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The 12 Best Things To Do In Sofia, Bulgaria


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Alisa Martens



Welcome to Sofia, the charming capital city of Bulgaria. Situated at the foothills of the Vitosha Mountain, Sofia is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty. With its rich heritage, architectural wonders, vibrant markets, and lush parks, there are plenty of things to do and see in Sofia. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or food enthusiast, this city has something to offer for everyone.


As you explore the city, you’ll be captivated by Sofia’s intriguing mix of ancient Roman ruins, Ottoman mosques, and Soviet-era monuments, all coexisting harmoniously with modern touches. The city’s fascinating history is evident in its diverse architectural styles, from the iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to the medieval Boyana Church.


Aside from its historical landmarks, Sofia is also known for its breathtaking natural beauty. The nearby Vitosha Mountain offers panoramic views of the city and is an excellent spot for hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. The Borisova Gradina Park, located in the heart of Sofia, is a tranquil oasis where you can relax and escape the bustling city life for a while.


No visit to Sofia would be complete without experiencing the local culture and traditions. The city is home to vibrant markets like Zhenski Pazar, where you can indulge in fresh produce, traditional crafts, and authentic Bulgarian cuisine. The National Art Gallery showcases the country’s rich artistic heritage, while the Bulgarian National Theatre and Ivan Vazov National Theatre offer captivating performances that will leave you enthralled.


Whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning to Sofia, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the best things to do and see in the city. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, we’ll help you make the most of your time in Sofia and create unforgettable memories.


Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

One of the most iconic landmarks in Sofia, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral stands as a symbol of the city’s rich history and spiritual significance. This magnificent Orthodox cathedral is the largest in Bulgaria and one of the largest in the world. Its stunning golden domes and intricate architectural details attract visitors from far and wide.


Constructed in the early 20th century, the cathedral was built to honor the Russian soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, which ultimately led to Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule. The cathedral’s exterior is adorned with beautiful ornamental elements, showcasing a harmonious blend of Russian, Byzantine, and Bulgarian architectural styles.


Stepping inside the cathedral, visitors are greeted by a grand interior adorned with marble, mosaics, and stunning religious artwork. The main altar houses priceless icons, and the acoustics of the cathedral make it a popular venue for classical music concerts and choral performances.


Adjacent to the cathedral is the Alexander Nevsky Crypt, which houses a collection of precious religious artifacts and offers a glimpse into the history and spiritual significance of the Orthodox faith in Bulgaria. Visitors can also climb to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower for panoramic views of Sofia’s skyline and beyond.


Whether you are a history enthusiast, a religious pilgrim, or simply appreciate breathtaking architecture, a visit to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a must when in Sofia. The sheer grandeur of the structure and its spiritual ambiance create a truly awe-inspiring experience.


Vitosha Mountain

Rising majestically on the outskirts of Sofia, Vitosha Mountain is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. It offers a refreshing escape from the bustling city and provides a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy.


At over 2,200 meters, Vitosha Mountain is the fourth-highest mountain in Bulgaria and is easily accessible from Sofia. The mountain boasts an extensive network of hiking trails, making it a popular destination for both casual walkers and experienced hikers. There are trails suitable for every skill level, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, lush forests, and crystal-clear streams.


If you visit during the winter months, Vitosha Mountain transforms into a winter wonderland, offering superb skiing and snowboarding opportunities. The Aleko Ski Center, located at the top of the mountain, has a range of slopes catering to all levels of experience. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you can enjoy the thrill of gliding down the snowy slopes.


In addition to hiking and skiing, Vitosha Mountain is also home to diverse flora and fauna, including rare plant species and wildlife like deer, wild boars, and various bird species. The mountain is a protected nature park, ensuring the preservation of its natural beauty.


One of the highlights of a visit to Vitosha Mountain is the stunning panoramic view it offers of Sofia and the surrounding areas. The mountain provides a unique vantage point, allowing you to appreciate the city’s architectural landmarks, including the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the National Palace of Culture, against the backdrop of the vast mountains and forests.


