Nestled below Vitosha Mountain in the west of the Balkan nation of Bulgaria, the capital city of Sofia is steeped in more than 2,000 years of history, which saw occupations by the Greeks, the Romans, and the Ottomans. Today, the ancient city is home to beautiful buildings from the Bulgarian Revival in the late-19th century and churches such as the St. George Rotunda Church, which was built by the Romans in the 4th century and the Medieval Boyana Church with its incredible 13th-century frescoes. Relax in tranquil urban parks, dine on traditional Bulgarian cuisine, and soak up the rich heritage of the city on guided walking tours.
1.Alexander Nevski Cathedral
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The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral dating back to the 1880s and serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria. Located in the heart of Sofia, the cathedral is the second-largest cathedral in the Balkan region and an excellent example of Sofia’s grand architecture, featuring gilded domes, stone carvings, soaring arches, and intricate mosaic murals. Designed in the Neo-Byzantine style, the church boasts materials from around the world, including marble from Munich, metal from Berlin, and handmade mosaics from Venice. A museum is located within the cathedral crypt in the basement and is home to a significant collection of Orthodox icons and masterpieces. The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral can hold 10,000 people and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world.
pl. "Sveti Aleksandar Nevski," 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia, Bulgaria, Phone: +359-29-88-17-04
2.Saint Sophia Basilica’s Catacombs
The Basilica of Saint Sophia is a quaint red-brick church that gave the city of Sofia its name in the 1300s during the Second Bulgarian Empire. Built in Roman times, the unassuming church once served as a fire-brigade tower and a mosque and boasts a vast labyrinth of ancient tombs and tunnels beneath its floors. The centuries-old burial grounds under the church can be explored on guided tours with local historians who delve into the fascinating history of the church and its catacombs that date back more than 1500 years.
2, Paris Str. Sofia, Bulgaria
Vitosha Boulevard is the main commercial street in the center of Sofia and extends from the St Nedelya Square to the Southern Park. Known as the fanciest street in the city, Vitosha Boulevard is lined with high-end fashion houses and posh boutiques, expensive restaurants and chic bars. Benches, kiosks, and lampposts are designed in an elegant Art Nouveau style, reminiscent of the Bulgarian Revival period. The boulevard boasts breathtaking views of Vitosha Mountain framed by the street’s tall buildings and is well worth exploring on a pleasant stroll.
4.Borisova Gradina (Borisova Garden) and Yuzhen Park (South Park)
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Borisova Gradina (Borisova Garden), also known as Knyaz-Borisova Gradina, is the largest and oldest park in Sofia. Nestled in the center of the city, the urban park was designed by Swiss landscape artist, Daniel Neff and constructed in 1884 as a small garden in the garden-esque style. Named after Bulgarian Tsar Boris III, the beautifully laid-out and manicured gardens were enlarged over the years with avenues, fountains, a rose garden, and a lake being added. Yuzhen Park (South Park) is another popular urban park in the city that plays host to a variety of outdoor events such as festivals, concerts, and outdoor cinema screenings in the summer.
Borisova Garden Park, Sofia, Bulgaria, Phone: +359-29-63-45-66
5.Sofia History Museum
The Sofia History Museum is dedicated to the history of the city from Roman times to modern-day. Housed in the magnificent former baths building, the museum features eight exhibition halls displaying a myriad of artifacts, items, and objects from 6000 BC to the present day. These include a golden carriage from Marie Antoinette, a reconstructed Neolithic house, a retro tram, a golden clock given to Prince Ferdinand by Queen Victoria, and one of the first cars in Sofia. The museum also hosts regular temporary exhibitions, and visitors can explore the institution on docent-led guided tours.
Old City Center, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1000, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-929-85-44-55
6.The National History Museum
© The National History Museum
A visit to the National History Museum is an ideal way to learn all about the turbulent history of Bulgaria. Housed in the former dictator Todor Zhivkov’s residence, which is an excellent example of typical Stalinist architecture, the museum features numerous halls with tens of thousands of exhibits, documenting the history of the country from the First and the Second Bulgarian Kingdom to the age of Communism. Notable items in the museum’s vast collections include the world-famous golden Thracian treasure and 20th-century space research equipment.
16 ulitsa "Vitoshko lale," Boyana, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1404, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-929-55-42-80
7.The National Opera and Ballet
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The National Opera and Ballet is a national cultural institution in Bulgaria that hosts opera and ballet performances year-round. World-class opera performances are sung in their original languages with operas following a monthly program. Opera-lovers flock to see the Bulgarian opera singers, who are famous all over the world and tickets are very reasonable in comparison with other cities in Europe. During the summer, the National Opera and Ballet organize opera performances in parks and medieval fortresses all around the country.
