Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, is often skipped by travelers for the more enticing Black Sea towns or ski resorts. The majority of tourists come to Sofia just for one day. However, Sofia has a lot to offer visitors, with a great food scene, some of Bulgaria’s best museums, history dating back to the Romans, and a selection of beautiful churches and religious buildings.
So, if you’re planning on spending 3 days in Sofia, this itinerary will help you get the most out of your trip. What to see in Sofia in 3 days? By the end of this article, you will know what fun things you can do, where to eat the best local delicacies, and where to stay in Sofia.
Sofia Itinerary: Day One
Arriving in Sofia
On arrival at Sofia Airport, take the easiest and least expensive route into town, the metro. Sofia's metro is inexpensive, quick, and easy to use, making it a great way to get into and around the city. The journey from the airport to Sofia city center takes around 25 minutes and costs 1.6 lev per person. Now, you are ready to explore this underrated city! You may wonder what to do in Sofia for 3 days? We've got you covered. Below you'll find a perfect Sofia itinerary to spend wonderful three days in Sofia.
Day 1: Morning
You can make the first sightseeing stop at Serdika metro station, the most central and convenient station. There you will see Banya Bashi Mosque, one of the four religious buildings that make up Sofia's square of religious tolerance. The square of religious tolerance is an area in Sofia city center where four buildings dedicated to different religions lie within a short distance of each other. These four religious buildings, thriving in such close proximity to each other, highlight Bulgaria's diverse population, and are a fine example of how different cultures and religions can exist alongside each other.
Banya Bashi Mosque was created in 1576 and is the last remaining functioning mosque in Sofia. Large arches, lattice windows, and a domed roof are the defining architectural features of the building. Just behind the mosque are the Sofia Central Mineral Baths. The building that once housed the baths is now used as the Sofia Museum and is an incredible example of Bulgarian architecture. There are spring water taps near the building, which are still regularly used by locals.
Before continuing the route around the square of religious tolerance, grab a coffee from Barista Coffee and More, located a few minutes away from Sofia Central Mineral Baths. They specialize in craft coffee and serve it in a simple, modern cafe. Perfect for a quick pick me up.
Onwards to Sofia Synagogue. It opened its doors in 1909. This synagogue is the third-largest in Europe and is free to enter inside. The synagogue is a vital part of fostering the Jewish community in Sofia. Just around the corner on the square of religious tolerance is St Joseph's Roman Catholic Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Bulgaria. It is relatively new compared to other religious buildings in the city, dating to 2002.
Day 1 - Afternoon
Before lunch, our final stop is the last religious building forming the square of religious tolerance, Sveta Nedelya Orthodox Church. It is an Eastern Orthodox church that was originally consecrated in the 10th century. Sveta Nedelya Orthodox Church is an iconic landmark of the city with its beautiful arched windows and domed roofs, a fine example of medieval architecture.
Now it's time for lunch at The Hadjidragana Tavern, a traditional Bulgarian restaurant situated on a few streets back from Vitosha Boulevard. This cozy tavern is one of the best places to try traditional Bulgarian food in the city and an excellent choice for lunch on the first day. The menu is varied and features many local favorites and meat dishes.
Full of hearty Bulgarian food, take a short walk onto Vitosha Boulevard. This bustling street is the life and soul of the city and where the action is. Pedestrianized and full of restaurants, bars, and shops, Vitosha Boulevard is the street that connects the city. Take a leisurely stroll down the street, admiring the sights and sounds of Sofia and the bustle of locals and tourists.
Walk towards the National Palace of Culture, situated at the end of Vitosha Boulevard. This large communist-era building is commonly referred to as NDK and houses concert halls, events spaces, and other facilities. The building is a stark reminder of Bulgaria's past and the communist architecture that can be seen all over Bulgaria and Sofia. Surrounding the NDK is a park with fountains, green areas, cafes, and benches. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the park has become a place for people to meet, relax and have fun.
Day 1 - Evening
If you're looking for a cheeky drink before dinner or after dinner, head to the Ale House. The Ale House is a traditional Bulgarian pub serving a wide selection of beers. They even have taps on the wall next to the tables so that you can pour your own beer!
Just 5 minutes walk from the Ale House, you will find Shtastliveca, a perfect place for dinner on your first night in Sofia. Located on Vitosha Boulevard, it might seem like a tourist trap at first, but this restaurant has a fantastic menu of Bulgarian and Balkan food, served in a modern and simple way. The restaurant can get very busy, so booking a table in advance is wise.
