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The Best Things to Do in Sofia Bulgaria in a Weekend

Learn about things to do in Sofia Bulgaria. Spend 2 days in Sofia. Discover what to do in Sofia in about 48 hours. Explore the history of Sofia from the Thracians and Romans to the present day.
Because there are so many places to visit in the world, it's helpful to have travel goals. One of our goals was to visit every country in the European Union. 

At the start of 2019, all we were missing was Luxembourg and Bulgaria. We spent a long summer weekend exploring Luxembourg using the great value-for-money Luxembourg Card and taking day trips around Luxembourg

That meant all we needed was a trip to Bulgaria to reach our EU travel goal! We spend a weekend in Sofia and Plovdiv Bulgaria in October. 

Read on for all the cool things to do in Sofia that we discovered. Might we have saved the best destination for last?

Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria: Visit Alexander Nevski Cathedral

Getting to Sofia Bulgaria

You can get to Sofia non-stop year round on Ryanair from London Stansted. From Dublin, non-stop flights operate during the summer months through October. 

Alternatively, catch a Lufthansa flight to Sofia via Frankfurt or Munich. Once you land in Sofia Airport, take public transport from the airport 12 stops to Serdika Metro station in Sofia City Center. 

Metro tickets in Sofia are a bargain at 1.60 lev (about 0.80 EUR at the time of writing). We arrived in Serdika and we hadn't even left the metro station when someone asked me for directions in Bulgarian. 

Apparently I look like a local.

Sofia Central Market Hall

What's first up on our list of things to do in Sofia? Eating a cheesy cigar at the Central Market in Sofia. At least that's what Google Translate told me it was. Delicious! 

I love local food halls. Either before or after your visit to Sofia's Central Market Hall, check out the stunning architecture of the Regional History Museum located on the former site of Sofia's Central Mineral Baths.
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria
1. Public transport in Sofia
2. Sofia Market Hall
3. Cheesy cigar
4. Bargain beer at the Ladies Market in Sofia

Ladies Market

Take a walk through the Ladies Market in Sofia. We stopped to drink a refreshing draft beer near the Ladies Market and paid 1.20 Lev for a pretty big beer. That's like 0.60 EUR. 

We also grabbed a bottle of Bulgarian wine and some baklava and cookies for later. We splurged on the 6 Lev (3 EUR) bottle of Mavrud, a Bulgarian red varietal.

Explore Sofia's Intersection of Religions

Another cool thing to do in Sofia is explore the intersection of religions. Sofia is filled with mosques, synagogues, and churches. 

We took a golden hour wander around Sofia. The gold dome of Aleksandar Nevsky Cathedral (sometimes spelled Alexander Nevski Cathedral or Alexander Nevsky Cathedral) seemed to glow in the pink light. 

A lion stood proudly outside St. Sophia. A crazy fountain sprayed on Atanas Burov Sq. St. Sophia monument presided over the city.
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria: Explore religious architecture
1. Banya Bashi mosque
2. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
3. Sofia synagogue

We made time to explore Alexander Nevski cathedral. No photos were allowed inside without a fee. 

10 Lev seemed a bit excessive so I satisfied myself with some pictures outside. The cathedral was named for a Russian saint in gratitude to Russia for the WWII liberation of Sofia.

Check out the 6th century St. Sophia Church and necropolis museum underneath. The church is free to enter but the crypt costs 6 Lev. The price is totally worth it! 

There are some pretty cool mosaics on display below ground. Ask to see Honorius' tomb. It's across the street but included with your necropolis ticket. 

Keep an eye out for the church bell in the tree across from the entrance to St. Sophia.
Things to do in Sofia - St. Sophia Church
St. Sophia Church and necropolis

I was almost as excited about the resident cat at St. George's Rotunda as I was about the 1000+ year old church nestled among the buildings of modern Sofia. 

No photos were allowed, sadly, but I got a little peek through the door.
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria
1. Cat in the entrance to St. George's Rotunda
2. Exterior of St. George's Rotunda
3. Roman Forum unearthed at Serdika train station
4. Shopping for Bulgarian wine

I got to peek inside Banya Bashi mosque (no photos) and synagogue (largest Sephardic Temple in Europe) in Sofia. 

The mosque was free to enter and featured a white interior and bright colored accents. Take off your shoes and women must cover their hair. Pay 5 Lev to get into the Sofia synagogue.

Sofia's Roman Past

Another favorite thing to do in Sofia is to explore Sofia's Roman past. Extensive Roman ruins were discovered and excavated in Sofia in just the last decade. 

There are tons of meters of ruins around Serdika Metro station. Check out the intersection of the two main arteries of the Roman Forum that run East-West and North-South through Sofia at Serdika Metro Station.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other trip ideas in Europe to destinations with a rich history? Why not consider:

1. Spending one week in Cyprus exploring Greek and Roman antiquities.
2. Spending 3 days in Malta where the historic sites and archaeological digs are conveniently accessible from the capital in Valletta.
3. Embarking on a one week in Sicily road trip and taking in the jaunty Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina.
4. Tracing ancient civilizations back to their source with a city break in Athens or a weekend in Rome.
5. Discover things to do in Lyon France centered upon the city's ancient history.
6. Explore Merida's Roman ruins on a Spanish road trip.

Take an Architecture and Sculpture Walk

Looking for architecturally focused things to do in Sofia? Take an architecture and sculpture walk. 

Keep an eye out for ornate church doors. Admire the National Art Gallery. Look for a surprisingly huge statue of Aleksandar Stamboliyski, early 20th century Prime Minister of Bulgaria, outside the Opera in Sofia. 

Look for Sofia's iconic statue "St. Sophia" above Serdika Metro station. Take a walk in the park and admire the facade of Ivan Vazov National Theatre. 
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria: look for sculptures
1. Aleksandar Stamboliyski
2. St. Sophia
3. Lion outside St. Sophia church

What to Eat in Sofia

Traditional Bulgarian food is rich and yummy. For dinner one night, we enjoyed a baked white cheese starter with walnuts and honey. So good! 

We also tried toasted peppers with garlic and dill which was good but not nearly as drool-worthy. We finished our meal with sesame pork and spicy pork nuggets at Ресторант SBI. 

The food here is really good. I couldn't believe that we were the only customers eating there that night!
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria: Eat traditional Bulgarian food
Dinner at Ресторант SBI
1. baked white cheese with walnuts and honey
2. sesame pork
3. spicy pork nuggets

Whoa! The chilies on the breakfast buffet in Sofia look innocent. Even after a bite or two you might think: "that's not so bad" but then BAM! The heat continues to build. 

These peppers are no joke 🔥🔥🔥. Consume a scoop of Bulgarian yogurt to cool the heat.

Don't miss wine o'clock in Sofia! We had fun catching up with fellow travel blogger Naddya from Ntripping at Grape Central. 

The 2012 Orbelus Prima Bulgarian organic wine was great for sipping. We found another bottle of it later at Wine and Co. to take home.
What to eat in Sofia Bulgaria
1. Spicy peppers on the breakfast buffet at COOP Hotel in Sofia.
2. 2012 Orbelus Prima from Grape Central
3. Spicy pork ribs and garlic fries at Made in Home
4. Homemade mint lemonade at Made in Home

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Made in Home in Sofia with Naddya of NTripping. We learned that it's best to get off of Vitosha Boulevard (the more touristy shopping street) and go where locals go: ul. "Angel Kanchev" a few blocks away. 

We tried tender and spicy pork ribs with garlic fries and homemade mint lemonade.

Free Sofia Tours

The Free Sofia walking tour was the coolest and most educational thing to do in Sofia that we discovered. We learned a ton about Bulgarian history on our 2 hour Free Sofia Tour with Vasko.

Fun facts from our Sofia free walking tour:
  • Sofia is named for the church not the saint.
  • Sofia means wisdom.
  • Hot springs abound in the city and locals bring jugs to fill up every day for their health.
  • The Cyrillic alphabet was invented in Bulgaria.
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria: get water from the hot spring in the city
We learned on our Free Sofia Tour that Bulgarians are known for being late or postponing things. This served them well in history. 

For example, the Tsar survived an assassination attempt when he was late to a funeral. The Jews of Sofia survived WWII because the government postponed Hitler's requests to ship the Jews to concentration camps.
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria
1. Dog showing off in a fountain in Sofia in City Garden near Ivan Vazov National Theatre
2. Church dome
3. Starting point for the Free Sofia Tour

Sofia's Street Art Scene

Another fun thing to do in Sofia is go street art spotting. Keep your eyes peeled for some larger-than-life art installations.
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria - Seek out Bulgarian street art
Sofia street art.

Walk and Shop Vitosha Boulevard from End to End

Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria - Shop Vitosha Boulevard
Shopping Vitosha Boulevard in Sofia.

Time for a spot of shopping on Vitosha, a pedestrianized street in Sofia. My favorite shop was Rios for dried fruit and nuts. We tried wild roasted and salted hazelnuts and roasted chickpeas. 

At one end of Vitosha Boulevard, you'll find a park and the National Palace of Culture. The communist era architecture contrasted greatly with the surrounding park and dancing fountain.
Things to do in Sofia Bulgaria
1-3. National Palace of Culture
4. Lion's Bridge

Lion's Bridge and Sofia Bus Station

We crossed Sofia's picturesque Lion's Bridge en route to the bus station. We were on our way to Plovdiv, a 2 hour 20 minute ride on Karat S. There are so many bus companies operating here!

Where to Stay in Sofia

We stayed at modern COOP Hotel in Sofia. The hotel cost the equivalent of about 100 USD per night and was located about a 15 minute walk from Serdika Metro Station. COOP offers comfortable rooms with great views over Sofia.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: The Best Things to Do in Sofia Bulgaria in a Weekend
The Best Things to Do in Sofia Bulgaria in a Weekend
Learn about things to do in Sofia Bulgaria. Spend 2 days in Sofia. Discover what to do in Sofia in about 48 hours. Explore the history of Sofia from the Thracians and Romans to the present day.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog