Things to do in Sofia

Must-see Sofia sights

Sofia is a surprisingly vibrant city (especially when the weather’s good), when its lush public gardens and pavement cafes buzz with life. Bulgaria's capital city is sprinkled with beautifully ornate churches and cathedrals with fascinating stories to share, and informative museums to tell you more about a city (and indeed country) you might not know very much about. Just 8km to the south of the city lies the fantastic Mount Vitosha, where hiking, biking and skiing are on the cards. Most of Sofia’s sights are centrally located, and getting around by foot is easy enough, although public transport is affordable and easy to navigate. Use this list to start planning your own

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  1. Sveta Nedelya Church
  2. Sofia History Museum
  3. The City Art Gallery
  4. The Russian Church and Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral
  5. The National Gallery for Foreign Art
  6. Borisova Gradina
  7. Mount Vitosha
  8. Embrace the nightlife

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1. Sveta Nedelya Church

The distinctive Sveta Nedelya Church dominates the pedestrianised square of ploshtad Sveta Nedelya. From the outside you can admire its broad dome, while inside you can take in the intricately decorated interior, with colourful modern frescoes and 19th century iconostasis that cover every inch of its walls.

Best for: Gold-hued opulence

Don’t miss: The 4th-century Rotunda Church of St. George, Sofia’s oldest building.

2. Sofia History Museum

Housed in a wide-set, yellow and red-striped building, the Sofia History Museum is one of the most interesting things to do in Sofia. The building was once home to the city’s mineral baths, but today you can absorb the various displays that tell the history of the city. Their permanent collection is divided into eight halls and cover themes including Heritage from Antiquity, The Palace Study and Home and Clothing of Sofia Citizens.

Best for: Understanding Sofia’s past.

Don’t miss: Banya Bashi, a 16th-century mosque, just in front of the museum.

3. The City Art Gallery

Situated in the pleasant City Garden, the City Art Gallery is divided into four sections: painting, sculpture, graphics and contemporary art and photography. Some of the pieces date back to the late 19th century, with over 8000 pieces by Bulgarian artists and others by international artists.

Best for: Free things to do in Sofia.

Don’t miss: The sculptures in the City Garden.

4. The Russian Church and Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral

Wondering what to do in Sofia that combines impressive architecture with a fascinating museum? You won’t go far wrong with the Aleksander Nevski Cathedral, situated at the centre of Aleksander Nevski Square. And it’s at a centre for good reason, with its impressive facade of multiple green- and gold--topped domes and shadowed porticoes. The high ceilings are decorated with colourful detail of Christ’s life, the tiled floors adorned with stone sculptures and a crypt displays a collection of icons from across Bulgaria.

Best for: Mind-boggling detail.

Don’t miss: Enter the crypt via the left side of the main entrance.

5. The National Gallery for Foreign Art

Also located on Aleksander Nevski Square stands the imposing National Gallery for Foreign Art, in a building dating back to the 19th century. Over 10,000 items are on display here, covering Indian woodcarvings, minor works by Rodin and African art, spread across 19 rooms over four floors.

Best for: International art.

Don’t miss: The Indian miniature paintings.

6. Borisova Gradina

If you’re looking to take a break from the urbanscape and embrace a bit of nature, a visit to the sprawling Borisova Gradina is one of the best things to do in Sofia. The park is the largest in the city and has a rich variety of flora, outdoor bars, a couple of football stadiums (why not?) as well as two ginormous Communist monuments.

Best for: Slow travel.

Don’t miss: Hire a rowboat along the lake.

7. Mount Vitosha

Mount Vitosha sits 8km south of the city and is where the locals like to go for picnics, hiking, biking and skiing. Its highest peak, the 2290m Chemi Vrah, is a popular way to test your stamina. It’s an easy enough excursion to take from the city centre by public transport, which climbs through the forests towards Zlatni Mostove, another beauty spot. You can take the trails from beside the stream towards the mountain’s upper reaches, or alternatively use the cable car.

Best for: Getting active.

Don’t miss: The so-called Stone River, just beside Zlatni Mostove.

8. Embrace the nightlife

After a day of sightseeing, it’s time for some evening entertainment. There’s an expanding number of bars and clubs that play a mix of pop, retro rock or the local “folk pop” (chalga). Though it’s small, there’s a thriving LGBTQ scene, too. Out of the wide selection, choose from the likes of Bilkovata, which is popular with students, arty types and other young crowds who want to make the most of the buzzing cellar and summer beer garden. Or if you want to really dance until dawn, head to Blaze, a lively bar-club for trendy clientele.

Best for: A night on the tiles.

Don’t miss: Sofia Live Club for the best of world and jazz music.

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