I’ve been living in Plovdiv, Bulgaria for the past 5 months now, and have visited Sofia several times. There is plenty to do in the capital city and I highly suggest you visit Sofia, Bulgaria when you plan your trip to the Balkans. You can easily see the highlights over a weekend, or you can extend your trip to really ‘dig deep’ into this fantastic culture. If you are visiting Sofia ‘weekend warrior’ style, here are 5 fantastic things to do in the capital city.
Take the Free Sofia Tour
When you visit Sofia, be sure to check out some of the tours available. The folks over at Free Sofia Tour offer a fantastic walking tour of the city, and yes, it’s completely free. The tour runs Mon-Sun and is offered 2 or 3 times a day depending on the season. The tour lasts right around 2 hours and is chock full of great information about the country’s rich history and culture. If you’re looking for a more specialized tour, they offer a couple of paid tours as well. I could not recommend this tour more and will most likely check out their Communist Tour in the spring!
Eat Traditional Bulgarian Food
Thinking back on some of the fantastic food I’ve had throughout my travels, I have to say – Traditional Bulgarian food is definitely among the best I’ve had. I’ve only been here 5 months but have no problems finding flavorful, well-priced food no matter what traditional restaurant I step in to. From Banitsa to lutenitsa, from cured meats and fresh-made cheeses to grilled meats and vegetables – Bulgarian food is to die for. I really enjoyed dining at The Watermill – a touristy location that offers traditional food, music, and dance. This restaurant is an excellent place to have a nice dinner and learn a bit more about Bulgarian culture.
Delve into Bulgarian History
One of my favorite things about this country is the rich, complicated history. Sofia, among others, is a fantastic city to learn all about Thrace, the Ottoman occupation, the impact of communism, and the role of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in modern Bulgarian Culture. There are numerous museums, galleries, and cathedrals to peak your interest, and I really enjoyed the couple hours I spent at the Museum of Totalitarian/Socialist Art. The entrance fee was nominal, and there were several paintings and relics from the communist era.
Take a Day Trip to Rila Monastery
Any visit to Sofia is not complete without taking a trip to Rila Monastery. There are several companies that offer day trips and highly recommend including the monastery on your itinerary. The monastery dates back to the 10th century and has some absolutely stunning architecture. There is a museum on-site where you can learn all about the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stock Up on Bulgarian Souvenirs
When you visit Sofia, make sure you leave a little extra room in your luggage to stock up on Bulgarian souvenirs. If you are traveling within the EU, definitely take some cured meat and some of the local cheese home. If you are outside the EU (or aren’t into meat & cheese), head over to Vitosha Boulevard to pick up a wide variety of Bulgarian souvenirs, including rose oil products, pottery, traditional dolls, textiles, and spirits.
Need a Place to Stay?
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Sofia, Bulgaria, you’ll be spoiled for choice! I definitely recommend Trakia Bed & Breakfast if you are looking for a chill hostel or COOP if you’re in the mood for something a little fancier.