Visit Sofia: Your Travel Guide

Roman stronghold. Ottoman outpost. Soviet city. Sofia’s taken on many forms throughout history, and traces of its diverse roots are everywhere – grand churches like the Nevski Cathedral tower over neo-Renaissance palaces, and swanky office blocks sprout up among Soviet-era symmetry.

Things to Do in Sofia
Archaeological Museum
Pass the parcel! Bulgaria has changed hands many times over the centuries. Ancient Greece, Persia and the Ottoman Empire have all laid claim to the territory at some point. As a result, it’s a fascinating repository of artefacts. This museum brings together some of the best, from intricately engraved Byzantine helmets to Thracian burial masks in glimmering gold.
ul. Saborna 2
Open Monday-Friday 10:00-17:00
Central Bath House
Sofia has been renowned for its healing mineral waters since Roman times. These public baths were built in 1908. The building looks like a giant strawberry gateau, with red stripes and custard-coloured panels. Sadly, you can’t have your cake and bathe in it though, as the baths were closed back in 1986. Today, thirsty locals gather to fill up bottles from its outdoor taps.
ul. Triaditsa 2
Central Hall
Grand for groceries. This covered market has been filling locals’ cooking pots for over a century. Pick up fresh olives, watermelons, “lukanka” sausages and more. Sink your teeth into a warm “banitsa” pastry to savour the true taste of Bulgaria. Just keep an eye on your belongings, as crafty pickpockets have been known to skulk around the market.
Bul. Knyaginya Maria Luiza 25
Open Monday-Sunday 07:00-22:00
Royal Palace
From kings to culture. This palace was once the plush residence of King Knyaz Alexander Battenberg. It’s a custard-coloured, neo-Renaissance gem fit for a king. Today, it holds the National Gallery and the National Ethnographic Museum. After an insight into local art and culture during the day, come back at night to sip cocktails with Sofia’s cool cats at Tobacco Garden Bar.
1, Knyaz Aleksandar I Sq.
Open Monday-Sunday 10:00-17:30
Ivan Vazov Theatre
A crimson capital of culture. Named after one of Bulgaria’s literary luminaries, this theatre is a fitting tribute to a titan of prose, poetry and theatre. It’s built in neoclassical style, with a portico that flaunts its artistry with a relief of Apollo and the muses. Outside, the gardens are grand for people watching – nippers frolic and old timers set the world to rights.
ul. Dyakon Ignatiy 5
Open Monday-Friday 09:30-19:30, Saturday-Sunday 11:30-19:30
Russian Church St Nicholas
“Dear Mr Seraphim…”. This church is the site of a curious tradition. Every day, hundreds of Bulgarians climb down to the crypt to leave hand-written letters at the grave of Archbishop Seraphim. They’re asking for health, wealth, happiness and who knows what else. If you’re in need of something yourself, just scribble your desires on a slip of paper and join the queue.
Bul. Tsar Osvoboditel 8
Open Monday-Sunday 08:30-18:30
Alexander Nevski Cathedral
Dome, sweet dome. This colossal cathedral looks like a stack of pastel-green domes. It’s topped by a gold-plated cupola which reflects the sunlight in celestial glints. Inside, footfall and choral voices echo around the cavernous space. Keep an eye out for the in-house relic, a piece of rib from the body of the 19th-century prince, Alexander Nevski.
1, Alexander Nevski Sq.
Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski
Feed your mind! When it comes to worldwide university league tables, St. Kliment Ohridski is usually somewhere near the top. This prestigious seat of learning has nurtured many of Bulgaria’s leading minds. At its grand entrance, flanked by statues of the founders, you’ll see the country’s future luminaries as they chatter in the doorway. The future belongs to them!
Bul. Tsar Osvoboditel 15
Open Monday-Friday 08:30-17:30
National Library
Where would the world be without literacy? Stuck in the Dark Ages, that’s where! This house of eight-million books flies the flag for Bulgarian bookworms. Browse the bookshelves, thumb through hefty tomes and soak up the studious silence. Then, ponder humanity’s advances among the Roman ruins that pepper the leafy Doctors Garden, located just outside.
Bul. Vasil Levski 88
Changes seasonally. Check website for details.
NDK
Lucky thirteen. The National Palace of Culture was built in 1981 to mark the thirteen-hundredth anniversary of the Bulgarian Empire's foundation. It’s a behemoth of a building, and plays host to almost any type of event going. Concerts, conferences, congresses – you name it, NDK’s got it. Fans of wine and mountain views should whizz up to Culture Beat bar.
1, Bulgaria Sq.
Changes seasonally. Check website for details.

