The Capital of Bulgaria
Sofia is one of those cities that not many people want to see or even know about it, but I promise you it is well worth the visit. It has so much history and culture that you will be amazed.
Traveling has always been a dream of mine. Even as a child one of my dream jobs was to become a stewardess on a plane so I could travel the world. I thought it would be easier if my job allowed for this dream to happen. Well these were the thoughts and dreams of the child me!
What I mean to say is that even though this city, Sofia, was not on my list of places to see, when the opportunity came along to visit this amazing city I took it! If I can afford it then I snatch up the chance to go. This was indeed a good deal for two days and the timing couldn’t have been better too!
REASON FOR TRAVEL
I travelled to Sofia with 3 other gorgeous women (family members) and we decided to do a relaxing trip to celebrate 2 birthdays! It was a cheap deal that we just had to take!
Now we did have a bit of an issue with the first hotel that was in the package deal, but it all turned out fine.
Let’s leave the hotel issue aside and get on with giving you a full itinerary of what to do and where to go in Sofia on a 48 hour trip. Well actually we only had 1 ½ days in Sofia city but we still did a lot. So with this itinerary you could just do what we did but spread it out to 48 hours and see everything in a more relaxed way.
The day of our arrival to Sofia was actually not a full day as we landed late in the morning. I had already booked a massage session for each before we left our home country. This massage was a birthday gift for the 2 birthday gals, and well the other 2 were just lucky. So having that booked late in the evening we wanted to eat lunch and explore a bit. Well ok, explore a lot! I mean why else are we travelling, right?
Before heading out to explore Sofia, we all decided to go to the hotel to leave our luggage, check-in and then get the train to the city center. Arriving at the hotel was easy enough but once there they took too long to check us in and show us our rooms, so in the end we asked to leave our luggage in storage so to go to eat, explore and come back later. They were fine with this so we did our check-in, left our bags and off we went.
We walked around the train station which was full of all sorts of shops, bakeries and cafes before heading to the city center to eat.
We ate at ‘Happy Restaurant’ which was soooo tasty AND cheap! It was a steal! We ordered sushi, starters, main course, dessert aaand alcoholic drinks too! It all came down to under €50 for all 4 of us. We loved it so much we came back the next day too!
After lunch we headed down accross the street to explore.
We walked around and saw the Statue of Saint Sveta, checked out the flowers sold by the old ladies sitting on the curb of the streets and basically walked around to get familiar with our surroundings.
We went to St. Nedelya Cathedral; saw the inside of the church, walked to the small shop inside where one of the girls bought a souvenir. (More information on most of these churches and places can be found here)
Then we headed towards the Palace building. The building has a white façade with classic columns with a Roman and Byzantine style. Though the name ‘Palace’ is misleading the building is actually the court house.
Heading then over to the Vitosha boulevard to see what there is to do for the next day.
After a while we got a taxi and headed to our hotel check that everything was settled as we had problems and couldn’t check-in. Apparently they didn’t check us in before and now because we were not satisfied with the rooms they denied to check us in. While getting to the hotel by taxi was cheap, around €8 for a taxi ride for all 4 of us. Now at this time of night and the problem we were having before with the hotel seemed minimal. Unfortunately we only just realised our problems with the hotel were way worse than we thought.
As we were not satisfied with the rooms and their conditions we asked to be moved to other rooms by the time we returned from our outing (the massage appointment). Little did we know at the time that nothing would change!
So off we went to Vitosha Park Hotel to get that body massage. This was my first ever time getting a massage so let’s just say that it was just what I needed! Everyone who had told me to get a massage was SO right. So don’t you dare go to Bulgaria and NOT get a massage, it’s a crime not to get a massage! You must get a massage!
I had the full body massage with aromatherapy and it was magnificent. I was so relaxed that nothing was going to get me angry, not even the hotel situation!
After the massage, we got a taxi to the hotel were we all decided to book another hotel as they did not change our rooms! So we booked a hotel online that was roughly the same cost as the pervious one, but its location was further out of the city and unfortunately we definitely need to use taxis as there was no access to trains or buses there.
This was not a big issue as the taxis in Bulgaria are cheap and keep in mind there were 4 of us to split these costs. The hotel we stayed at and I highly recommend it is called Earth and People Hotel and Spa.
We checked in late at night, had a nice hot shower and had a good long girls chat for a couple of hours before actually sleeping.
We all got up bright and early, had our extravagant breakfast at the hotel and then called for a taxi to take us to the city center. From there we started to see all the sites that we could cram into our day.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
First on our list was St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The gold plated dome shine brightly and that glimmer could be seen from miles away. We walked through one of the many gardens and made our way to the church. The sheer size and colours of the exterior was mesmerizing.
Once inside you really feel that this place is bigger than you and I mean this in a not so literal way! The vastness combined with the drawings on the walls and ceilings. The stained glass colours that shine on the floor from the sunlight coming in make you feel like there is so much more out there. Like there is much more to see and experience in the great big world we live in.
