What to do in Sofia in one day – the best Sofia tourist guide for 1 or more days (including where to stay and what to eat).
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and its largest city. Its history could be traced to the Bronze Age, when the city was a settlement of a Thracian tribe, Serdi. From here comes its initial name – Serdica. The current name derives from Saint Sofia Church. When the city was part of the Roman empire, Constantine the Great often referred to the city as “Serdica is my Rome”.
I don’t remember the exact moment I fell in love with this city. Was it while I was walking on the small streets between old houses in the city centre? Was it while riding a tram through a park, surrounded by nothing but endless greenery? Or was it at the moment I found out that this city has so much to offer? I don’t know, maybe Sofia stole my heart piece by piece in every moment spent here in the capital. It’s not my hometown, but I love it as one.
Is Sofia worth visiting
Totally! The city is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. Moreover, it is not so touristy as the other European capitals. Awesome place with a lot of history, great nightlife and delicious culinary scene, Sofia has so much to offer!
If you’re a mountain lover, the city won’t disappoint you, too. The capital of Bulgaria is situated at the northern foot of Vitosha Mountain. It is super easy to escape the busy city life and enjoy fresh air amongst nature even for a day.
Is English spoken in Sofia, Bulgaria?
In most of the cases, you’ll get by speaking only English. If you need help, ask younger people. Most of the older people don’t speak English (even the workers in the public transportation system). The staff working in the restaurants around the city centre speak English and usually, there are English menus.
How much time do you need to see Sofia
From 1 to 2 days.
You can easily tour the main attractions that are gathered in the city centre. Use the rest of your time to take some day trips and explore Bulgaria.
This 1 day in Sofia itinerary will show you the best of the city plus some interesting museums.
Central Hotel – Best for families
A 4-star hotel with modern rooms, tasty breakfast and underground parking.
8.7/10 Rating – See hotel images and 1,880+ guest reviews
Sense Hotel – Best for couples
A boutique hotel with an amazing panoramic rooftop bar.
8.9/10 Rating – See hotel images and 1,030+ guest reviews
Comfy apartments with a perfect location, close to the main shopping street, Vitosha Boulevard.
9.1/10 Rating – See hotel images and 380+ guest reviews
Find out more awesome places in where to stay in Sofia.
One day in Sofia itinerary
How to spend 1 day in Sofia? Follow this Sofia itinerary for a perfect day.
Morning – History Museum and medieval churches
08:30 AM – 09:45 AM
Start your day with a breakfast at Factory Rainbow.
Banya Bashi Mosque
09:45 AM – 10:00 AM
Banya Bashi Mosque is a 16th-century mosque. It was built over a natural thermal spa. From here comes the name of the mosque – Banya Bashi, which means many baths.
Sofia History Museum
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
History Museum is housed in a magnificent building of former mineral baths. The museum shows the history of the city from 6000 BC up to 1940 through over 1000 exhibits. Some of the highlights are a golden carriage clock and a golden chariot from the palace of Versailles.
Statue of Sveta Sofia
11:00 AM – 11:15 AM
The Statue of Sveta Sofia is now standing on the place where once the statue of Lenin existed. The statue was erected in 2000 in honour of the patron of the city, Sveta Sofia.
Church of St. Petka of the Saddlers
11:15 AM – 11:30 AM
Church of St. Petka of the Saddlers is a medieval church dedicated to a Bulgarian saint from the 11th century.
St. Nedelya Church
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
St. Nedelya Church is a medieval church right in the city centre. The highlight is the remains of the Serbian king Stefan Milutin who is buried inside the church.
Church of St. George
12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Church of St. George is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It was built by the Romans around the 4th century.
12:30 PM – 01:00 PM
The Presidential Palace is an impressive building from 1950. You can see the ceremony of the change of the guards every hour on the hour from 08:00 AM to 08:00 PM.
01:00 PM – 03:00 PM
Stop for a lunch at SkaraBar 2 or Boom! Burgers & Booze. SkaraBar 2 serves the best meatballs and spare ribs in the city.
For awesome burgers, go to Boom! Burgers & Booze (they also have a tasty vegetarian option).
