha Mountain which adorns the landscape of the city, the pedestrian boulevard offers plenty of shopping options with gorgeous stores featuring local and international brands.

There are also unique cafeterias and bars, souvenir shops, and some of the best restaurants in the capital.

Sveta Nedelya Church

Right at the end of the boulevard, you will find another important religious building, Sveta Nedelya Church, not far from the Archaeological-Architectural Complex of Sofia.

The building is considered to have been founded in Medieval times, back during the tenth century. It has undergone several restoration works as it has been heavily damaged over the centuries.

There are free entrance tours available to admire the rich interiors and the several wooden icons.

The building also functions as the cathedral of the Bulgarian Patriarchate.

National Palace of Culture – NDK

Among the most iconic places to visit in Sofia, the so-called NDK, or National Palace of Culture is housed in a huge building complex surrounded by a gorgeous public park with picturesque fountains.

The Palace complex was built in 1981 and it currently functions as an arts and concerts center.

It was proclaimed the best congress center in the world by the International Organization of Congress Centres.

The building was thought of by the daughter of the communist leader of the former People’s Republic of Bulgaria.

One of the main characteristics are the octagonal motives and rich, dark colors as well as countless bright murals depicting historical figures.


National Palace of Culture Sofia.

Visit the National Palace of Culture and surrounding park


National Art Gallery

If you’re looking for a quiet place to spend a pleasant afternoon, then the National Art Gallery offers an exhibition with more than 50,000 paintings, sculptures, and engravings.

Among the styles you can admire, the gallery is famous for its contemporary collection as well as for hosting the biggest collection of Medieval art in the country.

Other important halls in the museum feature important pieces belonging to the Bulgarian Royal Art Collection, as well as an extensive exhibition of Orthodox Catholic icons.

Final Thoughts on Sofia Things to Do

As you can see, it’s quite easy to fall in love with Sofia’s beauty, elegance, and charm. The picturesque Balkan city is interesting due to its long history, but also with its cultural heritage and hospitable people. Add to that its amazing parks, churches, and museums, and you’ll find yourself visiting one of the most fascinating cities in Europe.

About the Author

Gabi Ancarola.Gabi Ancarola is a translator and travel journalist living in Crete. She regularly writes about Europe for several magazines about travel, gastronomy, and hospitality. She has published several travel guides about Greece and plans customized trips to the Greek islands. She loves cooking local dishes, taking photos, and driving on the mountain roads of Crete.

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