Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, went through some big changes these last years. From a rather depressing city full of gloomy socialist architecture, it developed itself to a city full of vibrant culture. Together with its long interesting history, the city would be a great destination for tourists to visit nowadays. Can Sofia become the Berlin of the Balkan?
Sofia is probably one of the oldest inhabited cities in Europe and the first signs of settlement date back to almost 7000 years ago. In the past the city has been conquered by Thracian people, the ancient Greeks, the Romans and much later the Slavs. All these cultures left their mark on the city. From Byzantine architecture to Socialist monuments and from Orthodox churches to Ottoman remnants. This makes the city very interesting if you are interested in culture and heritage! And it is also the only capital in Europe with a national park (with peaks up to 2000 meters) that close to the city centre. The park is reachable by public transport and will take you up to the park in about 15 minutes.
The last years Sofia developed itself in a cool city with plenty of things to do, an upcoming art scene and great places to hang out.
Sofia would also be a great city to live as a digital nomad. There are a couple of co working spaces, a couple of good cafes and very good wi fi throughout the city. There are enough things to do in the surrounding area of the city, but not so much to get very distracted. If you are looking for a city with a nice and chilled atmosphere, you might find Sofia a good spot to live for a while. (:
This funky hostel located in an old house in the popular Sredets area would be a good choice to stay, especially in summer time. It is known for its garden parties. There is a cool underground bar available as well! The hostel staff is great and the rooms are clean and nice.
Address: Ulitsa Angel Kanchev 21A
This guesthouse is a mixture between a hostel and a hotel. You can rent your own room, but you share the kitchen and bathroom with the other guests. The interior looks lovely and there is a great common area where you can eat and hang out. Very nice!
Address: Ulitsa William Gladstone 49
Not in the centre of Sofia itself, but in the area of Dragalevtsi, this would be a good choice to stay if you want to visit Vitosha National Park. The rooms are neat and there is a beautiful traditional restaurant available. The park is on walking distance from the hotel (about 25 minutes uphill), but there is also a bus stop that can take you up. You can ask the hotelstaff for a time table.
Address: Ulitsa Bela Dona 6
Great little bakery to get breakfast or lunch. They offer a wide variety of vegetarian and even vegan dishes. It’s also a good place to do some work.
Address: Ulitsa William Gladstone 18-B
Next to Sun/Moon you can find Divaka restaurant. It’s not expensive, the food is great and has a fair amount of vegetarian dishes as well!
Adress: Ulitsa 6 Septemvri 41A
A nice place to get delicious cakes, pastries and homemade lemonade. Good place to get breakfast as well!
Address: Ulitsa Neofit Rilski 26
A big traditional restaurant in the city centre of Sofia. If you are curious what the country has to offer food wise, this is definitely a must. The same thing counts if you love traditional Bulgarian interiors.
Address: Ulitsa Kozloduy 75
If you love burgers and craft beer, make sure to grab something to eat at this cozy place. The cozy athmosphere makes you want to stay the whole night.
Adress: Ulitsa Iskar 11A
I love this place! Someone had the genious idea to transform a whole building into a place where you can hang out and chill. There is a game room, a zen room, a room to watch movies and a little kitchen where you can get beer and cakes. A must see!
Address: Neofit Rilski Street 68
Warsaw Pact Bar
In the same street where Apartamenta is located, you can also find this cool Polish bar when you are in the mood for cocktails. You have to like Vodka though.
Address: Neofit Rilski street 55
Jadmata Lamia – The Thirsty Dragons Inn
Rock pub with lovely medieval like atmosphere. There is a varied menu with international and Bulgarian dishes. In summertime you can also sit outside.
Address: Ulitsa 13 Marzo 2
Go shopping at Sredets Area
Sredets is one of the coolest areas in town. And these last years shops keep popping up. From nice little english bookstores to handmade art and recycled products to second hand clothes. You can definitely spend an afternoon shopping in this neighborhood.
Buy something at the klek shops
Klek shops, or also called squat shops, are typical for Sofia. These shops are located in the basement of the building en reachable for customers through the windows near the sidewalk. So you actually need to squat to buy something. Most klek shops sell food and drinks.
Explore communist monuments in the city
During the communist era, lots and lots of monuments were built throughout the city. Seeing these monuments and learning what they stand for is an interesting way to get to know the cities past.
Chill in the park
As soon the first rays of sunshine appear after the winter, people head to the park. It is maybe the most important spot for people to socialize in Sofia, young and old. Seeing that the benches are even built facing each other makes you realise the importance of the city parks.
Join the Food and Market Tour
If you are interested in the food culture of Sofia and like to hear stories of Communist times, I can gladly recommend the Food And Market Tour. The lovely guide takes you to lots of nice restaurants where you get little snacks to try, from traditional to a bit more modern. I am sure you will visit places you wouldn’t think of visiting yourself!
Check www.balkanbites.bg for more info.
Join the Sofia pubcrawl
This pub crawl is worth a visit if you like to go for a beer and want to get to know some cool places.
Even when people didn’t show up, the hosts will still take you to some cool places if you are lucky. To a local fair where you can learn to lindy hop for example.
A centuries old church surrounded by modern architecture. A very interesting sight and the little church looks beautiful!
Alexander Nevski church
The is probably the eye catcher of Sofia. The beautiful neo Byzantine interior is worth a look!
Museum of Natural History
The collection of the museum is actually quite basic, but the dated interior of this museum makes it worth a look. It has probably not been updated for years and this makes it look old fashioned, but very…interesting at the same time. Spot the fake christmas trees in the window displays!
Vitosha National Park
Sofia is the only city within Europe to have a large national park right next door. You can hike and ski, or visit ancient monasteries. It is still not very developed though, so take a good map when you go into the park.
This is a peaceful little area in the suburbs of Sofia. Draganlevtsi, which was once a village near the city in the past, is also the gateway to Vitosha National Park. But the neighborhood itself is worth a stroll as well!
One of the most famous landmarks of Bulgaria is Rila monastery. Remotely located in the south of the Rila mountains, this monastery should be on your list to visit while in Sofia. There are plenty of places in the city (including the places to stay named above) that can help you with day tours to Rila.
More pictures of Sofia!