You have a short stopover in Sofia and are wondering how to make the most of it? Follow Culture Trip’s route and discover the highlights of the Bulgarian capital.
It’s going to be an intense day full of activities, so start it off with a hearty traditional breakfast like mekitsa or banitsa. Go to Mekitsa&Coffee for a steaming mekitsa (a deep fried pastry similar to the doughnut) with a wide variety of fillings (classic honey and Bulgarian feta cheese, or more extravagant like peanut butter or even ice cream). If you opt for banitsa (baked cheese and egg pastry), you can find one at any bakery around you.
Now you are ready to get started. You can join a Free Sofia Tour (starting at 10am, 11am and 6pm, November-April only at 10am and 6pm) to get a two-hour overview of the main attractions in the center of Sofia, or you can explore the city on your own.
Start from the National Palace of Culture with a stroll along the pedestrian Vitosha Boulevard, dotted with outdoor cafés, high-end shops, and ice cream parlors along the way. When you reach the Saint Nedelya Church, you are at the one corner of the Square of Religious Tolerance – a relatively small area in the center of Sofia where you will find places of worship of four different religions: a synagogue, an Orthodox church, a Catholic cathedral, and a mosque.
When you see the signs for the subway, head down underneath street level to discover remains of the ancient Roman city that used to be here – Serdica. Take a photo through the transparent ceiling of the Ancient Serdica Complex to capture Independence Square above you, also known as the Sofia Largo.
Go back up onto street level for some souvenir and food shopping at the Central Sofia Market Hall – a renovated 1911 building with fresh fruit and vegetables, jewelry stores, and sweet shops. There is a hairdresser’s, a second-hand clothes shop, and a bank office inside, too.
To add some culture to your trip, choose a museum or two. We recommend the Sofia History Museum (featuring a retro tram you can actually sit in and a king’s golden carriage) or the catacombs of the Saint Sophia Basilica (the church after which Sofia was named with a maze of ancient tombs underneath it).
Continue a little bit more to visit one of the symbols of Sofia – the St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral with its imposing gold-covered domes.
On hot summer days, Sofia residents usually end up in the city parks or in the open-air bars. One of the locals’ favorites is Maymunarnika, in the heart of the Borisova Gradina Park, a bar set among trees that hosts live concerts several nights a week, some of them with free entry. Other options are the numerous bars with gardens on Tsar Shishman Street or the City Garden (the small park with a fountain in front of the National Theater Ivan Vazov).