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Traveler's Reviews & Photos

10
Exceptional
I joined a free tour with 365 free Sofia tours. It was excellent and you saw the main sights in two hours. They provide a map which shows other sights, and gives discounts at certain business, which I used and kept as a souvenir
louiselody
United Kingdom
March 15, 2017
8
Very Good
Restaurants for all tastes, we like the Happy: everybody finds something on the menu that will make them happy from kids to grandparents :), shopping, culture
Modern nomad
Bulgaria
March 16, 2017
10
Exceptional
Everything was very good, enjoyed the city, and amazed how clean the city was . Nice bars and nice places to visit... no expensive food at all and very good choses.
florina
Albania
March 14, 2017
8
Very Good
Very beautiful downtown city center. Amazing public old buildings and churches. Intense night life in very good prices. Very well organized public transportation. Sofia is evidently poor town as it goes for the whole country.
KONSTANTINOS
Greece
March 17, 2017
8
Very Good
Wonderful historic city with an excellent pedestrian only Boulevard Vitosha full of cafés and restaurants.Modern easy to use Metro system.
RICHARD
United Kingdom
March 16, 2017

Accommodations and Hotels in Sofia

Sense Hotel Sofia

9.1 Wonderful

Score from 1,067 reviews

$86

Average price per night
  • “location was great”
    103 related reviews
  • “wonderful staff”
    82 related reviews
  • “beautiful building”
    62 related reviews
Premier Thracia Hotel

8.9 Excellent

Score from 1,605 reviews

$67

Average price per night
  • “location was great”
    197 related reviews
  • “wonderful staff”
    146 related reviews
  • “excellent quality of food”
    93 related reviews
Grand Hotel Sofia

9.1 Wonderful

Score from 1,351 reviews

$80

Average price per night
  • “location was great”
    82 related reviews
  • “very clean”
    55 related reviews
  • “wonderful staff”
    54 related reviews
Radisson Blu Grand Hotel Sofia

8 Very Good

Score from 733 reviews

$72

Average price per night
  • “location was great”
    62 related reviews
  • “wonderful staff”
    38 related reviews
  • “excellent quality of food”
    17 related reviews
Central Hotel Sofia

8.8 Excellent

Score from 1,809 reviews

$64

Average price per night
  • “location was great”
    97 related reviews
  • “wonderful staff”
    95 related reviews
  • “very clean”
    66 related reviews
Best Western Plus Bristol Hotel

8.2 Very Good

Score from 1,723 reviews

$54

Average price per night
  • “wonderful staff”
    154 related reviews
  • “location was great”
    135 related reviews
  • “very clean”
    82 related reviews
Hotel Anel

8.9 Excellent

Score from 2,493 reviews

$70

Average price per night
  • “location was great”
    153 related reviews
  • “wonderful staff”
    134 related reviews
  • “very clean”
    131 related reviews
Ibis Sofia Airport Hotel - Park & Fly

8.2 Very Good

Score from 2,347 reviews

$49

Average price per night
  • “good connection to airport”
    267 related reviews
  • “wonderful staff”
    145 related reviews
  • “very clean”
    91 related reviews
Sofia Place Hotel

8.9 Excellent

Score from 901 reviews

$60

Average price per night
  • “location was great”
    119 related reviews
  • “very clean”
    71 related reviews
  • “wonderful staff”
    56 related reviews
Discover Sofia

Popular Neighborhoods in Sofia

Centrum

266 properties

The beating heart of Sofia, filled with historic churches, up-and-coming eateries and alternative bars. Take in the artsy vibe on Shishman Street, which is dotted with funky watering holes. Then admire a different artistry at Alexander Nevski Cathedral. For dinner, there’s quirky Made In Home restaurant and for cocktails, seek out One More Bar.

