Aerial view of Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

Things to do in  Sofia

One of Europe’s greenest cities

Bulgaria’s capital Sofia is a city that’s often overlooked, yet rewards exploration. Scattered with lush green parks and gardens, it nestles in the shadow of Mt. Vitosha, a hiking and winter sports destination. Roman ruins, onion-domed churches, neoclassical architecture, and Byzantine relics (including the Boyana Church UNESCO World Heritage Site) compete for attention with communist-era brutalist architecture. Gourmets will love Sofia’s burgeoning indie wine scene and Bulgaria’s unique varietals, the fruit of thousands of years of wine culture.

Top 15 attractions in Sofia

Rila Monastery

Rila Monastery, Bulgaria’s largest religious structure, is the most visited site in the country. Its cobblestone courtyard, winding balconies, picturesque mountain views, and brightly colored frescos transport you to a place that is almost otherworldly. The fortress-like complex has been a spiritual center for more than 1,000 years.More

Boyana Church

The UNESCO-listed Boyana Church is made up of three distinctive sections, which reflect the architectural styles of the 10th, 13th, and 19th century respectively. The Orthodox church is held in high esteem throughout Europe due to its collection of 89 hand-painted frescoes, which depict 240 individual figures in various religious scenes.More

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Sofia’s landmark cathedral was built to commemorate the lives lost in the Russo-Turkish War. Named after a 13th-century Russian prince, the Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral is a fine example of neo-Byzantine architecture and one of Sofia’s most recognizable symbols. The decadent interior features iconoclasts made from marble and onyx, while the crypt boasts Bulgaria’s largest collection of religious art.More

Vitosha Mountain

Just outside of Sofia, Vitosha Mountain reaches an impressive height of 7,513 feet (2,290 meters). As the Balkan’s oldest national park, Vitosha offers plenty to see and do throughout the year. The area surrounding the mountain is also home to the Boyana Waterfall and Duhlata Cave, and close to Pancharevo Lake, making it a favorite among nature lovers.More

Ivan Vazov National Theatre

Named after one of Bulgaria’s most esteemed writers, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre has been drawing audiences since 1907. The national theater is also the country’s largest and oldest, and is known for its productions, neoclassical architecture, and history. Cementing its status as a national icon, the theater’s colonnaded façade can be seen on 50-lev banknotes.More

Sofia Synagogue

Europe’s third largest synagogue was built in 1909 for Sofia’s Sephardi Jewish community. Based on the Leopoldstädter Tempel, Friedrich Grünanger’s design blends Venetian and Secessionist features with Moorish revival architecture. The synagogue is also home to Sofia’s Jewish Museum of History.More

St. Sofia Church

The core structure of St. Sofia Church, one of the oldest churches in the Bulgarian capital, dates back to the sixth century, although it has evolved over time. Excavations have revealed the remains of several earlier churches plus a Roman-era necropolis under and around the Byzantine basilica, and the site is now an underground museum.More

Rila Mountains

The Rila Mountains offer outdoor enthusiasts a perfect playground for exploring Bulgaria’s highest peaks, along with glacial lakes, hot springs, four nature reserves, and the rugged, untouched landscapes of Rila National Park. The alpine region is also home to the UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery—a masterpiece of Bulgarian art and architecture.More


The rolling hills and scenic landscapes of Koprivshtitsa attract plenty of travelers looking to explore Bulgaria beyond Sofia. Deep historical roots and a thriving population of merchants and artisans have made this town popular among tourists who find the town’s impressive collection of architectural, historical and artistic landmarks (388 in total!) worth a visit.Travelers can experience the lifestyle of Koprivshtitsa’s early elite at the Oslekov House. Built in 1856, this popular museum showcases not only the rich interiors of a highbrow family, but some of its clothing and heirlooms as well. The unique rosewater fountain at The Lyutova House Museum, where authentic Koprivshtitsa wool, hand-painted murals and ornate woodcarvings are all on display, offers visitors a look at some of the region’s most impressive arts and crafts. Those who want to learn more about the area’s colorful history shouldn’t miss the birthplace of Gavril Gruyev Haltev, who played an influential role in the famous April Uprising. Travelers can explore collections of memorabilia, family photographs and historical documents that help frame how this single event dramatically shaped the nation’s past and future.More

Sofia Church of St. George (St. George Rotunda)

Also known as the St. George Rotunda, Sofia's early-Christian Church of St. George was originally built by Romans during the 4th century, making it one of Bulgaria’s oldest buildings. Today, the church attracts visitors with its medieval frescoes, varied architecture, and Roman-era ruins that surround it.More

Sofia National Gallery

The Sofia National Gallery is Bulgaria’s largest art museum, boasting a collection of more than 42,000 pieces. First established in the early 20th century, the gallery moved into the former Royal Palace in 1946, and has since grown to several branches across Sofia, including the Kvadrat 500 and Museum of Socialist Art.More

