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Sofia is a big city with a lot to explore if you have months here. But if you are planning just a short weekend getaway, you will have to squeeze the best of the best into your schedule. Here is our guide to how to make the most of a weekend in Sofia.
Most of the museums are open over the weekend – the Sofia History Museum is open 10 am – 6 pm, the National History Museum is open 9:30 am – 6 pm, and the National Art Gallery and the Museum of Socialist Art are open 10 am – 6 pm.
Don’t miss the catacombs of Saint Sophia Basilica situated under the church that gave its name to the capital of Bulgaria. A labyrinth will take you back in time around the necropolis archaeologists found here.
Insider tip: If you are interested in Orthodox Christianity, you can visit a church on Sunday morning – this is the time when most churches have their Sunday mass. In most of the centrally located churches, you will hear the beautiful singing of the church choirs.
If you are in Sofia on a weekend, it might be a bit tricky to navigate around by public transportation other than the subway, because there are fewer buses and trams that pass less frequently. If you plan to use the public transportation system more than two times a day, buy a one-day ticket for BGN4 (USD$2).
Taxis are not so expensive – expect to pay between USD$4 and USD$10 for a ride from the center to more remote districts (more at night); you can’t use Uber in Bulgaria. The main attractions, however, are packed in the city center within walking distance, the only exceptions being the Museum of Socialist Art and the National History Museum.
If you have just two days to try Bulgarian cuisine, skip your hotel breakfast on Saturday and head to the nearest banicharnitsa (in Cyrillic script it is written as Баничарница) – a place where they bake and sell banitsa. This is Bulgaria’s favorite breakfast pastry, filled with Bulgarian white cheese and eggs, although the fillings may vary and can include pumpkin, apples, and spinach. On Sunday, most of these pastry shops are closed, so don’t miss your chance.
Other Bulgarian dishes you have to try are kyufte and kebapche (grilled meatballs), Shopska salad (fresh cucumber and tomato salad with white cheese), tarator (cold summer soup made of cucumbers, yogurt, dill, and garlic), and moussaka (a baked potatoes and minced meat dish).
The best places to be in Sofia on the weekend are the parks (or, if you ask the inhabitants of Sofia, the best place to be is out of Sofia, as many people go hiking). Borisova Garden and South Park (Yuzhen Park) are the best options – they are spacious, full of happy people, and always bursting with events, especially during the summer. You can come across a live music or theater performance, a movie screening (at night), or a festival. Just ask at your hotel what’s happening the weekend you are in town, and enjoy the free entertainment.
If you want to really feel like a Sofia dweller, you can go hiking – Vitosha mountain is so close to the city that it can be reached by public transportation. Many trails are marked, but it is still a good idea to get a map from the Tourist Information Center or book a guide to make sure you will enjoy your time. Vitosha is a protected natural park, and it’s quite wild in some areas so don’t underestimate the risk. It’s feasible to climb its highest peak, Cherni Vrah (7513 ft./2290 m.), in a day because there’s a chairlift that takes you more than half of the way up.