Afternoon – See the top attractions
Saint Sofia Church
03:00 PM – 03:15 PM
The history of the church dates back to the 6th century AD. It is the second oldest church in the city. In the 14th century the city, known at that time as Sredets, was named after the church – Sofia.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
03:15 PM – 03:45 PM
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a must-see site and it is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. The cathedral is devoted to all Russian soldiers that lost their lives during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. The name of the cathedral is also connected to Russia. Saint Alexander Nevsky was a Russian prince who lived in the 13th century.
03:55 PM – 04:15 PM
If you look at the Russian Church, you would probably think that it came from a fairy tale. It is so small and picturesque. The church was built in 1914 to serve as an official church of the Russian Embassy.
Ivan Vazov National Theatre
04:15 PM – 04:30 PM
Ivan Vazov National Theatre is one of my favourite buildings. Its facade and interior are truly remarkable. The theatre is the oldest one in Bulgaria. The park in front of it is a well-known spot for meetings.
Sculpture of Petko and Pencho Slaveykov
04:45 PM – 05:00 PM
This is a sculpture of two famous Bulgarian poets, father and son. The sculpture of Petko and Pencho Slaveykov is a famous spot to take a photo.
This is the most famous boulevard in the city. It’s filled with nice cafes, restaurants and shopping stores. This is the place you need if you want to sit with a cup of coffee or cocktail and watch the world go by.
On your way don’t miss to stop at Confetti for some gelato.
For dinner try Shtastliveca or Made in Home. For more traditional Bulgarian cuisine go to Shtastliveca. If you search for modern Bulgaria food, visit Made in Home (and don’t miss to try the desserts).
Try the cocktails at Memento Cafe or Sputnik Bar.
What to do in Sofia in one day – more ideas
If you have more than 1 day in Sofia, check out these places and day tours.
Take a Communist tour
Kvadrat 500 is the city’s newest art museum. Over 2,000 artworks from all over the world are represented in the museum. You can see paintings from Delacroix, Renoir, Picasso and of course the most famous Bulgarian artist Vladimir Dimitrov – Maistora.
National Art Gallery
The National Art Gallery occupies a former royal palace. It was built after Bulgaria’s proclamation of independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878. The construction started in 1880 during the reign of Prince Alexander of Battenberg, first monarch of Bulgaria. Ballrooms, a throne hall, a dining room and a winter conservatory were situated on the second floor of the palace. The chambers of officers on duty and administrative cabinets were on the first floor.
The National Art Gallery is established in 1934 and since 1946 it is housed in the palace. The gallery houses a great collection of contemporary Bulgarian art from the period 1878-1990. The collection contains more than 30 000 masterpieces of paintings, sculptures and prints.
National History Museum
Located at the foot of Vitosha mountain the National History Museum is a bit out of the city centre. Yet, it definitely deserves the trip, especially if you are a history buff. The museum is housed in a former government residence. It is the place where the last communist leader was removed from power in 1989. As you see the building itself is a part of the Bulgarian history.
The National History Museum is one of the largest on the Balkans. It contains more than 650,000 exhibits that represent the history of the country from 8,000 years ago to present days. Only 10% of these valuable items are exhibited in the museum. What really stunned me were the treasures from the Thracian times, especially the one from Panagyurishte.
National Museum of Military History
The National Museum of Military History shows the history of the Bulgarian military from the First Bulgarian Empire to nowadays. It represents almost 30,000 military artefacts, exhibited in indoor and outdoor areas. This is only a small part of the fund of the museum, which contains almost 1,000,000 military items. The outdoor exhibition area displays more than 230 models of field artillery, aircraft, naval armaments and many more.
National Archaeological Museum
The museum occupies one of the oldest and largest preserved buildings from the age of the Ottoman Dominion – Büyük Mosque. The mosque is built in the 15th century under the rule of Mehmed II. During the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) the abandoned mosque was turned into a hospital and later into a library.
The mosque houses the National Archaeological Museum since its establishment in 1892. Some of the highlights are a magnificent replica of the Madara Rider and Valchitran and Lukovit treasures. Last Sunday of the month is a free admission day.