Whether you choose to hike, ski, or simply take in the breathtaking scenery, a trip to Vitosha Mountain is a must when in Sofia. It’s a perfect retreat for anyone seeking a combination of adventure, tranquility, and natural beauty just a short distance from the city.


Boyana Church

Nestled in the outskirts of Sofia, the Boyana Church is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its stunning frescoes and historical significance. Dating back to the 10th century, this small church is a true gem of medieval Bulgarian art and architecture.


The Boyana Church is divided into three parts, each representing a different period of its construction and artistic development. The oldest part, known as the Eastern Church, dates back to the late 10th century and features beautifully preserved frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas.


The second part, known as the Transitional Church, was added in the 13th century and showcases a unique blend of Byzantine and Bulgarian artistic styles. Here, you can admire the intricate frescoes illustrating biblical stories and the lives of various saints.


The third part, known as the Western Church, was constructed in the 19th century and serves as a burial chapel for a Bulgarian noble family. Though this section is more modern, its interior still boasts impressive frescoes that pay homage to the artistic traditions of the previous centuries.


What sets the Boyana Church apart is the exceptional quality and state of preservation of its frescoes. Painted with remarkable detail, vibrant colors, and depth, the frescoes offer a rare glimpse into the artistic mastery of the era.


Due to the delicate nature of the frescoes, access to the interior of the church is restricted to small groups for limited time intervals. This ensures the conservation of these precious artworks for generations to come.


Visiting the Boyana Church is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the rich history and artistic heritage of Bulgaria. It’s a destination that will captivate art enthusiasts, history lovers, and those seeking a deeper understanding of the country’s cultural legacy.


National Palace of Culture

The National Palace of Culture, also known as NDK, is not only one of the most iconic landmarks in Sofia but also the largest multifunctional congress and exhibition center in Southeastern Europe. This architectural masterpiece is a hub of cultural, artistic, and social activities, making it a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike.


The impressive building was constructed in the 1980s to commemorate Bulgaria’s 1,300th anniversary. Designed by a team of Bulgarian architects, the National Palace of Culture stands out with its imposing structure, blending modernist and brutalist architectural styles. Its extensive grounds cover an area of over 123,000 square meters and include concert halls, art galleries, conference rooms, and a spacious park.


Inside the NDK, you’ll find a plethora of facilities dedicated to promoting the arts and culture of Bulgaria. The halls host a wide range of events, including concerts, theater performances, exhibitions, and conferences. From world-renowned musicians and orchestras to local artists, there is always something happening to cater to various interests.


Art lovers will appreciate the National Art Gallery located within the National Palace of Culture. The gallery houses a vast collection of Bulgarian art spanning different periods and styles, showcasing the country’s rich cultural heritage. With its diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, the National Art Gallery provides a comprehensive overview of Bulgarian artistic achievements.


In addition to the cultural experiences, the National Palace of Culture offers various shopping and dining options. The building features a shopping mall where visitors can explore a range of shops, boutiques, and eateries, offering everything from fashion and accessories to traditional Bulgarian cuisine.


The surrounding park area of the NDK is a popular spot for outdoor activities and relaxation. With beautifully landscaped gardens, exhibitions, and open-air performances, the park is a vibrant space where locals and visitors can unwind and enjoy the city’s atmosphere.


Whether you’re attending an event, exploring art galleries, or simply strolling through the park, a visit to the National Palace of Culture is a memorable experience that captures the essence of Sofia’s cultural scene and architectural prowess.


Saint Sofia Church

Deeply rooted in Sofia’s history, the Saint Sofia Church stands as a significant symbol of the city’s religious and cultural heritage. Built during the 6th century, this ancient church is one of the oldest Christian structures in Bulgaria and an architectural masterpiece that reflects the Byzantine influence in the region.


