Given you have a couple of days in Sofia, spare a few hours to explore the rich past of the country in the halls of the biggest history museum in Bulgaria – the National History Museum. Tens of thousands of exhibits tell incredible stories about khans, tsars, ancient tribes, and impressive gold treasures. The museum is on the outskirts of the city, in Boyana district, housed in a former government residence.
Continue exploring Sofia by going to NDK (the National Place of Culture) in the city center, a main cultural venue where all kinds of events take place all year round (movie festivals, book fairs, concerts, building expos, etc.). Take the main pedestrian street – Vitosha Boulevard – for some (window-)shopping or a cone of artisan ice cream (at Afreddo you will always find seasonal varieties and creative combinations of tastes).
If you are already hungry, there are several places to try Bulgarian cuisine in a cozy atmosphere in the center. Moma is specialized in local delicacies and offers fine wines, Before&After has a tasty and affordable lunch menu every day, while Sun&Moon is a perfect choice for healthy or vegan cuisine and traditionally baked bread.
Then, walk along the Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard with its emblematic yellow paving blocks, pass by the Archaeological Museum, the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery, the Russian Church to reach Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the symbols of Sofia with shiny, gold-covered domes.
A stone’s throw away is another important site, the Saint Sophia Basilica with its amazing catacombs hiding an ancient necropolis under the church’s floor.
If you feel like partying in the evening, you are spoiled for choices. Bar Dak is in the center, with a casual atmosphere and a kaleidoscope of events almost every night. A short walk away is Chicago Piano Bar, for a more elegant atmosphere and live performances.
Start the day with a freshly brewed coffee and a baked sweet at Factory Rainbow (Fabrika Daga), then head to the Sofia History Museum where you can get a glimpse at the past of the capital and sit on a retro tram (actually, half of it, restored to recreate the historical atmosphere). You will understand why the Roman emperor Constantine the Great called Sofia (then Serdica) “my Rome” and will be able to immerse into the royal life of the former Bulgarian kings (tsars).
You will find a lot of souvenirs and fresh fruit in the Central Market Hall, just across the street from the museum. You can spend the afternoon shopping in the streets crossing Vitosha Boulevard, famous for their small fashion boutiques, second-hand stores, and cafés.
On hot summer days, Sofia dwellers seek a cool refuge in the shadows of the city parks. Sit on a bench in the park in front of the National Theater (the City Garden), and you will most probably enjoy the sound of local street musicians. Constant visitors to this park are elderly men who sit by their chess boards waiting for their playing friends.
After dark, the young people of Sofia gather here for a beer, sitting in the grass, chatting or playing music in a casual, friendly atmosphere.