Sofia was never in my travel itinerary. I had planned for a week in Bucharest and when I had covered pretty much all the places around Bucharest, I was not sure what else to do. And that’s when I stumbled upon Sofia in Bulgaria. I had also considered Budapest in Hungary. But after researching on the cheap modes of transport to both these places – I decided Sofia.
Sofia is the capital city of Bulgaria. The city has a history of more than 2000 years, including all the occupation of Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Soviet. The city has amazing monuments and landmarks reflecting history. And there are churches dating back to the 11th century as well. So if you love history, then definitely make a visit to Sofia.
Getting into Sofia
Sofia has its own airport and there are direct flights to get to Sofia from all parts of Europe. Ryan Air and Easy Jet are some of the budgeted airlines. However, the cheapest way to get to Sofia is through FlixBus. I took an overnight (8 hours) journey into Sofia from Bucharest (Romania). The return bus tickets cost around 30 Euros.
Note: Passport and visa is checked at the border. So ensure to have a valid passport and visa to enter the country.
For a detailed guide on how to plan for Europe, read my Europe travel planner.
Things to do in Sofia
There are many museums and landmarks that are in the city of Sofia. All of these are beautiful and a must visit. But since I had only 7 hours (only during day light) in the city, I decided to cover the below places:
- Number 1 on the list must be Boyana Church, a UNESCO World heritage site. This church is absolutely brilliant. It has the architectural structures from 11th, 13th and 19th centuries in the same complex. The interiors of the church is mind blowing. It has two layers of murals on the walls of the 11th century part of the building, the murals that were painted in 11th century and then the layer on top of it which were painted in 13th century. I absolutely loved this church and I must say that this is a must see place in Sofia.
- There is an entry ticket for the church 10 Lev and the ticket can be purchased at the entrance.
- The church is open between 9:30 AM and 6 PM every day.
Note: Pictures cannot be taken inside the church.
- Visit the National History museum. This has so many artefacts from various era of Sofia. This is a place where one can spend at least couple of hours easily. It is a huge complex and there is also a small café at the back of the building.
- The museum has an entry fee of 10 Lev. But when bought with Boyana church, the entry ticket combo costs only 12 Lev.
- The museum is open between 9:30 AM and 6 PM every day.
- Bells park or Kambanite bells valley – This is famous only among the locals but this is worth a visit. The park was established in 1979. An International Children’s Assemble event called ‘Banner of Peace’ was organised at this park and each child representing a country was asked to get a bell. There are around 108 bells around the park. I was in awe when I saw so many bells around the complex and these bells were gifted from different countries around the World – How cool is that!
- There is no entry fee to this park.
- The park is open for 24 hours.
- Ride the colourful tram – Sofia has many colourful and pretty trams around the city. It is a wonderful way to travel around and it is really cheap. A trip costs as less as 1.50 Lev. And definitely get a pretty picture.
- Visit the Russian church – It is absolutely surprising the way this church has been built. The altar is on the side and not at the front. Definitely worth a visit.
- There is no entry fee.
- The church is open between 8 AM and 6:30 PM every day.
- Picture with the guards – The President Palace has two guards at the gate and they change every hour. These guards do not laugh or talk or even react when touched – so I was told! I decided only to get a touristy picture with them and I did not push them to any limits by even trying to go near them.
- Visit Aleksander Nevski Cathedral – It is rich and it is in the middle of the city. So definitely visit this cathedral. The Aleksander Nevski cathedral is a Bulgarian orthodox cathedral and is built in the Neo-Byzantine style.
- There is no entry fee to this cathedral. However, if you need to take pictures then it cost about 10 Lev.
- The cathedral is open between 7 AM and 7 PM.
- Feed the pigeons – Sofia has many parks and these parks have pigeons. It is wonderful to relive a moment from ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ and feed these pigeons.
And nope I did not find Shah Rukh anywhere close. But I did find him in Melbourne.
- And lastly, but definitely not the least, try Bulgarian food. I tried a dish at a local restaurant and the food was beautiful and delicious.
- The dish that I tried was Chicken Kavurma. A dish with Chicken breast with mushrooms, onions, roasted peppers, tomato sauce, white wine and parsley. It costed around 12.99 Lev.
Below are the expenses for 7 hours in Sofia:
- Bus tickets = 30 Euros.
- Tram ride = 0.8 Euro (1.5 Lev).
- Sofia tour with car = 51 Euros (AUD 82.45).
- Tips = 5.2 Euros (10 Lev).
- Lunch = 6.65 Euros (12.99 Lev).
- Cafe = 2.6 Euros (5 Lev).
- Toilets = 1 Euro (2 Lev).
Total expenses = 97.25 Euros (AUD 157.8).
Safety for solo female travelers
I traveled to Sofia alone and I did not have too many issues whatsoever. While I was in the city, I walked around and took taxis. I would definitely say that it was safe to travel around. However, like any other place be cautious and know your surroundings, especially at nights.
Even though I was in Sofia for a short period, I fell in love with it. The city has so much character and history. And everything is very interesting. I would highly suggest visiting this amazing place on the eastern side of Europe.
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