The church is named after the ancient Greek name of the city, Serdica, and is dedicated to Saint Sofia, which means wisdom in Greek. It has served as a place of worship for centuries and has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, making it a testament to the rich and diverse history of the region.


The exterior of the Saint Sofia Church displays a blend of architectural styles, including Byzantine, Roman, and Medieval Bulgarian influences. Its red-brick facade, ornate decorations, and intricate carvings offer a captivating sight for visitors. The church’s imposing domes and bell tower further enhance its visual appeal.


Step inside the church, and you’ll be greeted by a serene and spiritual ambiance. The interior is adorned with beautiful frescoes and intricate mosaics depicting biblical scenes, saints, and angels. These intricate artworks reflect the mastery of Byzantine artistry and provide insight into the religious beliefs and practices of the time.


Adjacent to the church, there is a small museum where visitors can explore a collection of religious artifacts, icons, and archaeological finds. The museum offers a glimpse into the history and significance of the Saint Sofia Church and its role in shaping Sofia’s cultural landscape.


Visiting the Saint Sofia Church is not only an opportunity to admire its architectural splendor but also a chance to delve into the spiritual and cultural heritage of Bulgaria. The church’s historical importance and its connection to the founding of the city make it a must-visit for history buffs, art enthusiasts, and anyone interested in exploring the roots of Sofia’s identity.


Zhenski Pazar (Women’s Market)

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Sofia and experience the local culture, Zhenski Pazar, also known as the Women’s Market, is the perfect place to visit. Located in the heart of the city, this bustling open-air market has been a hub of activity for over a century.


Stepping into Zhenski Pazar, you’ll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors, aromas, and sounds. The market is a feast for the senses, offering a wide variety of fresh produce, traditional Bulgarian products, and an array of authentic street food.


The Women’s Market earned its name from the days when it was predominantly managed and operated by women. Today, it continues to be a place where local farmers, vendors, and craftsmen come together to showcase their goods. From fruits and vegetables to herbs, spices, and homemade dairy products, the market offers an abundance of locally sourced and organic options.


Exploring the market is not only an opportunity to purchase fresh and affordable produce but also a chance to engage with locals and experience the warm hospitality of the Bulgarian people. Many vendors are more than happy to share their knowledge, recommend recipes, and even offer samples of their products.


One of the highlights of Zhenski Pazar is the diverse selection of traditional Bulgarian food stalls. Here, you can savor delicious dishes such as banitsa (a savory pastry filled with cheese), kavarma (a slow-cooked meat and vegetable dish), and kyopoolu (a roasted eggplant and pepper spread). Indulging in these local delicacies allows you to truly immerse yourself in the flavors and culinary traditions of Bulgaria.


In addition to food, the Women’s Market is also known for its wide range of traditional crafts and souvenirs. From handwoven textiles and pottery to intricately crafted woodwork and Bulgarian folk costumes, you’ll find an array of unique and authentic items to take home as mementos of your visit.


Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a fan of local crafts, or simply seeking an authentic Sofia experience, Zhenski Pazar is a must-visit. It’s a vibrant and lively destination that showcases the rich traditions, flavors, and welcoming spirit of the Bulgarian people.


National Museum of History

For a deep dive into Bulgaria’s fascinating past, the National Museum of History in Sofia offers a comprehensive and enlightening experience. Located in Boyana, just a short distance from the city center, this museum is a treasure trove of artifacts and exhibits that span several millennia.


The National Museum of History takes visitors on a journey through Bulgaria’s rich historical timeline, starting from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum houses a vast collection of archaeological discoveries, ancient artifacts, intricate artwork, and historical documents, allowing visitors to explore the country’s cultural heritage in detail.


One of the main highlights of the museum is the Thracian collection, which showcases the rich culture and civilization of the ancient Thracians. This collection includes stunning gold and silver artifacts, intricately carved sculptures, and superbly preserved tombs from Thracian burial mounds.