After touring the inside of the church we headed out to the corner of the street where there was a flea market. This flea market had so many different trinkets and treasure you could easy spend all day there. I ended up buying a drawing from one of the artists as a souvenir and a few magnets too.
Gardens, Cafes and Milk issues!
We then made our way towards the gardens that we came across before, so we can find a café to sit and relax for a bit. We found a very cozy café that overlooked the church and the gardens, so we sat for a coffee and a snack!
I have to say though, they do not serve coffee anywhere in Europe with fresh milk. The fresh milk that they all use is the long life milk. I absolutely hate this milk as it upsets my stomach. Also they don’t have milk alternatives in many places too, which again is very shocking to me. So back to the café situation, I ordered an iced coffee with milk and prayed for no problems with my stomach.
Architecture and more churches
Next we went by the historical buildings of the court house and some administration buildings of the government in order to get to the Russian church. All these buildings had a wonderful exterior and they were all very different in architecture to one another. I especially loved the gardens of each building as they mainly had gorgeous colored tulips planted. Such vibrant colours of the flowers were found all over Sofia city.
Sofia’s St. Nicholas church was magnificent. This Russian church had a pretty turquoise-green and gold colour on its exterior. The church itself is very pretty inside and out even though the inside murals are dark and black. This is due to the years of people lighting candles inside and the smoke from them has had an impact on the colours of the murals.
Beginning to get hungry we decided to head back to the city center to eat. But we also wanted to see the ancient ruins, right in the center of Sofia City. These ruins are open to all and no entrance fee is needed. You just walk around the station and the entire area and you can see it. It is dated back to Roman times and you can see streets, bath areas and even an old church.
With our now rumbling tummies we decide to go to eat.
By now we decided to eat, so we had lunch at the same place we did the previous day, Happy Restaurant, as we wanted to try out other dishes that were on the menu. So we did that and then off for shopping.
All along the Vitosha Boulevard were soooo many shops and cafes and restaurants that you did not need to leave at all. I mean if we had more days I would have spent the day there chilling and shopping!
Afternoon and evening
We did some clothes shopping, food shopping, sweets shopping and even souvenir shopping. One of my favourite shops was this sweet shop which was also a café. Here we found macaroons with all different flavors like pomegranate and cherry, lavender, wild berries, traditional pink rose and even lemon. I actually really really loved the lavender ones.
Apart from shopping we wandered the back streets of Vitosha Boulevard and stumble upon some pretty buildings and gardens too. We stopped for a coffee along the way and even found a promotional event for make-up and perfumes. They were even having a photo shoot!
After watching the photos shoot, we made our way back to the train station and saw the church in the middle of the area. This church is actually found in the center of the old and new city and was actually found by digging lower that street level. St. Petka of the saddlers is what it is called and is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church.
I overheard one of the free walking tour guides saying that back in the day of the early settlers, people did not want religion to be part of their lives. This is why they tried to destroy all the churches, like the one in the ancient Serdica area too. Apparently the church of St. Petka is still standing due to one brave woman who moved into this church and stayed there. She made it here home. Due to her stubbornness this church is still intact and is part of the city’s history.
After this we went for more shopping, made sure we all bought our souvenirs and then had a quick dinner at one of the cafes along the Boulevard. (I know, us women can never get too much shopping done). We tried some traditional food and then we called a taxi to go to the hotel.
Arriving at the hotel we all had a shower and relaxed for a bit. I packed my bag, laid everything out for our early morning waked up. I even popped down to the reception and got them to give us a wakeup call in the morning. We were flying out at 8am so we had an early morning taxi booked too but this did not stop us from staying up until 1am.
We even went to the hotel bar and had a drink before going to sleep. This trip was so quick and relaxing too that I really didn’t want it to end.
The hotel we stayed in was amazing and if I go to Sofia again, I would definitely book this place again. I would even book a massage here and try them out too!
- Make sure to see everything in a relaxed way. Don’t rush! Everything is easy to get to by walking and you have plenty of time.
- If you arrive to Sofia in time for a walking tour I strongly suggest you take it. We didn’t make it in time but we kept on bumping into them and the tour guide had so much information and they all looked like they were having fun.
- Do not stress about the cost of things as everything is so inexpensive. From taxis to shopping you will find great deals here.
- If you have the chance to go on a day trip, I would go for it! We could have done a day trip to Plovdiv but due to 2 of us being a bit ill we decided to stay in Sofia and do everything at a slow pace and get some shopping done too.
- You will need to pay a small fee to take photos inside of some churches.
- More details on the top 11 things to see and do can be found here.
This is my full itinerary of how I spent my 48hours or less in Sofia. I wish I did have at least another day to see maybe another city, you know, do a day trip, but it is what it is. This gives me the excuse to visit Bulgaria again just maybe a different city this time round.
If you are planning a trip to Sofia in the future then this is an itinerary you will enjoy.
Have you been to Sofia? If so let us know what else you could do that I might not have mentioned.
If you haven’t been, would you consider going after this detailed itinerary?