We visited Sofia on a whim, we had no expectations from the city but were pleasantly surprised by how affordable it is and the cafe scene is also quite impressive. Sofia is an underrated city in eastern Europe and not quite popular among tourists or Instagrammers/ travel content creators. It’s a perfect weekend city break for someone looking for a dose of history, learning about the communist past, good food, and a budget-friendly destination. So, if you’re planning to visit Sofia for a weekend break from Germany or any other country in Europe, this itinerary will help you get the most out of your trip. If you are wondering what to see in Sofia in 3 days? In this article, we share about things to do in Sofia, places to visit in Sofia, must-try local delicacies, where to stay in Sofia, and popular day trips from Sofia.
- Getting to Sofia
- Things To Do in Sofia
- Must try local Bulgarian delicacies
- Where to Stay in Sofia
- Popular Day Trips from Sofia
Getting to Sofia
By Flight: There are numerous cheap flights from major European cities. The price is less than 20 Euros from low-cost airports like Memmingen near Munich, Beauvais near Paris, etc.
Airport to City Center: The journey from Sofia airport to the city center is a bargain. Each journey by Metro costs 1.60 Lev, less than €1. You can purchase tickets from the machine or kiosks at the entrance of the metro stations. It is quite efficient and cheap. The ticket machine in the airport only accepts coins so keep some Bulgarian Lev on you.
Bus – Bus routes 84 and 184 connect the airport to the City center.
By Taxi: A taxi from the airport will cost you around 15-20 Bulgarian Lev. You can download the “Yellow Taxis” App. Taxi aggregator services like Free Now and Uber do not operate in Bulgaria.
The currency of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN) but most of the day tours are quoted in Euro (€).
Things To Do in Sofia
Day 1 & Day 2
Spend your first one or two days taking in all that the city has to offer.
1. Explore the city
Here’s the list of the places you can visit in Sofia.
- Alexander Nevski Cathedral – Largest Orthodox temple on the entire Balkan Peninsula and is one of the most visited places in Sofia. The interior of the church is stunning as the exterior. The cathedral’s gold-plated dome is 45 m high, with the bell tower reaching 50.52 m
- Saint Sofia church – Close to the Alexander Nevski Church is the oldest church in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, dating to the fourth century. There’s also an underground museum which is also a site of the second-century Roman theatre.
- The church of St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker – Russian Orthodox church in central Sofia
- Ivan Vaznov National Theatre – Oldest theatre in the country and a popular landmark in the city.
- Banya Bashi Mosque – Only functioning mosque in Sofia and one of the oldest mosques in Europe. It was built in 1576 and is a remnant of the Ottoman empire. Banya Bashi means “a lot of baths” and the mosque was built on the site of ancient baths, hence the name.
- Sofia History Museum – To get a dose of the history of the country, information about the culture, and its troubled past.
- Vitosha Boulevard – It’s a famous street for shopping and dining. You can find boutiques and souvenir shops here.
- National Palace of Culture – The largest multifunctional conference and exhibition center in south-eastern Europe. The gardens here are quite popular with locals and tourists alike.
- Serdika Metro Station – Named after the ancient Roman city of Serdica. The site is known for ancient ruins that were discovered lately while expanding the metro station. The ruins are beautifully preserved with glass domes and it gives an insight into Sofia’s history.
- If you’re interested in Communist history don’t miss the Red Flat.
2. Free food tour with Balkan Bites
If you are a foodie, sign up for a FREE food tour and take a peek inside Bulgarian cuisine and sample some amazing traditional Bulgarian local delicacies. We would highly recommend booking in advance.
3. Free walking tour with Sofia free tours
Sign up for a free walking tour if you are someone who is interested in learning more about the complex history of the city and the visit the major highlights of the city. The tour takes place at 11 am, 2 pm & 6 pm. No pre-booking is required & the tour takes 2 hours.
4. Bulgarian Wine Tasting Tour
Bulgaria is famous for its wine so don’t miss out on signing up for a Wine Tasting Tour if you love sampling wines from various parts of the world.
Note: You can definitely explore the city in a day if you just want to visit the major highlights.
Day 2 ( Alternative Option ) – Day Trip to Seven Rila Lakes
If you love hiking, you can drive to or book a day tour from Sofia to Rila lakes. There’s a chairlift that takes you to the top of the mountain from where the 4-hour hike to the lakes begins. It’s a moderate hike so plan well and wear good hiking shoes. Don’t forget to pack something to eat and drink.
The landscape, view from the top, and the scenery is worth the hike. Out of the seven lakes, the most famous ones are Babreka (the Kidney), Okoto (the Eye), and Salzata (the Teardrop).
Day 3 – Day Tour to Rila Monastery & Boyana Church
Boyana Church is located on the outskirts of Sofia. The Church is famous for its beautiful frescoes painted in 1259 and is one of the most preserved monuments in Bulgaria. The church was built in three different time periods: in the late 10th to early 11th, the mid-13th, and the mid-19th centuries.
By public transportation – You can also reach the Boyana church by bus. The line 63 bus from Sofia – Tsar Boris 3 to Boyana takes 26 minutes.
Entry Ticket – 10 LEV and 2 LEV for Students
A nearby Place worth visiting
- Boyana Waterfall — Largest waterfall in the Bulgarian Vitosha mountain
Rila Monastery is one of the most famous monasteries in Bulgaria and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is the most famous eastern orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. It’s a working monastery that was founded in the 10th century and is regarded as one of Bulgaria’s most important cultural, historical, and architectural monuments. The monastery was founded by the hermit St. Ivan of Rila and was destroyed by fire at the beginning of the 19th century, the complex was rebuilt between 1834 and 1862. It is a symbol of cultural identity and has also served as a shelter for persecuted revolutionaries.
The main church “The Nativity of the Virgin” is quite impressive and the library is famous for its collection of books and manuscripts.
Note: Photography inside the church is not allowed and sleeveless dresses are not allowed. Do keep that in mind before planning your visit to the monastery
Entrance to the monastery complex and church is free of charge.
- Adults – 8.00 BGN
- Students – 2.00 BGN
- Family ticket – 4.00 BGN for each parent and 2.00 BGN for each child
By Public Transportation –
- Rila Shuttle runs daily from Sofia city
- Departure at 12:00 h from St. Alexander Nevski cathedral (advance booking required)
- Price starts from €25.00 per person (two-way)
- There is only one public bus that goes from Sofia directly to Rila monastery www.Rila Express.com
Note: You can also opt for a day tour from Sofia to Rila Monastery & Boyana Church like we did. The tour starts at 9 am and ends at 5 PM.
Must try local Bulgarian delicacies
- Banista – Can be purchased in any bakery shop
- Kebapche ( Grilled Meat )
- Shkembe chorba ( Soup )
- Parlenka ( Flatbeard/ Naan )
- Shopska salata ( Salad )
Where to Stay in Sofia
Hotels are quite affordable in Sofia. We stayed at Ramada Hotel in Sofia as this is located close to the main train station, metro stop, and central bus station. The hotel and the service were ok. You can definitely find better options near the city center and the prices are quite reasonable as well.
Popular Day Trips from Sofia
There are numerous other day tours from Sofia worth checking if you have more days on hand.
- Day Tour to Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa Day Trip from Sofia
Plovdiv is the second-largest city in Bulgaria and is steeped in history, culture, and architecture.
Bus to Plovdiv:
- Krushuna Waterfalls
- Veliko Tarnovo
- Prohodna Cave
- Discover the Stone Forest
- Rose Valley
We hope this post and videos give you an idea about things to do and places to visit in Sofia.
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