A jumble of Soviet landmarks, mosques, and churches testify to Sofia’s colorful past, and draw travelers interested in the history of a less-visited European country. Many of the notable landmarks are located in Sofia’s center, making walking tours an appealing option, while the local markets beckon with treats from regional producers. Just beyond the edge of the city is Vitosha Mountain, whose trails are ideal for exploring by foot, bike, or skis. The terrain is famously challenging to navigate without a guide, so it’s worth arranging tours in advance. Visitors drawn to Bulgaria’s long tradition of religious artwork can combine a hike with the short pilgrimage to the nearby Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with vivid medieval frescoes.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The ornate domes of this Russian orthodox cathedral are among Sofia’s most recognizable landmarks, and the sight’s included on most city tours. Admission is free, but visiting with a guide means a far richer experience, as the cathedral’s interior is covered with symbols and historic artwork. Suggest to clients to visit before 5:30pm to see the downstairs crypt, which contains an impressive collection of religious icons.
Ideal for clients with only a short amount of time in Sofia, this introduction to the historic center allows participants to see the main sights, including the cathedral, in just two hours.
This private alternative is a good option for groups that want to go more in-depth. Plus, the flexible departure time makes it easy to coordinate this tour with other activities.
A full-day tour means clients can both see the cathedral and visit other top attractions, including Boyana Church and the National Historic Museum.
Read more about Alexander Nevsky Cathedral tour options here.
Central Market Hall
Even if the Central Market Hall—also called Tsentralni Hali—didn’t have some of the city’s best food, travelers would stop by to see the historic building’s unique neo-Renaissance design. Since many Bulgarian products will be unfamiliar to first-time visitors, a guided market tour makes a great orientation to the fresh pastries, cured meat, cheese, and local wine on display.
Travelers enjoy a series of tastings on this lunchtime tour, combining a stop at Central Market Hall with two other colorful markets.
If clients want to take a deeper dive into Sofia’s cuisine after visiting the market, this private food tour heads to a series of restaurants with a guide to introduce each Bulgarian delicacy.
Clients can pair tastings with the city’s key landmarks on this food-focused tour. Sampling Bulgarian pastries at Central Market Hall is just one of the stops.
Read more about Central Market Hall tour options here.
A cluster of three buildings on the outskirts of Sofia, Boyana Church dates back to the Middle Ages. Visits to the Bulgarian Orthodox church are highly regulated (small groups are admitted at 10-minute intervals), but booking a tour guarantees your clients’ admission. For those especially interested in religious art, it can be combined with a trip to Rila Monastery.
Adding the hard-to-reach mountain monastery saves time in transit—and the two religious art destinations make a fascinating contrast.
Combining a scenic hike and Bulgarian breakfast with a visit to Boyana Church, this tour is a personalized introduction that offers a bit of history, culture, and nature in one day.
For clients choosing not to book a guided tour, pre-arranging tickets guarantees admission, which is essential during high season.
Read more about Boyana Church tour options here.
Standing proudly at the edge of Sofia, Vitosha Mountain is a large reserve where travelers can go hiking, cycling, birding, or skiing on a quick day trip. It’s notoriously easy to get lost in Vitosha, so visiting with a guide ensures a safe, fun visit. For groups that prefer to set their own pace, private tours are a flexible alternative.
This active excursion goes all the way to Vitosha’s summit then heads to a nearby waterfall.
This tour allows private groups to tailor their own experience, whether they’re leisurely walkers or experienced trekkers. It includes a stop at Pancharevo Lake, a favorite summer destination for locals that many visitors overlook.
Clients can choose between snowshoeing in the winter and hiking in the summer on this year-round option, which wraps in some history with a stop at Dragalevtsi Monastery.
Read more about Vitosha Mountain tour options here.
Things to Know
When to Visit
July and August see the most travelers, but Sofia’s off-the-beaten-path status means it’s usually not overcrowded, even in high season. June and September, however, offer cooler, more comfortable weather.
With a compact, walkable historic center, Sofia’s ideal for exploring on foot. To go farther afield, travelers can opt for an “official” taxi with a sign on the roof.
When Bulgarians shake their head from side to side, that’s a “yes,” while nodding means “no”—it’s easy for visitors to get mixed up.
Things to Bring
Plenty of bills. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels and larger restaurants, but paying with cash is far more common.
What the Locals Know
Summer is packed with festivals, and there are often free concerts, such as the open-air jazz festival in July, to attend.