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Is Sofia, Bulgaria Worth Visiting? A Complete Travel Guide for Bulgaria’s Capital City

  • Post last modified:October 25, 2023
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This capital city is one of the most popular in south Eastern Europe, but is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting? 

I actually visited this city on two different occasions, and had two totally different experiences between the nightlife, nature, and soaking up the culture of the city.

In this guide we're going to dive into everything you need to know for visiting, from the best things to see in Sofia, to the best ways to get around, and more. Most importantly, we're also going to help you decide if Sofia, Bulgaria is worth visiting. Let's jump right in!

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Where is the City Sofia Located?

The city Sofia is located in the center of Western Bulgaria. The country of Bulgaria is situated in south Eastern Europe, and shares borders with Greece to its South, Macedonia to its south west, Serbia to its north west, Romania to its north, and Turkey to its south east.

where is Sofia Bulgaria

Sofia is located on the west side of Bulgaria.

How to Get to Sofia Bulgaria

Now that you know where the city Sofia is located, let's look at the different ways to get there!

Flying: Where is the nearest International Airport to Sofia?

Sofia has an International Airport that is just 12.2 km from the center of the city. Sofia is a big hub for Eastern European flights, and plenty of budget friendly options.

European cities that fly direct to Sofia include Alicante, Amsterdam, Athens, Baku, Barcelona, Basel, Belgrade, Berlin, Birmingham, Bologna, Bournemouth, Bratisalva, Bristol, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Catania, Chambery, Cluj Napoca, Cologne, Copenhagen, Dortmund, Dublin, Edinburgh, Eindhoven, Frankfurt, Geneva, Gran Canaria, Hamburg, Istanbul, Karlsruhe, Larnaca, Leipzig, Lisbon, Liverpool, London, Madrid, Malaga, Malta, Manchester, Memmingen, Milan, Munich, Naples, Newcastle, Nice, Nottingham, Nuremburg, Paphos, Paris, Pisa, Prague, Rome, Stockholm, Valencia, Vienna, Warsaw, Zagreb, and Zurich.

The only domestic flight that goes to Sofia is Varna and the other cities around the world that fly to Sofia include Aqaba, Djibouti, Doha, Dubai, Fes, Hanoi, Hurghada, Phuket, Sharjha, and Tel Aviv.

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can use the calendar feature to compare which are the cheapest dates to fly to Sofia.

Search for a flight to Sofia:

How to Get to the City Center from Sofia Airport

The easiest and cheapest way to get to the city center from Sofia airport is by taking the metro. Tickets are 1.60 Lev, and the ride is 25 minutes, with trains leaving every 15.

There are also taxis available outside the airport, which cost around 20 Lev, and the ride is a little under 20 minutes. Uber is banned in Bulgaria, so Uber is not an option to get to the city center from Sofia Airport.  

Buses to Sofia

If you are traveling through the Balkans, you won't necessarily need to fly to Sofia, but can take one of the many buses that go to Sofia from surrounding big cities.

Here are a few of the most popular routes that you can book from International cities:

Athens to Sofia

Belgrade to Sofia

Bucharest to Sofia

Skopje to Sofia

Thessaloniki to Sofia

Here are a few of the most popular domestic routes:

Burgas to Sofia

Plovdiv to Sofia

Varna to Sofia

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Entry Requirements for Bulgaria

Now that you know how to get to Sofia, let's jump into the requirements for entering the country of Bulgaria.


Visa Entry Requirements

Bulgaria allows foreigners to visit for a period of up to 90 days within a 180 day period. This country is not part of the Schengen Zone yet, so you won't need to worry about expiring your time in Europe by visiting Bulgaria.

Covid Entry Requirements

All requirements to enter Bulgaria due to Covid-19 have now been lifted. Masks are also not required for entering any establishments or for public transportation.

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Local Adjustments for Bulgaria

Whenever traveling to a new country there are things that you may need to adjust to, which are different from your home country. Here are a few of the local adjustments to keep in mind while traveling to Sofia, Bulgaria.

What Language is Mostly Spoken in Bulgaria

The official language in Sofia is Bulgarian, which is a Slavic language. Bulgarian is written in Cyrillic, which is the same alphabet used by countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, and Macedonia.

Is English Widely Spoken in Bulgaria?

