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The best things to do in Sofia, Bulgaria for budget travelers.
Sofia may not be at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists, but it should be.
As the second oldest capital city in Europe, Sofia has a rich history and a thriving sense of culture.
As a relatively poor nation near the Balkans, Bulgaria is also incredibly cheap.
So Sofia is the perfect place for budget travelers who want to learn more about the beauty of Eastern Europe.
For those wishing to visit Sofia, Hostel Mostel is a great place to stay because of its cheap prices, central location, and welcoming atmosphere.
Once you arrive in this beautiful and lively city, here are 15 of the best things to do in Sofia, Bulgaria.
15 Best Things To Do In Sofia, Bulgaria
1. Go On The Free Walking Tour
Every day at 11am and 6pm, meet in front of the Palace of Justice for a free walking tour.
First, you can meet the charismatic and knowledgeable tour guides.
Then they will take you to all the most significant landmarks while highlighting key historical moments.
You can see old Roman ruins, learn about common personality traits of Bulgarians, and discover how an old monarch saved all of Bulgaria’s Jews during WWII.
2. Admire The Religious Temples
Sofia is known for religious tolerance.
This tolerance is reflected in the close proximity of the Banya Bashi Mosque, Sofia Synagogue, and numerous Catholic Churches.
Different places of worship and religious monuments pop up all over the city.
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the most iconic landmark in Sofia.
Also, the Russian Orthodox Church “Sveti Nikolay Mirlikiiski” is one of the most beautiful churches.
3. Relax In A Tea House
For a peaceful escape from the bustling city, hibernate in a tea house.
Veda House and Tea House are two popular places in central Sofia to cozy up with a cup of tea and enjoy a heartwarming atmosphere.
Both places offer an extensive selection of interesting tea flavors and a full menu of healthy food as well.
This is one of the best things to do in Sofia on a rainy day!
4. Hike Vitosha Mountain
Vitosha Mountain is one of the top Sofia attractions for nature-lovers.
Take the 5 tram line from Makedonia Plaza until the last stop. Then just start walking into the woods!
You will enter a peaceful woodland path with a steady incline, which eventually turns into a steeper, rocky climb.
Numerous walking routes criss-cross all over the mountain. So you may need to ask people for directions on how to reach the top.
But after about two hours of difficult but manageable climbing, the view of the city and the surrounding mountains is the perfect reward.
5. Tour The Museums
Bulgaria has a vast history that spans over multiple different ruling empires.
So Sofia is loaded with museums highlighting different aspects of Bulgaria’s culture, lifestyle, and past.
Popular museums are the National Art Gallery and the Museum of National History.
The entrance fees are cheap, and there are often student discounts available.
6. Browse a Bookstore
Another one of the wonderful things to do in Sofia is visit the bookstores.
The Elephant Bookstore is a quirky shop selling books in English as well as maps, posters, and other random gifts.
The Open-Air Bookmarket in Slaveikov Square is great for browsing through traditional Bulgarian works.
6. Chill in A Park
The abundance of green spaces makes Sofia feel more spacious and welcoming.
When the weather is nice, locals and tourists alike flock to the parks to walk dogs, run, nap, have a picnic, and enjoy the company of friends.
Some lovely, centrally-located parks include the National Palace of Culture Park, Park Tsentralna Banya, and the gardens in front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
8. Eat At A Vegetarian Restaurant
Though Balkan cuisine tends to include a lot of meat, Sofia has some amazing vegetarian restaurants.
The Salted Cafe has wonderful smoothies and raw vegan desserts.
Sun and Moon Cafe has freshly baked breads and the most delicious vegan version of the Bulgarian soup called shkembe chorba.
Dream House has an extensive menu and a Sunday vegetarian buffet for 10 lev.
Made In Blue puts an artisan, healthy twist on lots of Bulgarian classic meals.
9. Join The Balkan Bites Food Tour
To taste traditional Bulgarian dishes, join this free walking tour that starts at 2pm every day.
With a knowledgeable tour guide, you walk to four different restaurants to sample local snacks, desserts, and wine.
Dairy makes a frequent appearance because yogurt and white cheese are specialties of Bulgarian cuisine.
10. Look For Street Art
Sofia’s alleyways are crawling with street art.
Wander through the city and you are sure to stumble across colorful murals and impressive artwork.
For a more in-depth guide to the historical and cultural motives behind the street art, join the free Graffiti tour at 3pm every day.
11. Go On A Pub Crawl
Embark on a local pub crawl to witness Sofia’s thriving nightlife.
The New Sofia Pub Crawl begins every night at 9pm. They take you to lots of unique bars and clubs around the city.
If you are on a budget, most hostels offer free pub crawls where you can meet lots of other fellow travelers while partying together.
12. Take A Day Trip To Rila Monastery
Located a couple hours away from Sofia in the Rila Mountains, this famous Eastern Orthodox Monastery is an incredibly unique sight.
The architecture and religious illustrations of the massive complex are stunning.
Informational plaques cling to the stone walls narrating the life of the Hermit, St. Ivan of Rila, who founded the monastery.
13. Walk Along Vitosha Boulevard
This wide pedestrian street near the city center is lined with trendy shops and nice restaurants.
So you can spend some time shopping for cheap souvenirs.
For budget travelers, shopping is actually one of the best things to do in Bulgaria since everything is affordable!
There are lots of dried fruit and nut stores, as well as health and beauty stores selling rose-infused products.
Again, all that stuff is super cheap in Bulgaria.
I’m not normally a fan of buying souvenirs but I bought tons of stuff in Sofia because of the cheap prices!
14. Buy Street Pizza
After a few hours of walking around Sofia, you will notice little take away pizza shops reside on every block.
Street pizza is delicious, cheap, and it is everywhere.
A giant slice can cost as little as 1.80 lev, which is less than one euro. So it is the perfect affordable snack.
15. Drink Mineral Water at the Bathhouse
The Central Bathing House now serves as a museum rather than a public bathhouse.
But you can still drink the warm, mineral-rich water from the fountains outside.
The water is said to heal all sorts of ailments, and it is a great place to fill up a water bottle for free.
Additional Travel Tips For Bulgaria:
Having reliable travel insurance is a smart move when traveling anywhere.
My personal favorite is Squaremouth Insurance because they have affordable plans and a helpful live chat for answering any questions.
In my experience, they fully reimbursed me when I had emergency medical bills while traveling.
Certain nationalities may need a visa to visit Bulgaria. Visit iVisa.com to check visa requirements!
For other travel articles about Eastern Europe, check out these links: