The rumors are true: Sofia, Bulgaria really might be the most beautiful European capital. Every block in the city center is filled with colorful buildings, historical ruins, and flowering parks. We could barely walk ten steps without stopping to take more pictures of the beauty all around us.
The good news is that it is very doable to see many of the main sights of the city centre in a day or two. It’ll take a lot of walking, but we saw plenty in the few days that we were in Sofia. If you are like us and want to squeeze as much sightseeing as possible into your time in Sofia, here are 17 things to do in the Sofia, Bulgaria city centre.
1. Start your day at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the most photographed parts of Sofia. If you’ve seen pictures of Sofia online, many of them probably feature this very same cathedral. Even though the pictures are quite spectacular, they truly don’t do this magnificent catheral justice.
You simply must visit the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in person when you are in Sofia. After all, it is one of the largest Orthodox Cathedrals in the world, with a capacity of 5,000 people. The outside is probably the most beautiful part, but the inside is amazing too. If you choose to take pictures inside the cathedral, keep in mind that they will charge you an admission fee.
2. Visit the Regional History Museum
The Regional History Museum has some of the funkiest architecture in all of Sofia. With a bright yellow facade and red striped panels, you don’t even have to enter the museum to enjoy its presence. The building used to be a public bath house, with one wing for women and the other for men.
3. Drink the mineral water from the fountains behind the Regional History Museum
If you go around to the side of the Regional History Museum, you’ll find a few different fountains. The water comes from the underground springs that used to be used in the bath house. It is known to have healing properties, so drink up. The water is very warm and tastes sulfuric, so it’s not exactly refreshing. But hey, it’s good for you!
4. Take a stroll in City Garden Park
City Garden Park is a beautiful green park located in the heart of Sofia. It has lots of walking paths, benches, and big areas of green grass. In the summer time, they also have colorful flower gardens everywhere. It’s also home to the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, a beautiful piece of architecture with a stunning fountain.
5. Have lunch at Sofia’s Central Market Hall
If you’re interested in sampling a variety of dishes from Sofia’s thriving food scene, the Central Market Hall is the place for you. We came here during lunch time and were amazed at how many different stands there were. You can buy everything from Taiwanese food to traditional Bulgarian food and everything in between.
Heads up that most of the stands are cash only. We highly recommend the restaurant in the basement. The authentic Bulgarian soup that they served us was amazing, and we got to eat sitting next to old ruins.
6. Admire the incredible architecture
The entire time we were in Sofia, we would just stop and stare at the beautiful buildings. The city is a mix of old and new, with everything from Roman ruins and Ottoman structures to Byzantine churches and communist housing blocks. There’s no shortage of architecture to admire, so leave yourself time to soak in its beauty.
7. Have a picnic in the park
Summertime in Sofia brings lovely temperatures, green grass and sunny skies…perfect for a picnic! Stop by one of the many pretty parks in the city centre with a sandwich or a slice of pizza to enjoy in the park. It’s a great way to save money while also enjoying being outside.
8. Pick up a cup of gelato
These two American travelers can’t help but appreciate the little gelato stands all over Europe. We’ve been busily trying all the flavors we can get our hands on. It’s the perfect way to enjoy a nighttime stroll. Sofia was no exception, with gourmet gelato stands all over the place.
9. Visit the Serdika Metro Station
The Serdika Metro Station is the main metro station in Sofia. It’s where both the major metro lines cross, but it is also where a beautiful modern art installation resides. Inside, a big glass window looks out onto Largo Square. There are also ancient ruins within the station.
It’s free to enter–you don’t have to cross any turnstiles or anything like that. Just take the steps down into the metro station you can’t miss it. It’s worth it to see in person. There was even a tour group down there when we visited, so we felt excited that we discovered it for ourselves.
10. See the Statue of St. Sofia
The statue of St. Sofia is visible when you exit the Serdika Metro Station. It’s 20 meters high, so you really can’t miss it. St. Sofia is the city’s patron, which is why she holds an owl in her left arm: the symbol for wisdom. The statue is very beautiful, even from the ground
11. Visit the historic Lion’s Bridge
The historic Lion’s bridge is flanked by a total of four lions, one on each corner of the bridge. There’s no river underneath it, at least not while we were there. It was just a very small stream of water running underneath the bridge. An architectural investigation in 2014 dated parts of the bridge all the way back to between the 4th and 6th centuries A.D. Wow!
12. Ride the Cable Car
The Cable Car system goes all over the city center, so it makes it really easy to use public transport to see the city. Use this map to enter your starting point and destination, and it will help figure out how to use public transport to get there.
13. Admire the Banya Mashi Mosque
It was really hard getting a good picture of the beautiful Banya Bashi mosque during middday. Trees, cars, and powerlines were everywhere. But rest assured, it is much more beautiful in person. Plus, it’s right next to the Regional History Museum and across the street from the Central Market Hall.
14. Pick up some fresh produce from the Old market
The Old Market is definitely more of a locals spot. They don’t really have any tourist goods for sale, but we still had to include it because they sell some of the most beautiful produce that we’ve seen in the Balkans. If you feel like cooking up something healthy one night, this is the place to stop by for ingredients.
15. Experience the Nightlife Scene
The nightlife scene in Sofia can’t be missed. We did a pub crawl organized by The New Sofia Pub Crawl and had a great time. Your guides take you to all the best local spots, including Hambara (pictured above). This place was once a barn, but it’s now a speakeasy style bar.
16. Grab a Burger from Boom Burger
We know burgers aren’t exactly unique to Sofia, but we had to try out Boom Burgers. Jack had found it on a list of the 50 best burgers in Europe weeks earlier. So when we finally ventured to Sofia, we had to try it out! The burgers didn’t disappoint–they were juicy and delicious. They also have salads if you can’t hang.
17. Stroll down Vitosha Boulevard
The pedestrian-only walking area on Vitosha Boulevard is the perfect place to sightsee at night. Lined with cute shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, you’ll find plenty to do here. We grabbed a bite to eat at Boom Burgers before picking up a cup of gelato. Yum!
Sofia is the ultimate European city to explore. It’s very affordable, and has a rich history and beauty that rivals even the top European cities. We also loved how friendly the people were. Everyone went out of their way to be friendly to us, which was a welcome change from other Balkan countries.
Don’t forget to check out our other posts on Bulgaria:
- 21 Amazing Things To Do in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- Sofia Nightlife Guide: Pub Crawl to Best Bars & Clubs
- How To Take The Train From Sofia to Plovdiv: Train Schedule, Cost & Everything You Need To Know
- Bulgaria Wine Tours: We Went Wine Tasting in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- 11 Best Restaurants in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
- Guide to Plovdiv’s Flourishing Kapana District: What To See & Do
- The Ultimate Guide to Old Town in Plovdiv, Bulgaria
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