Sofia, Bulgaria

Picture by Deensel, Sofia Capital Bulgaria Cathedral Beautiful

Here is our best try to collect most of the best Sofia and Bulgaria travel tips, and also answer some of the main questions our friends and visiting customers do to us.

How is life in Sofia, Bulgaria?

Sofia is a small city (with population , and as an European capital, it is full of options for restaurants, clubs, 

The bulgarian economy is boosting, unemployment is super low, and the country is absolutely safe!

The currency in Bulgaria is called Leva (BGN). The exchange rate is fixed to euro: 1 Euro = 1.96 Leva.

The best place to exchange money in Sofia is the CROWN (you can expect a exchange rate near 1.958)they have couple of locations downtown (near NDK, near Serdika) and also in some malls (Ring mall). 


Sofia is one of the cheapest European capitals to visit, for you to have an idea, you can buy snacks for less than 1 euro (starting for even 0.30), you can buy a BIG piece of pizza for 1 euro, you can even get a proper meal in a restaurant buffet all you can eat for 2.5 euro. So it is definately a great choice for backpackers and travelers on a budget. 

Picture by Ann Wuyts, Old Church Sofia

How to get around?

For the main touristic attractions, you will just walk. Sofia is a safe and nice walkable city, the city center and most of tourist attractions are mostly 1 km away from each other.

Actually, when I walk my friends around, mostly we do a 2.2 km walk, from University Subway Station to NDK, passing through Serdika. Most of tourist attractions and sightseeings are located in this pathway.

You will be able to see in sequence:

The University, Eagle Bridge, The Communist Soviet Monunment in Borisova Gradina, it is possible to go further to the Vasil Levski Stadium, and head to a more urban, less landmark historic downtown, or head to the Tsar Osvoboditel (statue).

Then check the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria (sort of Parliament), head to Nevski Cathedral, ST Sofia Catedral (and here you will be passing by many museums entrances) Crystal Garden, Russian Orthodox Church, City Garden, National Theater, Bulgarian National Bank…

Then arriving to Serdika region you will still see the Council of Ministers, The Church of St George Rotunda, The complex of Ancient Serdika (and heading to the Mosque, Synagogue, Old Turkish Bath), and you will see the St Sofia Statue and then head for some food, resting and shopping in Vitosha Boulevard, until you can reach the NDK (National Palace of Culture).

Where to Stay?

We understand that people have different requirements when choosing place to stay, so we prepared a brief list with some links to help, and later will add more options and reviews of places we got to know.

AirBNB: The website offers many good options, the apartments are quite cheap and in general you can find spots throughout the city for about 30-50 lv (15 to 25 euro). DISCOUNT AVAILABLE! Airbnb offers with €26 off a home booking of €66 or more and €10 off an experience of €44 or more.

BOOKING.com: Booking has a listing of more than 1500+ hotels and apartments in Sofia, LIST HERE!

Things to do in Sofia – Tourist Attractions

Illustrated Guide for the Sofia Tourist! Welcome to Bulgaria!

Get ready for bits of sightseeing in the Bulgarian Capital… Bulgaria is a beautiful country, full of history, nature (there are many lakes, caves, mountains, rivers in which Bulgarians and tourists take advantage to do sports)

Besides the mainstream and obvious information. Sofia is said to be the only European capital in which you can go ski (without having to leave the city), so of course, it does not matter if it is summer or winter, you can visit and take advantage of the mountain – our mountain is called VITOSHA (and don’t be misguided, the main walking street downtown does have the same name).

Weird enough, if you ask Bulgarian, or many foreigners that live in Bulgaria (and that is a HUGE community of foreigners here), they will mostly say there is not much to do, that the city or country is uninteresting, or that you should not lose your time trying to explore around.

But Sofia is full of historic sites and museums (as it shows our HUGE list below)!

We have prepared this awesome illustrated travel guide, hope you enjoy it and you can use its information when you visit Sofia, when travelling through Bulgaria!