Walk Vitosha Boulevard in the evening to experience how thriving and vibrant this street is. There are numerous bars and cafes to enjoy, as well as many ice cream and dessert shops for an after dinner treat.
Sofia Itinerary: Day Two
Day 2 - Morning
Bulgarians say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so grab a pastry or a full breakfast from Daro, which has a fantastic selection of pastries and breakfast specials to choose from. From here, take a leisurely walk through the streets, keeping away from Vitosha Boulevard. There are many small independent restaurants, bars, and shops in these streets, making it a joy to explore.
Head towards the Ivan Vazov National Theatre, where the city park is also located. Within the park, there is a fountain, lots of green space and areas where locals play chess. However, the theatre itself is the main attraction here, with its detailed architecture and ornate styling.
Just over the road from the city park is the Bulgarian Archaeological Museum. Located in a building that was built in 1474 and was once the oldest and largest Ottoman mosque in the city, this Museum is a must-see Sofia attraction for anyone interested in archaeology. Entry costs 10lev per adult.
Before heading to the next stop, feel free to grab a drink from Largo Bar and Diner, situated on the impressive Independence Square. The views from this bar are the real pull, surrounded by prestigious buildings, one of which was the former communist party building.
Day 2 - Afternoon
Trailing off from Independence Square, you will see St George's Rotunda, one of Sofia's best-preserved pieces of Roman architecture and history. Built in the 4th century, this building is still used as a church today. Surrounding the church are the remnants of other Roman buildings, all of which would have been streets and buildings that made up the ancient city of Serdika.
For lunch, take a 10-minute walk to Skaptobara. Their restaurant on Ul. Iskar is their flagship store but is one of many in Sofia. Skaptobara is a Bulgarian burger chain established in 2013. Featuring a wide variety of burgers, including beef, chicken, and vegetarian, the chain has become a local favorite and has excellent fries too. They also offer a good range of Bulgarian beers, perfect for washing down a dirty burger.
Now, take a 5-minute walk to the Royal Garden, where you will find many monuments and statues. The Russian Church is one of the attractions hidden within the Royal Garden, officially named St Nicholas the Miracle-Maker. This church was built in 1914 and was inspired by the Russian churches of the 16th century. It is particularly prominent due to its gold-domed roofs.
This area is packed with monuments, impressive architecture, and some of the most well-known landmarks of Sofia; take a walk and get lost to see what you find. The city's most iconic landmark is located just a few minutes from the Russian Church, Cathedral Saint Aleksander Nevski. This cathedral was completed in 1912 and is truly mesmerizing with its layered Neo-Byzantine architecture and real gold domes. Entry inside the cathedral is free and well worth seeing the beautiful interior.
Day 2 - Evening
To end a day of sightseeing in Sofia, dine at Cosmos Restaurant, located a couple of streets away from Vitosha Boulevard. Cosmos is slightly on the expensive side for Sofia but is well worth it to experience well thought out and delicious Bulgarian dishes with a twist. The interior is laidback and casual, and they even have a tasting menu if you want to try multiple dishes.
For an after-dinner drink, Barabar does just the trick. Popular with locals, Barabar offers a wide selection of craft beers, wines and spirits. Barabar is also a great place to chat with locals and meet new people in a lively setting.
Sofia Itinerary: Day Three
Day 3 - Morning
For the final day in Sofia, it's time to get out of the city and get in touch with nature at Vitosha Mountain. However, fill your boots with a hearty breakfast from the Rainbow Factory before setting off. This popular cafe serves traditional Bulgarian breakfasts, as well as healthy options, fresh juices and great coffee.
There are limited areas for lunch on Vitosha Mountain, so it would be wise to take some snacks, lunch, and drinks to tide you over. Once prepared, head to the closest Metro station and take the metro to Vitosha station, around 10 minutes from Serdika station. From Vitosha station, change for the no.64 bus, which takes you within 5 minutes walk of Boyana Church, at the base of Vitosha mountain. The bus leaves every 20 minutes, and the journey takes around 20 minutes.
Depart the bus and walk 5 minutes to Boyana Church. The church has three sections, the first having been built in the 10th century. Don't miss it, as it's a Unesco World Heritage Site for a reason. It's worth visiting this perfectly preserved monument of east European medieval art. Tickets into the church cost 10lev per adult.
Day 3 - Afternoon
After visiting Boyana Church, start to make your way up to Boyana waterfall on Vitosha Mountain via the designated hiking route. Boyana lake can also be seen on the way, with a short detour. The entire journey up to Boyana waterfall, including Boyana lake, should take around 1 hour and 30 minutes, or approximately 2 hours if you take a more leisurely walk.
Sofia is particularly unique as a capital city by having Vitosha mountain on its doorstep. Exploring Vitosha mountain is considered one of the best day trips from Sofia and, with it being so close, is the perfect way to see another side of the city in a short trip.
You can choose hiking or taking a lift up the full extent of Vitosha Mountain, but given that it's the last of 3 days in Sofia, and the limited time, we'd recommend saving the experience of going all the way up for another time. Or maybe you will decide to stay in Sofia for a bit longer? In this case, you can fully enjoy hiking in Vitosha. I also recommend checking this website for more ideas of walks and hiking routes in and around Sofia.
Boyana lake and waterfall are some of the most beautiful natural attractions on the mountain, and the views over the city are amazing.
After taking the 1 hour and 20-minute walk down from Boyana waterfall to Boyana Church, hop back on the same route back to Sofia city center as you arrived. If you're looking for something to drink in a casual setting before you head back to your accommodation, go to Social Cafe and Bar on Vitosha Boulevard, which is excellent for coffee and drinks in an informal setting.
Day 3 - Evening
On your last night in Sofia, MoMa Bulgarian Food and Wine is a fine place for dinner. The restaurant has been decorated in a traditional, unfussy, and cozy style, which works perfectly with the traditional Bulgarian food on offer. Alongside delicious meaty mains, the menu has vegetable dishes and some great sharing plates for two. This is the perfect way to recoup some energy lost from a day hiking Vitosha mountain.
For a night to remember, go for some drinks after dinner at Sense Hotel rooftop bar, which overlooks Cathedral Saint Aleksander Nevski. Drinks are more expensive here than in most restaurants and bars in Sofia, but the view is totally worth it.
And, The Last, But Not Least, Where To Stay In Sofia??
To spend fabulous 3 days in Sofia, it's not just the itinerary that matters, but also the place where you'll be spending your stay. Here are tried-and-true lodging options in Sofia, from economy options to more luxurious ones.
The Best Budget Hotel in Sofia: Hotel Generaator Sofia
Located Close to the train station, Hotel Generaator Sofia is a solid budget hotel option in the city. Rooms are simply furnished but modern, with a seating area and ensuite bathroom. Click here to read reviews of Hotel Generaator Sofia.
The Best Mid-Range Hotel in Sofia: Central Hotel
As the name would suggest, the Central Hotel is perfectly situated less than 5 minutes walk from Serdika metro station. The hotel features various rooms, including standard doubles, family suites, and studios with a kitchenette. See more details about the Central Hotel here on booking.com.
The Best High-End Hotel in Sofia: Sense Hotel
For a luxury experience in Sofia, stay at the Sense Hotel, which boasts views overlooking Saint Aleksander Nevski Cathedral and a rooftop bar. Rooms are well equipped, modern, and spacious. An indoor swimming pool, spa, and fitness center are just a few of the other amenities available at the hotel. Click here to view more photos of Sense Hotel.
The Best Hostel in Sofia: Hostel Mostel
Hostel Mostel is an excellent option for inexpensive accommodation in the center of Sofia. The staff at the hostel is very friendly and speaks perfect English. At the reception, you will get a map with the places of interest in Sofia, on which you will find the tastiest spots in the capital.
The advantage of this hostel is not only the central location, but also the availability of private rooms. You'll pay about $23 per night for a private room, including a 9% hotel tax and a city tax of $3.35. A bed in the hostel costs $13 per night. More details here.
The Best Apartments in Sofia: Central Apartment & 5th Avenue Sofia
Located in the heart of the city, Central Apartment Sofia is a great place to experience what living in Sofia could be like. The apartment is spacious, exceptionally well equipped and cozy. It gathered only positive reviews from travelers.
Another great option for accommodation in Sofia if you prefer apartments is 5th Avenue Sofia. This apartment is also located in the heart of Sofia, from where you can walk to all the city's attractions. This apartment will appeal to travelers who love modern style, comfort, and privacy.
Usually one does not expect much from the capital of Bulgaria, but as a result, the beautiful monumental buildings, superb churches and other treasures of the city fascinate travelers. Green parks and snowy peaks of the mountains surrounding the city give Sofia a special atmosphere. Now you're ready for your trip to Sofia and know what to see in Sofia in 3 days. We are sure you will love it there!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gremlin Travels are Gemma and Stefan. They are a charming couple with many years of travel experience. They know that sometimes travel can feel complicated and overwhelming, so they want to make travel easier for everyone. Their blog focuses on compact travel guides and walking tour videos providing essential information. Gemma and Stefan share their best travel tips to a growing number of global destinations.
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