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Cool Tips & Things to do in Sofia, Bulgaria (travel guide)

Sofia Sehenswürdigkeiten: Die Alexander Newski Kathedrale

The capital of Bulgaria rocks! Beside low prices there are a lot of cool things to do in Sofia and the tours you're able to attend are anything but boring and mostly completely free – or do you know of any free food tour in the world? Use this guide to make the best out of your time!

I was living in Sofia for more than 3 months – all recommendations are based on my own experience and tips from locals. This article is part of the free Backpacking in Europe Guide where you can find more great information, resources and destination guides to plan & organize your trip to Europe!

Sofia Travel Guide – Navigation
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Sofia Sehenswürdigkeiten: coole Streetart ist in der ganzen Stadt zu finden!
Things to do in Sofia: cool streetart can be found everywhere

1) Sights & Things to do in Sofia

a) Streetart
…can be found everywhere in the city – checkout the Tsar Ivan Shishman Street to see cool graffitis, paste-ups and most important: the colorful transformer boxes!

b) Churches & monumental buildings
The city is great to discover by walking as it is not too big. The most important and most impressive buildings are the Alexander Nevski cathedral (the landmark of the city), the russian church, the church of St. George, the beautiful national theatre “Ivan Vazov”the Sveta Sofia chruchthe monumental Largo complex, the national palace of culture  and the Narodno Sabranie – the parliament of Bulgaria.
If you want to know more about the history of the buildings and the city you should go for one of the cool tours mentioned in part 2!

c) Relaxation in the parks
Sofia is a very green capital where you can find a lot of nice parks. The biggest and possibly most beautiful one in the center is “Borisova gradina” – there you can even find a small lake, a lot of statues of famous bulgarians and the 2 big stadiums of the city.
Also recommendable: the City garden, directly in front of the national theatre and the South park, south of the national palace of culture.

d) Vitosha mountain
The Vitosha mountain massif is located on the outskirts of Sofia and offers possibilities for hiking, climbing, mountain biking, winter sports altogether with a great view (it is more than 2000m above sea level!). With this Sofia is the only capital in Europe which has such a high mountain right in the backyard!
With the Bus 66 you can get to the mountain in less than an hour and from there you can decide if you take another one or if you like to be active 😉

e) Boulevard / Cafés
If you want to experience the life and spirit of the city you should take a seat in one of the many Cafés in the center, lean back and watch the people – if it's warm you should go to the Vitosha Boulevard where you can also enjoy the view to the mountains!

2) Tours

Especially if you are on a city break in Sofia and only have limited time you should go for one of the great tours – they are fun, provide good information and they are entertaining & different from the usual stuff you know!

Sofia Touren: das Nationaltheater Iwan Wasow ist Treffpunkt für viele Touren
Sofia Tours: the national theatre is the meeting point for many tours

a) Free Sofia Tour
Probably the best option to see the city in a very sympathetic way – the guys from the Free Sofia Tour are mostly students who teamed up years ago to show their city to foreigners for free and also practice their language skills.
Nowadays they are very professional and offer a fun tour with interesting little stories along the way.
When: every day, 11:00h and 18:00h (duration: 2h)
Meeting point: in front of the palace of justice (Vitosha Bul.2), no registration – just show up
Costs: free, tipping at your choice

b) Free Bike Tour (Apr.-Nov.)
A more active way to explore the city is offered by Sofia Green Tour – take the bike and see the sights as well as parks of Sofia. The advantage: you see more of Sofia as you are able to get to more places in a short amount of time. The tour is free, you can rent bikes directly at the meeting point.
When: every day, 11:00h (big tour, 3h) & 17:00h (small tour, 2h)
Meeting point: in front of the national theater Ivan Vazov
Costs: free, tipping at your choice // Bike: 10 Leva (= 5€)

c) Jogging-Tour
You want to explore the city even more active? What about combining sightseeing with a workout session? Sofiarun offers a small 3km, medium 5km and big 10km jogging tour – the price get's lower for more attendees.
When: on request
Meeting Point: National theatre Ivan Vazov / Sweta Nedelya chruch
Costs: 3km Tour 5-30 Leva; 5km Tour 7-35 Leva; 10km Tour 10-50 Leva

d) Free hiking tour at Vitosha mountain (Apr.-Nov.)
Sofia Green Tour also offers a free 8km hiking tour at Vitosha – you'll see the Boyana church, the Boyana waterfall and lake. Moreover you can enjoy a great view to Sofia from above and the guide takes care of the transportation. On the website you can find even more tours you can book for small and big groups.
When: every day, 11:00h (duration: 5h)
Meeting Point: National theatre Ivan Vazov
Costs: free, tipping at your choice // Transfer: 6 Leva (=3€)