The museum also features exhibits on the Roman period in Bulgaria, displaying artifacts that provide insights into the daily life, architecture, and art of the time. From beautifully crafted statues and mosaics to detailed reconstructions of ancient Roman buildings, visitors can step back in time and envision the grandeur of the Roman Empire.


As you continue exploring, you’ll encounter exhibits on the medieval Bulgarian kingdoms, Ottoman rule, and the Bulgarian National Revival period. These exhibits shed light on the country’s struggles, triumphs, and cultural reawakening throughout its complex history.


In addition to permanent exhibits, the National Museum of History regularly hosts temporary exhibitions that focus on specific themes or historical periods. These exhibitions offer a deeper understanding of different aspects of Bulgaria’s history and provide fresh perspectives on the country’s rich and diverse heritage.


Visiting the National Museum of History is not only educational but also an immersive experience. As you wander through the halls and admire the precious artifacts, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate tapestry of Bulgaria’s history and the contributions it has made to global civilization.


Bulgarian National Theatre

At the heart of Sofia’s vibrant cultural scene stands the Bulgarian National Theatre, a revered institution that showcases the country’s rich theatrical heritage. Established in 1904, this historic theater has played a significant role in shaping the performing arts landscape of Bulgaria.


The Bulgarian National Theatre is renowned for its dedication to promoting the national spirit, portraying the country’s history and cultural identity through its performances. The theater offers a diverse repertoire that includes classic Bulgarian plays, as well as productions of renowned international works.


The main stage of the theater, known as the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, is named after the esteemed Bulgarian poet and playwright Ivan Vazov. With its grandiose facade and elegant interior, the theater exudes a sense of grandeur and sophistication.


Attending a performance at the Bulgarian National Theatre is a captivating experience that allows you to witness the mastery of talented actors, directors, and production teams. From captivating dramas to light-hearted comedies and thought-provoking contemporary works, the theater offers a wide range of performances to suit different tastes.


Aside from the main stage, the theater also has smaller stages and venues where experimental and avant-garde productions thrive. These spaces provide a platform for emerging talents and innovative artistic expressions, ensuring a dynamic and diverse theater scene in Sofia.


During the summer months, the courtyard of the Bulgarian National Theatre transforms into an open-air theater, hosting performances under the starry sky. This unique setting adds a touch of magic and romance to the theatrical experience, creating unforgettable memories for both locals and visitors.


Whether you’re a theater enthusiast or simply looking to immerse yourself in Sofia’s cultural ambiance, a visit to the Bulgarian National Theatre is a must. It’s an opportunity to witness the power of live performances, connect with the artistic heritage of Bulgaria, and appreciate the creativity and talent of the country’s theater community.


Sofia Central Market Hall

Located in the heart of the city, Sofia Central Market Hall is a bustling hub of activity where locals and visitors come together to experience the vibrant culinary scene and immerse themselves in the atmosphere of a traditional European market.


Dating back to the early 20th century, the Market Hall is a striking architectural gem, known for its beautiful facade and remarkable interior design. The building combines elements of Neo-Renaissance and Baroque styles, with its grand entrance, intricate ironwork, and stained glass windows creating a captivating ambiance.


Inside the Market Hall, you’ll find a diverse array of vendors offering a wide range of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and specialty products. The stalls are brimming with colorful fruits and vegetables, enticing aromas, and a wide variety of local and international ingredients.


One of the highlights of the Market Hall is the delicatessen section, where you can find an impressive selection of cured meats, cheeses, olives, and other gourmet products. It’s the perfect place to sample and purchase high-quality ingredients for gourmet cooking or to create a picnic spread to enjoy in one of Sofia’s parks.


As you explore the market, you’ll also come across vendors selling delicious street food and snacks. From traditional Bulgarian pastries like banitsa and kozunak to savory delights like kebabs and grilled sausages, there is a wide variety of mouthwatering options to satisfy your cravings.


