Sofia Travel Guide

Bulgaria’s capital city is the highest in Europe, and has been a historic stopping point for centuries thanks to its central Balkan location between three mountain passes. Despite having a population well over one million, Sofia’s colorful history goes largely unexplored by tourists. This is a shame as the city center is packed with monuments, churches and landmarks and has an excellent tourism infrastructure.

Since most of Sofia was rebuilt after WWII, it is an eclectic mix of modern architecture and culture. The city center is the main tourist draw, as dozens of interesting monuments are concentrated here and are easily explored on foot. Sofia also sports a hyperactive social scene, filling the city’s caf├ęs, bars and nightclubs day and night.

Yet not everything is urban in this Bulgarian enclave. Just five miles from the city is a popular ski resort on Mount Vitosha, which is a great place for hikes and mountain picnics in the summer. Lush forests and green valleys surround Sofia, offering endless opportunities to get out for a day and enjoy the natural beauty of Bulgaria.

Highlights

Alexander Nevski Memorial Cathedral: this neo-Byzantine masterpiece has an amazing array of interlocking golden domes and is arguably the most popular attraction in Sofia.****

Banya Bashi Mosque: the only operating mosque in Sofia was designed by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan in 1576 and boasts a stunning domed ceiling and richly decorated walls.****

Church of St Sofia: originally built in the 5th century, this church has had a long and troubled history swinging back and forth between Christian and Muslim occupiers, yet it remains the city’s second-oldest building.

National Archaeological Museum: housed inside the impressive Buyuk Djami, or Big Mosque, this excellent museum has a large collection of ancient artifacts from the region, with the mysterious Vulchi Trun Treasure being its main highlight.

Rotunda of St George: Sofia’s oldest building dates back to the 4th century, when it began life as a Roman temple, only to be changed many times over the centuries by conquering cultures.****

St Alexander Nevski Cathedral: this grand neo-Byzantine church with its gold and copper domes is one of Sofia’s landmarks and boasts an interior covered in religious murals and icons.