Things to see and do on a trip to Sofia

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Sofia is Bulgaria’s capital and its largest and most visited city. Located in the west of the country and in the centre of the Balkan Peninsula, Sofia is a destination with much to see, with many beautiful churches and other buildings that tell the story of the city. The Sveti Georgi Church, an ancient Roman temple that is still very much a part of the city’s religious life, is a prime example of this.

Read on to discover Sofia, its sights, the beautiful Ploviv 135km away, where and what to eat… As well as some interesting tips that will make your trip to Bulgaria easier. Plus, with the Passporter app, you can create your own itinerary around the city so you don’t miss a thing.

What are the best places to see in Sofia?

1. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a must-see in Sofia

Founded in 1882, the real star of Bulgaria’s capital is undoubtedly the Alexander Nevski Cathedral. If you look up Sofia on the internet or pop into a souvenir shop, the first thing you’ll see is a picture of this impressive Orthodox cathedral, with its distinctive green and gold domes and World Heritage-listed frescoes. This striking cathedral presides over the city with its neo-Byzantine style and twelve bells. Its interior, although very dark, is decorated with the most luxurious materials, such as alabaster and Italian marble. It also houses the relics of Alexander Nevsky, after whom it is named, a political leader and saint of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Admission is free, and you can visit from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily.

2. National Theatre of Bulgaria

Also called the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, the Bulgarian National Theatre is one of the most beautiful sights to see in Sofia. The striking neoclassical building in a beautiful red colour houses the oldest and most important theatre in the country. Inaugurated in 1907, the building was damaged by fire in 1923 and had to be rebuilt, as well as during the Second World War, but its original architecture has always been preserved. Therefore, despite the years and the damage, the National Theatre of Bulgaria can still be seen in all its splendour. The theatre also faces onto the city’s gardens, so walking around the area, whether you visit one of the theatre’s performances or not, is still a marvellous experience.

3. Church of Sveti Georgi, the oldest church in the country, can be seen in Sofia

Remains of the Roman Empire can be found in many places in Bulgaria, and Sofia is no exception. The Sveti Georgi Church, built in the 6th century when Sofia was a Roman city, is the oldest in the country and one of the most interesting churches to see in Sofia. Round and red brick, the Sveti Georgi Church is very well-preserved, considering its age, and inside you can still see the remains of ancient frescoes, such as the Christ Pantocrator. It is also noteworthy that church services are still held here.

Hours: daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Free admission.

4. Sofia Central Market

A visit to the Central Market is one of the best experiences you can have in Sofia. From its beautiful early 20th century architecture with its Art Nouveau portico, to its very diverse stalls, strolling through the Market is a must on your trip to Sofia. In its aisles you can find stalls of all kinds: butchers, fishmongers, traditional food, clothes, souvenirs… Whether you’re planning to buy something or not, we recommend a visit to the Central Market and a stroll through one of the liveliest sights to be seen in Sofia.

What to see around Sofia?

1. Plovdiv

Plovdiv is Bulgaria’s second-largest city and is located 135km from Sofia, so if you have time during your trip, we recommend that you invest a day in getting to know wonderful Plovdiv and see all it has to offer.

It is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and walking through it is like travelling back in time through various stages of the past. Most characteristic are the colourful Bulgarian Renaissance houses in the old town, architectural gems such as the Ethnographic Museum, located near another of Plovdiv’s must-see sights: the Hisar Kapia Gate. It is a stone gate built in the 11th century AD and served as the entrance to the ancient city.

In Plovdiv, you can also visit vestiges of the Roman Empire, such as its theatre, built in the 2nd century AD and very well-preserved, and Neber Tepe, a complex where there are still remains of the Thracian and Roman peoples.

what to see in Sofia
Plovdiv, a beautiful city to see near Sofia @unsplash

Where and what to eat in Sofia?

If you like to try new dishes and are interested in the cuisine of the countries you travel to, you will enjoy eating in Sofia. Bulgarian cuisine is characterised by delicious and hearty dishes packed with interesting flavours, such as the famous tarator, a cold yoghurt and cucumber soup similar to the Greek tatziki. Another classic Bulgarian dish is banitsa, a cheesecake with crispy filo pastry, a delight! And among the most outstanding meat dishes is kebapche, a highly spiced sausage.