e) Free Food Tour
This is a great opportunity to get to know the bulgarian cuisine and recommendable restaurants! On the free Food Tour by Balkan Bites you can try typical dishes and get more information about history and preparation – this tour is also recommended for vegetarians!
When: every day, 14:00h (duration: 2h)
Meeting point: Park Crystal, in front of Stefan Stambolov Statue (big head)
Costs: free, tipping at your choice

f) Pub Crawl
Not only do you see some cool bars on this pub crawl, you also get to know the history and some funny anecdotes about the locations. There are some drinks included as well as great company – a nice way to get to know the nightlife!
When: every day, 21:00h (duration: 3-4h)
Meeting point: Park Crystal, in front of Stefan Stambolov Statue (big head)
Kosten: 20 Leva (=10€)//drinks at your choice

g) More Tour options with GetYourGuide
If you want to book a tour ahead of time, GetYourGuide is one of the best platforms to do so. Here local tour operators are offering all sorts of experiences in Sofia as well as day trips to other parts of the country. Make sure to check out the overview page to see all tours available on GetYourGuide.

(Powered by GetYourGuide)

3) Restaurants

I would count Bulgaria into the countries where you should eat out. Not only because of the prices, the food is just awesome!

Sofia: die Küche allein ist ein Grund die Reise in Angriff zu nehmen ;)
Sofia: just the bulgarian cuisine is a good reason to visit the city

a) K.E.B.A.
Modern cuisine with local influences – good vegetarian dishes and salads, a little bit hard to find (next to the Billa supermarket)
What: Lunch, Dinner, Cocktails
Address: Rakovski 116

b) Rakia Bar Rakete
I really like the interior design and the concept: a lot of relicts from former times can be found in the shelves. Moreover the dishes are tasty and you have a wide selection of Rakia!
What: Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Rakia
Address: Qnko Sakuzov 17

c) Supa Star
Supa means “soup” in Bulgarian – every day you can get fresh, homemade soups here which are tasty and low priced. A perfect option for a long sightseeing day.
What: Soup & Snacks
Address: Tsar Ivan Shishman 8

d) Lavanda
What about having dinner in a very private atmosphere? At the Lavanda you eat in a usual flat and the food is just great!
What: Dinner, Lunch
Address: Tsar Ivan Shishman 12 (above One More Bar)

e) Divaka
Here you can find local cuisine for a good price-performance ratio. I recommend the soup which is served in a big bun.
What: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
Address: Hristo Belchev 16

f) Tavan
If you like it more fancy: this one is a bit pricey but you are able to enjoy one of the best views above Sofia. Good mediterranean cuisine especially the fish dishes are recommendable.
What: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
Address: Bul. Varna 98

g) Motto
Nice location, a bit hipster but really good selection of food.
What: Lunch, Dinner, Cocktails
Address: Aksakov 18

h) Hamachi (Sushi)
If I'm not up for the local cuisine (which is rare!) , the Hamachi is my favorite Sushi place! It's not cheap, but the quality is worth it!
What: Lunch, Dinner, Cocktails
Address: Orfey 3

4) Cafés

I was surprised by the number of trendy Cafés – they are also good to work at as all of them offer fast and free WiFi (the password can often be found on foursquare 😉

Sofia Cafés: die One More Bar eignet sich perfekt zum schreiben
Sofia Cafés: the “One More Bar” is a perfect place to work a bit

a) Lime
Great Café close to the Sveti Sedmochislenitsi church – nice staff and tasty cake.
Address: Orfey 3

b) Memento
Located on the main Boulevard in the city center, therefore perfect for people watching in summer 😉
Address: Bul. Witoscha 32

c) Veda House
The place for tea lovers – moreover they have a nice selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Address: William Gladstone 2

d) One More Bar
At day time the One More Bar is a nice Café with cozy seating options and good coffee.
Address: Tsar Ivan Shishman 12

5) Nightlife – Bars & Clubs

If you don't go out you'll miss out on some great venues – the clubs and bars make it hard to catch some sleep in Sofia.