Aside from food, the Market Hall also houses specialty shops offering a range of products, including spices, herbs, honey, teas, and traditional Bulgarian crafts. These shops are the perfect place to find unique souvenirs or gifts for friends and family back home.


Visiting the Sofia Central Market Hall is not just about buying groceries or sampling local delights; it’s an immersive sensory experience that allows you to connect with the rich culinary traditions and local culture of Sofia. Whether you’re a food lover, a curious traveler, or a lover of history and architecture, a visit to the Market Hall is a must-do in Sofia.


Ivan Vazov National Theatre

Situated in the heart of Sofia, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre stands as a proud symbol of Bulgarian culture and the pinnacle of theatrical excellence in the country. Named after the esteemed Bulgarian poet and playwright, Ivan Vazov, this magnificent theater is a focal point for the performing arts scene and a beloved institution among locals and visitors alike.


The Ivan Vazov National Theatre is housed in a grand building that exudes elegance and grandeur. Its facade showcases a neoclassical design with ornate details and statues, while the interior boasts beautiful frescoes, intricate moldings, and a lavish auditorium that can accommodate up to 800 spectators.


The theater’s repertoire covers a wide range of genres, including classic Bulgarian plays, adaptations of literary works, contemporary dramas, and international productions. The performances are brought to life by a talented ensemble of actors and directors who captivate audiences with their exceptional skill and passion for the craft.


Attending a play at the Ivan Vazov National Theatre is an experience that immerses you in the world of Bulgarian theater. The elaborate stage sets, stunning costumes, and powerful performances transport you to different times and places, evoking a range of emotions and leaving a lasting impact.


In addition to its main stage productions, the theater also hosts various cultural events, including concerts, ballet performances, and opera recitals. These diverse artistic offerings showcase the versatility and talent of the Bulgarian performing arts community.


Steeped in history and tradition, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre has become a cultural landmark not only for Sofia but for the entire country. It has played a significant role in preserving and promoting Bulgarian theatrical heritage, fostering creativity, and nurturing emerging talent.


Located in close proximity to other iconic landmarks like the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the National Art Gallery, the theater is surrounded by a vibrant atmosphere that adds to the overall experience. Whether you’re a theater enthusiast, a lover of the arts, or simply looking to immerse yourself in Bulgarian culture, be sure to catch a performance at the Ivan Vazov National Theatre during your visit to Sofia.


National Art Gallery

Housing a vast and diverse collection of Bulgarian art, the National Art Gallery in Sofia is a treasure trove for art enthusiasts and a testament to Bulgaria’s rich cultural heritage. Located in the former royal palace, the gallery showcases a wide range of artistic works, spanning various periods and styles, offering a comprehensive overview of the country’s artistic legacy.


The National Art Gallery boasts an extensive collection of Bulgarian art, encompassing paintings, sculptures, graphic art, and applied arts. The artworks on display provide a visual narrative of Bulgaria’s history, culture, and artistic development from the Middle Ages to the present day.


One of the highlights of the gallery is the collection of Bulgarian medieval art, which features religious icons, intricate woodcarvings, and frescoes from churches and monasteries across the country. These masterpieces offer insights into the rich spiritual and artistic traditions of medieval Bulgaria.


The gallery’s collection also includes a significant number of works from the Bulgarian National Revival period, a time of cultural revival and patriotic sentiment in the 19th century. Here, you can admire the works of notable Bulgarian artists such as Zahari Zograf, Ivan Mrkvička, and Nikolai Pavlovich.


Continuing to the modern and contemporary art sections, visitors can explore a variety of styles and movements that emerged in Bulgaria, including realism, symbolism, abstraction, and conceptual art. The works of renowned Bulgarian artists like Vladimir Dimitrov-Maystora, Zlatyu Boyadzhiev, and Christo are prominently featured in these collections.


