16 things you must do when you visit Sofia
Join the Free Sofia Walking Tour
The best way to get to know Sofia is to join the free daily organised walking tour. Not only will it help you navigate your way around the city, you will also learn lots of interesting facts about the history of Sofia. And of course, they will take you to all the famous historical sites, such as St. Georges Church, the Russian Church and Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to name a few. Visit the Free Sofia Tour website for more information.
Find a local friend to drive you to Kopitoto (the TV Tower) to see the best views of city
If you can sweet talk a local friend to give you a ride up to the TV Tower at the top of Vitosha Mountain, you will enjoy the best panoramic views of the city. Go at sunset for the best photos, but do be careful as there are a lot of ‘safety hazards’ there due to it being next to a derelict ski lift!
Walk on Vitosha Street and stop in a cafe for a drink.
Vitosha street is the main pedestrian street in Sofia which boasts lots of trendy cafes and bars, as well as some great shops. It’s particularly nice in the summer when you can sit outside with a cocktail (a frozen strawberry daiquiri from Memento Cafe is my choice) and just watch the world go by. It’s friendly and safe day and night so it’s great whether you are with a family, in a couple or a solo visiter.
Take a Tram
You’ll see plenty of trams around the city centre so why not jump on a ride and few stops so you can feel like a true local. The ticket price is 1.60 leva per journey, and you can buy a ticket from the vending machine behind the driver.
Go to Hambara Bar after 2am
Hambara bar is a ‘secret’ hideaway where locals and tourists go for drinks in the early hours of the morning. It’s tucked away in a side street in the centre of Sofia and has no sign and no electricity! I won’t tell you where it is though, part of your adventure will be to find it! 🙂
Play an Escape Room
Sofia has so many Escape Rooms now and having played at least 10 of them, I can tell you they are all fantastic! You may need to book in advance online as they do get busy, but if you’re in Sofia with a group of friends it’s a great way to spend an hour and will only cost around 20-25 leva each. You can search here in ESLB for Escape rooms as I have written about many of them!
Visit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and buy a traditional Icon from the outside market
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is probably the most famous of all the sites in Sofia. It’s one of the largest Orthodox Cathedrals in the world and is stunning, both inside and out. You can go inside for free, and if you’d like to light a candle you can make a small donation inside to receive one. There’s also the Crypt Museum below the Cathedral, which has a paid entrance, here you will see an incredible collection of Orthodox Icons. After which, you can walk over to the outdoor market where you will find hand painted Icons sold from as little as 15 leva to take home as a souvenir.
Have a cocktail, or two, at Sense Hotel’s Rooftop Bar
The rooftop bar at Sense Hotel is one of my favourite places. The cocktails are delicious and the views are incredible. It’s very trendy, a little more expensive than many bars in Sofia, but it’s definitely worth it.
Drink water from the hot mineral water taps next to Sofia History Museum
Bulgaria is well known for its many natural hot mineral baths. In the centre of Sofia, there are also taps which run constantly with hot mineral drinking water. Locals will take big bottles every week to collect this water as it’s thought to cure many ailments. Be sure to fill a small water bottle and give it a try.
Join the weekly organised free 5km run in South Park on Saturday morning
If you’re in Sofia at the weekend you can join the largest organised park run in Bulgaria. It starts at 9am in the summer and 10am in the winter and is held every Saturday in Yuzhen Park (South Park). The group of 200-400 runners (including me sometimes!) complete a 5km marked course through the park and if you register online, your results will be tracked and emailed to you for free! Register on the 5km run website.
Take a photo in front of the ‘SOFIA’ sign at the National Palace of Culture
You should visit the famous National Palace of Culture (NDK), where many concerts and theatre plays regularly take place. While you are there, take a photo with the SOFIA sign behind you.
Rent a car or book a transfer and spend a day visiting Rila Monastery
Although not that close to Sofia, Rila Monastery is a must see place in Bulgaria. If you have the time, either hire a car or book a transfer and go visit it. The drive is a couple of hours so it will take you the whole day, but it’s so beautiful and special that it really is worth it.
Go skiing on Vitosha Mountain or Wakeboarding at Kazichene Lake
Depending on what time of year you visit you can enjoy either one of these outdoor sports. Vitosha mountain is very easy to reach from the city centre, and you can hire all your equipment when you get there. Kazichene is a little further, but still not an expensive taxi ride. If you’re not into so much action, a morning walk in Vitosha Mountain is an equally enjoyable thing to do.
Go shopping in Paradise Mall and ride the rollercoaster on the roof
Paradise Mall is one of the largest and busiest malls in Sofia. There’s not much you won’t find here so if you’re planning to do some shopping, this would be the place I’d recommend. There’s also some great restaurants upstairs, my family really love going to the Japanese place, Sasa when they visit. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, there’s a fun fair with a rollercoaster on the roof of the mall!
Have dinner in Raketa Rakia and sample their menu of different types of Rakia
You may not like it, but you have to at least try a little Rakia while in Bulgaria! It’s very stong so don’t over do it, but if you have dinner in Raketa Rakia, you can try all different kinds of Rakia so you can find a flavour that you love!
Visit Boyana Church, Sofia’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site
Boyana Church is a little out of the city centre, but easy to reach by taxi so you really should find the time to visit. You won’t need long at the Church, maybe half an hour, but to see the frescoes inside that date back to the 11th century make it a really worthwhile trip.
Have I missed anything? I’m sure I have as there are so many wonderful things to see and do in Sofia. If you can think of something that should be added, feel free to leave a comment!