If you are thinking of traveling to Sofia, Bulgaria, you are in the right place. Located in the center of the Balkans, Bulgaria has a deep rooted and rich history. The lands of Bulgaria, which is home to Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Slavs and Bulgarians, contain many cultures. Bulgaria is a crossroads between Asia and Europe and still lives the Bulgarian culture, architecture, cuisine and traditions.
Bulgaria, which remained under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for about 500 years throughout its 1300-year history, remained under the rule of the Byzantine Empire for about 300 years. After the rebellions that started in 1875 and the Second Balkan War, the Bulgarians declared their independence. Bulgaria declared its independence on October 3, 1908. After the political event in 1944, Bulgaria accepted the communist regime. The architectural structure of the city has changed under the influence of the communist regime.
Sofia’s history is rooted and ancient, just like Bulgaria’s. Today Sofia has a population of about 1.3 million. It is the largest city in Bulgaria with a population of 7 million. Sofia has developed a lot in the last ten years, both economically and touristically. Sofia, which has been receiving immigrants from Balkan countries in recent years, has a history dating back thousands of years. Sofia, which has hosted many nations for many years, has thus had a very rich and blended culture.
The historical remains of a tribe settled in the 7th century BC have been found in Sofia, proving that the city was inhabited about 7,000 years ago.
Where Is Sofia?
Let us share with you some of the things you need to know when traveling to Sofia. Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is located in Southeast Europe. Sofia, the largest city in Bulgaria, is located in the Sofia Basin in western Bulgaria.
When to go to Sofia?
Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, has a temperate continental climate. Sofia, which is very rich in green areas, has a cooler weather in summer thanks to its forests.
The temperatures, which start to rise in May, reach their highest level in July. Temperatures in July reach about 25 degrees.
Although temperatures rise in the summer, they are not always at the same level. Rainfall increases with April and continues throughout the summer. Rainfall that is not too much does not affect tourism.
Although winters are sunny in Sofia, snowfall is quite high. There is also a lot of fog in Sofia, where the snow thickness reaches 20 centimeters.
The best season to visit Sofia is summer. In the spring, Sofia experiences its busiest period. The weather in spring is also very suitable for visiting the city.
Best Places To Visit In Sofia
Thanks to Sofia’s deep-rooted and ancient history, there are many places to visit in the city. It is also possible to come across the traces of many different cultures in Sofia, where the influence of Bulgarian culture is felt. This place, which is one of the oldest cities in Europe, has old streets, monasteries and many historical monuments. The city developed with the modernization movement in the 1930s and was accepted as a European city. The fact that the important places of the city are close to each other also makes it very easy to visit.
Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, which is not only the symbol of Sofia but also Bulgaria, Sofia Archeology Museum, which is the richest museum in Bulgaria in terms of content, Sofia History Museum, the oldest museum in Bulgaria, Boyana Church, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, Vitosha Mountain.
The most popular spot of Zlatnite Mostove, the oldest building in Sofia, the Rotunda Sveti Georgi, the Sofia Synagogue representing the Jewish community in Bulgaria and the Sofia Archaeological Complex in the center of Sofia are at the top of the places to visit in Sofia.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Alexander Nevski Cathedral is considered a symbol not only of Sofia, but also of Bulgaria. The magnificent and very impressive cathedral was built in memory of 200,000 Russian soldiers who lost their lives for the independence of Bulgaria in the war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1882-1912. The church was named after a Russian prince who lived in the 13th century.
Designed by the famous Russian architect Alexander Pomerantsey, the cathedral is equipped with mosaics and domes. The interior decoration of the cathedral, which was built in the Neo-Byzantine architectural style, is also very impressive.
Alexander Cathedral significantly changes the silhouette of Sofia with its height of 45 meters on an area of approximately three thousand square meters. The cathedral is very precious to the Bulgarian people. It is seen not only as a place of worship for the Bulgarian people, but also as a monument of independence.
The cathedral, which was built 1500 years after the Hagia Sophia Church, after which Sofia was named, began to be built in 1904. Over forty architects worked on the project of the church, which was completed in eight years and became a masterpiece. The church, which is of great importance for the whole of Eastern Europe, has been turned into a work of art. Italian marbles, lighting brought from Munich, Venetian mosaics and Brazilian natural stones were used in its construction.
Sofia Archaeological Museum
Sofia Archaeological Museum presents the remains of all cultures and peoples influenced by Sofia and Bulgaria from BC to the 18th century. The building, which was built as a mosque in 1496, was converted into a museum after restoration. The richness of the Thracian, Roman and Medieval works in the museum stands out. Among the most notable works are the mosaic piece in the Church of Sveta Sofia, the 4th century BC golden tomb and a bronze statue thought to represent the ancient Thracian king.
Sofia Archeology Museum is known as the richest museum in Bulgaria with its historical artifact collections. The exhibitions in the museum, which has an important share in promoting Bulgaria’s cultural heritage, have managed to attract a large number of tourists. The museum has the largest archaeological research unit in southern Europe.
The museum consists of five sections: Prehistoric Archeology, Thrace Archeology, Classical Archeology, Medieval Archeology and Numismatics (monology). Some of the artifacts obtained as a result of archaeological research are kept in warehouses and some are presented in exhibition halls.
Sofia History Museum
Sofia History Museum officially opened its doors to visitors on 17 September 2015. The building of the museum is the Historical Turkish Baths. Completed in 1913, the Turkish Baths are reminiscent of the designs of medieval churches on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast with their exterior and ceramic decorations.
The museum, which attracts a lot of attention due to its building, has eight different exhibition halls covering the years between 6,000 BC and the 1940s. The works in this hall consist of Antiquity, European Dynasties, Old Sofia Architecture, Sofia Culture. The museum also has two exhibition halls for temporary exhibitions.
Softa History Museum, the oldest museum in Bulgaria, is located right behind the Great Mosque, which was built in the 15th century. The mosque, which was put into use as a museum in 1899, was restored in 2000.
The museum, located just behind the historical Sofia Mosque, has two floors and offers an English presentation. Thanks to the mosque with nine domes, the museum attracts a great deal of attention from the tourists.
Located about 8 kilometers outside of Sofia, Boyana Church consists of three buildings. The church building on the east side was built in the 10th century. Later, in the 13th century, it was enlarged by the King of the period and a second building was built. The frescoes, made in 1259, make the church a collection of important medieval paintings.
The 3rd church building, built at the beginning of the century, was designed in accordance with the architecture of other buildings and reflects the history of the European Middle Ages. The church, which is made entirely of brick, has one dome. A general harmony has been achieved in the church, where the joints of the buildings are equipped with figures. The hidden arch decorations in the second and third buildings also increase the visual effect of the church.
The 13th-century Boyana Church is included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO. In addition to the frescoes, there are ninety murals in the church. Boyana Church, which can be entered with the ticket purchased when entering the national history museum, is approximately two kilometers from the museum.
Zlatnite Mostove is a large cliff stretching at an altitude of about 1,700 meters and a slope of 1,400 meters. The rocks and green areas here are ideal for picnics, sunbathing and a pleasant quiet time.
The cliffs on Mount Vitosha, very close to the center of Sofia, are a natural phenomenon of the region. According to some rumors, there are gold deposits under the rocks. Apart from picnic and rest, there is also the option of climbing the stone river.
Zlatnite Mostove is one of the most popular and top attractions on Mount Vitosha. It would also be a good choice to explore other beautiful places of Vitosha. For this, you can start hiking from the Aleko Region and move on to the Vitosha Plateau. From here, you can go to Zlatnite Mostove. The hike takes about three hours and is fairly easy.
After visiting Zlatnite Mostove, the ski resort Konyarnika and Koumata can also be seen. It is a frequent destination for many tourists, not only for skiing but also for seeing natural beauties.
Mountain bike tours from the cliffs to Boyana and Vladaya are a bit tiring but very popular. If you want to spend a little more time on the rocks, you can consider many accommodation options to stay nearby.
Rotunda Sveti Georgi
Rotonda Sveti Georgi Church is located in the friend of Sheraton Hotel. st. Georgi Church is quite small and is the oldest building in Sofia. The ruins surrounding the church are the ruins of the old city of Serdica. The street from the Roman times, which emerged after the excavations, attracts a lot of attention.
The church has a very deep-rooted history dating back to the 4th century. It was built under the orders of Emperor Galerius and Constantine the Great during the Roman Empire. The cylindrical brick church has been located in the center of Sofia for 1700 years. The Romans had it built as a temple and used for baptism ceremonies.
The walls of the church are filled with magnificent decorations. Numerous frescoes and Byzantine floral motifs dating back to the 4th century adorn the walls. When Sofia came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the frescoes in the church were collected and stored for 300 years. Under the dome of the church, there are angel patterns and pictures from the Middle Ages. Under the dome, the time is also very valuable. There are also frescoes of Jesus.
