With so many amazing buildings, beautiful churches and cathedrals, ancient ruins, gorgeous parks, and picturesque streets, Sofia is a photographer’s paradise!
Best places to visit in Sofia, Bulgaria
No better place to start than with an empty stomach and you in the middle of Sofia’s Ladies’ Market. This is not a huge market, it’s quite small actually, but it surely packs a punch. The main objective here is to fill up your tummy with some typical delicious Bulgarian food 🙂 ! So at this point we have 2 options, you can go for a Bulgarian breakfast / light snack, or you can go for a full meal / Bulgarian lunch.
Mekitzas are a sort of corn fried dough made into various shapes. You can eat them plain, or you can have them with cheese, olives, minced, etc. You can also try the traditional Bulgarian donuts filled with apple stuffing, chocolate, Bulgarian cream, etc.
If you really want to go for the full Bulgarian experience, then you will need to go for a “Boza”. This is a traditional Bulgarian drink, which I have to say, it’s unlikely you would have tasted anything like this before. Just one piece of advice, even though it looks like chocolate, it totally isn’t.
For the Bulgarian lunch or full meal option, head over to Bistro 36. This is the closest you will get to a Bulgarian grandma’s kitchen. From all the meals I had in Sofia, this was the one I have the fondest memories of. The menu varies each day, but you will always have your choice of fresh soups, salads, stews, potato dishes, stuffed cabbages, chicken, pork, and beef specialties. If they happen to have it on the day, give the traditional “Bulgarian Gywetsh stew” a try, it’s gorgeous!
Once you have taken care of your tummy, it’s time to give those legs a shake. Make your way to Serdika (Serdica) which is both an underground metro stop and a collection of ancient ruins dating back to the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries.
Saint Sofia Monument (The Statue of Sveta Sofia)
Gaze at this beautiful statue that is the central symbol of Bulgaria’s capital. Replacing Lenin’s statue, this masterpiece found itself at the heart of Sofia in the year 2000.
Saint George Rotunda Church
This is a magnificent example of 4th century architecture rises majestically at the center of Sofia’s commercial district. As beautiful as this church is during the day, it is at most splendorous when sun comes down. Chances are you will be in this area when you go out for dinner and drinks, so keep your eye open for it…even though it will be hard to miss.
This is the heart and soul of Sofia’s restaurant, cafe, bar, and overall nightlife scene. During the day you will find packed restaurants left and right serving a full range of cuisines. From typical Bulgarian food, to pasta, hand tossed pizzas, burgers, steakhouses, vegan & vegetarian, there is a table for any palate in this uber pleasant boulevard of indulgence.
National Palace of Culture Park
This wonderfully maintained park is host to Sofia’s best water fountain displays. It is a beautiful walk flanked by picture perfect gardens all leading up to the National Palace of Culture. Be sure to check for what’s on the agenda as there are a variety of operas, ballets, comedy, and drama plays playing throughout the year.
Georgi Rakovski Street
Facing the National Palace of Culture, take left and find your way to Georgi Rakovski Street. This bustling street is the perfect route to our next major stop as you can get a glimpse of another vibe than Vitosha, a bit more laid back, down to Earth, and raw. Some of the most interesting places you will pass by include the beautiful European Commission in Bulgaria building, the National Academy for Theatre and Film and the Bohemain Food Hall boasting a wonderful food court in case you want to stock up before continuing the walk.
Continue Rakovski street until you arrive at the Crystal Garden, a wonderful small and quite park, perfect to rest your legs and enjoy the shade.
Church of Saint Nicholas the Miracle Maker
Across the street from Crystal Gardens, you will find the very cute church of Church of Saint Nicholas the Miracle Maker. Certainly worth a stop on your agenda.
Antique Flea Market
If you are in for taking some fine works of art back home, or just to ogle on some exquisite paintings, head to the Antique Flea Market. Our last stop before we hit the main attraction.
Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral
Bulgaria’s most famous Cathedral was built to commemorate the Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Moldavian, Finnish, Russian, and Romanian soldiers who fought in the 1877 – 1878 for the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman empire. This cathedral is indeed a sight to behold. From the outside, you can appreciate the contrast between the solid regal concrete structure serving as a base for its glamorous green and golden domes. Be sure to give the church a full 360 degree look as you will be impressed with the different perspectives it offers from the different angles.
To fully absorb the splendor of this cathedral, you will step inside and stare awestruck at the massive central dome. Rivaling the beauty of the Vatican itself, this is one of the most spectacular domes in all of Europe, and that is really saying something. Make your way through the inner structure, the beautiful wall paintings, and massive chandeliers. Find a quiet spot on the central benches and let all sink in.
Right behind the Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral you will find the National Gallery. There are some wonderful works of arts inside this building including the works of Courbet, Renoir, and Matisse.
On your way back, make a stop at the very pleasant Royal Garden. A quiet park that buffers the area from the hustle and bustle of Sofia’s administrative district.
Mall of Sofia
As it often happens, you could face a rainy day, or simply want to take a break from all history and culture, and just have a nice walk in an air conditioned shopping mall. The Mall of Sofia is just the place for a quiet break. Housing a large amount of shops, the mall also has a large video gaming floor, and good food court, and a very complete cinema with multiple screens showing both movies in English and Bulgarian.
For the best night vibe in town, head back to Vitosha Boulevard to find the crowds gathering for some fine dining and some of the best bars and nightclubs in town. Some of the most happening venues include Bar 8&8 Dinner, and the appropriately named, Vitosha Street Bar & Dinner.
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