10 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Sofia | Exploring the Unique Things in Bulgaria’s Capital City

Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city, is the largest city in Bulgaria in terms of population. It is also the second oldest city in Europe, and a wonderful place to explore, relax, and enjoy delicious food and historical sites. Whether you are looking to promenade and people watch, enjoy delicious food and coffee, see historical sites and museums, or do some VERY affordable shopping (second hand too), Sofia has a little bit of everything. Don’t forget to also enjoy the historic churches and cathedrals in the city.

Things to Do in Sofia

Most people, when they arrive to Bulgaria, land in the capital city of Sofia. Sofia is the largest city in Bulgaria in terms of population, the second oldest city in Europe, and a wonderful place to explore, relax, and enjoy delicious food and historical sites. Whether you are looking to promenade, resting every now and then for a coffee, or to visit museums and learn about Bulgarian’s history, there is something for everyone.

1. Stroll Down Vitosha Boulevard

Vitosha Boulevard is the place to be in Sofia. Lined with cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, and bookshops, there is a little bit of everything. This pedestrian street certainly has its fair share of tourist traps. But you can also find many gems and fun places to people watch and enjoy delicious food. And don’t forget to take in the lovely city views of the mountains while you are strolling around.

2. Check out the Sofia History Museum

What used to be Sofia’s central bathhouse was recently turned into the Sofia History Museum. We happened upon this museum quite by accident and were attracted by the beautiful and stunning architecture. Upon a closer look, we found out that it was a history museum that cost just a few Euros for entry. You can learn about the ancient history and more modern history of Bulgaria in the wonderfully organized museum. You can also check out the Royal Palace if you are looking for more cultural places to see. It hosts the Ethnographic museum and the National Art Gallery.

3. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Just walking through the streets of Sofia, you can find beautiful and historical cathedrals like the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral which is one of the top tourist attraction in Sofia. Don’t be distracted by just this church though. The city has many other smaller churches and beautiful architecture that dates back hundreds of years.

4. Enjoy the Coffee and Food

Although we certainly were not expecting it, as Bulgaria is not particularly famous for their coffee, there were many coffee shops throughout the city serving some high quality coffee. Relax and enjoy the visually appealing cafes and coffee shops while sipping on some espresso or a cappuccino. We were also very impressed with the delicious food that the city had to offer. They have a wide variety of different cuisines and of course lots of delicious Bulgarian dishes as well.

Looking for the best places to eat in Sofia, check out: Where to Eat in Sofia | 11 Best Cafes and Restaurants

5. Go Shopping

If you are a lover of shopping, Sofia is a great place for you, especially if you love second hand! The prices are very low compared to other European cities and you can find lots of goodies. Humana is a chain that offer great deals and is something like the US version of Goodwill. Be sure to check out some of the very affordable vintage shops that the city has to offer as well!

6. Take a Day Trip to the Countryside

Whether you are looking for a short city escape or respite into nature, Sofia is luckily very close to mountains and lakes. You can visit Pancharevo Lake or Vitosha Mountain for a small hike. Or you can go even farther into the mountains and small farming villages of Bulgaria.

7. Relax at a Spa

In the suburbs of Sofia, you will find many options for thermal spas. Just about a 20-minutes drive from Sofia, we found a quaint little spa with a beautiful view of Pancharevo Lake, Infinity Spa. For just around $25 you can spend half the day at the spa, receiving drinks, access to multiple saunas, and of course the mineral-rich waters that come from the ground in the surrounding area. Smoothies and snacks are included in the price. But there are not full dishes offered, so consider eating before or after.

8. Day Trip to 7 Rila Lakes

The Seven Rila Lakes is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful things to see in Bulgaria. Located just under two hours outside of Sofia, it is easily done on a day trip from the city. Hence the name, there are seven lakes within the Rila mountain range that require a small hike to see them in all of their glory. You start the trip driving up the mountain (enjoying the incredible view in the process). Then you take a cable car to the start of the hike (or you can hike it if you have the time). And start your loop-trail to see all seven of the lakes.

9. Stroll Through the City’s Many Parks

If there’s one thing that Sofia has plenty of, it’s parks and gardens. Whether you are looking to take a nice, peaceful stroll and people watch as the locals go about their lives or just looking for something relaxing to do, you are set. Borisova Garden is one of the most beloved where you will see countless dog walkers, playgrounds, cyclists, and sports players. The City Garden is the oldest in the city and is home to The National Theater. South Park, National Palace of Culture, and The Crystal Garden are some other great ones to check out if you have some extra time on your hands.

10. Visit Boyana Church

Just a short distance from center city in Sofia, you will find the 900 year old Boyana Church. Located at the foot of the Vitosha mountains, this church from the Middle Ages is also a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site. It boasts beautiful architecture, impressive paintings, and stunning frescoes.

Where to Stay in Sofia

We stayed at a very cute Airbnb in a wonderful and very central (yet still quiet) location right near Vitosha Boulevard! We stayed there for all of the nights we spent in Sofia. Two nights in the beginning of the trip and one night at the end of the trip. It was clean and spacious, beautifully decorated, and the host was helpful and kind. It was on the 5th floor, with no elevator, so be prepared to get some extra steps in!

There are many affordably priced Airbnb’s hotels, and hostels throughout the city. It just depends on what sort of travel you are looking for!

Getting Around in Sofia

  • Transportation – Although Bulgaria has a solid public transportation system (busses, trains, etc), they can be difficult to maneuver and understand without speaking Bulgarian. Within Sofia and other major cities, they do have a very reliable metro system. However, if you are planning to travel around the country, intercity buses to small towns are less frequent and less reliable.
  • Parking – We had a rental car for the entirety of our trip, however, there were some difficulties paying for street parking in Sofia without a Bulgaria SIM card and phone number. As a result, we were stuck using only parking lots while in the city. We were also warned that if you illegally park or overpark, you don’t just get a ticket, but your car will be blocked in by the police. We asked many locals for help with buying a parking ticket from a kiosk (which is supposed to be possible, but they were unfamiliar with the process and we were never able to figure out how to do it)
  • Taxis – Although most of the best places to visit in Sofia are within walking distance, you can also take a taxi within the city. The taxis are very inexpensive to other cities and the drives are usually pretty short and traffic free. If you do want to take a taxi, be aware. There are plenty of scammers out there (as in any country). Two reputable taxi companies include Yellow! taxi or O.K. taxi. If you want to use an app to order a taxi (like Uber), Yellow is the one for you.

Tips for Visiting Sofia

  • Language – Bulgarian is the official language of Bulgaria and is what is spoken by the majority of the country’s 6.8 million citizens. While in Sofia, you will notice that most people speak basic English due to the presence of tourists, but downloading Google Translate will still be very helpful.
  • Time to Visit – Bulgaria, like many other Balkan countries can get quite cold in the winter. If you’re looking for the best time to visit, it would probably be from May to October, unless you want extreme cold!
  • Safety – In general, Sofia is a pretty safe city, especially in the central, touristic areas. As there is not much to do or visit in the less-safe parts of town, you would likely not venture there accidentally.

Looking for more fun things to do in Bulgaria? Check out our list here: Top 10 Incredible and Unique Things to Do in Bulgaria | Sights & Attractions

And for a full itinerary check out: 5 Days in Bulgaria – Ultimate Itinerary for an Unforgettable Trip

Lots of Love and Safe Travels,

Danielle and Brooke, Colorful Sisters


  1. […] out this post for a complete list of things to do in Sofia: 10 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Sofia | Exploring the Unique Things in Bulgaria’s Capital […]

  2. […] Check out the full list of things to do in Sofia here: 10 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in Sofia | Exploring the Unique Things in Bulgaria’s Capital City […]

  3. Very nice travelogue. Your insights are invaluable to anyone traveling to Sofia.

    1. Thanks so much! I hope people find them helpful 🙂

  4. You should modify your information to include the Moveit app for public transportation, it’s comprehensive and useful…
    And taxi me is the app to use OK Taxis unfortunately have many fakes using their livery of just slightly different design..
    Parking tickets are available at ticket counters used for busses.. if you need a central one to find the one at the base of Pliska hotel is easy to find…

    1. Moovit and Ok Taxi are great additions, thanks for your input! Unfortunately, as we mentioned in the article, we spend a very significant amount of time looking for the parking tickets during our visit and asked dozens of locals for help and no one was able to locate where to buy the tickets. We did try the ticket counters for the busses as well and they were not helpful in this situation! So I can’t recommend street parking for that reason, based on our experience. I’m sure it is possible to find it, but think people should be aware that it is not an easy task 🙂

  5. I heard there are great casino halls over there

    1. We’ve also heard that, as is the case in many Eastern European countries, but we didn’t check anything of the sort out on our visit.

  6. Interesting destination.

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