Sofia, Bulgaria

One Day in Sofia (2024)

Experience the attraction of one day in Sofia – from historic landmarks to vibrant culture. Immerse yourself in Sofia’s rich history at the National Palace of Culture and the National History Museum. Stroll through lively Vitosha Street for shopping and local cuisine. With a perfect blend of past and present, a day in Sofia promises cultural immersion and unforgettable memories.

Sofia wasn’t initially part of my travel plans. Originally, I had allocated a week for exploring Bucharest. However, having covered the main attractions in Bucharest sooner than expected, I found myself contemplating where to head next. That’s when I came across Sofia. Although Budapest in Hungary was also under consideration, after researching affordable modes of transportation to both destinations, I ultimately opted for the charm of Sofia.

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About 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. 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.

For a detailed guide on how to plan for Europe, read my Europe travel planner.

How to Get to Sofia?

  • By Air – Sofia boasts its own airport with direct flight connections spanning across Europe. Budget-friendly airline options, including Ryanair and EasyJet, provide convenient and affordable travel options for reaching Sofia from various European destinations.
  • By Bus – Opting for FlixBus proves to be the most economical means of reaching Sofia. My journey from Bucharest, Romania, took place overnight, spanning approximately 8 hours. The round-trip bus tickets were reasonably priced, totaling around 30 Euros for the return journey.

Important: Border authorities conduct passport and visa checks, so it is crucial to possess a valid passport and visa for entry into the country. Ensure that your travel documents are up-to-date and comply with the entry requirements at the border.

Where to Stay in Sofia?

Sofia has plenty of accommodation options catering for all kinds of travelers. You can consider staying at Intercontinental Sofia, an IHG Hotel, Hyatt Regency Sofia, and Hotel Gloria Palace Diplomat.

 

One Day in Sofia

Sofia is home to numerous captivating museums and landmarks, each boasting its unique charm and significance. While all of these are worth exploring, given my limited time of just one day in the city, I made the decision to prioritize and visit the following highlighted places.

Boyana Church

At the top of the must-visit list in Sofia is the Boyana Church. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this church is a true gem, captivating and delightful to behold. What makes it truly remarkable is the coexistence of architectural structures from the 11th, 13th, and 19th centuries, all within the same complex.

The church’s interiors are truly mesmerizing, offering a journey back in time. Adorned with two layers of murals on the walls, the first set painted in the 11th century and the overlay created in the 13th century, it’s a captivating display of historical artistry.

  • The Boyana Church welcomes visitors every day from 9:30 AM to 6 PM.
  • A nominal entrance fee of Lev 10 is applicable, and tickets can be conveniently purchased at the church’s entrance.

Please note that photography is not allowed inside the church.

Personally, I found this church to be an absolute marvel, and I must emphasize the unique beauty it holds.

Boyana church
Boyana church

National History Museum

Make sure to explore the National History museum, a standout among the best museums I’ve encountered in all my travels. Housing a myriad of artifacts spanning various eras of Sofia’s history, a visit here promises an enriching experience that could easily consume a couple of hours. The museum sprawls across multiple floors within a vast complex, and to add to the experience, there’s a quaint café located at the back of the building. Don’t miss the chance to delve into the rich history showcased within this remarkable institution.

  • The museum operates daily, welcoming visitors from 9:30 AM to 6 PM.
  • For entry into the museum, there is an admission fee of Lev 10. However, if you opt for a combo ticket that includes both the museum and the Boyana Church, the combined entrance fee for both is Lev 12. Make the most of this opportunity to explore two incredible cultural destinations at a discounted rate.
Artefact at National museum of history
Artefact at National museum of history

Bells Park or Kambanite Bells Valley (Offbeat)

Founded in 1979, this attraction may not be widely known among tourists, but it’s a hidden gem that certainly merits a visit. The park gained prominence when it hosted the ‘Banner of Peace,’ an International Children’s Assemble event. During this event, each child representing a country was tasked with bringing a bell. Consequently, the park now boasts approximately 108 bells. Witnessing this collection of bells from around the world was truly awe-inspiring, considering that they were gifted by various countries — a fascinating and cool aspect of this unique park.

  • The park welcomes visitors every day and is accessible 24 hours a day.
  • Moreover, there is no admission fee required to explore this park, making it a freely accessible and convenient destination for everyone.
Kambanite bells valley - One Day in Sofia
Kambanite bells valley

Ride the Colourful Tram

Sofia boasts a vibrant fleet of bright and colorful trams traversing the city, providing a delightful and cost-effective means of transportation (with trips as affordable as Lev 1.50). Not only is it an efficient way to travel, but it also offers an opportunity to capture some picturesque moments amidst the city’s charming tram scenes.

One of the colourful trams
One of the colourful trams

Bulgarian Traditional Food

Bulgaria is renowned for its authentic and exquisite cuisine, so don’t miss the chance to savor a taste of Bulgarian traditional food. During my visit, I indulged in a delightful culinary experience with a dish called Chicken Kavurma at a local restaurant. This delectable meal featured a preparation of chicken breast combined with mushrooms, onions, roasted peppers, tomato sauce, white wine, and parsley. The result was a beautifully crafted and delicious dish that perfectly captured the essence of Bulgarian flavors. The cost for a plate of this culinary delight was reasonably priced at Lev 12.99, making it a worthwhile and satisfying culinary adventure.

Chicken Kavurma
Chicken Kavurma

Russian Church

The Russian Church is a stunning architectural marvel, distinguished by its unique placement of the altar on the side rather than at the front, setting it apart from other churches. The construction and design of this church are truly surprising, showcasing a remarkable and unconventional approach that captivates visitors with its beauty and ingenuity.

  • The church is accessible daily from 8 AM to 6:30 PM, allowing visitors to explore its beauty at their convenience.
  • Importantly, there is no admission fee, providing an open invitation for everyone to appreciate the church’s architectural splendor and cultural significance.
Russian church
Russian church

Picture With the Guards

While not as elaborate as the guard-changing ceremony in London, the President Palace in Sofia maintains a constant presence with two guards stationed at its gate at all times. The guards undergo shift changes every hour, adhering to a strict routine.

Notably, these guards exhibit a stoic demeanor, refraining from laughter, conversation, or reaction even when touched. Opting for a respectful approach, I chose to capture a touristy picture with them without pushing any boundaries or attempting to get too close, acknowledging the solemnity of their duty.

With the Guards
With the Guards

Aleksander Nevski Cathedral

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Bulgarian Orthodox masterpiece, is constructed in the Neo-Byzantine style. Located prominently in the heart of the city, the cathedral boasts opulent architecture. Visiting this iconic landmark in Sofia is a must, offering a captivating experience and a glimpse into the rich cultural and historical story of the city.

  • The cathedral welcomes visitors every day from 7 AM to 7 PM.
  • While there is no general entrance fee, if you desire to capture photographs inside the cathedral, a fee of Lev 10 is required. This provision allows photography enthusiasts to document the beauty of the cathedral’s interior.
Aleksander Nevski Cathedral
Aleksander Nevski Cathedral

Feed the Pigeons

Sofia is adorned with numerous parks, each inhabited by pigeons. Reliving a moment reminiscent of ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,’ it’s a delightful experience to feed these pigeons. Although Shah Rukh Khan was nowhere in sight, but I did find him in Melbourne.

Feed the Pigeons
Feed the Pigeons

Expenses for One Day in Sofia

While I typically lean towards comfort and luxury in my travels, my one day in Sofia was marked by a conscious effort to keep expenses to a minimum, excluding the guided tour with a car. The majority of my expenditures were directed towards exploring the city’s attractions. Here’s a breakdown of my expenses for one day 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).

Is Sofia Safe for Solo Female Travelers

Embarking on a solo journey to Sofia posed minimal challenges for me. As I navigated the city, I primarily relied on walking and occasional taxi rides, finding the overall travel experience to be safe and secure. Nonetheless, as with any destination, exercising caution and being aware of your surroundings, particularly during the night, remains a prudent practice to ensure a trouble-free exploration.

Closing Notes

Despite my brief stay in Sofia, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the city’s abundant character and rich history. Every aspect of the city exudes intrigue and fascination, making it a highly recommended destination on the eastern side of Europe. The unique charm and historical allure of Sofia create an unforgettable experience that is well worth exploring.

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