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A laid-back, history-packed break

Sofia, the charming capital of Bulgaria, is one of eastern Europe’s greatest secrets. This is a place where you’ll discover fascinating history at every turn, whether it’s in the many museums, or the beautiful churches and cathedrals, or just while strolling through the streets, which are layered with Thracian, Roman and Ottoman remains. But Sofia holidays aren’t just a hotspot for history lovers – the mountain-ringed city is a jumping-off point for some of the region’s best ski slopes, so you can hit the runs of Mount Vitosha during the day and explore its hip bar scene by night.

Holidays to Sofia are also wonderfully laid-back. Everything is walk-able, with some of Bulgaria’s best shops, restaurants, bars, theatres and historic sites all just a few minutes’ ramble – or a straightforward journey on the metro – from each other. And the city is refreshingly green, with plenty of perfectly manicured gardens, tranquil parks where locals gather to play chess, and tree-lined squares and boulevards to explore. By night, Sofia has a tremendous variety of entertainment on offer, so whether you’re looking for a romantic meal of hearty Bulgarian food and wine, or an evening sampling vegan cocktails in its trendiest bars, you’re in the right place.

All resorts in Sofia

Three tips for a top trip

Jump in a taxi

Travelling by taxi in Sofia is cheap and easy, so it’s worth hailing a cab to reach any sites that are further out of town.

Speak like a local

‘Merci’ – the French word for thank you – is used by everyone in the city, despite this being Bulgaria. Impress the locals by saying it in bars, restaurants and shops.

Hit the slopes

Vitosha Mountain, just 10 kilometres from the city centre, has plenty of exhilarating ski runs if you fancy some time on the slopes. Come spring, it’s a great spot for hiking.

Best attractions to see in Sofia

The Cathedral

The intricately designed gold and spearmint-green Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built in 1882. Today, its huge Neo-Byzantine domes are best photographed from its southwest corner.

Ancient Serdica Complex

This collection of eight Roman streets was discovered when the city’s metro was under construction. Pop by during metro opening hours to see the remains.

St George Rotunda

The oldest building in the city has curvy 4th-century red-brick walls, but the real joy is the interior, home to well-preserved frescoes from the 4th and 10th centuries.

Your Sofia questions, answered

It’s ideal for history-lovers, or friends and couples looking for a laid-back city break. Skiers and hikers will also be more than happy to spend time here.
Hearty, delicious and plentiful – think meatballs, dips and freshly baked bread, with a side of sweet ‘rakia’ (a Balkan brandy). Desserts are also a strong point.
Sofia is in a mountainous region where you can ski in the winter. From November to March, temperatures drop to freezing and below but it's a good time for you to visit city galleries or museums. April, May and September are pleasantly warm, which you'll like for hiking or biking, or exploring Sofia's gardens and outdoor sites. In July and August, it will be hot, dry and crowded. Sofia hosts lots of interesting events, including film, science and Latin festivals. Sofia Pride and the arts celebrate in late June and you'll enjoy good food at the restaurant festival in September.
Sofia is full of large green areas and parks where you’ll find children’s playgrounds and attractions. You can cycle around the big open spaces or just take a picnic and lounge in the sun. Kids of all ages will love the Muzeiko science centre, an interactive play initiative. You'll do experiments to learn about various sciences, with English instructions provided, and see a mini-planetarium presentation. The botanical gardens are free for kids, or you can get out of the city and take a cable car up to the Rila National Park to see the mountain lakes.
Temperatures creep down to the minuses in winter – this is also a skiing destination, after all – but spring and summer are perfect for a city break.
Sofia City Centre is the best place to stay if you want to have all the top tourist attractions on your doorstep. You'll be close to the old town and more modern buildings like the National Theatre or the National Palace of Culture. You'll also have plenty of bars, restaurants and clubs for the evening and be near Vitosha Boulevard for shopping. If you want a family-friendly neighbourhood, try Oborishte. It's also a foodie hotspot and has a well kept public park. If you're on a budget, you can find inexpensive places to stay near the women's bazaar.
Sofia is a south-eastern European centre of culture, hosting the Bulgarian National Opera, Ballet and Theatre, Archaeological Museum and a Roman amphitheatre. It's also known for its large number of public parks, squares and green spaces where you can relax and refresh. Sofia is historically famed for its mineral water springs. You'll find drinking fountains around Sofia where you can taste free mineral water and even put some in your bottle for later. The area is also known for its hot thermal springs, like the pool complex at Pancharevo where you can bathe outside at the foot of snow-covered mountains.
Sofia is well known for its outdoor activities. You can go cycling, hiking and skiing, or take a guided snowshoe tour of Mount Vitosha. You can be ambitious and go hiking and ice climbing in the Rila Mountains, where you'll also find the seven famous glacial mountain lakes. You might take a scenic tour over Sofia on a powered paraglider or, in Borovets, you can go on a snowmobile excursion. In Sofia you might want to swim, practise your athletics or tennis, visit a gym or go riding. Footie fans can also see the Bulgarian team at the National Stadium if a match is on.
Most of Sofia City Centre is walkable, with some of the best bars, restaurants, theatres, shops and historic sites all only a few minutes apart. There's also a good public transport service that makes it easy to get around, linking a network of buses, trams, trolleybuses and the metro. A car is a good idea if you want to spend more time exploring the Rila Mountains and discovering the region's thermal spas. If you don't feel like driving, you can book to go on a day trip or look for a ride-sharing service.