Oborishte

55 properties

This swanky district is where Sofia’s well-to-do live, breathe and indulge in cultural goings-on. Adopt an aristocratic swagger as you stroll past Oborishte Street’s upmarket residences. Admire pricy portraits in the National Gallery of Foreign Art. Finally, breathe the sweet air of privilege in leafy Doctor’s Garden and Zaimov Park.

Vitosha District

43 properties

Nothing like a dose of mountain air to blow away the cobwebs. Up above the city, this quiet district is popular for hillside strolls in summer, and skiing in winter. Hop on the Simeonovo cable car and climb through the pines. Wind your way back down to Tavan restaurant for some hearty calamari and asparagus, accompanied by stonking city views.

Lozenets

38 properties

Thoroughly modern Sofia. This district’s avenues are lined with shiny new apartment blocks, sandwiched between two expanses of parkland. Have yourself a time in South Park, where cycle paths wind past ponds with floating water lilies. Shop at Paradise Centre Mall, then cap the day off with dinner overlooking the city lights at The Corner Piano Bar.

Yellow Pavement

3 properties

Follow the yellow-brick road! This wee district’s named after the yellow pavement that lines Osvoboditel Boulevard. It’s got plenty of museums, with more culture per square metre than you can shake a stick at. Delve into Bulgaria’s past, with ancient artefacts at the Archaeological Museum and folk culture at the Ethnographic Museum.

Vitosha Boulevard

2 properties

Sofia’s capital of café culture. This boulevard resounds with chit-chat and the clinking of spoons against saucers. Joints like Vitosha Street Café and Memento are local favourites which serve up coffee and cool vibes all day long. Start off at frilly-domed Sveta Nedelya Church and work your way up, joining the cityfolk for a cuppa and a chinwag.

Local Tips for Sofia

City Garden - Ivan Vazov
Ivaylo by Ivaylo

Always seeking alternative spots, Ivaylo is passionate about modern art and innovative urban spaces.

On hot days in spring, summer or autumn, many young people gather at this park. It's located right in the centre of Sofia, in front of the National Theatre. It's full of lawns, street musicians and a positive atmosphere. It's a must for travellers seeking local outdoors experiences.

  • ul. Dyakon Ignatiy 5
Downtown Art and Wine
Slava by Slava

Slava is a fan of good books, good wine and live jazz. She also loves autumn walks.

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, I love visiting the National Gallery of Foreign Art, where they have different exhibitions every month. After having worked up an appetite, I walk along Shipka Street and have some red wine and homemade hummus in Local, with soft jazz in the background.

  • ul. 19-ti fevruari 1
  • Open Monday 11:00-18:30, Wednesday-Sunday 11:00-18:30
The great outdoors - Mount Vitosha
Annie by Annie

Annie likes nothing better than riding a horse in natural surroundings to recharge her batteries.

One of the best things about Sofia is that you can enjoy city activities and nature all in the same day. I love spending my weekends on Mount Vitosha. There's a great walking route near Boyana Waterfall, and if you're into water-based activities, you can hire a pedalo on Pancharevo Lake.

  • Lake Pancharevo
Snowboarding in the city
Kaloyan by Kaloyan

Sport-mad Kaloyan likes nothing better than spending a winter weekend on his snowboard.

