Sofia is the capital city of Bulgaria, a country that forms part of the Balkan Peninsula, and dates back 7000 years.
Sofia’s deep history peeks its head often throughout the city in layers, through excavations and little museums dotted around the city exposing the Roman Ruins over which the city was built over.
Going unnoticed are the architectural styling transforming from neo-Byzantine and neo-Baroque to German Functionalism, Bauhaus, and communist-style buildings.
With its close proximity to nearby countries like Serbia and North Macedonia, travel plans expand with even more activities and day trips to take part in.
Not to mention its wealth in theaters, opera houses, and ballet, Sofia has made a name for itself on the southeastern European cultural map.
Let’s dive into what makes Serdica, the previous name of the city, and let’s read about the best things to do in Sofia.
1 – Visit the Neo-Byzantine designed St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Considered to be one of the most emblematic sites in Sofia, and one of the most important Orthodox churches in Bulgaria, the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a sight to step in and see for yourself.
The cathedral was built as a symbol for those who perished during the Russian-Turkish War of 1878-1879, which helped to liberate Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.
Be amazed by the beautiful gold-covered domes, and take in the other lavish materials used to give the church its fine details, from Italian marble, Brazilian onyx, and Indian alabaster.
Adorned with so much beauty and fun facts to learn, make sure to step inside the small Christan art museum, showcasing more religious art from Bulgaria and other facts from the cathedral’s construction.
2 – Spend the day at the markets of Sofia
Check out the incredible markets that dot the downtown area, and make it a true joy to experience local everyday life in Sofia.
Visit Zhenski Pazar Market, also known as the Women’s Market, known to be the oldest market in Sofia, dating back to the early 20th century.
Find stalls of fresh and local produce brought by local farmers, and smell and taste the authenticity of local dishes sold at the market. It’s a great foodie spot.
Near the famed, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the Alexander Nevsky Antiques Market, which is an open-air flea market where visitors can expect everything from soviet union memorabilia, to home goods, and other random yet intriguing second-hand goods.
Other markets to visit include the Sofia Central Market Hall and the Bitaka Flea Market.
3 – Check out Sofia’s largest museum, the National History Museum
With over 650,000 exhibits, the National History Museum welcomes visitors to learn more about the fascinating and deep history of Bulgaria, and the capital city Sofia.
From the Bronze Age, and the Middle Ages, all the way to showcasing war relics like uniforms, to everyday textiles, maps, pieces of furniture, and more – the museum will definitely keep all of its visitors for a while as they navigate the different eras of Bulgaria.
Those interested in archaeology will need to visit the archaeological and historical rooms to examine the incredible amount of items found during excavations throughout the country.
After learning about Bulgarian history, consider having lunch at the museum buffet, and stepping into the library, and souvenir shop.
The museum is open every day from 9:30 am – 6 pm.
4 – Visit the Sofia Zoo, the oldest zoo in the Balkans
Spend an afternoon learning about and observing the grand variety of animals that call the Sofia Zoo home, located 12 minutes south of Sofia city center.
With over 2,000 varieties of animals and around 280 represented species, both local and international, children and adult animal enthusiasts will enjoy learning more about each animal, its habitats, and what each animal eats.
Visitors can expect to see animals like otters, goats, lions, bears, lamas, birds of various varieties, and so much more.
Lately, the zoo has opened a new section to the zoo that showcases the study of trees and other wooded plants.
This fascinating section opens the world of botany even more to interested visitors who will learn about 40 different tree species from all over the world.
5 – Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Rila Monastery & Boyana Church
Surrounded by enchanting forested mountains is the largest and most well-known monastery in the Eastern Orthodox faith, Rila Monastery.
Step back in time, and walk through the grounds of the monastery that dates back to the 10th century, telling the history of the spiritual and social life of those who lived through the medieval era in Bulgaria.
Check out the museum, which is made up of 4 exhibits ranging from the history of the monastery, social and cultural practices, art pieces, and weapons and tools.
If you take a day trip from Sofia to the Rila Monastery, a stop at Boyana Church is included, where visitors can observe the delicate yet marvelous medieval frescoes dating back to the 13th century.
Those feeling extra adventurous can take a bike tour from Sofia to the monastery, surely guaranteed to be an experience to have at least once.
6 – Explore the National Palace of Culture
The National Palace of Culture (NDK) is the largest convention center not only in Bulgaria but in the whole of the southeastern region of Europe.
Built in 1981, the National Palace of Culture estimates that it hosts 300 events per year. It’s located in the heart of Sofia, making it very accessible to visitors.
Most famous for hosting a myriad of events from concerts, to conventions, conferences, exhibitions, festivals, and more, the National Palace of Culture covers approximately 123,000 square meters and towers around 8 stories high.
Check out their website to find more information on upcoming shows and events taking place inside. While visiting, make sure to check out the piece of the Berlin wall, located on the left side of the main entrance of the NDK.
7 – Visit the famous churches of Sofia
The Church of St. George Rotunda, also known as St. Georgi, is a church that went through waves of different uses based on religious influences, from a Christian church to a mosque and an Orthodox church.
Stop by on a Sunday morning to listen to the sound of church chants and singing.
The Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker is a Russian church situated in the heart of Sofia and offers beautiful 16th-century Russian architecture stylings, and stunning frescoes found inside. Stop by the crypt where the remains of Bishop Serafin lie.
A bus tour is a fast and easy way to see not only these churches but way more at once. Get informed, and appreciate the different architecture of each church, all retelling a piece of important Bulgarian history.
8 – Go back in time between 1944-1989 on a communism tour
Join a communism tour, and walk through the streets of Sofia, learning about life during the communist era, taking note of the specific architecture of the buildings such as the building that was the Former Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters.
Walk past the Knyazheska Garden and Monument to the Soviet Army, and learn about the dedication behind the sculptures, and what it means to Bulgarians.
The Museum of Socialist Art shares images of a version of an ideal society, a variety of poster propaganda, a large 5-pointed star, films, and texts from the time.
9 – Dig more into the past at Sofia History Museum
Utilized as the city’s first public bath called the Central Mineral Bathhouse in the early 20th century, the Sofia History Museum is a space that shares with visitors Sofia’s history, from the beginnings of the city’s settlement to the more recent 20th century and current day progressions.
The museum counts with 8 exhibits, guiding the traveler through the different eras of Sofia, and offering visitors insight into the prized materials of the Kings that ruled Sofia at one point, the Turkish influence deep in the city, as well as showcasing what a Neolithic home six millennia BC was like.
Peek at the mineral springs beside the museum, although not in use anymore, share a visual of the abundance and common practice of mineral spring water fountains throughout the city.
10 – Test your critical thinking skills in an escape room
Beat the timer inside an escape room, where you and your group have to work together to think of creative ways to solve riddles and questions in order to escape the specified room you’re in.
Guaranteeing a fun and memorable time, bring your group of friends, or come solo and join a group to put your heads together and unlock the next round.
With various types of themed escape rooms, choose from robbery, murder mystery, toxic lab, an insane asylum, and many other types of themed escape rooms to test your luck and your skill.
Be sure to book your spot in advance online to skip the line and guarantee your slot with your party. Most escape rooms are located throughout the heart of Sofia, starting at $25 USD.
11 – Splish splash at Vazrajdane Aqua Park
Welcoming guests with a refreshing afternoon plan, Vazrajdane Aqua Park, located in the heart of the city, is easily accessed via public transportation on train or bus and it’s one of the best things to do in Sofia with kids.
Stretching over 6,600 square meters and situated inside the extensive Vazrajdane Park, this aqua park offers an incredible amount of relaxing opportunities, as well as exciting and entertaining options.
Fit for everyone in your group, enjoy a large indoor swimming pool and sauna park, as well as fun outdoor swimming pools with twisty slides.
Parents can enjoy the swim-up bar, as well as catching some sun rays on the sunbeds, and enjoy lunch at the restaurant on-site. Indulge further in relaxation with a massage, salt room, tangent baths, and so much more.