Vitosha Mountain – Vitosha mountain is acessible even through public transportation, you can take subway until BUSINESS PARK and take a free bus to the ring mall, the lift is just behind the mall!

Vitosha on july morning

Free tours – Sofia has an amazing free tour, as also Plovdiv does. The tour starts in the palace of justice (near the left lion who is facing the building). Tour takes places 3 times a day, monday to sunday (everyday), as per schedule on website! Tours are organized by the 365association.org

Communist tour – for the curious and willing to see further, there are a few other alternative tours, and we totally recommend the communist tour (also rated 5 stars out of 5, by 4k+ tripadvisor users): http://tours.freesofiatour.com/communist-tour

Vitosha Boulevard (Витошка, Vitoshka)– besides being our favourite mountain, Vitosha is our favourite walking street, having around 1 km and connecting Serdika and the Justice Palace to NDK (the National Palace of Culture), gathering the most bar, restaurants and shopping stores in Sofia, it is just the perfect meeting point!

Vitosha Boulevard Sofia

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Bulgaria) or Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski (in Bulgarian: Храм-паметник “Свети Александър Невски)

It is the main and more famous Orthodox Church in Bulgaria. Built in Neo-byzantine style. The cathedral is located in the city center, a few meters from the University Saint Clement of Ohrid – Metro Station (Софийски университет “Св. Климент Охридски”).

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia,Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Bulgaria) or Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski (in Bulgarian: Храм-паметник "Свети Александър Невски)
Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski in Sofia, Bulgaria
Interior, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Bulgaria) or Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski (in Bulgarian: Храм-паметник "Свети Александър Невски)
Interior of the Cathedral

Boyana Church and Boyana Church Museum (UNESCO Heritage SITE) , and Boyana Waterfall

Boyana is a neighborhood, a bit out of the city (just souther of the city ring road), and basically within the mountain. In this neighborhood you will find many natural activities, the UNESCO heritage site and also the Boyana Waterfall!

The Church of Saint Nicholas and Saint Panteleimon, also known as Boyana Church, is famous for its medieval frescoes. The church is a cultural monument under UNESCO protection, inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1979.

FREE ADMISSION: Every Monday after 15:00 o’clock

For more information on the museum, please CLICK HERE!

Boyana Church, Boyana Church and Boyana Church Museum (UNESCO Heritage SITE) , and Boyana Waterfall
Boyana Church from outside, in a beautiful sunny day.
Inside frescoes dating back to 1259, Boyana Church in Sofia, UNESCO World Heritage List landmark.
Inside frescoes dating back to 1259, Boyana Church in Sofia, UNESCO World Heritage List landmark.

National Palace of Culture (or NDK – Национален дворец на културата)

The NDK is one of the main landmarks from downtown Sofia, surrounded by beautiful and quite big parks, it was built in 1981 in Communist Style. Internally, the building exhibits a unified style, employing an octagonal motif and heavy, dark colours. Large bright murals depicting historical figures and events cover the main wall of many of the smaller halls.

The NDK is one of the main music halls in Bulgaria, you can check more information HERE!

National Palace of Culture (or NDK - Национален дворец на културата), by night, communist style

National Theater Ivan Vazov (Народен театър “Иван Вазов”)

The National Theather, another landmark located downtown, is surround by the beautiful city garden. The theatre’s Neoclassical building, designed by famous Viennese theatre architects Hermann Helmer and Ferdinand Fellner, was finished in 1906 and opened on 3 January 1907. 

To check the program and more information regarding Sofia`s Opera House, check their website HERE!

Image result for National Theater Ivan Vazov

EVENTs in Bulgaria

In order to check which events will happen where, meaning opera shows, music, arts, etc, please visit EVENTIM.BG website!

Banya Bashi Mosque (Баня баши джамия)

Its construction was completed in 1566, during the years the Ottomans had control of the city. The mosque derives its name from the phrase Banya Bashi, which means many baths.

If you are looking for natural thermal water, you can take it for free, just in front of the mosque (as per the item below).

