Bulgaria is one of the remaining European countries that is still shrouded in a proper aura of mystery. Steeped in history and dotted with incredible historical sites, this alluring destination boasts cultural influences from the Greek, Ottoman, Persian and Slavic empires.
As you can imagine, this heritage has left a fascinating culture in its wake, and its nowhere more evident than it Bulgaria’s beautiful capital of Sofia. Nestled among the foothills of the Vitosha mountain in Western Bulgaria, this elegant city is one of the oldest European cities (it dates back to the 5th century BC!) and has a wonderful array of historical attractions to prove it.
Sofia is one of Europe’s most quirky locations and boasts with over 47 churches, world class architecture and even a zoo. If you don’t have a lot of time in the beautiful city of Sofia, we recommend that you try and fit in the following stops to catch a glimpse of her true nature…
If you are so inclined, Sofia is one of those cities where you can simply amble about and drink in the sights without too much of a plan. We recommend that you start from Vitoshka Boulevard and head towards Pirotska Street. Alternatively, you could try Rakovski Boulevard or Tsar Shishman Street.
Travel tip: You can go on a guided walking tour of Sofia absolutely free of charge. A non-profit organisation offers free English-language sightseeing walking tours through the historical city centre of Sofia twice a day. These tours are the perfect introduction to the city and its history at the hands of knowledgeable guides and take around two hours to complete. As you walk, keep an eye out for the amazing street art! Find out more here.
Find a traditional Bulgarian tavern and order a few local dishes to share and with your fellow travellers. We highly recommend Shopska Salata (a fresh vegetable salad with local white cheese), Tatator (cold yoghurt soup), Banichka (pastries filled with egg, cheese and yoghurt), and Sarmi (cabbage or vine leaves stuffed with spiced mince and rice).
Sofia is replete with incredibly beautiful historical sites that could captivate even the most jaded traveller for days, but if you have very little time we recommend that you try to see the Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral (the biggest church in Bulgaria), the Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph or Boyana Church (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
Museum-lovers are also spoiled for choice – choose from the National Museum of Natural History, National Art Gallery, National Gallery for Foreign Art, the National Archaeological Museum, Earth & Man National Museum and more.
Culture vulture? The Ivan Vazov National Theatre is Bulgaria’s national theatre and was named after the famous Bulgarian poet, Ivan Minchov Vazov. It’s one of the important landmarks of Sofia and even though most shows are in Bulgarian, you should still make time to stop here and take in the majestic atmosphere of this elegant theatre built in 1907.
Are you about ready to pack your bags and head to this little piece of travel heaven? For a fun, vibrant adventure along the famous Balkan Peninsula, see our Balkan tour that also visits Greece, Croatia and the Plitvice Lakes.
Also watch this video to see more of the Bulgarian culture, landscapes and way of life in Sofia: