Looking for some awesome ideas for your 1 day in Sofia?
We spent an entire month travelling around Bulgaria and loved every second of it.
I honestly believe that Bulgaria is one of the most underrated countries in Europe and what better place than to begin your visit to the country than in the capital, Sofia.
Everything on this itinerary is outdoors so we suggest visiting Sofia between spring and autumn as the winter months often see temperatures below freezing and are better suited to skiing in the Bulgarian mountains.
As for where to stay in the city, you’ll find plenty of choice. Especially considering Bulgaria is one of the cheapest countries in Europe.
However, being that you’re only spending 1 day in Sofia we suggest staying as centrally located as possible to minimise the travel time between your hotel and the major attractions of the city.
1 Day In Sofia
If your hotel doesn’t include breakfast then be sure to pick up something from one of the holes in the wall or a cafe in the city before heading out on your first activity of the day.
Unlike me, who had to skip out of the walking tour half way through because I’d not eaten. Fail.
The free Sofia tour leaves from the centrally located Palace of Justice multiple times a day and is in our opinion the perfect way to begin learning about the history of both Sofia as a city and Bulgaria as a country.
Pro Tip: The schedule varies depending on the summer or winter months so be sure to check the tour departing times online in advance.
Over the next two to two and a half hours an English guide will take you to some of the most famous and historical sights in the city.
Pro Tip: While the walking tour is completely free, tips are appreciated by the guides.
A two-hour walking tour in most European countries would cost at least €10 per person so do give what you can.
If you can’t tip the guides for whatever reason be sure to leave them a fantastic review on TripAdvisor so they can get the commendations they deserve for putting on such a wonderful tour 365 days a year.
The tour finishes up conveniently outside the most famous building in Sofia, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built as a monument to the Bulgarian and Russian soldiers who fought in the Russian-Turkish War of 1878 – 1879.
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral opened to the public in 1924. However, construction of the cathedral dates back over 30 years with ongoing wars delaying the official opening and American and British planes damaging the construction during the bombings of Sofia in WWII.
The cathedral was named after Alexander Nevsky, a 13th-Century prince (later declared a saint) who was the personal patron-saint of the Emperor Alexander II of Russia, who ruled the country during the liberation war of Bulgaria.
Today, the cathedral is the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the world and Sofia’s primary tourist attraction. It’s open from 7am until 7pm daily and is completely free to enter.
Inside the cathedral is just as impressive as the outside. Rare and expensive materials including Italian marble, Brazilian onyx and chandeliers from Munich have been used to furnish the impressive 3,170 square metres architectural masterpiece.
After an extensive walk around the city it’s time for lunch.
Sofia is an undercover culinary delight and its affordability makes it possible to eat out here daily.
The Foodie Flashpacker has reviewed some of the best restaurants in the city, it’s well worth reading through all the options and picking a place that’s right for you.
Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get to taste everything on the menu at lunch as the afternoon see’s you experience the world’s first free food tour.
Our morning tour guide of the city recommended that we check out Balkan Bites later that afternoon, labelling it as the world’s first free food tour.
The words free and food in one sentence wasn’t something that needed repeating twice so after a drink in a local cafe we went on to meet our guide at the Park Crystal in front of the big head statue of Stefan Stambolov.
Tours leave here daily at 2pm (except during national holidays)
Being the words free and food go together in one sentance this tour is incredibly popular and spaces are limited.
It’s therefore recommended that you arrive at the meeting point 10 to 15 minutes early to reserve your spot. Sadly, there’s no online reservation system at this time.
Pro Tip: We don’t recommend skipping lunch and coming to the tour hungry as the restaurants only provide small samples.
The tour takes a little over two hours and takes you to a number of different resturants in the city to taste multiple different dishes and learn more about traditional Bulgarian food.
As none of the restaurants are paid, we opted to choose on to return to for dinner that evening and urge you to do the same.
Saint Nikolas Russian Church
Just 500m around the corner from the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the Saint Nikolas Russian Church.
Over the past 100 years, the church has become famous not just for its architectural beauty but for its magical power to make wishes come true.
Thousands of people visit the church every year to pray at the grave of the Archbishop Seraphim Sobolev a wonderworker who sadly died in 1950.
The church was designed by Russian architect Mikhail Preobrazhensky, who also designed the orthodox temples in Tallinn and Florence.
Built between 1907 and 1914 the church originally belonged to the Russian embassy who planned to use it as a private chapel. In 1953 the chapel became a church of the Moscow patriarchate who still manage it to this day.
Visit The Roman Ruins
If you head out on the free walking tour of Sofia then you’ll stop at the Roman Ruins for around 10 minutes. However, in my opinion that’s simply not enough time to appreciate how incredible this place really is.
An if you don’t go out on the free walking tour of Sofia, then this is certainly one of the highlights you should visit solo.
The ruins are both indoors (in the underground transport system) and outdoors. Preservation techniques have been used to ensure these incredible ruins last for thousands of years to come.
One of these techniques you’ll see easily in these photos thanks to the different coloured bricks. These new bricks have been added to the top of the wall to create a protective layer over the original.
This was especially important for the walls that are outside and open to the harsh summers and winters of Sofia.
On the information boards in the underground you’ll be able to read more about the ruins, their importance and the preservation techniques that have been used.
If you went out on the Balkan Bites tour I’d suggest heading back to one of the resturants for dinner to show your gratitude.
Alternatively, consider checking out one of these 21 incredible restaurants recommended by locals.
There are a handful of different things you can do in Sofia at night, however the following two are our personal preference based on experience.
A pub crawl around Sofia is a great way to experience the cities night life. This four hour pub crawl comes with a tour guide and some complimentary beers and shots in different bars around the city.
It’s a great way to mingle with the locals and other tourists while visiting some hidden gems and trying local drinks that you otherwise might have missed.
If a pub crawl doesn’t sound quite right, why not visit the Sofia Opera House instead.
Sofia is one of the cheapest places in the world to experience both opera and ballet with performances held most evenings.
Tickets cost around 15 leva per person (£6, €7, $8) and can be booked on the Sofia Opera website (which is available in both English and Bulgarian)