30 Dondukov Blvd, ul. "Vrabcha," 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria, Phone: +359-29-87-70-11
8.The Square of Religious Tolerance
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The Square of Religious Tolerance is located in the heart of Sofia and is home to four places of worship for four major religions within a short walk of each other. These are the Sveti Yosif (Saint Joseph) Catholic Cathedral, the Saint Nedelya Orthodox Church, the Synagogue, and the Banya Bashi Mosque, each of which has its own rich history, character, congregations, and equally respected. The synagogue is the biggest Sephardic temple in Europe; the Banya Bashi Mosque was once part of the public baths complex; the Sveti Yosif Catholic Cathedral was destroyed during WW2 and was only recently rebuilt, and the Sveta Nedelya Orthodox Church was damaged by assault by the Communist Party in 1925.
Saint Nedelya Square, Sofia, Bulgaria
Meaning ‘the lucky man,’ Shtastliveca is a famous restaurant with eateries in Veliko Tarnovo and Sofia that serves traditional Bulgarian cuisine and international dishes in a vibrant and welcoming setting. The friendly restaurant in Sofia has elegant décor and spectacular views over the city and serves a delicious lunch menu with signature dishes such as Bulgarian baked vegetable stew with tomatoes, red peppers, Bulgarian sirene white cheese and eggs, shopska salad, stuffed pepper with cheese and truffles, duck filets with lemon risotto, and pork with lemon and thyme. The food is paired with a selection of European wines, craft beers, and high-end spirits, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
27 boulevard "Vitosha," Sofia Center, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1000, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-924-41-11-55
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© Mr. Pizza
Mr. Pizza is a casual restaurant chain in Sofia with three locations that serve a variety of Mediterranean fare, wood-fired pizzas, and traditional Bulgarian dishes in a relaxed and friendly setting. Restaurant locations can be found close to the National Palace of Culture, the Vitosha Boulevard, and the subway station, and offer a range of handmade pizzas with various toppings, fresh salads, pasta, kebabs and other meat dishes, and fresh seafood. The food is paired with a selection of European wines, craft beers, and high-end spirits, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
Three ulitsa "Verila," Old City Center, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1463, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-95-61-61-11
11.Brick Cafe Bar & Dinner
© Brick Cafe Bar & Dinner
Based right opposite the entrance to at Joliot-Curie Station, Brick Cafe Bar & Dinner is a casual eatery that Mediterranean cuisine, American burgers, and a range of healthy and exceptional dietary food. The cozy café has warm décor with wooden tables, wrought iron elements, and quirky items, and a charming patio with street views offers alfresco-style dining. The menu features an array of local and international cuisine ranging from burgers and pizza to hearty meat and seafood dishes, and beverages include a selection of craft beers, European wines, and high-end spirits. Live piano music is played every evening, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
11 ulitsa "Konstantin Shtarkelov," g.k. Iztok, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1113, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-82-95-55-51
Oborishte 35 restaurant is spacious and bright a with a lovely cool garden that offers summertime dining. The eatery serves a mixture of Bulgarian and European cuisine, along with a selection of wood-fired pizzas, barbecue meat dishes, and fresh seafood, as well as salads, sandwiches, and desserts. The food is paired with a selection of European wines, craft beers, and high-end spirits, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Oborishte 35 is located a short walk from Doctor’s Gardens and the embassies of France and Serbia.
35 ulitsa "Oborishte", Sofia, 1504, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-98-76-58-93
13.Hadjidraganovite Izbi (Hadjidraganov’s Cellars)
© Hadjidraganovite Izbi (Hadjidraganov’s Cellars)
Hadjidraganovite Izbi (Hadjidraganov’s Cellars) is one of the best places in the city to eat traditional Bulgarian cuisine with many of the dishes prepared using Old World recipes passed down from generation to generation and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Packed with both locals and tourists, the restaurant is decorated in a folkloric style with wood carvings, wine barrels, traditional Bulgarian outfits, and items from the 18th century, and has plenty of comfortable seating for lunch and dinner patrons. The food is paired with a selection of fine European wines, craft beers, and high-end spirits, and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
18 ulitsa "Hristo Belchev," Sofia Center, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1000, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-98-77-59-36
© Ale House
If you love beer, Ale House is the place to go. The casual, inviting restaurant is famous for being the only spot in the city where there is a draught beer tap at every table, allowing customers to top up ale glasses as they see fit. Taps have counters that keep tabs on the amount of beer consumed, and a menu of pub-style fare like appetizers, grilled meats, burgers, seafood, salads, and other hearty dishes to accompany beer is served. The restaurant is decorated in dark, warm hues with leather banquette seating, wooden accents, and soft lighting, creating a comfy and laid-back ambiance – perfect for enjoying a frosty ale with friends.
42 ulitsa "Hristo Belchev," Sofia Center, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1000, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-84-32-04-00
© Corso Restaurant
Corso Restaurant is a casual café located opposite the magnificent gold-domed Russian Orthodox Church in Sofia and is a special spot for a romantic dinner. Set within a three-story building, there is a café on the ground floor that offers freshly brewed coffee and tea, along with delicious pastries, cookies, and cakes. The second floor is home to a charming garden-bar that provides a fantastic spot for after-work cocktails and drinks, and the third floor has an elegant restaurant with spectacular views over the city. The restaurant serves unique interpretations of traditional Bulgarian, and European cuisine, including seasonal favorites, wood-fired pizza, and Bulgarian breakfast treats like homemade Banitza or Mekitzi.
Ten boulevard "Tsar Osvoboditel," Old City Center, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1000, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-88-10-01-13
Bankovich Restaurant is a Serbian restaurant with three branches in the city that serves authentic cuisine from the Balkan state. Open for lunch and dinner, Bankovich serves a variety of Serbian-style dishes such as grilled meats, salads, vegetable dishes like stews, and other hearty dishes. The food is paired with a selection of casual wines from around Europe, craft and draft beers and other spirits.
55 ulitsa "6-ti septemvri", Sofia Center, Sofia, Sofia City Province, 1142, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-87-10-19-92
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17.Green Deli Cafe
© Green Deli Café
The Green Deli Café serves an innovative menu of farm-to-table fare prepared using local, sustainably produced, and seasonal ingredients, ranging from freshly made salads, seasonal soups, weekly specials, and gourmet sandwiches for lunch. The café offers wireless Internet and is an excellent place to catch up on some work or surf the net. The menu features a variety of caffeine-infused drink selections like americano, Espresso, latte, cappuccino, pour-over. A mouthwatering breakfast menu has freshly baked pastries, muffins and donuts, and sweet treats.
bul. "Aleksandar Stamboliyski" 31 A, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-77-56-60-60
18.Bar de Rouge
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Bar de Rouge is a tavern-style eatery that serves a menu of classic farm-to-table fare made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including crisp salads, wood-fired pizzas, prime steaks, and other meats, fresh seafood, hearty burgers and fries, and vegetarian dishes. The bar offers a range of craft beers by the bottle and on tap, as well as casual wines, high-end spirits, and signature cocktails. Bar de Rouge has comfortable seating and a warm and welcoming atmosphere and is open for lunch and dinner.
Shipka Street 6, 1504 Sofia Center, Sofia, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-85-77-20-40
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© Cakey Bakey
Located in the heart of Sofia, Cakey Bakery is a charming bakery that serves homemade cupcakes, cakes, pastries, and cookies, and a light café menu of breakfast, brunch and lunch fare. The cozy bakery and café serve a wide variety of coffee like americano, Espresso, latte, and cappuccino, as well as tea, fruit juices, and other drinks. The café offers complimentary wireless Internet and is an excellent place to catch up on some work or enjoy coffee and cake with friends.
Shipka Street 5, 1504 Sofia Center, Sofia, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-82-29-29-79
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20.Ciccione Panini Bar
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Ciccione Panini Bar is a friendly café that has a warm and welcoming atmosphere with comfortable seating, complimentary wireless Internet and serves a small menu of light, made-from-scratch fare such as freshly baked pastries, sandwiches, salads, vegetable dishes, wood-fired pizza and more. The café also serves hearty portions of lunch fare such as gourmet sandwiches on homemade bread filled with mouthwatering fillings, and a variety of standard coffee, tea, and other drinks.
ul. "Hristo Belchev" 6, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia, Bulgaria, Phone: +35-98-82-50-30-40
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20 Best Things to Do in Sofia, Bulgaria
- Alexander Nevski Cathedral, Photo: Mazur Travel/stock.adobe.com
- Saint Sophia Basilica’s Catacombs, Photo: miladrumeva/stock.adobe.com
- Vitosha Boulevard, Photo: dinar12/stock.adobe.com
- Borisova Gradina (Borisova Garden) and Yuzhen Park (South Park), Photo: Stoyan Haytov/stock.adobe.com
- Sofia History Museum, Photo: dudlajzov/stock.adobe.com
- The National History Museum, Photo: The National History Museum
- The National Opera and Ballet, Photo: Velizar Gordeev/stock.adobe.com
- The Square of Religious Tolerance, Photo: Pavlo Khomenskyi/stock.adobe.com
- Shtastliveca, Photo: Shtastliveca
- Mr. Pizza, Photo: Mr. Pizza
- Brick Cafe Bar & Dinner, Photo: Brick Cafe Bar & Dinner
- Oborishte, Photo: weyo/stock.adobe.com
- Hadjidraganovite Izbi (Hadjidraganov’s Cellars), Photo: Hadjidraganovite Izbi (Hadjidraganov’s Cellars)
- Ale House, Photo: Ale House
- Corso Restaurant, Photo: Corso Restaurant
- Bankovich Restaurant, Photo: BillionPhotos.com/stock.adobe.com
- Green Deli Cafe, Photo: Green Deli Café
- Bar de Rouge, Photo: pavel siamionov/stock.adobe.com
- Cakey Bakey, Photo: Cakey Bakey
- Ciccione Panini Bar, Photo: Syda Productions/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: tichr/stock.adobe.com