Depending on the area of the country will depend on the level of English that is spoken. Being that Sofia is the capital, you will find plenty of people that speak English, as well as many things such as menus in signs also in English.

What is the Main Currency in Bulgaria?

The currency used in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev. Currently (March 2023) 1 USD or Euro is equivalent to 1.83 Bulgarian Lev, and 1 British Pound is equivalent to 2.21 Lev.

Can you use the Euro in Bulgaria?

While Bulgaria doesn't use the Euro, there are some places that will accept Euros if it is the only thing that you have on you. We suggest taking local money from an ATM so that you have plenty of Bulgarian Lev on you. Many restaurants and hotels will accept credit card, but there are some that will only accept cash. It is also great to have extra cash on you for street vendors or for tipping.

Is Sofia Bulgaria Cheap?

Overall, the country of Bulgaria is pretty cheap, especially for European standards. Being the capital, Sofia has plenty of budget friendly options, but also some higher end restaurants and hotels that you can expect to splurge a bit more.

Plug Types in Bulgaria

Bulgaria uses the same plug types as the rest of Europe, which are types C & F. The standard voltage in Bulgaria is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

If you are coming from the Americas, you will need to get a travel converter (not just an adapter) so that your electronics won't blow out.

Water Quality in Sofia, Bulgaria 

The water in Sofia and other areas of Bulgaria are completely safe to drink. Restaurants will typically bring bottled water in restaurants in Sofia, but you can request to drink the tap water instead.

Tipping in Bulgaria

The tipping culture in Bulgaria is similar to many other European countries. While tips are not required, it is standard to leave 10% for a tip at a restaurant, and to do so in cash (you can't add it onto the credit card). If you feel you've received excellent service, you could leave a little extra.

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Is Sofia, Bulgaria Worth Visiting? Things to Do in the City

Now that you know almost all of the basics, let's get into the fun stuff! Here is where you will be able to be asses if Sofia, Bulgaria is worth visiting or not. Here are the best things to do in Sofia.

Don't have time to read the whole article and want to save it for later? Just pin it!

is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin
is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin
is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin

Take a Free Walking Tour

One of our favorite ways to explore somewhere new is by taking a free walking tour. We particularly think they are our favorite for Balkan cities. This is because they usually don't have many "iconic locations", but definitely don't lack in history! 

Locals always know the city best, and they can dive into the hidden gems of Sofia, as well as give you great insight to the best places to eat and drink. Tours are completely free, and work on a tipping basis, so make sure to carry some cash with you.

You can sign up online for daily walking tours, either at 11 am or 2 pm. There are two different groups- one that is for English speakers, and one that is for Spanish speakers.

is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting
is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting
is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting
is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting

Free Walking Tours are the best way to explore the city.

Explore the Highlights of the City

If doing a tour isn't your thing, or doesn't fit your timetable, then you can add these different sites onto your list of things to see in Sofia.

St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

This is definitely the top at the list for things to see in Sofia. In our opinion, Sofia, Bulgaria is worth visiting solely for this iconic structure. St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is located in the heart of the city center, and is so breathtaking with its turquoise and gold domes.

St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting
St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting
Is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting

St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is one of the main reasons that Sofia, Bulgaria is worth visiting.

National Palace of Culture

This is another one of the top things to see in Sofia, Bulgaria. The National Palace of Culture is the biggest conference and exhibition center in all of south Eastern Europe. The beautiful building is surrounded by fountains and gardens, making it another one of the most remarkable places to visit in the city.

St. George Rotunda Church

This red brick rotunda was originally built in the 4th century as Roman baths, and has since been converted to a church, and one of the top things to see in Sofia.

Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle

This Russian Orthodox Church is another stunning building that is located in the heart of Sofia. While we didn't get to visit inside, the architecture was amazing to admire from the outside.

Church of St Nicholas the Miracle, is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin
Church of St Nicholas the Miracle, is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin

Boyana Church

This Orthodox church is a bit on the outskirts of Sofia, but nonetheless worth a visit. Built in the late 10th century, it is recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Regional History Museum

Originally mineral baths from the 20th century, this building is now preserved as a museum where you can go and learn about the history of Sofia and Bulgaria.

The Palace- National Art Gallery

This is Bulgaria's biggest art gallery, and is home to over 50,000 pieces of Bulgarian art.


Ivan Vazov National Theater

This is the biggest and most impressive theater in the whole country, and is located in the heart of Sofia's city center.