  • Hadjidraganovite kashti: One of the best traditional Bulgarian restaurants you can see in Sofia. Decorated in a very special, rustic and indigenous style, this steakhouse serves hearty barbecue dishes in true Bulgarian style. An experience you’ll want to repeat. Price range: 10-25
  • Izbata Tavern: A very authentic tavern where traditional Bulgarian dishes are prepared with taste, care and love. The staff is friendly, the price is affordable, and the dishes are varied and appetising. Price range: 5-25
  • Supa Star: The best place to try the famous Bulgarian soups. For a very cheap price, you can enjoy a good bowl of soup, as well as tasty sandwiches and salads. Price range 2-10

Where to sleep in Sofia?

  • L’Opera House: A fantastic 3-star guest house in the centre of Sofia, close to the National Opera House and 5 minutes walk from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. A comfortable place to stay in Sofia with no big luxuries but to rest comfortably during your trip. Average price per night: €46
  • Sofia Hotel Balkan: In the heart of Sofia lies one of the most elegant and exclusive hotels in Sofia. Housed in an already impressive building, the Sofia Hotel Balkan has modern, tastefully decorated rooms with views of the cathedral, as well as a bar, restaurant and lounges topped with chandeliers. The buffet breakfast is varied and very tasty. Price range per night: 90-150, depending on the date.
  • Hotel Anel: A luxurious 5-star hotel in the centre of Sofia. Don’t be fooled by its sober façade, inside the rooms and facilities are flashy and ostentatious, and it has all the communities worthy of a 5-star hotel. Average price per night: €120

What should I consider before a trip to Sofia?

  • The official currency of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian leva (BGN).
  • The best time to travel to Bulgaria is from May to September.
  • In the main cities of the country, tap water is safe to drink.
  • Wear some warm clothes even in summer, as it gets cooler in the evenings.
  • Don’t forget to bring an umbrella, especially if you’re travelling in May or June.
  • Bear in mind that many signs are written in Cyrillic.
  • The main language is Bulgarian. English is spoken in the big cities and by young people, but it is not a widespread language.
  • From Spain, you don’t need a visa. With the DNI is enough.
  • Be covered for medical emergencies: travel with insurance.
  • The country is generally very safe, but just in case, be careful with your belongings, especially in crowded tourist areas.
  • Download Passporter to create your itinerary of places to see in Sofia.

How to organise what to see on my trip to Sofia?

Register or download the Passporter App and discover all its possibilities.

  • Get inspired by the experiences of other travellers.
  • Create your own itinerary and add suggestions from the app to it.
  • Add the stops you’re most interested in, as well as the restaurants and bars where you want to eat (you can use the points of interest listed in this post as a reference).
  • Organise your itinerary by route days according to their location on the map (you can be inspired by the routes presented in the post).
  • Check out the travel budget that the app calculates for you based on your travel stops, restaurants, and leisure activities.
  • Make any modifications you need to make, and you’re all set for your trip.
  • Share your experience. Upload photos of places you visited on your trip to the app and recommend other travellers what to see in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Frequently asked questions about a trip to Sophia, Bulgaria

What is the climate like in Sofia, Bulgaria?

Sofia has a continental climate, i.e. cold winters with lows as low as -5ºC and highs as high as 7ºC and hot summers with lows of 15ºC and highs of 29ºC. Rainfall is scarce throughout the year, but is concentrated mainly in May and June.

When is the best time to visit Sofia?

The best time to visit Sofia is from May to September, when temperatures are most pleasant. And especially in late spring and early autumn if you want to avoid very hot temperatures and the high season.

How to get around Sofia?

Of course, one of the best ways to get around the city is to walk, but when distances are too long it never hurts to use public transport. Sofia has a good public transport network with many bus, train and tram lines. A single ticket costs around 80 cents, but there are other passes available for other prices, such as the Sofia Pass, which for €10 includes a flat-rate public transport fare and interesting discounts on tourist activities.

How to get to Sofia?

The city centre is very well-connected to the airport by metro line 1, which you can take from Terminal 2.

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