Top Things To Do In Sofia Bulgaria
Many people who visit Bulgaria tend to focus on either the ski slopes or the beaches, places like Bansko and Varna. In the process, Sofia, the country’s capital, is often overlooked. That’s really a shame. Sofia is an eclectic city with so much more to offer than most people realize.
Situated in the very heart of the Balkan peninsula—equidistant from both the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea—, Sofia is ancient. There’s archaeological evidence that people have lived in the area for more than 9,000 years. Nowadays, it’s a thriving city with many different faces. From great museums to Red Army monuments and iconic onion-domed churches to modern businesses, there is lots to see and do in Sofia.
On top of that, it’s one of the most affordable capital cities in Europe for tourists, with a great selection of accommodations for all budgets. Entrepreneurs are drawn to this vibrant and mostly modern city as well, as it’s considered to be one of the world’s top ten cities for technology start-ups.
Long story short, Sofia is a fascinating place to visit. It’ll surprise you, impress you and enchant you. Let’s now look at the best things to see and do Sofia.
Things To See And Do In Sofia
Sofia isn’t only about historic buildings, monuments, institutes and museums. It’s also a wonderfully green city. Borisova gradina is the perfect example of the city’s green spaces, the oldest and most well-known park in Sofia. This beautiful and peaceful forested park features gardens, hiking trails, a lake, sports facilities and picnic areas.
National Archaeological Museum
Housed in the oldest and largest Ottoman mosque in Sofia, the National Archaeological Museum is not only a historically significant architectural landmark, but is also filled with fascinating exhibits. Its displays showcase the cultural heritage of Bulgaria, spread across five exhibition halls—Prehistory, Middle Ages, Treasure, Central Hall and a hall for temporary exhibits.
St. Sofia Church
Its roots going back to the 6th century, St. Sofia Church is Sofia’s second-oldest church. Even though it’s a rather unassuming building—especially when compared to other churches in the city—, the St. Sofia Church is the church that gave the city its current name in the 14th century. You can visit the church and see what remains of the building’s foundation and tombs that date back about 1,500 years.
Church of St. George
A part of a building complex dating back to the 3rd and 4th centuries, the Church of St. George is the oldest structure in the entire city. This ancient Roman structure lies in what was the center of Serdica, the Roman town that stood where Sofia now lies. Inside this red brick building, you can see numerous medieval frescoes from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries.
Bitaka Flea Market
Sofia may be chock-full with culture and history, but there’s also a lighter side to it. If you’d like some fresh air after spending hours in the city’s museums, consider going for a walk through the Bitaka Flea Market. This is easily the biggest flea market/bazaar in the city, if not in the entire capital region. It’s a lot of fun to casually browse the stands. Who knows what you might find? Vendors sell everything from jewellery, old cameras and photos to watches, clothes, merchandise and toys.
Another one of Sofia’s many great churches, Boyana Church is one of the best. This medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church lies outside of the city center and is famous for its fresco-covered interior. You can see no fewer than 89 different scenes, including 240 images of people. Because of this wealth of frescoes, the church was designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
On the outskirts of Sofia, Vitosha Mountain towers over the city. Its massive dome rises 2,290 meters toward the sky and is the most accessible ski destination from Sofia. It’s so large that it actually consists of many different peaks, ten of which reach more than 2,000 meters in height. This enormous mountain is also a nature park—the oldest one in the Balkans, in fact—and offers a wide variety of outdoor activities.
National Historical Museum
The huge National Historical Museum exhibits the history of Bulgaria, all the way from prehistoric times to the nation’s communist era. With its 650,000+ artefacts related to history, ethnography, archaeology and art, this is one of the greatest museums in Sofia and Bulgaria.
If you like (window) shopping, you definitely want to take a stroll down pedestrianized Vitosha Boulevard. This is arguably the most important commercial street in Sofia, lined with restaurants, cafés and bars, fashion stores and boutiques selling luxury products.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
An enormous edifice with a capacity to hold 10,000 people, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is unquestionably the most iconic building in Sofia and one of the very symbols of Bulgaria. It’s one of the world’s largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals. Like much of Sofia’s imposing architecture, this cathedral also dates from the late-19th century. This is the star attraction in Sofia, a place that should be the focal point of your itinerary.
So, tell us – will Sofia make it on your travel itinerary this year?
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Main Photo Credit: Bjørn Giesenbauer