We’ve spent two weeks in Sofia now. We have five more days to before closing our laptops and officially starting our holiday! Despite working Monday to Friday, we’ve managed to fit a lot into our time in Sofia. Here are my five best things to do in Sofia.
1. Free Walking Tour
The free Sofia walking tour is brilliant. For two hours, our guide showed us all the main highlights and shared some stories that you could never find in books. As with all free tours, you can give a tip at the end. If you only have limited time in Sofia, this is a great way to see the sights and learn about the history of the city. The company also organise free tours in Plovdiv and Varna, both of which we’re planning to visit!
2. Vitosha Mountain
It’s hard to miss Vitosha mountain as you explore Sofia. The mountain is to the south of the city and within view from wherever you look. In the winter, it’s a popular ski resort. In the summer, it’s great for hiking! We managed to reach the mountain by public transport and start at Aleko, where you can then hike to Mt Cherni Vrah. It was a hot day but it got gradually cooler as we headed higher up. It took us just under two hours to reach the top. There were lots of people there but the view was stunning!
3. Eating Local Food
Two years ago, we visited some of Bulgaria’s neighbouring countries. In Serbia and Macedonia, we found a lot of meat. We expected the same from Bulgaria but Sofia has a number of great vegetarian restaurants/dishes. In fact, one of Bulgaria’s national dishes is a salad. Shopka salad is made with chopped pink tomato, cucumber, onion, grated feta cheese, and sometimes a single olive on top. Bulgaria is also famous for having invented yoghurt.
They do have a lot of delicious meat but we’ve found cheese and baked goods to be very popular. They also do a twist on Mediterranean dishes. Mousaka, for example, is made with potato instead of pasta. I love it. There is a great selection of food available and on that note…
4. Balkan Bites Food Tour
This is another “free tour”, but it’s well worth every tip you give. They could do with being a bit more organised as often too many people show up for the tour. Both times we tried to join the tour, it was a case of “who can come back tomorrow?” After that faff, there is a half an hour or so wait while they call the restaurants etc. My advice: book in advance!
We split into two groups and each visited different restaurants. We were given small samples at each restaurant. Some of the stuff was really local and unique so you learn a lot. Our guide also gave us some great local facts while we were walking around.
5. Rila Monastery
Often referred to as the “Jerusalem of Bulgaria.” This stunning monastery is a couple of hours away from Sofia but 100% worth a day trip. We were hoping to get there by public transport but there’s only one bus which leaves and returns every day, not leaving much time in the middle for viewing the monastery. With this in mind, we booked the tour from Hostel Mostel. For 40 lev pp (£20) they took you there and back, gave you a tour of St Luke’s Hermitage and St Ivan’s cave, and gave you ample time to look around the monastery. Worth the price for a well-organised and relaxing day.
The monastery itself was absolutely stunning. The artwork both outside and inside the church is amazing and many Orthodox Christians head there on pilgrimage. We paid a small fee to go up the bell tower, which is the only remaining building in the monastery from the 14th-century. You can also stay in the monastery overnight, which I’m sure is an amazing experience.