Tickets start at BGN 9.00 for pool access.
12 – Do double takes inside the Museum of Illusions
Enter a world unlike anywhere, where up means down and some double takes may be required.
The Museum of Illusions is jam-packed with incredible fantasies that feel so real, that you have to experience yourself completely to see that not everything is what it may seem.
Technology, riddles, art, and a strong sense of imagination all go together, where children and adults can draw with light, take pictures with interactive cameras, and learn how light and shadows truly work, amongst other fun things.
With a space of 400 square meters, prepare to spend 1-2 hours truly enjoying the exhibits.
Tickets start at BNG 21.00, and the museum opens daily from 10 am – 8 pm. Make sure to book your tickets and select the day you’d like to visit online.
13 – Roam the streets of Plovdiv – Bulgaria’s second-largest city
Known as the cultural capital of Bulgaria, Plovdiv is the city famously built around the 7 hills and is recognized nationally and internationally as the oldest continually inhabited European city.
In 2019, Plovdiv received the title of European Capital of Culture.
Check out the picturesque Ancient Theater, delivering incredible views of the city, made out of marble. Walk through the artsy neighborhood of Kapana, and get a view of the city’s best art pieces inside the abundance of galleries.
Refer to their website to find local festivities happening year-round.
Be sure to visit these sights in Plovdiv as well as many others on a tour from Sofia, which oftentimes includes a stop in nearby Koprivshtitsa, another rich and historical known for its Bulgarian-style architecture dating to the 19th century.
14 – Check out the art hot spots in Sofia’s art galleries
Art lovers rejoice with the incredible opportunities to encounter art galleries all over Sofia, sharing emotion, life, and experience from the perspective of the Bulgarians of Sofia.
Browse the 28 halls and over 42,000 art pieces inside The National Art Gallery. Some of the most prized Bulgarian art pieces range from mid-19th century Bulgaria, all the way to international pieces from the Americas and Africa.
Consider the Sofia City Art Gallery for a dose of Bulgarian contemporary art, and check out their 3 exhibits: Past, Present, and Future, showcasing the progression and expression of modern art throughout the times.
For street art lovers, there are plenty of great things to do in Sofia, a great destination to check out provocative and important socio-political murals, and images that will be understood no matter the language barrier. It’s worth stopping by Art Street Samuil (also known as Tzar Samuil) and visiting the many art galleries.
15 – Paraglide to get a bird’s eye view of Sofia
Glide through the Bulgarian skies, and take in sights unlike anywhere else on a paragliding adventure.
Fly with a professional, and be flown through the winds as you take in some of Sofia’s most famed sights including the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Church St. George Rotunda, and the Sofia History Museum.
The paragliding adventure usually lasts anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on the weather conditions and can go up as high as a few thousand meters in the sky.
Ticket prices may vary, but some can start at around $100 USD.
Many of the take-off sites are located not too far from downtown Sofia, so a quick taxi ride or bus ride will be the easiest mode of transportation.
16 – Take a look at war relics inside the National Museum of Military History
Learn about the intense and fascinating history of the Bulgarian military inside the National Museum of Military History, showcasing uniforms, tools, weaponry, photographs, flags, and many other pieces of military materials.
Opening its doors in 1916, the aim of the museum is to educate and inform Bulgarian citizens about the national defense, and build pride and respect for those who lost their lives fighting for their country.
Walk through the different exhibits showcasing different wars in which the Bulgarians were involved, and see as the stories and war strategies come alive through the imagery and education.
Guided tours are available and encouraged in order to make sense of the vast amounts of information, so make sure to inquire about it beforehand.
17 – Gaze at the beauty of the Seven Rila Lakes
Located north of Sofia is the sight of the Seven Rila Lakes, a series of lakes that were created due to glacial activity that today, give Bulgaria an undisputed level of natural beauty for all to enjoy.
Considered to be the most visited series of lakes in Bulgaria, it is surely a place to add to your list of things to do in Sofia and see the lakes distinctly for their unique shape.
