The greatest history enthusiasts will have to get a bit far from the city center to see the biggest treasures of Bulgaria, which are to be found at the National History Museum. The History Museum will take you through the ups and downs of Bulgaria for the last several thousand years – its collections are exhibited on three floors, and a history buff could easily spend half a day inside.
Back in the city center, enter the bright yellow and red building of the former public baths, today the Sofia History Museum. Sofia’s past is presented in a more engrossing way than most museums in Bulgaria – a retro tram, the golden chariot of the Bulgarian king, a neolithic house, and much more will transfer you back in time.
For some, there is no better pleasure than spending hours strolling through the halls of art galleries and enjoying the time spent encountering works of art. Is that you? Then start with the National Art Gallery, where more than 30,000 of the best Bulgarian works of art are kept. The building housing the gallery used to be the King’s palace, so it’s like a visit to a museum and a palace at the same time.
Part of Bulgarian art history has also been preserved in its churches. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to see icons and murals on the walls of Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (in the city center) and the amazing frescoes from the 12th century in the UNESCO-listed Boyana Church (in Boyana district, a bit out of the center).
There’s nothing better for the soul of an introvert than some quality time alone with a good book in one hand and a cup of hot chocolate in the other. Sofia has a few perfect reading spots where everyone is engrossed in their own thing and remains anonymous. Peroto Literature Club is probably the best – it’s a book café open 24/7 with hundreds of books to read and buy (in Bulgarian only, unfortunately) and a choice of coffee drinks and local wines. Many Sofia dwellers come here to work on their laptops or read their own books.
If you want to read Bulgarian literature, head to another destination: Chitalnyata (translated as “The Reading Room”), a cozy glass pavilion in the small park in front of the National Theater where you can read books by Bulgarian authors in English for free or just flip through beautiful albums with photos of Bulgaria. The place also acts as a tourist information center, so they can help you plan the next steps of your route in Sofia.
Eating alone is mostly frowned upon in Bulgaria, but Sofia is probably the only city where this attitude has started to change. In the capital, what the locals eat and traditional Bulgarian food are two different things – Italian and Japanese cuisine are very popular, as are Turkish and Middle Eastern kebabs. From the national cuisine, try the tomato and spices spread called lyutenitsa, all varieties of grilled meat (kebapche, kyufte, karnache), the potato and minced meat baked dish moussaka, and the salty pastry breakfast banitsa containing Bulgarian feta cheese, eggs, and butter.
A reliable technique for choosing the best places to eat is to see where the locals dine – the food venues packed with people are crowded for a reason. If you are still not sure, you can follow our insider’s self-guided food walking tour of Sofia.