What to see in Sofia in 3 days

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Lluis Enric Mayans
@lluisenricmayans
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wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Sofia, even if little known or in any case little publicized, it lends itself very well to be visited in a weekend. Not surprisingly, many people decide to visit it during some long bridge. Rich in history and culture, the city carries a historical weight on its shoulders that is not exactly so light: this border land has passed under the control of many other states, has changed its name 8 times, has had to work hard to gain its own identity. If you are fascinated by it and are thinking of organizing a few days in the capital, here is some information and advice on what to see in Sofia in 3 days.



Index

  1. 1 day
  2. 2 day
  3. 3 day
  4. How much does a weekend in Sofia cost
  5. User questions and comments

1 day

1 - Morning: Breakfast, Parliament Square, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sveta Sofia Church

We start the day by having breakfast at the Pasticceria Coffee Garden, which overlooks the Crystal Garden, a small city park where local produce markets are also held.

Just 300 meters away you will find the first attraction of the city, the Parliament Square. In this square, full of bars and restaurants, overlooking the Palace of the Parliament and in the center you can see the statue dedicated to Tsar Alexander II, called in the original language "Zar Osvoboditel" (Tsar liberator). In the statue he is represented on horseback holding the parchment that contained the declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire.

Behind the Parliament is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Built between 1898 and 1912 in neo-Byzantine style, it is the largest Orthodox church in the world together with the Saint Sava Cathedral in Belgrade, Serbia, and is dedicated to the Russian hero Aleksandar Nevskij. Recognizable by the huge golden green domes, the interior consists of 5 naves which can accommodate up to 6.000 people. In the bell tower, there are 12 bells, which ring every day at 17:00 to call the faithful. Inside it houses the Museum of Ancient Art, with several works, including icons and wall fragments. The entrance to the museum costs 3 BGN (about € 1,50), while that to the Cattadrale is free. The latter is open every day from 7:00 to 18:00, while the museum from 10:00 to 18:00.

Nearby is the Church of Sveta Sofia, built around the th century on the remains of earlier churches and the necropolis of the city of Serdica, or the Sofia dating back to the Roman era. During the Turkish rule, unfortunately the Church was converted into a mosque and all the internal frescoes destroyed, so what you will see is not the original Church, but the result of a careful and long renovation, finished in 1998. The opening hours are as follows : from April to October from 7:00 to 18:00 and from November to March from 7:00 to 19:00. Admission is free. If you want to visit the inner crypt, which is open from 9:00 to 17:00, except Mondays, you will have to buy the ticket at the price of 3 BGN (about € 1,50).



2 - Afternoon: Lunch, St. George's Church, St. Sunday's Cathedral, Tsentralni Hali,

For lunch, stop at Dondukov Beer House, a quaint place where you can taste Bulgarian and Eastern European cuisine accompanied by excellent beers (around € 10,00 per person).

First stop after lunch, the Church of San Giorgio, the oldest in the city. Its construction dates back to the 10rd century and was a small pagan temple. Only 9 meters in diameter, this is where the history of the city has passed. You can visit it every day from 00:18 to 00: and admission is free.

The next stage is the Church of Santa Domenica, also called Church of Sveta Nedelya, dedicated to a rd century martyr who sacrificed herself in the name of her faith and creed. Today it is one of the most beautiful Orthodox churches in the city due to its majesty and elegance. A must, you can visit it every day from 9:00 to 19:00 and admission is free.

The last stop on the itinerary is Tsentralni Hali, the city's indoor market. Here you can find really everything: from traditional local products to souvenirs, and even clothing. It is open every day from 7:00 to 21:30.

3 - Evening: Dinner, historic center

For dinner stop at the Old Street Beer House, a modern venue where you can choose between different Bulgarian and international cuisine. Here too you will find really good beers. Prices are in line with those of the rest of the city (about € 7,00 / 8,00 per person)

For the evening we recommend a nice and relaxing walk through the historic center. If you go back to the Sveti Aleksandar Nevski square you will see the Cathedral all lit up, a marvel.



In summary:

  • Distance traveled: 3,2 km / 41 min
  • Places visited: Parliament Square, Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral (3 BGN - approx € 1,50), Sveta Sofia Church (free), St. George's Church (free), St. Sunday's Cathedral (free), Tsentralni Hali,
  • Sofia Full Day Tour Sofia Private Walking Tour with Traditional Breakfast Sofia: Communist History Walking Tour
  • Breakfast at Pasticceria Coffee Garden (Get Directions), Lunch at Dondukov Beer House (Get Directions), Dinner at Old Street Beer House (Get Directions)

2 day

1 - Morning: Breakfast, National Art Gallery

For breakfast on the second day, take advantage of the Take a cake, a pastry shop where you can enjoy really good cakes.