Some of the names of the rivers range from The Tear (the most transparent lake), The Kidney (a crescent-shaped lake), The Eye (an oval-shaped lake), and a few more.
18 – Go through Bulgaria’s well-preserved artifacts at the Bulgarian Archeological Museum
Visit the spectacular Bulgarian Archaeological Museum, housed inside what used to be the Ottoman Empire’s largest mosque, in the heart of Sofia.
Wander through the 4 exhibits, showcasing a timeline of the historical findings throughout the excavations in Bulgaria, from the prehistoric hall to the Late Bronze Age, and then the Middle Ages.
Be sure to check out the special collection of items in the unique Vault hall, where visitors can find some of the most precious and prized possessions belonging to Bulgaria’s rich heritage.
Sorted chronologically, visitors will observe old paintings dating back to Medieval times, see up close weaponry and other tools used every day in the Late Bronze Age, and much more.
The museum is open every day except Mondays, from 10 am – 5 pm.
19 – Learn about the turbulent past of the Sofia Synagogue
The Sofia Synagogue is one of the largest in Europe and makes up 1 of the 2 only functioning synagogues in Bulgaria.
Considering the challenges that the Sofia Synagogue faced throughout time, from wars to wanting to convert the religious space to a concert venue, the synagogue today is fully in function and serves the small yet present Jewish community of Sofia.
Visitors can enter the holy space, and take in the beautiful Spanish-Arab architecture while noticing the majestic hanging chandelier in the middle, as well as the intricate interior details.
If you’d like you can also hop over to the other religious spaces such as the Mosque and Catholic Cathedral, not too far away from the Synagogue.
Entrance is based on donations, and guides are available for a fee.
20 – Uncover the magnificent site of Belogradchik Rocks
Stunning natural phenomena are the Belogradchick Rocks, an interesting rock formation of sandstone located in the northwestern region of Bulgaria, and just under 3 hours away from Sofia.
The Belogradchik Rocks is a site that is intriguing based on its shape and height, reaching over 200 meters. However, it’s also the fortress nearby that draws the eyes and attention even wider.
Visit the fortress that makes the site look like a grand Bulgarian castle, on the Belogradchik Rocks. Walk around the 12-meter tall walls, and walk into the fortress yards, giving way to one of the best views of the dramatic rock formations.
Take one of the three different train journeys departing from the town of Oreshec, and take a taxi from the Belogradchick station to the rocks.
21 – Relax and unwind in Sofia’s best parks
Check out some of the best parks in Sofia, whether to escape the busy city, plan a picnic, do a little people-watching, or all of the above.
Borisova Gradina Park is one of the oldest parks in Sofia and is located 7 minutes south of downtown Sofia. Offering walking trails, beautiful open spaces for a picnic, and historical sculptures plan to relax and unwind for a few hours here.
Located close to the National Art Gallery is the City Garden. Check out the beautiful gardens where the locals of all ages come out to socialize, meet with friends, and enjoy a coffee.
Take your young ones to the playground inside Park Zaimov, offering tennis courts, cafes, and even a theater. Admire the fountains, and the gardens, and disengage from city life for a while.
22 – Check out the local food scene on a food tour
Try some of Bulgaria’s emblematic dishes such as the cheesy pastry dish called Banitsa, cold, fresh, and creamy soup called Tarator, and the traditional shopska salad inside a food tour.
Book an exciting food tour that will grant you access to some of the best food markets, hole in the wall restaurants, and let your eyes and sense of scent take over as you feast your eyes and appetite on some of the freshest produce.
On the way to these different foodie places, you’ll also get a tour of the city, and all of the important sites in the city. Be led by a local food expert, and learn about the farm-to-table approach very present in Bulgaria, including Sofia.
23 – Go on a hiking expedition on Vitosha Mountain
A little under 1 hour from Sofia is the mountain peak Vitosha, known to be a great spot for hiking, alpinism, snowshoeing, and skiing.
Unofficially a symbol of Sofia, Vitosha Mountain is an adored spot for many Bulgarians seeking to get in touch with nature.
Enjoy a hike or a guided snowshoe trek around parts of the mountain. Another popular trek is the waterfall hike, as well as a mountain bike expedition. Sit on a chair lift, and get incredible unmatched views of the surroundings.
The mountain is easily accessible via public transportation, offering various stops throughout the journey.
Another mode of transportation is a tour from Sofia, stopping at Vitosha Mountain, as well as Dragalevtsi Monastery – a Bulgarian Orthodox monastery located near the slopes of Vitosha Mountain.
24 – Enjoy learning about Bulgaria’s collection of rare insects at the National Museum of Natural History
Originally organized in 1889 as a way to store the personal collection of the Royal Prince Ferdinand, the National Museum of Natural History opened its doors officially to the public in 1907 and is considered the oldest museum in Bulgaria.
Counting on 15 separate halls on 4 floors, each housing exhibits on mineralogy, birds, fishes, insects, and more, visitors will see remnants of unique animals such as the last pure-bred aurochs, the California condor which has now gone extinct, huge African tortoises, and so much more.
Located in the heart of downtown Sofia, the museum is very accessible and easy to get to no matter where you may be via public transport or on foot. The museum is open every day, from 10 am – 6 pm.
25 – Take your family to Kokolandia amusement park
Adventure calls at Kokolandia amusement park, offering families the opportunity to bond together over challenging obstacle courses and activities that involve rope climbing, trampolines, tree top obstacle courses, and so much more.
Aimed more for children, parents and young adults will also love challenging themselves with rock climbing and other slightly more advanced tree top adventures.
Children will love the newly opened Vozhelandia activity, combining swinging, jumping, hiding, and rolling around a wide, and colorful net.
The adventure park also prides itself on backing up its games and activities with insurance and safety nets everywhere, so children can fully enjoy themselves and parents can feel comfortable letting go.
The amusement park is located about 1 hour away from Sofia, and prices vary depending on how many rounds you’d like to purchase.
26 – Plan a day trip to North Macedonia or Serbia only a few hours away from Sofia
The advantage of visiting the Balkans is knowing that you’re never more than a few hours away from the next country, which means incredible day trips to neighboring cities.
Check out a day trip to the city of Skopje in North Macedonia, and wander through the country’s capital that dates back to 4,000 BC, and is only a few hours away from Sofia.
Visit some of the top sites in one day including the Old Bazaar, the Skopje Eye Bridge, and Karpos’s Rebellion Square.
Also not too far from Sofia is the city of Nis in Serbia, the 3rd largest city in Serbia, less than 3 hours away, where visitors can check out important sites like the Skull Tower, and the Nis Fortress, and enjoy Serbian cuisine.
27 – Create magical memories with your kids at Muzeiko Children’s Museum
Combining science, curiosity, and imagination, Muzeiko is a space where children of all ages are encouraged to play and have fun while learning about the world via science, culture, history, and art.
Science comes alive with 15 various exhibits showcasing natural sciences, creative inventions, the planetarium, child-size city and nature replicas, archaeology, and so much more.
Parents can grab lunch at the museum cafe, and browse through the souvenir shop while their children are enjoying themselves with the over 100 interactive games and activities.
The museum has information written in both English and Bulgarian, making it easy for more children to understand and integrate well.
Tickets can be purchased online starting at BGN 15 for adults and BGN 9 for children under 25 years old.
28 – Experience a deluxe wine tasting in the heart of Sofia
Enjoy a taste test of the wines local to Sofia on a wine-tasting tour, guided by a professional wine master.
Taste and learn about wines that span over the 5,000 years of wine-making tradition and history in Bulgaria.
Taste the sweet nectar of some of Bulgaria’s most local grapes: Miskets, Melnik, Mavrud, Guzma, and Rubin, and learn about the wine-making process that has deep roots in Bulgaria.
When wine comes to mind, Sofia is not always a region to think of, but passionate wine-makers will educate you on some lesser-known information about Bulgarian wine.
Often complimented well with a wine tasting is a cheese tasting, also offering visitors a taste of some of the best cheeses crafted in Bulgaria and in the Balkans as a whole.
29 – Visit the only functioning mosque in Sofia called Banya Bashi Mosque
After the Ottoman rule in Sofia that lasted almost 5 centuries, at its peak, Sofia was the home of up to 70 different mosques.
Today, however, the Banya Bashi Mosque is known to be the only functioning mosque in Sofia currently.
While the exterior of the mosque offers an architectural style very typical of the Ottoman Empire, the interior is said to be a spectacular constellation of incredible calligraphy, geometric shapes, Islamic art, and beautiful tile work.
The mosque can fit up to 700 people, and it is open for respectful visitors of all religious backgrounds to take in the stunning interiors.
Look beside the mosque to find remnants of an old Hamman, perhaps giving the name “many baths” to the mosque. The entrance is free to the mosque.
30 – Wander through the streets of Veliko Tarnovo
Located northwest of Sofia, is the town of Veliko Tarnovo, perched high in the mountains and offering incredible hiking opportunities, and nightlife due to being home to Bulgaria’s largest university while offering a small town, and a picturesque atmosphere.
Check out a free walking tour that will show you the must-see sites of the town, including the Tsarevets Fortress and other important monuments.
Don’t forget to step inside one of the many museums sharing archaeological finds, as well as an insider look into life in this small town in the early 19th century.
Take a tour bus from Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo, which oftentimes makes a stop in Arbanasi, another wonderful small town brimming with rich history, and unique sites like the Church of Nativity and the 17th-century house Konstantsalieva.
31 – Walk throughout Sofia’s Vitosha Boulevard
Vitosha Boulevard is Sofia’s main shopping avenue, boasting some of the most luxurious shopping brands known globally, as well as a few local high-end fashion brands, from Bulgari to Max Mara.
The 1.678-mile stretch of lush shopping is located in downtown Sofia and is often an attraction that many people flock to, as it intersects with sites like Sveta Nedelya Orthodox Church and the Sofia Court of Justice.
Take a stroll on the famed avenue, and check out a few restaurants and bars on the same path, many recognized for Bulgarian delicacies like moussaka and gyuvetch as well as serving other cuisines like Italian and Russian foods.
Due to its central location, many free walking tours meet here, so it’s a good street to use as a focal point.
32 – Check out one of the biggest mineralogy museums in the world at Earth and People National Museum
Opening its doors to the world of mineralogy in 1987, the Earth and People National Museum is a one-of-a-kind museum that keeps more than 20,000 items inside its walls from ceramics made from naturally occurring minerals to collections of precious stones from all over the world.
Explore the different hallways showcasing the process of mineral production, the use of minerals, the different types of minerals, and so much more.
Check out the Pete Tranteev collection of rarely seen minerals discovered throughout 45 years of cave expeditions. The most famous piece in the collection is the cave pearls which are small dots made of concentrated calcite.
The museum will open visitors’ awareness of minerals, inside one of the biggest mineral museums in the world.
33 – Enjoy dinner and a Bulgarian folklore show
Catch dinner and a show at one of the best Bulgarian food restaurants located throughout the city, while enjoying a cultural presentation in the form of dance.
Folkloric dances in Bulgaria are slow and fast and are one of the best and most memorable ways to experience local culture. So, when making dinner plans, make sure to check if a folklore show is included.
Enjoy a delicious 3-course meal, as your attention moves to the Bulgarian dancers taking center stage at the restaurant, performing cultural dances such as Horo, a combination of hands and feet movement, and other dances like Dunavsko and Sitno Vlashko.
Make dinner plans at Site Balgari Zaedno offering Mediterranean, Bulgarian, and vegetarian options, along with a presentation of local dance, located in the city center.
