Start at one of the most recognizable symbols of Sofia, the Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was built to honor those who fought and died in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, which lead to the liberation of Bulgarians from the Ottoman rule. Be sure to appreciate the façade, but explore the inside, as well, as it’s no less impressive.
St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia, Bulgaria, +359 (2) 987 56 11
Then, head to the Saint Sofia Church, which gave Sofia its name. The most amazing thing about it are the catacombs underneath the contemporary building. This underground labyrinth will take you to an early Christian necropolis with stone sarcophagi and the remains of murals.
Catacombs of St Sofia Church, 2 Paris St, 1000, Sofia, +359 2 987 09 71
About a five-minute walk from St Sofia, you’ll find the magnificent Saint Nicolas Church, locally know as the Russian Church, which is known for its beautiful architecture with Russian-style bulb domes. There is a legend that if you enter the church’s crypt and write down a wish on a piece of paper, it will come true. Why not give it a try?
St Nicholas Church, 3, Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd, 1000 Sofia, +359 2 9862715
Cross the boulevard in front of the Russian Church and arrive at a neat garden with a fountain, old men playing chess in the shade, and street musicians. This is the park in front of the Bulgarian National Theater Ivan Vazov, and it’s among the favorite green spots in Sofia for young and old. There is free WiFi here, so you can rest with an ice cream and check out Facebook.
Sofia is an ancient city, and there are certain spots where pieces of its past glamour peak through. The area locally known as the Sofia Largo is one such place where the capital’s past and present are exhibited via a glass dome. Below the covering, you can see remains of the Ancient Serdica city, and above it you’ll find one of the busiest spots in contemporary Sofia.
End your day with a long, leisurely walk in the main pedestrian zone of Sofia, Vitosha Boulevard. This street is bursting with life and was recently renovated. It is lined with shops and food venues where you can kick back at the end of the day. Many of the bars have shisha and cocktail happy hours, and it has plenty of people-watching opportunities, a favorite pastime in Bulgaria.
Start your second day strolling along Graf Ignatiev street. This pedestrian street offers a special atmosphere that is curated by the mixture of people, the bakeries and pastry shops, and the trams that pass from time to time. When you reach the cross street Tsar Shishman, turn left, and find yourself in one of the most hipster areas of Sofia with art shops, vegan food venues, quirky bookstores, and popular bars.
Follow this street to the Parliament building, where you are now just a minute from Sofia University, the oldest university in Bulgaria. The area is busy and full of young people. Take in the scene and then continue to Oborishte Street, another area with its own particular ambiance. Walk along the spacious boulevard and peek down every cross street to discover little second-hand shops, cute bakeries, Sicilian restaurants, flower shops, sock shops, art cafés, and more. This part of Sofia is a heaven for the curious traveler.
After an afternoon of discovery, it’s time for the last stop in this weekend itinerary, the Sofia History Museum. To get there, take Dondukov Boulevard. The Sofia History Museum is behind the Banya Bashi Mosque, which is part of an area that’s known locally as the Square of Religious Tolerance. The square features four places of worship for four different religions that co-exist peacefully.
The museum presents the history of Sofia in an engaging and interactive way and is worth spending an hour or two inside. It is housed in the building of the former Central Mineral Bath, which is an attraction itself.
Sofia History Museum, 1 Banski Sq, 1000 Sofia, Bulgria, +359 2 9 854 455
The Central Sofia Market Hall is just across the street and it’s a good place to find fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, and meat sold straight from the farmers, as well as some souvenirs. Try some of these unpretentious food venues for a good end to the day.