Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It also serves as the entry and exit point to different European countries through Sofia International Airport. So whether you intended to stay longer or just getting a short layover, there are several things to do in Sofia that you can choose from.
Most especially if you are up for a trip down the memory lane, Sofia is definitely a perfect place to explore. You will easily find traces of the ancient times right at the city center- from museums to different Orthodox cathedrals. Even just by merely walking around, you will find excavated sites where archaeological pieces were retrieved. If you have a few days to spare, mountain resorts and countryside tours are also accessible from Sofia. With all of that in the table, you will never run out of things to do in Sofia.
So to help you get started, here are 10 things to do in Sofia:
1. Visit the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the largest Orthodox church in Europe. It is also one of the popular tourist destinations because of its magnificent architecture. Its roof is made up of domes in different sizes. One of them is a golden dome which stands out from afar that you can never resist taking a photo with it. If you look at it from above, St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral also stands in the middle of the road where the National Gallery of Foreign Art, the Bulgarian Parliament, and St. Sofia Church meet. It is perfect for aerial shots!
2. Get to know St. Sofia Church
Adjacent to the great St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the church of St. Sofia lies beautifully with its simple red-brick walls. However, despite the simplicity that it posses, St. Sofia Church has an interesting historical background. Starting from the 4th century, different churches- including a mosque, were built and destroyed in the exact site before it came to what it is today.
3. Take a break at the National Palace Of Culture
The National Palace of Culture is one of the pride of Bulgaria. It was built in 1981 in honor of its 13000th birthday. It holds different events like concerts, exhibits, conferences and performances. The building has a modern design contrary to the Neo-Byzantine architectures found all over Sofia like the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, for example. You can also walk around the park or site by the benches. At night, the National Palace of Culture lights up. It looks awesome most especially with the big fountain in front of it.
4. Discover the Serdica Amphitheatre
In my opinion, the Serdica Amphitheater is the most interesting places to see in Sofia. It has remains of the Old Roman empire which was discovered in 2004. Since then, a lot of ancient treasures were excavated from this site which opened new learnings about the existence of the 3rd to 4th century civilization. You can read information about the old Serdica and boast your pictures of this old Roman amphitheater to your friends!
5. Walk by the Ivan Vazov National theatre
I think we can all agree that the Ivan Vazov National theater is one of the most beautiful buildings in Sofia. This neoclassical building is truly a masterpiece inside and out. Most especially during the evening, the building glows with the surrounding lights which makes it perfect for a dramatic Instagram shot. If you’re lucky enough to score a theatrical play when you visit, hang on to it and never miss the opportunity.
6. Freshen up in Central Mineral Bath
From afar, the Central Mineral Bath already calls out your attention with the stripes-painted wall and its dazzling color scheme. A huge fountain can be seen outside the building which adds up to the picturesque quality of the building. Unfortunately, unlike before, the building no longer opens the bath house for the public for some certain issues. Still, you can freshen up with the warm mineral water from the tap outside the building.
7.Take a sip of coffee in Borislova Gradina Park
Whether it’s winter or summer, Borislova Gradina Park is a nice place to chill. In the summer, the park warmly welcomes you with the luscious greenery and interesting sculptures. Meanwhile in winter, it gives you a winter wonderland experience as the thick snow covers it. Nevertheless, you will surely enjoy walking around the park with a cup of coffee in hand. It’s also a perfect place to take a break from your overwhelming Sofia tour.
8. Travel through time in National Archaeological Museum
The National Archaeological Museum is the perfect getaway spot for nerds and aspiring archaeologists. It houses Bulgaria’s national treasures in each of the four halls namely– the Prehistory Hall, Central Hall, Middle Ages Hall and the Vault. Visiting the National Archaeological Museum requires you to buckle up and enjoy the exhibits from the oldest civilizations and beyond. Getting around the museum can take 4 hours if you really want to religiously explore the relics. But if you’re fast, you can finish within 2 hours and a half. So why don’t you drop by and say “HI” to my good old friend Apollo.
9. Discover Bulgaria in the National History Museum
If you can’t get enough of the National Archaeological Museum, why not add the National History Museum in your list of things to do in Sofia? Here, you can find exhibits connected to the rich history of Bulgaria. It is also the largest museum of Bulgaria holding over 60,000 artifacts– some of which are items made of gold and platinum dated from 1300 BC. You will surely fall deeper in love with Bulgaria as you understand its culture in the National History Museum.
10. Full-Day Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Tour from Sofia
Now, if you could spend a few more days in Sofia, this full day Rila Monastery and Boyana Church tour should also be added in your itinerary of things to do in Sofia. These UNESCO sites are located on the outskirts of Sofia and tours usually start in the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The Rila Monastery is my favorite because of its interesting exterior. It truly deserves a spot in my Instagram feed.
Have you been to Sofia? Do you have any other recommendations for the top things to do in Sofia? Let us know in the comment below!