The Sofia Synagogue, which has a history of nearly a century, represents the Jewish community in Bulgaria. Sofia Synagogue is the second largest Sephardic synagogue in Europe.
Construction of the synagogue began in 1903. Brass chandelier, large candlestick and other decoration materials weighing more than 2200 kilograms were specially brought from Vienna. After four years of construction, Sofia Synagogue opened its doors in 1909. During the bombing of Sofia during World War II, the Synagogue was almost completely destroyed. During the war, the synagogue’s library was also burned, and valuable Hebrew works were destroyed.
In the 2000s, a large-scale donation campaign was initiated to restore the building. Original Bulgarian plans were used for the restoration and the best Bulgarian masters were employed. Under the leadership of the Doron Israel Foundation, the synagogue has been reinstated. There is also a museum about the Second World War on the second floor of the synagogue.
Sofia Archaeological Complex
A budget of 15 million leva has been allocated by the state for the Sofia Archaeological Complex. After five years of work, the complex opened its doors to visitors in the center of Sofia on April 20.
In the Sofia Archaeological Complex, Sofia is most felt under the influence of Rome. The complex is well below ground level and covers approximately 9000 square meters. There is a Christian basilica from the 5th and 6th centuries and a large old medieval church from ancient Serdica. The city, which developed and grew during the Roman Empire, has ruins of an amphitheater, baths and basica.
With the occupation of the Hun Empire, many historical monuments were destroyed and the city was destroyed. All the historical remains recovered at that time are today in the Sofia Archaeological Complex.
It provides explanations with signs in Bulgarian and English and this removes the confusion.
Sofia is probably the only capital in Europe to have such a large mountain so close to the city centre. Vitosha Mountain, located at the foot of the city, is the oldest national park in the Balkans with its height of 2,290 meters. Known for its proximity to Lake Pancharevo, Vitosha is also home to Boyana Waterfall and Duhlata Cave. In short, this is one of the must-see places for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts when visiting Sofia. Especially keen bird watchers can get a chance to see rare species such as the red hawk and tawny shrike.
Although there are various public transportation options throughout the year, the easiest time to reach Vitosha Mountain by private car is on weekdays. The famous ski season lasts from December to April. For the rest of the year, Vitosha Mountain is a paradise for mountain bikers and trekkers. With guided tours, you can make the most of your chance to get involved with wildlife and reduce your chances of getting lost while hiking on the mountain with these tours.
You can even take out the medieval beauties that must be seen in Sofia, such as Boyana Church and Dragalevtsi Monastery, which are on the UNESCO list, with daily tours. Remember, physical fitness is highly recommended for climbing to the top of Mount Vitosha. However, in private walking tours, adjustments can be made according to the training status of the people.
Vitosha Mountain means not only hiking and skiing activities, but also Sofia’s history and culture. The oldest and UNESCO-protected natural park in the Balkans was created in 1934 and its summit is Mount Cherni Vruh (The Black Peak) at an altitude of 2,290 meters. With its area currently covering 259 square kilometers, Mount Vitosha is approximately 550 meters above Sofia city centre.
There are many options to explore such as rivers, caves, waterfalls, monasteries, hot springs, chairlifts and walking paths on Vitosha Mountain, which is legendary for its natural beauty. Which activity you choose on Mount Vitosha is entirely up to you.
St. Nicholas Russian Church
Saint Nicholas Russian Church, which is considered one of the important points to be seen while in Sofia, is located in the center of Sofia, at the intersection of Rakovska and Tsar Osvoboditel streets. The church, one of the most remarkable buildings in the city, was built between 1907-1914 at the initiative of the Russian Embassy and the project of the Russian architect M. Preobrazhensky. Famous for its secret power that works miracles, the church of St. Nicolas is also known as the Russian Church in Sofia or Sveti Nikolay Mirlikiyski.
While walking on Tsar Osvoboditel street, it is impossible not to be enchanted when you see the magnificent golden domes of “Sofia’s most beautiful church”. The 5 small domes of the church are covered with gold and the bells are the Russian Tsar II. Donated by Nicholas. The magnificent gold of the dome of the church is crowned with Andalusian tiles in a magnificent harmony.
The paintings on the walls inside the church are the works of Russian artists under the administration of Vasiliy Perminov. In the building, there are 4 Iconostasis, which are copies of the Kyiv Cathedral ‘Saint Vladimir’, that is, an architectural part decorated with icons and reserved for the clergy.