34 – Check out the unique Amphitheatre of Serdica and Ancient Serdica Complex inside a hotel
A truly magnificent sight for the eyes is the Amphitheater of Serdica – an amphitheater that was discovered during the construction of the Arena di Serdica Hotel of FPI Hotels & Resorts in 2004. Serdica used to be the name of Sofia, thus giving the name to the amphitheater.
The uniqueness of the amphitheater lies perhaps in the theater that was excavated underneath the amphitheater as well, which scholars today name these two findings as an Ancient Serdica Complex dating back to the 3rd-4th century.
Coins, pottery, and ceramics were found and today, visitors can check out the ruins along with the findings themselves inside the Arena di Serdica Hotel, located in downtown Sofia, for free.
35 – Jump in on the fun at Park Boby & Kelly amusement park
Take your little ones to an amusement park fit for their size, guaranteed to give your family a grand time making memories together.
Park Boby & Kelly is an amusement park situated 16 minutes southeast of downtown Sofia, the park includes a variety of games ranging from trampolines to child-size roller coasters, arcade games, airplane simulators and so much more.
Access to the actual park is free, however, to ride the games there is a small fee to pay, and tickets are purchased in person at the park.
Parents may purchase a ticket for a single ride or purchase tickets in bulk and use them on multiple rides. A parent with a child between 0-3 years of age may be able to get on the rides for free with the child.
36 – Squat down and purchase from a Klek Shop
Klek shops (Klek meaning squat in Bulgarian) are little shops located in the basement of homes and usually have one window that is used to interact with the customer.
These shops came to be during the communist era, when homeowners started to convert their basements into shops, concealing their business activities during a time when it wasn’t allowed to privately own your own shop.
Today, visitors flock in crowds to the many Klek shops around Sofia, looking a little lower than normal to catch sight of the little square windows.
Some of these shops sell everything from snacks, water, candy, and ice cream, to bread, groceries, and wine. Some of the underground spaces have been converted into speakeasies, so make sure to check them out while in Sofia.
37 – Experience an opera show at the Sofia Opera and Ballet
The renowned capital of culture in Sofia is the Sofia Opera and Ballet theater, situated in the heart of the city, and hosting a wide variety of cultural and theatrical shows and performances all year long.
Jam-packed with shows including ballet performances, theater, musicals, concerts, and opera, rest assured that visitors will find something to their liking, at a very accessible price point.
With opera season typically running from September – June, check out the opera’s website to pick a show you’d like to attend. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at the ticket booth beside the theater, or online.
When attending the Sofia Opera and Ballet theater, make sure to check the dress code. The website states that formal attire is recommended, so pack accordingly.
38 – Join a fun pub crawl
Prepare for a fun night out on a pub crawl, where you’ll be guided by a local and be taken to some of the hottest spots in Sofia for a pint of local beer, fun bar trivia activities, and a grand time.
Meet new people, try local beers, and sample other local alcoholic beverages, sing karaoke, as you interact with Sofia’s entertaining nightlife, located in the heart of the city.
Enjoy visiting the locations around the city where locals hang out and go out, as you explore the city’s other side, completely different from the daytime vibe.
Visit some of Sofia’s hidden and unique bars, and explore Sofia’s party neighborhoods where the parties last well into the next day.
Pub crawls start at $16 USD.
39 – Attend a show at a Bulgarian theater
Check out the other amazing theaters throughout the city, each offering different styles of art, performances, and genres that caters to every traveler.
Visit Ivan Vazov National Theater, known as one of the main landmarks of Sofia, as well as one of the oldest theaters in Bulgaria, located downtown. Be sure to check out the stunning gardens in front of the theater.
The Bulgarian Army Theater puts on a variety of multi-genre shows from musicals, comedy performances, classic and contemporary dramas, and improv. Its name comes from the nearby Military Club, a building owned by the Bulgarian Army.
For those traveling with young ones, it’s worth checking what’s on at the Sofia Puppet Theatre.
Make sure to take a stroll down Rakovska street, known by many locals as Theater street, where most of Sofia’s theaters can be found, which are a few more than the ones we listed here.