Admire the Architecture

Apart from the top things to see in Sofia, there are also so many buildings worth checking out. There are tons of architectural gems in the city, so simply roam the streets and appreciate all of the beautiful designs you can find.

Sofia architecture, is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin
Sofia architecture, is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin
Sofia architecture, is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin
Sofia architecture, is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting pin

Sofia, Bulgaria is worth visiting for its beautiful architecture.

Visit a Rooftop Bar

Right around the main square of Sofia you will find a number of great rooftop bars. We suggest going for sunset and enjoy an appetizer and a drink, while admiring the gorgeous views of the city. Make sure to make reservations in advance if you can, as they tend to fill up with both tourists and locals alike.

rooftop bar, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting
rooftop bar, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting
rooftop bar, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting

Sense is one of the most popular rooftops in Sofia.

Three of the most popular rooftop bars in Sofia are located in hotels, which include Sense, Sky Bar, and the Scene. 

rooftop bar, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting

The best time to hit the rooftop bars is during sunset.

Enjoy the Nightlife of Sofia

The first time I went to Sofia I went out with a bunch of people that I met in my hostel. We all went to a bunch of bars and clubs, and partied all night long. Sofia has great nightlife, and in my opinion is another one of the reasons that Sofia, Bulgaria is worth visiting!

Most of the nightlife is located right in the city center, along Boulevard Vitosha and Ulitsa Rakovski. Head there and get ready to have a wild night out!

Hike Vishtosha Mountain

Looking to get out in nature? Well, luckily you don't need to go too far for a great hike in the outdoors.

Sofia is situated right next to Vitosha Mountain, which peaks at over 2,000 meter high. Taking 3.5-4 hours, there are great hiking trails to reach the top, giving breathtaking views around it. It is easily accessible from the city center. All you need to do is take a bus to the Golden Bridges.

My friend and I attempted the hike during my first time in Sofia. We actually got a bit lost (not sure how) and ran out of time before making it to the top! That being said, it is definitely on the list for whenever we visit again, and we've heard that the hike is definitely worth the reward at the end.

Climb Seven Rila Lakes

This is our favorite hike in Bulgaria, and definitely one of the best day trips from Sofia. Seven Rila Lakes are a group of 7 different lakes all situated in the mountains. The hike allows you to see all of them, with a viewpoint where you can appreciate seeing 6 of them at once!

Seven Rila Lakes, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting
Seven Rila Lakes, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting
Seven Rila Lakes, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting
Seven Rila Lakes, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting

One of the best day trips from Sofia is Seven Rila Lakes.

You can reach here by renting a car, or by taking a tour, and you can book one below:

Want to learn more about this epic adventure? Check out our full guide below!

Take a Trip to Rila Monastery

Located in the same region as Seven Rila Lakes is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Bulgaria. Rila Monastery is located 117 km south of the city of Sofia, and is the perfect day trip from the capital. This is definitely something you'll want to do as a tour, which can also be combined with Boyana Church.

Book a tour to Rila Monastery:

Food & Drink in Sofia

Sofia has great food, with both Bulgarian and international cuisine. Bulgarian food has many similarities with surrounding countries like Greece, Macedonia, and Romania. Fresh cheeses, olive oil, and grilled meats are some of the staples. Meals are affordable, and you can find a great variety,

Here are a few of the local dishes you should try:

  • Banitsa: a cheese filled pastry that's very popular for breakfast
  • Shopska Salad: staple salad in the Balkans with tomato, cucumber, and cheese
  • Tarator: a cold yogurt-based soup with cucumber and dill
  • Sarmi: stuffed cabbage
  • Moussaka: similar to Greek Moussaka, but instead of eggplant they use potatoes
food in Sofia

Banitsa was our go-to option for breakfast.

Here are a few restaurants we recommend:

  • Rainbow Factory: great breakfast spot
  • Sun Moon: an adorable Vegetarian restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating
  • The Little Things: restaurant with a garden and local ingredients- perfect for lunch
  • Made in Home: cozy restaurant with home cooking- cash only
restaurants in Sofia
restaurants in Sofia
sun moon, restaurants in Sofia
restaurants in Sofia

Sofia has a great food & drink scene.

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Getting Around Sofia

The city of Sofia has metros, public buses, and taxis readily available for anywhere you would want to go in and around the city. Uber isn't available, but the transportation prices are all very reasonable.