Sofia mosque, travel, tourism, visit, Sparta Fit Bulgaria, Empty, GYM, best fitness, sofia, bulgaria
Sofia mosque, travel, tourism, visit, Sparta Fit Bulgaria

Regional History Museum (old Turkish bath house); Old: Central Mineral Baths (Централна минерална баня)

As cited above a few times, Bulgaria was overruled by Turkish for about 5 centuries. The old turkish bath is now home for one of the best museums in town, and the entrance fee is only 6 lv

For more information on the museum, click HERE!

Regional History Museum, Sofia, Bulgaria

Tours Ancient Sofia, LINK

Regional History Museum-Sofia is pleased to offer to the residents and guests of our capital city new thematic guided tour among the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Serdica. The walking tour will be held twice a month:

  • Every first Wednesday of the month – in Bulgarian
  • Every third Wednesday of the month – in English

The beginning is at 12:30 in front of the main entrance of the RHM-Sofia (former Central Mineral Bathhouse of Sofia on 1 Banski sq.). Guided tours will be held with a minimum of 3 people. The duration is 30 minutes. Price: 4 BGN per person

Church St George Rotunda (Ротонда „Свети Георги“)

The Church of St George is an Early Christian red brick rotunda that is considered the oldest building in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It is amid remains of the ancient town of Serdica (also the name of the central subway station in Sofia)

Built by the Romans in the 4th century, it is a cylindrical domed structure built on a square base. It is believed that it was built on the site of a pagan temple, though the original purpose of the building was for public use.[

The building is famous for the 12th-, 13th- and 14th-century frescoes inside the central dome. Three layers of frescoes have been discovered, the earliest dating back to the 10th century. Magnificent frescoes of 22 prophets over 2 metres tall crown the dome. Painted over during the Ottoman period, when the building was used as a mosque, these frescoes were only uncovered and restored in the 20th century.[

Image result for Church St George Rotunda

Russian Church, Sveti Nikolay Mirlik (Руска църква) – Church of St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker

Eglise Russe Sveti Nikolay

St Nedelya Cathedral Church (Катедрален храм “Св. великомъченица Неделя”)

One of the most iconic and central buildings in Sofia Center, it is located just on the exit of Serdika subway, and it marks the beginning of the walking street = Vitosha (that for sure you will spend good amounts of time walking through when around Sofia!

It is an Eastern Orthodox church in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, a cathedral of the Sofia bishopric of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. Sveta Nedelya (that means Sunday, in Bulgarian) is a medieval church that has suffered destruction through the ages and has been reconstructed many times. 

Image result for St Kyriaki Cathedral

Saint Sofia Church (църква „Света София“)

It is the second oldest church in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, dating to the 4th-6th century. In the predecessor building took place the Council of Serdica held most probably in 343 and attended by 316 bishops. In the 14th century, the church gave its name to the city, previously known as Sredets (Средец).

Image result for st sofia church

Borisova Gradina (Park), located near the University, and Eagle Bridge

One thing that you will probably notice when visiting Bulgaria is, Bulgaria is a country full of nature, and Bulgarians do very good effort in using its resources.

In summer, spring and fall, we will go to the parks, to take advantage of the good weather, have fun with friends and a few cheap drinks, and also take our dogs to socialize and play (and even in winter times, with snow)!

We have MANY parks in Sofia (one of the main largest one being South Park, not so centralised).

Sofia’s Central Market Hall (the Halli, Sentralni Hali)

Image result for tsentralni Hali

National Art Gallery (former royal palace of Sofia; in Bulgarian: Национална художествена галерия)

(Bulgarian) Natural History Museum

Being the first and the richest natural history museum on the Balkans, the National Museum of Natural History in Sofia (NMNHS) studies, preserves and disseminates information about the living and non-living nature both in Bulgaria and throughout the world…

Image result for natural history museum sofia

National Historical Museum (Национален исторически музей) (LINK)

Located in Boyana, it is Bulgaria’s largest museum. The museum was built in 1973, and it was moved in 2000 to the former primary residence of the dictator and last communist leader Todor Zhivkov, that explain the communist style, and currently contains over 650,000 objects connected to archaeology, fine arts, history and ethnography, although only 10% of them are permanently exhibited.