National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History is the oldest museum in Bulgaria. It was founded in 1889 by Prince Ferdinand to house his collection of butterflies, birds and mammals. Today the exhibition occupies 15 halls on 4 floors.
Museum of Socialist Art
Museum of Socialist Art represents the history of the communist regime in Bulgaria from 1944 to 1989. The indoor and outdoor exhibitions feature paintings and sculptures from the communist period. Among them is a giant statue of Lenin, that once stood right in the city centre.
Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church
Sveti Sedmochislenitsi Church is an Orthodox church from 1903. The church was built from the remains of an abandoned mosque, that was once standing in that place. The mosque was known as the Black Mosque because its minaret was made of dark granite.
National Palace of Culture
National Palace of Culture is an exhibitions centre, housed in a typical Soviet building.
The name of the park means “The Bells”. It is a monument located on the outskirts of the city. It was commissioned by Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of the former communist head of state. The occasion was the Year of the Child in 1979. More than 90 countries donated bells for the cause. You can see bells from countries that don’t exist anymore like USSR and the German Democratic Republic.
To reach the monument take the underground line M1 (direction Business Park) and take off at the last stop. From there it’s an about 1km walk. The area is not very lively, so avoid visiting after dark.
Vrana Palace is a former royal palace on the outskirts of the city. Tsar Ferdinand I commissioned the construction at the end of the 19th century. A huge park surrounds the palace. There is even a dog cemetery! You can visit the park during the weekends from 10:00 AM to 17:00 PM. However, the palace is closed for visitors.
To get to the park you have to take bus 505 (once per hour) from station Orlov most.
If you are in Sofia in December, don’t miss the Christmas Market (Deutscher Weihnachtsmarkt). The market is situated in the City garden, next to Alexander Battenberg Square. It is open daily from 11:00 AM to 09:00 PM till 22 December. The market is really small, but don’t miss it, especially if you are a fan of Christmas cookies, mulled wine and sausages.
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
It’s one of the most gorgeous buildings in the capital of Bulgaria, especially at night.
Rila Monastery and Boyana Church
Take a day tour to Rila Monastery, the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria. Boyana Church is a medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church famous for its 13th-century frescoes.
Plovdiv and Asen’s Fortress
Take a day tour to Plovdiv, one of the oldest cities in Europe, and the medieval Asen’s Fortress.
Explore the famous sandstone formations Belogradchik Rocks on a day tour.
If you’re a mountain lover, don’t miss it. Find out how to get to Vitosha Mountain from Sofia.
The Seven Rila Lakes
Take a full-day hiking tour to Seven Rila Lakes. Find out why these glacial lakes are known as the Blue Pearls of the Rila Mountains.
Saeva Dupka and Ledenika Caves
Visit the two most famous caves in Bulgaria. Saeva Dupka cave was an inhabited place during Roman times. Ledenika features stalactites and stalagmites that date back a thousand years.
Take a day tour to another country
Getting around the city of Sofia
The city has very cheap public transport. However, if you stay in the city centre, you probably won’t use any, except taking the underground to Sofia Airport. The underground runs every day from 05:00 AM until midnight.
There are two underground lines M1 and M2 crossing at Serdika Station. To get to the airport take line M1 in direction of Sofia Airport. You can buy tickets from every station from booths or ticket machines. The ticket is valid up to 30min after purchase, so don’t buy in advance.
Find more information about public transport in Sofia here.
Find more must-visit places in Bulgaria in DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Bulgaria.
Visitors often combine Sofia with:
- Plovdiv – one of the ancient cities not only in Bulgaria but in the world. Find out how to see Plovdiv in 2 days.
- Bucharest – the vibrant capital city of Romania. See the best of the city with this Bucharest itinerary. The cheapest way to get from Sofia to Bucharest is by FlixBus.
Planning a summer holiday? Visit Sozopol, a charming town on the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast. Check out the best hotels in Sozopol Old Town.
Planning a winter vacation? Then add Borovets to your itinerary. It’s the most popular ski resort in Bulgaria. Check out where to stay in Borovets.
If you consider renting a car, compare the car rental prices in Europe.