Unlike many European capitals, Sofia doesn’t have a historical center with old buildings and curvy cobblestone streets. The capital of Bulgaria is still dominated by the grayish and bland Communist-era architecture with a few colorful and modern buildings here and there. Sofia is a beautiful city, but its scenic spots are scattered about and not so obvious. Follow Culture Trips’s guide to discover the beautiful places of the Bulgarian capital.
The old Mineral Bath (now Sofia History Museum)
One of the most beautiful buildings in Sofia used to be the Central Mineral Bath, while today it houses the Sofia History Museum. Enjoy the shady benches around the fountain in front of the bright yellow building, and don’t skip the visit inside. You’ll get to know Sofia much better after seeing part of its past (including a king’s carriage, last-century photos, centuries-old relics, and a retro tram you can actually sit in).
The so-called Sofia Largo is the large Independence Square between the President’s Office, the Ministry Council, and many other government buildings. It’s been recently renovated, and since the center of the ancient Roman city of Serdica was located nearby, you can nowadays walk underground and see the archaeological findings, most of them in situ. One of the best places to look at the Largo is from the archaeological underground level, where a special transparent ceiling shows the street above.
Sofia is very green, with huge parks in all parts of the city. The greenery, fountains, and happy people relaxing are a refreshing view whether you need a nice backdrop for your Instagram photos or just some time for contemplation. The best parks to visit are Borisova Gradina Park, South Park (Yuzhen Park), North Park (Severen Park), and Zaimov Park.
In the summer, young people almost live in the neat garden in front of the National Theater Ivan Vazov, the time after sunset being the busiest for chatting, laughs, and beers. There are two types of people you can find here at almost all times – street musicians and elderly men playing chess. In winter, it’s here where the main Christmas market takes place. The artistic lighting and fountains in front of the theater add to the cozy atmosphere.
Sofia is blessed to have a tall mountain just a 30-minute drive from the city center, and when the weekend comes, many Sofia dwellers head up Vitosha Mountain for some fresh, clean air. Vitosha is a natural park crossed by many marked trails; all you need is a pair of hiking shoes and a map (you can take one from the Tourist information centers in Sofia, or buy one at any bookstore).
Sofia from Vitosha Mountain
One of the best places to enjoy a view over Sofia is from the slopes of the mountain. You can drive up to Aleko Hut or Kopitoto (around 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic and the time of the day) to capture magnificent views of the whole Sofia Valley.