Is Sofia a Walkable City?

The top things to do in Sofia are all within walking distance, which is another reason that we think Sofia, Bulgaria is worth visiting. It's super easy to get around and explore, so you rarely need to get taxis or public transportation.

Renting a Car in Sofia

If you'd like to do some of the amazing day trips around Sofia, then renting a car will be very helpful! Cars are very affordable, and can easily be rented from the airport. We suggest booking in advance so for the best rates and availability. 

Here is a site we typically use to book our rentals:

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Where to Stay in Sofia, Bulgaria

Since the city center is quite small, we definitely suggest trying to stay somewhere within the center, preferably closer to St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. 

is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting

The city center is the best area for tourists to stay.

Both times that I visited Sofia I stayed in hostels. I found that it's truthfully one of the best cities to stay in shared accommodation, as the best part about Sofia is the social aspect. Meeting fellow travelers and experiencing the nightlife is exactly what made Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting for us!

Of course if you are a family or visiting for business, we would suggest staying at one of the fancier hotels that surround the main square, or more established hotels in the area.

Check below for different accommodation options in Sofia:

Is Sofia Safe?

Overall, Sofia is a pretty safe city. However, we have heard about petty theft like pickpocketing or breaking into cars. While you can definitely enjoy Sofia traveling solo or at night, we do suggest keeping an eye on your belongings, and if you have a car, make sure to leave it in a paid lot, and nothing visible on site.

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Other Things to Know About Visiting Sofia, Bulgaria

Now you know almost everything you need to know for visiting Sofia! Here are a few more things we'd like to cover though:

What is the Weather like in Sofia, Bulgaria?

Sofia experiences all 4 seasons, with hot and sunny summers, and cold, snowy winters. 

The Best Time to Visit Sofia, Bulgaria

We visited Sofia in the summer, and found it to be quite empty (many people head to the beach). We personally think Sofia is best enjoyed in the spring or fall, when there are more locals around, and the temperatures are still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors.

view of Sofia, is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting

Sofia is pretty empty during the summer months.

Is Sofia Bulgaria Worth Visiting?

We definitely think Sofia, Bulgaria is worth visiting! While Sofia may not have a ton of things to see and do, it's a great place to soak up some Bulgarian culture, and to experience some great dining and nightlife. Being so well connected to surrounding cities, it really is the perfect place to spend a night or two.

Is 2 Days Enough in Sofia?

To see the city of Sofia itself, 2 days is definitely enough! We'd suggest spending one day exploring the city highlights, and the other day going to Vitosha mountain. If you have extra days you can then do some fun day trips, like Rila Monastery or 7 Rila Lakes.

Seven Rila Lakes
Chair lift at Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria
is Sofia Bulgaria worth visiting

2 days is enough in Sofia if you'd like to experience the city and one day trip.

Packing For a Trip to Sofia, Bulgaria

Packing for a trip to Sofia depends mainly on whether or not you plan on doing one of the hikes outside the city. Here are some of the things we'd suggest bringing:

  • Reusable Water Bottle (we use this water bottle from Cafago because it holds the temperature)
  • Travel Adapter (we use Tessan travel adapters as they are affordable and reliable)
  • Zippered Bag or Backpack (to secure your belongings)
  • Lock (if you stay in a hostel)
  • Power Bank (we use Anker power banks, as they are super long lasting and sturdy)

Here are a few things you may want to bring if you explore the outdoors:

  • Sunscreen 
  • Sneakers 
  • Drone (We use the Mavic Mini Pro 3 because it's super light and doesn't sacrifice quality)
  • Action Camera (we use the Insta 360 X3 because it's small & waterproof)

  • What to Wear in Sofia, Bulgaria

    We honestly saw all different styles when we were in Sofia. Being a capital city, you'll find some people dress very nicely during the day, while other dress very comfortably. We'd suggest bringing whatever makes you comfortable for the day, and some nicer attire for the evening (especially if you plan on going to a rooftop). There are dress codes for some places, so it's important that men bring pants and closed toed shoes. (Fede was actually turned away from one place).

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    So, now that you know everything- what do you think? Is Sofia, Bulgaria worth visiting? We think it's definitely worth spending a day or two, so that you can experience the great dining and nightlife, as well as witness the stunning St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. 

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