First stop of the day is the National Gallery of Sofia, one of the most beautiful museums in the city. Over the years, other offices have been opened around the city, each with a specific theme or insight into a specific area. We recommend the Royal Palace, which today contains an exhibition of works of art by the most famous Bulgarian artists and several works belonging to foreign painters. This palace was built in 1878, after the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule and the decision to make Sofia the capital. It became home to the National Gallery in 1953. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00, closed on Mondays. Admission costs BGN 6 (around € 3,00), reduced BGN 3 (around € 1,50), on Thursdays BGN 2 (around € 1,00).


2 - Afternoon: Lunch, St. Nicholas Church, Ivan Vazov National Theater, City Garden

For lunch, stop at the Russian Abart Restaurant, right in front of the Church of San Nicola. Over the centuries, Russia has greatly influenced Bulgarian culture in many of its aspects, including from a culinary point of view. Here you can taste dishes from Russian and Eastern European cuisine (average cost of € 10,00).

After the lunch break, it's time to visit the beautiful Church of St. Nicholas, original name Tsurkva Sveta Nikolai, official place of worship of the Russian community in Sofia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1878 on the ruins of a mosque after the expulsion of the Turks from Bulgaria. The area where there is always a small Russian neighborhood, due to the presence of typical Russian restaurants (like the one where you had lunch), the Alexander II avenue and a monument dedicated to him and the Russian Embassy. The five golden domes stand out on the outside, while the inside, although small, is really beautiful thanks to the wall full of icons. You can visit it every day from 7:30 to 18:00, admission is free.

A few steps from the Church, you will find the Ivan Vazov National Theater, one of the most popular locations for locals and tourists. With the liberation from Turkish rule and the choice of Sofia as the capital of Bulgaria, all the cultural centers that you can admire today began to emerge in the city. One of these was the theater, which was inaugurated in 1907. Unfortunately, the theater opens only in the evening, from 19:00 to 22:30 and there are no guided tours, so to see it inside you have to buy a ticket for a show . But the structure is so beautiful and majestic that it deserves to be seen at least from the outside.

Opposite the National Theater is the City Garden, a beautiful public park in which to stroll and relax, with neat flower beds, several statues and a beautiful fountain. During the Christmas period, the beautiful Christmas markets are also held here. We recommend you enjoy a nice walk or stop at Cafe Naroden Teatr, located at the beginning of the park and with a beautiful view of the theater.


3 - Evening: Dinner, historic center

For dinner we recommend the Divaka restaurant. In Sofia there are three, we refer to Divaka n.3, located in William Gladstone 54. Here you can taste typical dishes of Bulgarian and Eastern European cuisine, all in a beautiful and modern restaurant. The price also wants its part: with only € 10,00 per person you will be fully satisfied.
For the evening, the area you are in is full of places to stop for a drink and enjoy Sofia's nightlife.

In summary:

  • Distance traveled: 2,3 km / 29 min
  • Places visited: National Art Gallery (BGN 6 - approx. € 3,00), St. Nicholas Church (free), Ivan Vazov National Theater, City Garden
  • Sofia: 3-Hour Sightseeing Tour with Breakfast Sofia: Bike Tour Sofia Highlights: The History and Heritage of Bulgaria
  • Breakfast at Take a cake (Get directions), Lunch at Abart restaurant (Get directions), Dinner at Divaka (Get directions)

3 day

1 - Morning: Breakfast, Boyana Church, Boyana Gardens

We start the last day by having breakfast at a really nice bar called Freddo food & sweets bar. Here between a coffee and a dessert you can only start the day well.

Let's talk now about the Boyana Church, a UNESCO World Heritage medieval church located on the Bojana promontory, about 9 km from the city center. Inside you can admire the beautiful frescoes dating back to 1259 which are part of a medieval pictorial cycle among the best preserved in Europe.
To reach it you can take bus 63, but the fastest way is by taxi and it will only cost you about € 8,00 / 10,00. The church is open from April to October from 9:30 to 17:30 and from November to March from 9:30 to 17:00. The ticket costs only 10 BGN (about € 5,00). Once the visit is over, we recommend you to take a walk and see Bojana's beautiful gardens before stopping for lunch in one of the many places.

