Sofia Visitor Guide 2023: Everything you need to know
Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and therefore in the world. Located in the western part of the country, the city has been inhabited since at least 7000 BC. This astonishing historical heritage makes it a fantastic place to explore the long story of human civilization in a part of the world the remains relatively unexplored.
But Sofia offers more than just its history. Bulgaria's economic engine and cultural hub is the gateway to a fascinating country that has only recently started to welcome foreign visitors. With some of the best Internet connectivity in the world and a highly educated population, Sofia is becoming a place that ranks high for remote workers and digital nomads. And for travelers, the Bulgarian capital offers an experience like no other. Drop off your bags at a Sofia bag storage and get to know Bulgaria.
6 Best Ways to Experience Sofia in 2023
The Bulgarian capital of Sofia has plenty to offer. As one of the world’s oldest cities, you won’t be short of historical sites, and many of this underrated country’s top cultural institutions also call the city home. But if you want to dive deeper into what Sofia has to offer, consider taking a tour from one of these companies. Drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage before you go, and you’ll be ready to dive into what makes Sofia so special.
Best free walking tour — 365 Association Sofia Tours
Part of what makes Sofia such an attractive city to visit is that it’s very affordable. And if you’re exploring the city on a budget, you won’t find a better price than free. This free walking tour will help you see the major sites of the city, with a focus on the Jewish heritage of Sophia. The company also offers a free tour in Plovdiv, so you can see what that city has to offer too. Remember to tip your guide though. And if you like what the company offers, you can also pay for other tours including a puzzle solving tour, a pub crawl, a food tour, and a tour of the communist relics of the city. All in all, 365 Association offers some extremely quirky tours of the city. Contact them at email@example.com or 359988920461.
Best nightlife tour — The New Sofia Pub Crawl
If you’d like to experience a city’s nightlife when you visit, you’re in luck. The New Sofia Pub Crawl will take you to some of Bulgaria’s hottest bars and nightclubs. You’ll visit spots that most tourists never get to hear about and learn more about Bulgaria’s party culture. You’ll also get to try local specialty drinks and immerse yourself in the city’s nightlife. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 359892237780.
Best communist tour — Sofia’s Communist Tour
No prizes for guessing what this tour is all about. Bulgaria spent many years as a communist state under the influence of the USSR, and the relics of this era are everywhere. This two-hour tour will explain Bulgaria’s history as a communist state and examine what life was like under this political system, as well as explaining why it eventually collapsed. In the best communist tradition, the tours are free, but availability is limited. Book ahead to ensure you get a spot on this fascinating tour. Contact the company at email@example.com or 359877613992.
Best hiking tour — Bulgarian Fairy Tale
There’s tons to see in Sofia itself. But if you want to see more of the country, Bulgarian Fairy Tale can help. They offer hiking tours that head out of the city and let you see more of the surrounding countryside. These tours are great for those who want to stay active on their vacation, and for those who want to experience more than just the tourist attractions of the big city. Pack your hiking boots and contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 359887435614.
Best tour for animal lovers — Traventuria Day Tours
Sofia may be Bulgaria’s capital, but not far away, you’ll find some of Europe’s most unspoiled wilderness. That makes Bulgaria a great place to visit for nature lovers. If you want to see some of the local wildlife during your visit, you’re in luck. Traventuria has knowledgeable guides that can take you to the best places to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Go birdwatching with them, visit a photography hide to get some unforgettable photos, or go looking for bears on a bear-watching tour. If you’re a fan of the natural world, these tours can’t be missed. Contact Traventuria to book at email@example.com or 35924930191.
Best day trips — Exploria
If it’s the history and culture of the country that most fascinates you, Exploria can help. This company offers tours that take you outside of Sofia itself to see some of the region’s most important cultural sites. For instance, the fascinating Rila Monastery dates back to the tenth century and is one of Bulgaria’s most famous historical sites. You could also see the country’s cultural capital of Plovdiv, or take a ride on a narrow-gauge train to explore the beautiful countryside just like people did in the early twentieth century. The range of choices the company offers is impressive, and you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 359988801985.
A weekend in Sofia
Sofia is a large city with plenty to offer, so a weekend isn't going to exhaust all there is to do here. However, it may be long enough to see some of the main sites and appreciate the atmosphere of the city. Drop off your bags at a luggage locker in Sofia and see what makes the city so special.
- Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is an icon of the city and one of the largest cathedrals in the Balkans. Dating back to the 1880s, the cathedral was built as Bulgaria emerged from Ottoman rule and claimed its independence. It remains the spiritual heart of the city.
- See the oldest building in this ancient city at the St. George Rotunda. The red brick church dates back to the fourth century and is surrounded by the ruins of Roman Serdica, as Sofia was once called. It's the best place to appreciate the long history of the city.
- Go shopping on Vitosha Boulevard. This is where Sofia residents come to spend and be seen, and is home to luxury brands beloved around the world. Even if you're not there to shop, you'll find plenty of cafés and restaurants to enjoy, and the street offers a great view of Vitosha Mountain.
As a very ancient city, Sofia is a great place to explore on foot. You can make things easier on yourself by dropping off your bags with a Sofia luggage storage service. That way, you can explore with peace of mind, knowing that your belongings will be safely looked after until you're ready to pick them up again.
Off the beaten path in Sofia
Sofia itself has only recently started to embrace its tourist potential. And beyond the better-known sights of the city, there is a wealth of interesting places to explore. Allow yourself to get off the beaten path in Sofia and you'll find some memorable things to do in the Bulgarian capital.
- Get some peace and quiet at Boyana Church. This medieval building is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is located close to Vitosha Mountain. Sofia isn't short of ancient churches, but what sets this one apart is its peaceful setting surrounded by trees on the outskirts of the city.
- See more of Roman Serdica at the amphitheater. Only discovered in 2004, this ancient theater and arena is now part of a hotel, but is free to visit for anyone who wants to see it.
- Sofia's central mineral baths were opened in 1913 to take advantage of the area's geological activity. Although the baths themselves have been closed since the 1980s, the grand building still stands and makes for great photographs. The gardens surrounding the baths make for a pleasant stroll, and the natural hot springs feed a fountain at the center so you can see just how warm the water gets.
What to do alone in Sofia
Traveling solo lets you escape the crowds and tailor your trip to your own preferences. Drop off your bags at a Sofia suitcase storage and explore by yourself. Whether you're traveling on business or for vacation, Sofia has plenty to offer solo travelers.
- The National Institute of Archaeology is the best place to come to grips with the complex story of Sofia. With its origins way back in prehistory, this sprawling museum covers every era of the city's long life and is the perfect place to learn more about a fascinating part of the world.
- Get an incredible view over the city from Vitosha Mountain. Rising more than 7000 feet above the city, the mountain is a vast nature park featuring a ski resort and endless summer hiking trails.
- Explore Sofia's twentieth-century history on a Communist tour. This entertaining tour will take you to some of the major sites of the capital during its period of Communist rule. It's fascinating to hear the stories of this way of life that is still within living memory.
Best souvenirs in Sofia
Winemaking in Bulgaria dates back to the ancient Thracians. Bulgaria still produces a lot of wine, and a bottle makes a great gift. Visit EnjoyWine for an impressive local selection. Additionally, you may not know that Bulgaria is the world's largest producer of rose oil. You can pick up rose-themed soap, shampoo, chocolate, tea, and just about anything else at the Bulgarian Rose Company store.