Vitosha Boulevard (Vitoshka)

Often known as “Vitoshka,” Vitosha Boulevard is Sofia’s main commercial street. Partially pedestrianized, it runs from the historic center to South Park, with most of the action concentrated at the northern end. Vitoshka is home to higher-end stores and cafés, St. Nedelya Church, the huge Communist-era TSUM store, and more.More

Central Sofia Market Hall (Halite)

Browse orderly shops and stalls of Central Sofia Market Hall (Halite) in search of souvenirs, snacks, and bargains. Pay attention to the structure, opened in 1911, as the market is widely considered to be architect Naum Torbov’s finest work, blending neo-baroque with neo-Byzantine features, in a neo-Renaissance structure.More

Amphitheater of Serdica

The Amphitheater of Serdica was discovered beneath Sofia in 2004. Dating back to the 3rd century, the 25,000-capacity venue would have held gladiator battles and blood sports and today forms part of the wider Ulpia Serdica archaeological complex. Visitors can peruse a small section of the remains, along with artifacts and animals prints that were uncovered at the site.More

National Museum of History

Founded in 1973, the National Museum of History is Bulgaria’s national museum of history. Housed in the former residence of dictator Todor Zhikov, the museum has more than 650,000 objects, although only about ten percent are on display. The main exhibition is spread throughout five halls. The first covers the development and culture of the people who lived on Bulgarian lands as early as the 6th millennium B.C. The second hall continues that theme, focusing on the end of the 6th century B.C. to the 6th century A.D. In the third hall, visitors see exhibits on the Bulgarian State in the Middle Ages and in the fourth hall, the focus shifts to the period of Ottoman rule, from 1396 to 1878. The fifth hall showcases the Third Bulgarian Kingdom, from 1878 to 1946.Items on display include a variety of weapons, traditional costumes, furniture, tools and household objects, coins, artwork, documents and photos. The museum courtyard showcases a collection of Greek, Roman and Byzantine columns and monuments from various periods.More
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All about Sofia

When to visit

Both summer and winter are great times of year to visit Sofia. Snowy winters make Bulgaria one of Europe’s best-value skiing and snowboarding destinations, and Sofia is a wonderful pit stop en route to the slopes. Summers are generally warm and dry, allowing the city’s green spaces to come into their own. August can be pleasantly quiet as locals head to the beach.

Getting around

Sofia is simple to get around on public transit, with buses, trams, and a fast, modern metro system—starring Serdika station and its impressive Roman ruins. The historic center is compact enough to explore on foot, while green cycling tours are a great way to discover the city’s parks and gardens. For trips further afield, renting a car is an excellent value, and parking is affordable.

Traveler tips

No trip to Sofia would be complete without discovering the joys of Bulgarian wine. Vino Orenda Wine Shop stocks hundreds of artisan bottles from boutique wineries around the country, with blind and tutored tastings, too. If you can’t live without communist-era kitsch, try the gift shop at the Museum of Socialist Art or the Flea Market in front of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral for badges, signs, postcards, and more.


People Also Ask

Is Sofia worth visiting?

Yes. Although Sofia is not considered one of Europe’s “great” cities, it is a green, attractive capital that offers everything from hikes to Roman ruins to flea markets—in a surprisingly compact space. The Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the city outskirts, dates to the 10th century.

How many days in Sofia is enough?

Two or three days are enough to experience Sofia. Spend one day exploring the city’s historic sites, including Serdika, the Boyana Church, and the Church of St. George. Next, discover the city’s green spaces and Mt. Vitosha, with a wine tasting at night. Visit museums and galleries on day three.

Is Sofia a cheap city?

Yes. Wages and the cost of living is low in Bulgaria, and hostel dorm beds in Sofia can cost less than US$10, with studio vacation rentals from as little as US$25. A pint of local beer can cost less than US$2, and public transit also is affordable.

Does Sofia have good nightlife?

Not really. Sofia is not considered one of Europe’s top nightlife cities or party destinations. There is a low-key but vibrant bar scene that includes rooftop bars, craft beer bars, and wine bars. Venues offer live music from rock to jazz, and there are a handful of EDM clubs.

Is Sofia a walkable city?

Yes. Sofia is a pleasant city to walk, with wide sidewalks and few hills. While downtown Sofia is not as compact as the historic center in Plovdiv (Bulgaria’s second-largest city), most travelers won’t feel the need for transportation. Parks and gardens like Borisova Gradina are fun to discover on foot.

Are drugs legal in Bulgaria?

No, drugs are not legal in Bulgaria. Some European countries have decriminalized recreational marijuana use, but Bulgaria retains strict drug laws with fines for possession and prison sentences for possessing large quantities or for dealing drugs. Even products that grow wild, such as magic mushrooms and their derivatives, are illegal.

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