40 – Wind down the evening at one of Bulgaria’s best rooftop bars and restaurants
Enjoy the evening at a lovely restaurant or bar, relishing the gorgeous views of the city and nature in one of Europe’s oldest cities.
Enjoy stunning views of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral through the windows of the rooftop bar at Sense Sofia Hotel. Offering a complete menu of gastronomic delights and craft cocktails to accompany your views, make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time.
Get panoramic views of Sofia’s cultural charm at the National Theatre Restaurant, located inside the beloved Ivan Vazov National Theatre, making this choice a great dinner option if you have plans to attend the theater that evening.
The Scene Rooftop Bar & Terrace is one of the most recently opened rooftop bars serving stunning mountain views, locally inspired cocktails along with Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
How to get to Sofia?
The main international airport in Sofia is called Sofia Airport, and its situated only 10 kilometers outside of the city center of Sofia.
Some of the common methods used by travelers to get to and from the airport and the city center are via the metro and a private airport transfer.
The metro stop is located inside Terminal 2 and will get you to the city center in 26 minutes with stops along the way.
An airport transfer will be the most comfortable option, as well as quickest, arriving in Sofia city center in 15 minutes or less depending on traffic. An airport transfer can better guarantee a reliable, easy, and comfortable journey to your hotel.
Where to stay in Sofia?
Stay in the historical Art ‘Otel, housed inside a 1930s house, in the heart of the historic district of Sofia. Take advantage of the closeness to Vitosha Street, the Palace of Culture, and the excellent breakfast buffet included in the rate price.
Consider the Hyatt Regency as your home away from home in Sofia, boasting 5-star quality amenities such as abundant dining options, a rooftop terrace with views of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and an incredible spa.
Rosslyn Central Park Hotel offers beautiful park and city views in the heart of downtown Sofia, as well as access to some of the city’s best cafes, restaurants, bars, and pedestrian-only zones nearby. Enjoy panoramic views as you indulge in your breakfast and morning coffee on the rooftop terrace.
Visiting Sofia on a budget?
Check out the different free walking tours waiting to greet you and take you around this magnificent city.
Walking tours are some of the best activities to do while traveling to a new city, in order to get acquainted with your new surroundings, as well as gain an appreciation for the local culture, history, and architecture.
Meet other travelers, befriend the guide, and learn where the best restaurants and museums to check out are.
Where to go next?
To get the most out of your trip to Sofia, make sure to check out multi-day trips, prepared by local guides strategically to get you to the important sites, no matter how long or short your stay in Sofia is.
Offering various tours throughout the days and seasons, go over some of the tours that include stops at Plovdiv and Bachkovo Monastery or the Plovdiv and Rose Valley experience. Take advantage of the multi-day trips to get to some of the remote locations like the Belogradchick Rocks, and don’t worry about train or bus schedules or planning anything on your own.
And if you wish to explore even further, Bulgaria’s neighbors are all worth exploring. A few hours from Sofia, you’ll find the charming city of Bucharest, showcasing beautiful architecture, interesting cultural sites, and lively nightlife, the capital of Romania is packed with fun activities and surely won’t disappoint.
A little further west of Sofia, you’ll find the charming capital of Serbia, Belgrade, with a vibrant energy and rich history, which will captivate you at first sight. Explore the impressive Kalemegdan Fort, perched on a hill with panoramic views of where the Sava and Danube rivers meet.
South of Bulgaria, located in the northern region of Greece, is the city of Thessaloniki, with incredible Mediterranean food markets, fascinating Byzantine culture, abundant art exhibits, and historic ruins at the turn of every corner.
From incredible natural phenomena like the Belogradchick Rocks and the Seven Rila Lakes to the charming and historic streets of nearby cities like Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, Sofia, Bulgaria offers an abundance of things to do from its city center, while offering outstanding day trip opportunities not too far from the city.
With its incredible sites and history spanning millennia back in time, Sofia offers curious travelers plenty of activities to engage in, learn from, and admire no matter the travel style or plan.
We hope you enjoyed our list of fun and unusual things to do in Sofia.