Traveling to Sofia
The capital city of Bulgaria, Sofia, has much more to offer than what people are led to believe. Sofia has a long and complicated history and has so many stories to tell you.
There are so many churches, mosques and the architecture is stunning. You can also see many buildings that are from the 19th century and during the Bulgarian revival when the country regained its independence.
Location of Sofia
Sofia is found in the western part of Bulgaria and is at the bottom of Vitosha Mountain. Vitosha is known for its ski slopes, hikes and nature paths. Sofia also has 4 main green nature parks since it is densely populated some areas are called green zones to help keep a balance with nature.
Now let’s get to my top 10 things to do in Sofia
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This Cathedral is breathtaking just by its sheer size! Such a HUGE structure and inside is just as grand as the outside. It can fit as much as 10000 people inside and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world.
It has a gold plated dome which is 45 meters high and the bell tower reaches 53 meters high. The design of the building was drawn up and planned during 1879 – 1882 and was actually built during 1904-1912.
Flea Market next to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This flea market is found just around the corner of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. You can find so many antiques and treasures even souvenirs here. Some of the most interesting finds were the old photo cameras and video cameras along with some interesting, weird and quirky souvenirs.
Now although I did not get a chance to go to Vitosha Mountain it is still on my bucket list of things to do when I go back in the future. This mountain is a gem, full of natural paths and hike areas but also snow for skiing. The fresh air up there is all you need for a refreshing holiday.
Free walking tours
I just love free walking tours and not because they are free, because in reality they are not free, you actually tip your guide. The best things about these free walking tours is that you get to learn through your guide and what they have been taught and what they experienced. You hear stories told to them from generation to generation and you get a better understanding of the country or city you visit.
Visit the ancient Serdica Complex
This place is found above the metro station and it is actually the remains of an ancient Roman settlement. It was only recently found and the settlement dates back to the 4th century. You can see streets, housing and even a small church that once was part of the settlement. There is no entry fee and it is remarkable to see that even back in the 4th century they had streets, baths and even churches.
Sveti Nikolai Russian Church
Yes, another church but this very gold and ornate church has gorgeous mosaics on the inside. In Russia, saint Nikolai is the saint patron of wonder worker, of good luck! It is also known as the prettiest church in Sofia as it’s exterior is just breathtaking. The turquoise colour along with the gold domes and the tiny details on the mosaics are amazing.
Furthermore if you go down to the left of the main entrance you will see a door which leads to the crypt. This is where the tomb of the former Bishop Serafin lies. When you walk into the crypt you will see many people writing something on a piece of paper and then placing it into a box. They actually write prayers on these papers as they believe Bishop Serafin is like a saint.
Do some shopping at Vitosha Boulevard
This is Sofia’s main shopping area filled with stores, cafes, restaurants and many events taking place daily. It is known for is luxurious high-end shops and many brand name shops can be found here but also in the neighboring streets too. So grab your purse and head out to do some shopping and then after a tired day shopping sit and relax, have a coffee or dinner and people watch right there at the boulevard.
Go to a Spa and get a massage
Bulgaria in general is known for is healing waters and their great hotel boutiques that offer relaxing and rejuvenating massages. They have all sorts of massage therapy types to choose from. Bulgaria is also known for their rose oil which again can be used in their massage therapies. My recommendation is to go to Vitosha Park Hotel for a boutique massage session, it is well worth it. The cost of such massages compared to other countries is dirt cheap so don’t go to Sofia and not get a massage, you will regret it!
See the statue of Sveta Sofia
Sveta Sofia is also known as ‘Hagia Sofia’ from the Greek origins of Athena and Sofia. She stands tall greeting everyone who comes to the capital city of Bulgaria and she also has 3 ancient relics: The crown, the wreath and the owl. The wreath means peace, the owl symbolizes wisdom and of course the crown which symbolizes power. This statue has a body of gold, her eyes are black and she stands 20 meters high.
Walk past the Royal Palace
Walk around and see the once Royal Palace that has been rebuilt after a fire in 1816, but now is actually an administrations building. It is a gorgeous building with an amazing garden complimenting its exterior.
- Sveta Nedelya Cathedral
This is one of the largest Cathedrals in Sofia and it can be seen all along the Vitosha Boulevard. This medieval church is visible from the pedestrian strip along the shops and cafes of the Boulevard. It was built in the 19th century. Unfortunately it had been deconstructed and constructed a few times for various reasons. One more thing is that I was so lucky to see a couple who had just gotten married along with their wedding party that had just taken place in this specific church! So you never know what you might see while on holiday!
Bonus Pint No. 12 and No.13
12. St. Petka Church
This church in the middle of the city center and also very well hidden! It was said that back in the day of the early settlers they did not want religion to be part of their lives and so the rulers tried to destroy all the churches!
However this one lady made sure that this one would stay standing. She moved into the church and stayed there. She actually lived there! In the end they let her be! They never tore this one down due to the stubborness of one lady!
How brave was this one woman to do such a thing! She saved a part of the cities history along with the church itself.
No. 13 Gardens
Visit some of the many gardens Sofia has to offer and have a picnic or just people watch. You will be amazed to see what you can find out about a place by just people watching.
As you can see there are many things for you to do in Sofia. At first I was disappointed about what other people told me regarding Sofia and what to expect. But I am so glad that this place has actually surprised me in a good way. If I ever get the chance to go back I would definitely go for 4-5 days so to do more shopping and also a day trip or two! Oh and don’t forget the spa and wellness treatments I would have!
Have you been to Sofia? If yes, tell us your favourite memory.
If not then tell us all what would you choose to do first from my list of the top 11 things to see or do?