Bulgaria was never on the top of my countries to see, so I had absolutely no expectations. I was pleasantly surprised at its capital city, Sofia. Sofia was such a gorgeous little surprise and if you are considering taking a trip – book your tickets now!
Bulgaria has evolved massively since communism and its little capital city is really starting to flourish. The graffiti-maiden streets are sprinkled with funky boutiques, cafes and restaurants and the best part is it’s super cheap!
To help you along, here is a list of things to do during a short stay in Sofia:
1.TAKE A FREE TOUR
Sofia Free Walking Tour
I have been on lots of free walking tours and the Sofia Free Tour has been my favorite to date! I highly recommend taking the tour, if you can, on your first day in Sofia to get an idea of the city.
Sofia is the third oldest Capital in Europe so there is lots to learn here! Instead of just passing by all of the monuments and taking meaningless pictures, take this 2 hour tour to really understand the rich history behind all of the sites.
You can find out all you need to know here:
Balkan Bites Tour
THIS IS A FREE FOOD TOUR. Nuff Said.
.. Ok I will say a little more. While traveling I love to experience as much of a countries particular cuisine as I can. This tour takes you around to 3-4 restaurants around Sofia to give you a taste of Bulgaria .
Don’t expect to get a free lunch though, just a sample at each venue as well as a little history behind the cuisine. This is a great way to try the local food without having to order it yourself – I highly recommend it!
Side Note: Just remember that even though these tours are technically ‘free’, these companies are usually not for profit organisations trying their hardest to educate tourists about their culture. If you love it, make sure to give them a tip – even if it is small!
If you did go ahead with the Balkan Bites tour you will soon realise that there are lots of cool and quirky places to eat & drink in Sofia! In fact, the thing I enjoyed most while I was in Sofia was being able to dine out at gorgeous places and eat delicious food – super cheap. Get yourself away from Vitosha Boulevard and do some searching around the area for cafes and restaurants that are tucked away. I have listed some of my favorite finds for food and coffee below:
Avtentichno by SIS Coop
Avtechino prides themselves in using great Bulgarian produce. It is a tiny bit more expensive than other restaraunts in Sofia but it is well worth it (still super cheap)
Made in Home
A quirky little restaurant selling delightful food made with love – just as it would be at home 🙂
Good coffee but also a great little brunch menu!
..just really good coffee.
We also heard from our Balkan Bites tour guide that the following food spots are great, but didn’t get to try them ourselves..
Rakia Raketa Bar
Please let me know if you give them a try.. I wish I had of been able to seek out even more places to eat and drink at while I was in Sofia!
3. TAKE A LOOK INSIDE ONE OF THE WORLDS BIGGEST ORTHODOX CHURCHES
While the Sofia tour takes you past many building and monuments you don’t actually get to go inside them – if you decide to go into any, choose this one! One of the worlds largest biggest orthodox churches, the inside of this building is just as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside.
And if you liked that…
4.VISIT SOME OTHER RELIGIOUS RELICS.
If you didn’t take the Free Sofia Tour and you enjoyed the Alexander Nevsky Church, there are plenty of other churches, for you to gander at:
Saint Sofia Church
The Rotunda of St George
St Nikolas Russian Church
5. STROLL VITOSHA BLVD (BUT DON’T SKIP THE SIDE STREETS!)
Vitosha Boulevard is the main pedestrian boulevard in Sofia. On one end of the street a spectacular mountain towers over the boulevard. The boulevard has lots of shops, restaurants and bars. It is really nice for a stroll to gaze at passersby or to have a quick bite to eat. If you have time, my personal reccomendation would be to find food outside of the boulevard. Because it is so touristy, the prices are a little higher on Vitosha Boulevard and you can find lots of hidden gems in the many side streets in and around the boulevard .
6. CLIMB A MOUNTAIN.
When you are strolling Mt Vitosha Boulevard you will notice a Mountain in the distance, This mountain is where Vitosha Blvd gets its name from – Mount Vitosha. If you like a bit of a hike, put on your boots on and head to Mt Vitosha for great views.
7. VISIT A MUSEUM.
If you love a good museum, the Archeology Museum and Natural History Museum are good options for a rainy day!
8. VISIT A MALL
Another rainy day option is to vist one of Sofia’s malls. To be honest, I find that there are much better things to do than shop BUT if you have more than 2 days in Sofia and really just love a good mall – you can find those in Sofia too! You will find malls with shops like H&M, Adidas, ZARA and other big brands. I am not a big shopper but if you feel the need to shop til you drop , I would recommend visiting Serdika Mall or Sofia Ring Mall! These are a fair way from Sofia centre but taxis are super cheap here. I found that the prices in the shopping centres were on par with shops elsewhere around the world.
9.KICK BACK IN NATIONAL THEATRE GARDEN
If you head to Sofia in the summer/spring, you can head to National theatre garden – a park where the locals like to drink beer (but it is technically illegal). The theatre in the garden is also a cool little building that locals love to go to watch theatres (although they are all In Bulgarian)
There is not as much happening here in the winter – but they do have Christmas markets in December during the lead up to Christmas!
So, whether you are thinking of ticking off another country on your list or you’re just stopping over in Sofia for a couple of days while in Europe, there is plenty to see and do here – just grab your ticket now and make it a trip! 🙂