*Kind of a long itinerary, but do not worry! a lot of the places are quick stops.
Basic Traveling Tips: If you need help finding the right transportation or accommodation, you can find our favorite links below. For more information, check out our Traveling Tips.
We had read a lot about the new popular destinations of Europe, such as Slovenia and we were ready to explore a must-see destination. Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, was in our bucket list for a while, so we took advantage of a long weekend and prepared our trip.
This time we took a flight from Rome Fiumicino Airport to Sofia Airport. We used the low cost airline Wizz (check for good prices using kayak.com). The important thing to know about this airline is that your luggage must be really small for it to be free (a backpack – click here for some ideas – is ok, but keep in mind that they even charged us for our hiking backpacks like carry on).
We made this trip ignoring the weather app, which forecast pouring rain all weekend. As we recommend you in our Traveling Tips page, remember to always check the weather before any trip to buy tickets, pack the right clothes and prepare your itinerary. At the end we got lucky, and it was good that we ignored it since the weather was perfect! I even complained because it was too hot!
We arrived to Sophia Airport and we were a little bit lost. Once you exit you will find the bus stop for buses 184 and 84. These two will take you to the town center.
When we arrived in Sofia, the first thing we did was find an ATM and take out some cash in the official currency, which is called Bulgarian Lev , 1 BGN = 0,5112 EUR, so you will find everything to be very cheap in Sophia. It is better to take the cash you will need for the whole trip so you pay exchange commissions only once.
The other important tip if you are traveling to Sophia is: Be ready to speak with your hands and work a little bit harder to explain yourself! We didn’t find a lot of people who spoke English.
We founded a hotel that had a very good location, but it wasn’t the prettiest one. It was clean, though and the prices weren’t bad. The name of the place is Hotel Alabin (check for the best price at booking.com). Finding cheap and nice accommodation is kind of difficult; however if you look for one in advance you will be able to find a good place to stay in.
We arrived at 3 pm to our hotel, left our bags and headed off to get to know a new city. The first day is what we like to call the “recognition day.” We usually have a walk and just try to embrace the city and take some pictures without pressure.
We headed to the city icon of Santa Sofia Statue, by crossing the roman ruins, the Ancient Serdica, and the Medieval church that was discovered a few years ago while the subway was under construction. Please note the perfect symmetry of the Largo Building, which makes a perfects axis with the statue.
On your way there you cannot miss the Justice Palace with the big lions—part of Bulgaria’s emblem—in the entrance, and the Nedelya Church.
Here is an important tip when walking around Sofia: There are not many pedestrian crossing lights, so most of the connections between streets are underground. This is kind of fun because they are full of stores and even monuments in some cases! And the good part is you don’t need to wait for the green light!
The perfect spot to finish your day is Vatosha Boulevard, a beautiful place to walk around and have dinner or a drink. That’s what we did: we had some drinks in a place call Green Bar (check out the Tripadvisor reviews), where we had a great view of of the Vitosha Mountain and people walking through the boulevard.
Sofia nightlife is pretty hectic so you will find many interesting places to enter. The boulevard finishes in an awesome park, a great place to have a walk surrounded by fountains and flowers.
You will find so many beautiful parks full of roses as Bulgaria is the main rose exporter of Europe, as well as gorgeous fountains where you can refresh during and after your walk.
Although day one was a day to relax after work and the week itself, day two was the day to visit everything! Don’t worry; you will be able to visit Sofia in one day and at a good pace.
Our first stop was to have breakfast, and the perfect place was a cafe called Memento, located on the ground floor of the National Palace of Culture. This palace is an astonishing building with a beautiful scenery of green, flowers and fountains. We took our brioche and coffee to go and sat near the fountain. This was a great idea for this hot, sunny day!
To start our day we headed back to one of the main points of the city: St. Sofia Statue. From here, and after taking many pictures, we visited the Market. After exiting, you will see St. Sofia Synagogue.
Sofia is a very diverse city; it has a mix of different cultures and religions that have been combined through the years. Many of the most important places to visit are orthodox churches, synagogues and mosques. This gives you the opportunity to get involved in diverse faiths.
This is why we love traveling: The privilege to experience so many traditions and ways of life in just one place. Visiting all these locations enriches you and helps you understand different ways of thinking.
You can also enter the Banya Bashi Mosque. In accordance to Muslim customs, you will need to take off your shoes and women have to put on a veil, which you will find on the door before you enter.
We decided to enter the Sofia History Museum, to understand more about the town’s culture. The museum is really interesting and has a great set of archeological and historical displays. Pay attention when you enter museums and churches: there is a charge for pictures you take when you exit! This can cost between 10 to 14 BGN.
Moving along, you will find the President’s Office, which is incredibly easy to find with all the soldiers guarding the door. A hidden important place to visit is just next door: St. George Rotunda. This is the oldest roman church and building in Sofia. The interior structure is very interesting. Look out for the perfect positioning of the bricks.
Our next stop was the Ivan Vazov National Theater, located in the heart of an awesome park. Sofia is a terrific city to walk around, as it is surrounded by beautiful parks, perfect to take breaks and just relax a little bit.
Not so far from here, you will be able to see the Beaux Arts Gallery. The building used to be a Palace. It has a great collection of art and ancient arsenal. Continuing your walk, again through a park, you have to enter the adorable Russian Church of St. Nicholas. It is quite a different church, full of bright, vivid colors and lots of ornaments.
Our next goal in our journey was to get to what could be my favorite building in Sofia: St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. On your way there, do not miss the Tsar Statue and St. Sofia Basilique, which once again features an enormous lion guarding the door.
Once we finally reached St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral I was blown away. It is quite an imposing building that seems to rule the whole area. It is beautiful and has a very peculiar structure of golden cupolas. It is also interesting to see how the light softly invades the interior. We could not stop taking pictures from every single angle.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Just behind here is another great landmark: Square 500 National Gallery. Walking towards the Eagles’ Bridge you will see the Tsar Liberator Statue, the National Assembly and the National Library, this last one containing the monuments to St. Cyril and St. Methodius.
One of our last stops was the famous Eagles’ Bridge that passes across a stream and marks the entrance to another beautiful place to take a break from the long walks: the Borisova Gradina Park. We visited it on a Sunday and it was packed with activities for all ages. There is also a lake inside where you can rent a boat and different spots where you can have a quick bite.
Before returning to our hotel to get ready for a night out, we decided to visit the Natural History Museum. If you are a fan of animals and different species, you will find it very interesting. It is kind of antiquated, but it has a very organized and rich variety of displays.
So you will have obviously guessed where we finished our amazing journey in Sofia! Of course it had to be the Vitosha Boulevard! I really adored the vibe of the place because it was super active, fun and had many stores. We had dinner at Bar Raffy (check out the Tripadvisor reviews), a great place with good food. You definitely cannot miss tasting the Bulgarian rose wine.
To catch our flight we took the subway! Yes, for less than an euro (1,60 levs) you can arrive at Sofia Airport. You need to take it at Serdica in the red line direction to Sofia Airport and you will be on your way. You can buy your ticket at the station. Make sure to check the direction of the subway :), There are two routes with the same direction but only one of these takes you to the airport ( We messed up and had to wait for the next train).
The city is actually astonishing, and a perfect destination for a short trip. It is full of interesting and beautiful landmarks and monuments, gorgeous parks that make your walks so pleasant and a ton of fun, and cool, cheap places to have a great meal.
Sofia is enriched with a very interesting culture and unique architecture. Something tells me this will be the place to be in a matter of time! Do not miss out on being one of the explorers and pioneer travelers to Sophia!
Photos credit to Ruben A.Hidalgo and Alejandra Beaujon
If you need some extra help planning your trip, this Travel Guide is really helpful! – Sofia – Travel Guide
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