Sofia Nightlife: im Blender kannst du die Nacht zum Tag machen
Sofia Nightlife: the right place to dance the night away!

a) A:part:mental – The apartment
One of my favorite places at the moment even though it is more or less a Hipster Paradise. Like the name states it is an apartment with different themed rooms. You feel like on a private party in a big flat – the history of this one is very interesting (find out more on the pub crawl or ask at the bar)
Address: Neofit Rilski 68

b) One More Bar
In the evening this one is a popular place to enjoy some great cocktails.
Address: Tsar Ivan Shishman 12

c) Roderic
Nice, cozy venue to enjoy some live music by having a fresh drafted beer. Good on Fridays!
Address: Tsar Ivan Shishman 27

d) Park Bar
Good drinks, nice interior design and tasty sandwiches. Great to warm-up for a big night.
Address: Shipka 26

e) Terminal 1 (Club & Live concerts)
Industrial style venue in the center of town – music is mostly alternative, make sure to check the facebook page before you go.
Address: Angel Kanchev 1

f) Once Upon a time Biblioteka (Club)
If you are not quite sure in matters of music you should consider this option – they have a wide mixture of mainstream music. The club is located in the basement of the library building (hence the name) 😉
Address: Bul. Vasil Levski 88

6) Accommodation in Sofia

Even though Sofia is becoming more popular each year, hotels and apartments are still reasonably priced – even 4* hotels are a real steal here. Due to many private and business related trips I can share quite a selection of really good options.

Sofia Hostel: das Canapé Hostel bietet alle Annehmlichkeiten - sowohl für BackPacker als auch Pärchen und Geschäftsreisende!
Sofia Hostel: the Canapé Hostel recently got turned into a Guest House right in the heart of the city

a) Canape Guest House & Apartments
Before I moved into my flat I lived for more than a week at the Canape Guest House in Sofia. It was one of the first Hostels of the city and is run by lovely people who know their business very well: the breakfast is homemade and different every day, the staff is super sympathetic and the rooms are comfy. The now turned it into a cozy guest house with very nice private rooms.
Apart from the big family room right under the roof you can go for affordable privates. Beside the breakfast I especially like the central location in the city center.
Positive: great staff, tasty breakfast, comfy rooms
Downsides: no big common areas in winter (in summer you can use the courtyard)
Prices: Double/Twin from 27€ (= 16€ p.P.) – Book now

b) Vitosha Apartments
This is a great option if you want to spend a few days in Sofia or you come with a group of people. I stayed here for a weekend and liked the modern interior as well as the great location (many good restaurants nearby) and the cleanliness. Great Value for the money!
Prices: One bedroom Apt (+ sofa bed) from 60€, Two bedroom Apt from 75€ – Book now (minimum of 2 nights!)

c) Lozenetz Hotel (3*)
This 3 star hotel is located next to the center and comes with average breakfast but very nice and helpful staff. Last time I stayed here I got a very good deal through as they have special offers if you book in advance.
Prices: Double/Twin from 58€ (= 29€ p.P.), Privates from 49€ – Book now

d) Premier Thracia Hotel, Best Western (4*)
I stayed for 2 nights in this modern 4 star hotel which is located in the very center of Sofia making it the ideal base for a weekend trip to explore the city as most sights are in walking distance. Service and breakfast is very good too!
Prices: Double/Twin from 90€ (= 45€ p.P.), Privates from 80€ – Book now

e) All booked?
There are numerous good options in Sofia if you head to the Sofia overview page on Booking – here you can find also many special and secret deals if you book ahead of time.
If you are looking for Hostels and budget options, the Sofia overview page on Hostelworld is the right place to go.

7) Get in & around

Bulgaria Air fliegt täglich von Deutschland nach Sofia und zurück
Bulgaria Air is the main carrier of Bulgaria and offers many connections within Europe

Especially within Europe you have several options – a lot of low-cost-carriers are flying to and from Sofia.
From the airport you should take a cab – but be aware of tourist traps: ask for a cab at one of the desks and don't take any from the drivers approaching you e.g. “OK-Taxi” is a good company to chooose. The fare for an average drive to the center should be around 15 Leva (7-8€).
To get around in the city you can easily walk or use taxis. If you want to combine Sofia with a trip to Vitosha, Plovdiv or other sights outside the city I recommend renting a car!
Don't forget a travel insurance before you go – I'm using the one from Worldnomads, you can easily book it online (see right sidebar to get a quick quote)!
Sofia Sehenswürdigkeiten - kennst du noch weitere tolle Motive?
Sveti Sedmochislenitsi church

More things to do in Sofia?

Go ahead – I'm curious to include more insider tips! Please feel free to share this article with your friends.
Disclaimer: This article contains Affiliate Links for services and products I’m using on my travels – therefore I can highly recommend using them. By using this links you won’t pay any additional fees!

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