Having Mount Vitosha on your doorstep is a real privilege. I usually go up the Simeonovo Lift and take the Laleto ski run 1 or 2 back down again. After a day on the slopes I go for lunch in Boyana or Dragalevtsi neighbourhoods, on the mountainside.

  • Vajena Liniya Simeonovo, ul. 197-ma
Sofia's Little Middle East
Alex P. by Alex P.

Alex is a big fan of Arabic culture, and he loves people watching over coffee in the city centre.

Sofia's Middle-Eastern heritage is a big part of its history. To check it out, head to Banya Bashi Mosque and then walk along Tsar Simeon Street towards Zhenski Pazar Market. This street has lots of shisha and tea houses which sell traditional middle-eastern breads and other dishes.

  • ul. Tsar Simeon 104
Timeless Bar
Ina by Ina

Ina finds her daily inspiration in her morning cup of coffee.

Timeless Bar is a place to go at any time of the day or the evening. There's a library with books and magazines, classic furniture and good music. The menu is small and there are drinks for all moods - from hot chocolate infused with orange to wine and good old scotch.

Small streets
Nevena by Nevena

Nevena's into alternative spots, and loves to soak up a city's atmosphere by wandering its streets.

I like to wander round the small streets of Sofia's city centre. I usually start by visiting the little shops on Angel Kanchev Street and end up in the bookshops on Slaveykov Square. Then I go to Shishman Street for a meal in The Little Things or a cocktail in One More Bar.

  • ul. Angel Kanchev 32
Skateboard in the city
Alex T. by Alex T.

Nature lover Alex is into extreme sports like surfing and skateboarding.

After work, I like to take my dog for a walk in Knyazheska Garden Park, by the Monument of the Soviet Army. It's one of Sofia's main skating spots, but you can also chill with the local skaters there. If you're into skating and need to rent a board, go to Blok or Insomnia Skate.

  • The Monument of the Soviet Army
Relax in a park
Gergana by Gergana

Eternal optimist Gergana is into Italian music, volleyball and swimming.

My favourite activity for a Saturday morning in the city of Sofia is to visit the Doctors' Garden next to the National Library and walk around the neighborhood surrounding it. On my way there I order a café latte, I sit on a bench in the park and observe the people passing by.

  • Doktorska Gradina

Hmm..Sofia... no matter what you think about Bulgaria, this is one of the best place for shopping these days. I like to go there from time to time...People are nice, friendly...city is excellent...After first visit you will go back there when ever you can, that is not marketing, that is a fact.

The many churches. The National History Museum is definitely worth the visit as an introduction to Bulgaria

A Free Tour runs each day at 11.00 and a 18.00. This gives lots of ideas for follow up visits.

visit the vitosha street and the area around that has small restaurants and coffe - bars.

We can recommend Chef's on Ул Любата. You will need to book.

Taxis are cheap but ask price before you get in!

Booking.com asked travelers...

Why do you recommend Sofia for food?

Big potions at reasonable prices

Lots of branded shops

Transportation

Sofia Transportation

Air - Sofia Airport

To get to the city centre from Sofia Airport, there are 2 decent options. The easiest is by metro. Look for a blue and white "M" sign in Terminal 2. Single tickets cost BGN 1, and it takes around 18 minutes to get into town. Alternatively, you can get a taxi. Watch out for illegal taxis, which can charge unsuspecting foreigners up to double the going rate. Official ones are yellow with a sticker with their rates on the window, along with the driver's photo.

Train

Sofia doesn't have an inner-city train network, but it's worth considering as an option if you're visiting other towns in the country. Although the trains are old and slow, they are relatively cheap and offer a taste of old Bulgaria. The exceptions are the more modern trains to Burgas and Varna on the coast. You can get your tickets from the ticket desk at Sofia Central Train Station.

Metro

There are 2 metro lines in Sofia, stopping at the airport, the main bus and train stations and various other points in the city centre. The signs are in both Bulgarian and English, and you can get tickets from the stations themselves. Single tickets cost BGN 1, no matter where you're headed to. This is a reliable option for getting around the city.