In addition to the permanent collection, the National Art Gallery hosts temporary exhibitions, showcasing both Bulgarian and international artists. These exhibitions provide a platform for contemporary art dialogues and offer fresh perspectives on the art world.


With its impressive collection and stunning setting, the National Art Gallery serves as a cultural hub, preserving and promoting Bulgarian art for future generations. It invites visitors to appreciate the country’s artistic achievements, explore its visual heritage, and gain a deeper understanding of the unique artistic voice of Bulgaria.


Borisova Gradina Park

Escape from the bustling city streets and find tranquility in the lush greenery of Borisova Gradina Park, Sofia’s largest and most beloved park. Situated near the city center, this expansive park offers a serene oasis where locals and visitors can relax, unwind, and connect with nature.


Borisova Gradina Park spans over 130 hectares and provides a delightful retreat for outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a breath of fresh air. The park is adorned with tree-lined pathways, beautifully landscaped gardens, and a tranquil lake, creating a peaceful atmosphere that invites exploration and rejuvenation.


For fitness enthusiasts, the park offers an array of facilities to engage in various physical activities. There are jogging and cycling trails, soccer and basketball fields, and outdoor fitness equipment. Whether you prefer an energetic workout or a leisurely stroll, Borisova Gradina Park provides a picturesque setting to stay active and enjoy the beauty of nature.


One of the park’s highlights is the picturesque Lake Ariana, where visitors can rent paddleboats or simply bask in the serenity of the surroundings. In the summer, the lake becomes a popular spot for picnics, sunbathing, and outdoor concerts and events.


Borisova Gradina Park is not only a haven for nature lovers but also a cultural hub. Within the park, you’ll find several notable monuments, including the stunning Eagles’ Bridge, which is adorned with magnificent eagle sculptures symbolizing the freedom and strength of Bulgaria.


Another prominent feature of the park is the Astronomical Observatory, which offers a unique opportunity to explore the wonders of the universe through stargazing sessions and educational programs.


Throughout the year, Borisova Gradina Park hosts numerous cultural events, music festivals, and open-air performances. From jazz concerts to theater shows, the park becomes a vibrant venue that brings the community together and celebrates the arts.


Whether you’re seeking solitude, recreational activities, or cultural experiences, Borisova Gradina Park has something for everyone. It’s a serene retreat where you can recharge, connect with nature, and enjoy the beauty and tranquility that Sofia has to offer.



Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital city, offers a wealth of experiences that cater to diverse interests and passions. From historical landmarks and cultural institutions to lush parks and vibrant markets, Sofia has something to captivate every visitor.


Exploring the city’s iconic landmarks, such as the magnificent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the ancient Boyana Church, allows you to dive into Sofia’s rich history and architectural wonders. The National Museum of History and the National Art Gallery offer glimpses into Bulgaria’s cultural heritage, showcasing artifacts and artworks that span centuries.


Immersing yourself in the city’s vibrant markets, like Zhenski Pazar and Sofia Central Market Hall, offers an opportunity to indulge in local flavors, traditions, and crafts. Meanwhile, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre brings Bulgarian theater to life, offering captivating performances that transport audiences to different times and places.


Sofia’s natural beauty is equally captivating, with Vitosha Mountain providing outdoor enthusiasts with a playground for hiking, skiing, and breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Borisova Gradina Park offers a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city, where you can unwind, enjoy recreational activities, and connect with nature.


In conclusion, Sofia is a city that effortlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty. It captivates visitors with its architectural elegance, enriches them with its cultural institutions, and invites them to explore its vibrant markets and outdoor spaces.


Whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, a food lover, or an outdoor adventurer, Sofia has something to offer. Its charm lies in its ability to cater to diverse interests while preserving its authentic Bulgarian identity.


Plan your visit to Sofia and immerse yourself in the city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Delve into its multitude of experiences, indulge in its culinary delights, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Sofia awaits, ready to welcome you with open arms.