Free entrance – For all visitors – every last Monday of the month.

Preferential fees:

  • 17th of September – The Day of Sofia –  for all visitors 1 lv.
  • 1st of November – Day of National Leaders, entrance is free for students, to other visitors – 1.00 lv.
Sofia - National Museum of History.jpg
Related image
Photo taken from https://madamebulgaria.com/national-history-museum-sofia/

National War-History Museum (Национален военноисторически музей)

The National War-History Museum, is located in Geo Milev region (not downtown, and not so close from any other subway station)

Free admission – every last Wednesday of each month.

Socialist art Museum (Музей на социалистическото изкуство)

This is an interesting one, this museum covers the history and art from Bulgaria through the communist times with this amazing outside garden full of statues and of course, the communism star. This museum is located very near the subway station G.M. Dimitrov.

Sofia Synagogue

Sofia Synagogue 11c.jpg
Image result for sofia synagogue
Interior of Sofia Synagogue

Church of St Petka of the Saddlers or Sveta Petka ( Църква „Света Петка Самарджийска“)

Still around downtown…

Sofia

Eagle Bridge

Lavov Most (Lion’s Bridge)

The Lion’s Bridge is one of our favourite spots in the city, the Bridge has huge lion statues and all surrounds are well built in very European classic style.

The Lavov most subway station is also a must see, the station is the most beautiful metro station in the whole network.

National Treasures

Rakia (Раки́я)

Balkans favourite “sport”, a spirit made of plums (but also available in other fruits), mostly homemade, if you go to country side, don’t lose the opportunity to try the very best produces from 

Wine

Bulgaria has STRONG Tradition as wine produces, you can find very high quality products, in very good price! You can find wine produced with all different varieties of grapes, if you want to try the real bulgarian

Liutenitza

Describing liutenitza is a bit hard, the impression you have when you taste is… how come the whole world doesn’t know about it yet?

Goat Cheese and Cirene (white cheese)

Bulgaria, as a traditional European country offers whole diversity of cheeses.

All yellow cheese (in a generic way) is called Kashkaval.

All white cheese is called Cirene.

In many traditional Bulgarian restaurants and even in the main supermarkets you will find couple of options of traditional (and mostly handmade) goat cheese, so don`t miss it! More specific, there are some super delicious grilled goat chesse covered with nuts and honey! Highly recommended!

Folk Music and Traditional Dancing

We separated couple of Youtube Bulgarian Folk Music links for you to have some taste:


Basic Bulgarian Phrasebook

Yes = Da (shaking the head rather than nodding… but not always)
No = Ne (nodding the head rather than shaking… but not always)

Hello = Zdraveyte
Good morning = Dobro utro
Good afternoon = Dobar den
Good evening = Dobar vecher

How are you? = Kak si?
Thank you = Blagodarya (But we use Merci)
Excuse me… = Izvinete

Where is…? = Kade e…?
I don’t speak Bulgarian. = Ne govorya Bulgarski.
I don’t understand = Ne razbiram
Help = Pomosht

No money = Nyama pari

How much? = Kolko?
Bye = Ciao


Where can I workout downtown Sofia?

Well, our answer might be a bit biased, but we strongly recommend you coming to Sparta Fit Bulgaria, we are sure you won`t regret it.


World Unesco World Heritage Sites in Bulgaria

Here is a list of the list of world heritage in Bulgaria.

 

Around Bulgaria and worth it!

Cheap Flights to Sofia Bulgaria

Bulgaria is served by 3 of the main low-cost companies – Easy jet, Wizzair and Ryanair.

Ryanair offers connections to Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom (and in off season is even possible to find flights for even 5 euros).

Wizzair offers connections to Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta and Moldova.

Sofia is served by an International airport with 2 terminals (so check your flight information, once both terminals are physically separated) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofia_Airport

Technical Tourist Data (we will update more of this section in near future…):

Population Sofia: 1.200.000 ++

Time Zone: UTC+2 (EET)

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