Bus

Sofia's bus system covers more of the city than the metro, but it's much more chaotic. Signs and timetables are usually in Bulgarian, and the crowded buses rarely run on time. You can get a ticket from the driver, or from a kiosk at certain stops (as long as you have the right change). A single journey costs BGN 1, and tickets are only applicable for a single journey on one line.

Tram

The tram network in Sofia is quick and efficient, and many locals use it to get from A to B. Tickets are available from kiosks at certain stops, or you can buy a ticket on board (as long as you have close to the right change). Single tickets cost BGN 1, and are valid for a single journey on one line. Tram stops are easy to spot by their blue and white signs with a black tram in them.

Car

Travelling by car in Sofia is recommended only for seasoned drivers and locals. Many drivers play fast and loose with the rules, and traffic is often very busy. All public parking in the city centre is paid. In the Blue Zone, it costs BGN 2 per hour, and there's a maximum stay of 2 hours. In the Green Zone, it's BGN 1 per hour and the limit is 4 hours.

Trolleybus

Sofia's trolleybus system covers the vast majority of the city, and a lot of Sofia residents use it to get around. It runs from 05:00 to 00:00. Tickets are available from kiosks at some stops, or you can buy one on board (as long as you have the right change). Single tickets cost BGN 1, and are valid for a single journey on one line. You can spot the trolleybus stops by their blue and white signs with a black trolley in them.

Food in Sofia

Top Restaurants in Sofia

Mid-Range Fare
European
Happy Bar & Grill
  • pl. Sveta Nedelya 4
  • Open Monday-Sunday 11:00-00:00
  • www.happy.bg
Cheap Eats
Thai
Wok to Walk
Mid-Range Fare
European
Art Club Museum
Mid-Range Fare
European
Vitosha Street Cafe
Mid-Range Fare
Spanish
Bodega
Mid-Range Fare
European
Shtastlivetsa
Mid-Range Fare
Bakery
Fabrika Daga
  • ul. Veslec 10
  • Open Monday-Friday 08:00-22:00, Saturday 10:00-22:00, Sunday 10:00-20:00
  • www.facebook.com
Mid-Range Fare
American
Boom Burger
  • ul. Karnigradska 15
  • Open Monday-Sunday 12:00-22:00
Mid-Range Fare
American
Meat
Cheap Eats
International
Farmers
Mid-Range Fare
European
L'Etranger
Cheap Eats
European
Raffy bar and gellato
Cheap Eats
American
Skaptobara
  • ul. Iskar 11-A
  • Open Monday-Friday 09:00-00:00, Saturday-Sunday 10:00-00:00
  • skaptobara.com
Upscale Dining
Local
MOMA
Mid-Range Fare
Local
Hadjidraganov's cellars
Mid-Range Fare
European
Before and After
Mid-Range Fare
Local
Tea House Sofia
Upscale Dining
Turkish
Turkish Restaurant Avrasia
  • bul. Hristo Botev 42
  • Open Monday-Sunday 12:00-00:00
Cheap Eats
Bakery
Ciccione
  • ul. General Yosif V. Gourko 9
  • Open Monday-Sunday 08:00-23:00
  • ciccione.bg
Mid-Range Fare
Russian
Gara za Dvama
  • ul. Ivan Vazov 12
  • Open Monday-Sunday 11:00-23:00
Cheap Eats
Italian
Bistro Pesto
Cheap Eats
European
Divaka
  • ul. William Gladstone 54
  • Open Monday-Saturday 10:00-01:00, Sunday 10:00-00:00
  • divaka.bg
Cheap Eats
European
Ugo 1
Upscale Dining
Asian
Miyabi
  • ul. Stara Planina 5
  • Open Monday-Saturday 12:00-22:00
  • www.miyabi.bg
Cheap Eats
Cafe
Tea House Dondukov
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