Sofia in Bulgaria was never on my travel itinerary. I had only planned for a week in Bucharest but when I had covered pretty much all the places in the city of Bucharest, I was not sure what else to do. And that’s when I stumbled upon Sofia in Bulgaria. Initially I had also considered Budapest in Hungary but after researching on the cheap modes of transport to both these places, I decided Sofia.
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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. There are old and 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.
How to get to Sofia?
- By Air – 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.
- Bus – 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.
7 Hours in Sofia – Things to do and see
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 listed places.
Number one on the list of things to do and see in Sofia is the Boyana Church. Being a UNESCO World heritage site, this church is absolutely brilliant and a delight to watch. It has the architectural structures from the 11th, 13th and 19th centuries in the same complex.
The interiors of the church are mind blowing and transports you back in time. It has two layers of murals on the walls, one set of murals that were painted in 11th century and then the layer on top of it that were painted in 13th century.
Note: Pictures cannot be taken inside the church.
- The church is open everyday between 9:30 AM and 6 PM.
- There is an entrance fee of Lev 10 and the ticket can be purchased at the entrance of the church.
I absolutely loved this church and I must say that this is a must see place in Sofia.
National History Museum
Visit the National History museum as this is one of the best museums I have seen in my entire travel history. With so many artefacts from various era of Sofia, you can easily spend at least couple of hours here at the museum. There are multiple floors and is a huge complex and there is also a small café at the back of the building.
- The museum is open everyday between 9:30 AM and 6 PM.
- There is an entrance fee of Lev 10 for the museum. If you buy in combo with the Boyana church, the entrance fee for both these cost Lev 12.
Bells park or Kambanite bells valley (Offbeat)
Established in 1979, this attraction is famous only among the locals but this is worth a visit. 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!
- The park is open everyday and for 24 hours.
- There is no entrance fee to enter this park.
Ride the colourful tram
Sofia has heaps of bright, colourful and pretty trams around the city. It is a wonderful way to travel around and it is really at a very low cost (trip costing as less as Lev 1.50). And definitely get a pretty picture.
Bulgarian Traditional Food
Bulgaria is famous for its authentic and beautiful cuisine. So surely try one or two Bulgarian traditional food. I tried a dish called Chicken Kavurma at a local restaurant and the food was beautiful and delicious. The dish was prepared by cooking chicken breast with mushrooms, onions, roasted peppers, tomato sauce, white wine and parsley. And it cost Lev 12.99 for a plate.
With the altar on the side and not at the front like other churches, the Russian church is stunning and is absolutely surprising the way this church has been built.
- The church is open everyday between 8 AM and 6:30 PM.
- There is no entrance fee.
Picture with the guards
Even though not as grand as the guard changing ceremony in London, the President Palace in Sofia has two guards at the gate at all times and the guards change their shifts every hour. These guards do not laugh or talk or even react when touched. 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.
Aleksander Nevski Cathedral
The Aleksander Nevski cathedral is a Bulgarian orthodox cathedral and is built in the Neo-Byzantine style. With rich architecture, the cathedral is in the middle of the city. Do not miss visiting this cathedral as it is an iconic building in Sofia.
- The cathedral is open everyday between 7 AM and 7 PM.
- There is no entrance fee but if you wish to take pictures inside the cathedral, then you need to pay Lev 10.
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.
Expenses for my 7 hours travel in Sofia
I am not a budgeted traveler as I do look for comfort and luxury at times. But during the 7 hours in Sofia, I tried to spend less (other than the tour with car) and mainly on the attractions. 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 the city. 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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