The so-called monks from the Russian Orthodox church worked in the temple until 1947, and this place became a center for countless Russian immigrants living in Bulgaria. After 1947, it was handed over to the bishop of the Moscow Patriarchate, who ruled the church until today. The tomb of Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev, known to many Orthodox Christians as the performer of miracles, is located in the crypt of the church.
Even today, most people still write letters and leave them near his grave, believing that Sobolev will help them. The archbishop succeeded in governing the Orthodox community between 1921 and 1950.
Vitosha Boulevard, the main commercial and shopping street of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is dazzlingly beautiful with its flamboyant shops, restaurants and cafes. This magnificent boulevard stretches from Nedelya Square to Southern Park.
There are many famous brands’ shops on the boulevard and neighboring streets. Luxury and expensive brands such as Versace, Escada, Bulgari, D&G, La Perla, Lacoste, Van Laak, Ermenegildo Zegna, Tru Trussardi, Moreschi, Marella, Max Mara, Gianfranco Ferré, Emporio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Boss, Baldinini, Vitosha Boulevard’ shows up in.
The boulevard features notable buildings such as the National Palace of Culture and the Sofia Courthouse, where the famous Bulgarian poet Peyo Yavorov lived and died. The corner of Vitosha and Patriarch Evtimii boulevards are very popular places for gatherings. Vitosha Boulevard is named after the mountain right next to Sofia.
Vitosha Boulevard originally consisted of low-rise buildings, but during the period between the first and second world wars, it was transformed into a magnificent shopping street with huge public buildings. Thus, the silhouette of Vitosha was completely renewed. Later, a restoration was carried out on Vitosha Boulevard in 2007, renewing the style of 1930s Sofia.
During this renovation, historical benches, street lights, green space, fountains, open-air bars and a clock tower displaying the clocks of capitals around the world were added in the Church of St. Nedelya. In 2013, an additional restoration was carried out on the boulevard.
The boulevard, which is closed to vehicle traffic and adds air to Sofia’s decent air, will remind you once again why you are in Sofia with its lively air. Sit on Vitosha Boulevard, where the heart of the city beats, and have a delicious meal with a few glasses. Even if you don’t shop, take a look at the showcases of stylish stores. Do not forget that Vitosha Boulevard is an indispensable point of the city.
In addition, let’s not forget that according to a research conducted by a global real estate company in 2007, Vitosha Boulevard was chosen as the 22nd most expensive shopping street in the world.
Transportation In Sofia
When you travel to Sofia, you should also know how to get there. Since Sofia is a small city and its transportation network is of high quality, transportation within the city is quite easy. Bus, tram and metro provide access to all parts of the city. When going to the city, bus times can be learned with an application that can be used on the phone.
Bus tickets are very affordable and can be bought from stops. As in many Eastern European countries, tickets purchased must be punched on the bus. Tickets can be purchased for periods such as one day or one week.
Your trip to Sofia continues, if you can’t decide what to eat, then it’s time to talk about what to eat in Sofia. Bulgaria has hosted many states and cultures such as the Roman, Ottoman and Huns since Antiquity and has been considered a very important city throughout its history. Sofia, which contains and blends many cultures, clearly reveals this in its dishes.
The very famous Sofia cuisine is full of delicious dishes. The first of these is Meshana Skara. Meat is indispensable in Bulgarian dishes and is very popular. Meshana Skara is a different type of grilled meat dish. It usually includes meatballs, minced long meat (kepapche), pork steak, skewers and Italian sausage. It is served with Shopska Salad on the side.
Shopska salad is the most popular salad variety in Bulgaria. The salad, which is quite easy and delicious for the summer, seems simple. However, the Bulgarian Feta cheese (sirene) in the salad is the taste that makes this salad unique. Sirene is the best of Bulgarian cheeses. When you go to Sofia, shopska salad is among the flavors that should definitely be tried.
Another Bulgarian delicacy is the cold yogurt soup tarator. Tarator, which is very similar to cacık, contains fresh cucumber, Bulgarian yogurt, walnuts and dill. Tarator is also a very famous and very popular Bulgarian delicacy. Banitsa, which is indispensable for breakfasts, is one of the most important parts of Bulgarian cuisine. It is almost the same as the pastry we know closely. Yogurt, eggs, cheese or zucchini-spinach are used. Banitsa with traditional cheese is most loved. Banichka, on the other hand, is its small round shape.
Shopping In Sofia
Wouldn’t you like to beautify your Sofia trip with shopping? Sofia offers everything a modern city has to offer in shopping. It contains numerous shopping centers, shopping streets and many supermarkets. There are many types of souvenirs in the city, such as rose oil, hand-painted icons and local pottery. All this and much more can be found in shops around the city. The best places for shopping are the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the underpass where the Cabinet Building is located.
If you want a different and individual gift, there are many craft shops with toys and unique items made by local artists.
If you want to buy local spirits, Bulgarian wines, fruit drinks, cheese, dairy products or breakfast items, the first place to stop should be Tsentralni Hali. In general, an oriental object, souvenir and rug weaving from Ottoman times can be found in Chiprovski.
Sofia’s nightlife is very active, lively and uninterrupted. Sofia nightlife, which is not prohibited, continues until the first light of the morning. In the city where alcohol is quite cheap, big and fun parties are held in every club. Cafes close at six in the evening and parties take their place. There are many restaurants open for breakfast after parties that end around six in the morning. Cafes reopen early in the morning.
There are so many options in the city to have fun with live music. Clubs play many different music genres, from traditional Bulgarian music to rock, punk, reggae, electronic and pop. The biggest clubs in Sofia are concentrated in the student town. In Sofia, where there are 16 universities, entertainment is much better in the universities area. Since buses do not run at night in Sofia, it is necessary to take a taxi after the entertainment.
The most active days of nightlife in Sofia are Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Nightlife in Sofia is quiet on Sundays. Because Bulgarian people do not prefer to go out at night on Sundays. In Sofia, where there are parties all week, it is necessary to get information to find out which clubs are open and what events are taking place.
One of the most popular bars in Sofia is Memento. Located on Rakovksi Street, the bar is indispensable in summer with its outdoor tables. The cocktails of the bar, which gets especially crowded in the evening hours, are quite famous. It is necessary to act a little early to find a place, otherwise the place may not be available. All kinds of drinks are available at the bar, and prices are moderate.
Tobacco Garden Bar has a very special place. The private garden, which belonged to the royal family’s winter palace during the Bulgarian Monarchy, brims in the evenings. Tobacco Garden Bar, one of Sofia’s most popular venues, is open around the clock. The bar with moderate prices is located on Moscow Street. Black Label Whiskey Bar was a military club. It is still used as a club after 100 years.
The ballroom of the military club has today become a modern bar. The four-meter-high ceilings and dim lighting make it an attractive place. The bar, whose prices are a bit high, also attracts the attention of tourists.
Attracting attention with its distinctive style, A Part Mental is a newly opened venue. Two old apartments on the top floor of an old house just outside the city center have been converted into a bar. Each hall has its own unique ambiance in the bar, which looks quite magnificent. Also notable for its artistic style, the bar has a menu of various beverages ranging from Bulgarian craft beers to raspberry wine.
You can stop by Hambara to have fun in an authentic environment. There is no smoking ban in the bar, which is famous for its candle-lit illuminations. Jazz music is usually played at the bar, which has a low-priced menu. When you travel to Sofia, do not leave without tasting the nightlife!
Watertower Arts Festival
The traditional Watertower Festival takes place in Sofia. The Bulgarian art festival started small and developed over the years and started to be held with the participation of many Bulgarian artists. The event is very important for the presentation of international artists who are interested in contemporary visual arts.
The Watertower Art Festival, where the effects of contemporary art on Bulgarian culture and Eastern Europe are revealed in the works, is exhibiting in a very historical building. The number of participants of the festival, which is held in a building in the center of Sofia, is increasing every year.
Sofia International Film Festival
It is one of the biggest cinema events in Bulgaria, where international films are shown. In the film festival, which also includes a competition section, different activities on cinema are also held.
Sofia Music Weeks
The one that takes place in the summer takes place with the participation of artists in different styles. Concerts taking place in different parts of the city appeal to many musical tastes.
Sofia International Folklore Festival
In the festival called “Moonlight in Sofia”, Bulgarian folk dance ensembles perform. During the three-day event, Bulgaria’s colorful folk dances can be watched accompanied by local music.
Sofia Jazz Festival and Bulgarian Salsa Festival are also held in the city.
Sofia Public Holidays
- First Day of the Year (January 1)
- Bulgarian National Day (March 3)
- Easter (April 14-17)
- Labor Day (May 1)
- Bulgarian Army Day (May 8)
- Slavic Alphabet and Bulgarian Culture Day (May 24)
- Christmas (25 December)
Useful Information For Sofia
- Emergency assistance: 150
- Fire: 160
- Police: 166