Sofia’s attractions are, above all, the remains of the city’s extremely rich past. The history of the capital of Bulgaria has both the times of reigning in the local lands of the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, as well as the period of the communist regime. Each of them brought with them remains in the form of more or less interesting buildings and architecture, influencing the urban landscape. Sofia is not one of the prettiest or most visited places in Bulgaria.
Here, the Black Sea coast leads the way, where crowds of tourists come every summer.
Sofia tourist attractions
However, there are plenty of attractions in Sofia, and the capital clearly gains in the eyes of visitors every year. The city can boast a really impressive number of religious monuments, such as churches, mosques and synagogues. Soaring minarets, Ottoman baths and modern skyscrapers are integrated into today’s landscape of this place. Sofia tempts with its unique location at the foot of the Vitosha mountain massif, rich nightlife and, what is important, affordable prices. By the way, see what the prices are in Bulgaria.
So let’s start exploring the tourist attractions in Sofia and the interesting places the city has to offer.
The capital of Bulgaria is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway. There is a lot to see, where to walk and where to have fun. The city is an interesting place for fans of Balkan history and culture, but also for people who want to have fun in the evenings. In addition, just a few minutes’ drive away, you can find yourself here in mountainous areas, where you can go trekking in summer, and skiing and snowboarding in winter.
Two days are enough to visit Sofia if you want to see its most important attractions and monuments. However, when a cursory visit to all the most interesting places in the Bulgarian capital is not enough for us, then we have to stay a bit longer. Importantly, most of the monuments and attractions for tourists are located close to each other.
Thus, Sofia can be explored on foot, and to its further corners, for example, by public transport, including a convenient metro.
The best time to visit Sofia is actually the whole year. The version of the Bulgarian capital covered with a snow duvet has its charm, as well as discovering its advantages on sunny and sometimes even too hot summer days. However, many people recommend visiting Sofia in spring, when the temperatures are getting more pleasant, or in autumn, when there is no such stuffiness in the air.
Sights in Sofia
First, let’s see what interesting sights in Sofia are worth visiting in the first place.
Boyana Church is one of the monuments in Sofia, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is an Orthodox temple dating back to the Middle Ages, more precisely from the 10th century.
Inside, it is worth paying attention to the frescoes that decorate the local walls, and the execution time of which dates back to the 13th century. Among them, you can see various portraits, incl. Bulgarian tsars, aristocrats or sponsors of this building.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
One of the most symbolic monuments in Sofia is St. Alexander Nevsky. This church was built in 1912 in the Neo-Byzantine style in honor of Tsar Alexander II. Its most distinctive feature is a large gilded dome, visible from a distance.
St. Alexander Nevsky is one of the largest Orthodox churches in all of Europe. Inside, you can admire colorful frescoes, gilded icons, and the tsar’s throne made of alabaster and onyx.
Orthodox Church of St. George
Another important monument in Sofia is also the Church of St. George. Built of red brick and located between the Presidential Palace and a luxury hotel. Interestingly, this inconspicuous building, also in terms of its surface, is one of the oldest in the city.
Its creation dates back to the 4th century. During the reign of the Ottoman Empire, it was converted into a mosque. Inside, it is worth seeing the original frescoes from the 12th-14th centuries.
Tourist attractions in Sofia
Let’s move smoothly from sights to tourist attractions in Sofia.
Orthodox church of St. Samarjah Petka with the archaeological complex of Serdica
One of the major tourist attractions in Sofia is the Church of St. Samarjian Petka. This is another Orthodox church in the Bulgarian capital, built on the site of a former temple built in Roman times. The tiny church is located right next to the metro station.
Inside, you can admire 16th-century frescoes. What is even more interesting, however, is right next door. There are remains of a Thracian village from the 8th century, which was, in a way, the beginning of the foundations of the present city of Sofia.
Fragments of the remains of the walls and foundations of old buildings can be seen with the naked eye. Some of the excavations are in a covered museum exhibition, where you already have to pay for entrance.
Vitosha mountain massif
Another attraction for tourists in Sofia is Vitosha Mountain. This massif with the highest elevation of Cherni Vrah (2290 m above sea level) is a real treat for enthusiasts of active leisure. Located practically in the capital of Bulgaria, it is an ideal area for hiking in the summer, and also an excellent ground for ski runs in winter.
Some of the hiking trails require you to be really fit here.
Vitosha Boulevard, as befits a representative promenade in the Bulgarian capital, is a real magnet for tourists. This is where you can eat, choosing one of the many nearby restaurants. There are also numerous shops and exclusive boutiques and bars on the Vitosha Boulevards, where you can spend a nice time.