2 - Afternoon: Lunch, National History Museum

For lunch, we recommend you stop at The Old Pear, one of the best places in the area, just a few steps away from the gardens. Being one of the best known, we absolutely recommend booking (from € 10,00).

Next stop is the National Museum of Bulgarian History which is located right inside the gardens, with the promontory in the background, a really beautiful landscape. Here you can retrace Bulgarian history from prehistoric times to the present day thanks to all the exhibits, ceramics, fabrics and traditional costumes on display. Among the most important you will find: "New Iron Age", a series of archaeological materials found in excavations carried out by the museum association; the weapons collection, with more than 539 pieces preserved and exhibited; a collection of traditional clothing, both for men, women and children, with more than 2.400 objects divided into two main groups; other collections such as clocks and antique furniture. Absolutely a museum that you cannot miss during your trip to Sofia, by visiting it you will take a real leap into the Bulgarian past and tradition. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 00pm and Saturday and Sunday from 17am to 30pm. The entrance ticket costs 9 BGN (approximately € 30). Once the visit is over, we recommend that you return to the historic center.

3 - Evening: Dinner, historic center

Last night in the Bulgarian capital. For dinner we suggest you stop at the Cosmos Restaurant, a place located in the historic center with dishes mainly of Eastern European cuisine, but you will also find some more international proposals. The dishes, as well as being impeccably presented, are really very good. Booking may be useful, as it is a very popular and popular venue. As for prices, you will go to spend a little more, but the place and the experience you will live justify this. On average, you will spend about € 15,00 per person. To reach it use bus line 4 or 5.
For the last evening you can enjoy the city for one last story, strolling through the streets of the historic center and perhaps retracing from the outside the attractions you have enjoyed most in recent days. Or enjoy the evening atmosphere of Sofia in one of the many clubs.

In summary:

  • Distance traveled: 9,9 km / 1 h 59 min
  • Places visited: Boyana Church (BGN 10 - approximately € 5,00), Bojana Gardens, National History Museum (BGN 10 - approximately € 5,00)
  • Rila Monastery and Boyana Church: tour from Sofia
  • Breakfast at Freddo food & sweets bar (Get directions), Lunch at The Old Pear (Get directions), Dinner at Cosmos Restaurant (Get directions)

How much does a weekend in Sofia cost

Sofia is an economy city, especially with regards to hotels and restaurants, like many other cities in Eastern Europe. Perfect for a day trip without spending a fortune. Here is a summary of the prices you might face organizing three days in the Bulgarian capital:

  • Costs to eat: about € 35,00 per day per person
  • Costs for museums and attractions: about € 16,00 per person following the itinerary we suggest
  • Transportation: about € 20,00 per person
  • Hotels, accommodation and b & b: from € 20,00 per room -
  • Fun: from € 15,00 per person
  • Total cost of a weekend in Sofia: from € 250,00 per person

Before leaving: useful tips

  • When to visit Sofia: the climate is continental, with very cold winters characterized by abundant snowfalls, and quite hot summers, with sunny days and cool nights. The wettest months are May and June - find out more
  • by plane, at Sofia International Airport, 10 km from the city center, reachable by metro, with line 1 starting from terminal 2; by bus, with number 84 or 384. Tickets cost around € 0,80. Alternatively by taxi, in 20 minutes with a cost of about € 8,00. Flights starting from € 36,00 -
  • in the historic center, close to all attractions, restaurants and shops. Alternative to the center is the commercial area of ​​the city, Vitosha street, as well as the most beautiful together with the Lozenets district, one of the quietest in the city. Hotel and b & b from € 20,00 per room -
  • Getting around: on foot to visit the center and all the main attractions. For the more distant attractions you can use the metro, consisting of two lines; the tram, one of the longest lines in Europe; the bus, one line but with about 45 vehicles; the trolleybus, with one line and 9 vehicles, which covers the whole city. Public transport runs from 5:00 to 23:00 with a cost of € 0,80 (single ride), € 2,00 (day ticket) or € 6,00 (10-ride booklet) - find out more
  • Currency: the national currency is the Bulgarian Lev (BGN). The ratio to the euro is € 1,00 = BGN 1,95. To change your euros, we recommend that you contact one of the many offices that you will find quietly around the city center

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