It is definitely one of the most expensive places when it comes to the Bulgarian capital, but still the prices here do not scare you. Vitosha Boulevards come to life mainly after dark, when most tourists and residents come here to relax.
Vrana Palace and Gardens
A little more distant attraction on the outskirts of Sofia is Vrana Palace and Gardens. It is the former royal seat and official residence of the former Tsar Simeon II and his wife Margarita. In 2000 it was handed over to the city authorities by tsarist descendants. Although the palace building itself cannot be visited from the inside, it is worth coming here to take a walk in the well-kept garden.
There are over 800 species of trees, shrubs and plants imported from all over the world. You can get here by a special bus from the city center (Eagle Bridge). The route is only 11 kilometers.
What’s worth seeing in Sofia?
Let’s take a look at what to see and visit in Sofia. So monuments and attractions to be continued!
Church of St. Nedel
One of the historically important places worth seeing in Sofia is certainly the Saint Nedel Church. This building is not only impressive in terms of the shape itself topped with a characteristic dome, but also strongly marked by history. It was here that the famous assassination attempt on Tsar Boris III took place. For this purpose, explosives were detonated here, which killed 150 people, but not the ruler himself, who at that time was not in the temple.
In addition, the Church of Saint Nedel was rebuilt several times, including after an earthquake. It is now the cathedral of the bishop of Sofia, where you can see a gilded iconostasis and colorful frescoes.
National Museum of History
Another point worth seeing on the map of Sofia is the National History Museum. Located a bit off the beaten track, the road will be compensated by the local views. The building of the museum is situated against the backdrop of greenery and the Vitosha mountain range. Inside, you can learn about the history and culture of Bulgaria. There is an impressive collection of 650,000 paintings on site, as well as many other works of art.
Here you can look at books collected over the centuries and many items from archaeological excavations.
Bania Bashi Jamyy Mosque
In Sofia, it is also worth seeing the Bania Bashi Jamyy Mosque, the only one operating in the Bulgarian capital. This is another remnant of the rule of the Ottoman Empire and, by the way, the oldest object of this type in Europe. The Bania Bashi Dżamiya Mosque was built in a place where a thermal spring, which supplied a public bathhouse (hammam), was mined. The court also uses the word bath, meaning bath. It can be visited outside of prayer hours, of course in a properly selected outfit.
Near the mosque, there is also the largest Jewish synagogue in the Balkans, which is also worth seeing in Sofia. It was built in 1906 for about 1,300 believers. It can be visited on any day of the week, except Saturdays. Inside, it is worth paying attention to the almost two-tone chandelier suspended from the ceiling.
On the site, next to the synagogue, the Jewish Historical Museum was also established, which tells about the fate of Jews in Bulgaria and the Holocaust.
Interesting places in Sofia
There were monuments and tourist attractions, so now it’s time for interesting places in Sofia.
Church of God’s Wisdom
One of the most interesting places in Sofia is the Church of God’s Wisdom. Another historic temple, on the map of the Bulgarian capital, which dates back to the 4th century. Its history is similar to others, it was turned into a mosque during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, then it suffered during the earthquake and had to be rebuilt. At one time, the church also played the role of a warehouse or even a fire station.
Currently, in its basement, there is an archaeological museum, where you can see the tombs of the ancient metropolis, as well as mosaics from early Christian times.
See also what monuments and tourist attractions hide in Golden Sands.
Regional History Museum
Another interesting place in Sofia is the Regional History Museum. It is here that you can learn about the history of this city. The museum was located in the building of the former city bathhouse, which served its function for over 100 years. The building itself was designed by Petko Momchilov in the style of Viennese Art Nouveau. The museum is really spacious, with eight halls showing collections from Neolithic times to the present day.
Including historical photographs showing Sofia’s old streets and items related to the everyday life of its inhabitants. You can also admire traditional Bulgarian clothes, jewelery, as well as old vehicles used by the local people.
National Palace of Culture
One of the most interesting buildings in Sofia, which is the local Palace of Culture, is also a favorite meeting place for residents and a landmark on the map of the Bulgarian capital. Interestingly, the building was constructed with more steel than was used to build the Eiffel Tower. The National Palace of Culture is mainly used as a conference and exhibition center, where concerts, congresses and shows are held. The whole property is surrounded by a large park with numerous fountains. It is here that open-air exhibitions and various fairs are often organized.
For more, visit the official website of Sofia.
Sofia tourist attractions map
On the following tourist map of attractions in Sofia you will find all the monuments, interesting places and tourist attractions: