Places to visit around Sofia

If you are visiting Sofia and staying for more than a couple of days, you may want to step your feet outside of the Bulgaria's capital town. Below are our suggestions for amazing places to visit nearby Sofia.

If you have an extra day in Sofia, here are some great ideas what to see and where to go nearby. 

Boyana Church 

The Boyana Church - this is one of Bulgaria’s most significant treasures listed in the Unesco World Cultural Heritage list.  It is an ancient Eastern orthodox church dating back to 10th Century. The amazing thing about the church is that inside have been preserved 3 layers of beautiful frescoes dating back to 11th, 13th and 17th century.
More information about this amazing church can be found here

The National History Museum 

The numerous exhibits in the museum show the development of social, cultural and political life in Bulgarian. The history-lovers can easily spend a whole day admiring the different exhibits, but even if you are not one of them, you can easily spend at least 2 hours inside gazing at the the unique gold treasures from Panagyurishte and the Thracian silver treasure from Rogozen.  

More information about the National History Museum can be found: 

These two must-see attractions are basically in Sofia, but in the outskirts of the capital. There is some public transport to there, but because it is not very regular, we recommend commuting by taxi to these points. Because of its relative closeness from each there, the two attractions are easily combinable.

Vitosha Mountain - 3 Ideas for Great Outdoor Activities

A natural treasure in a close reach from the capital of Bulgaria. Vitosha is the fourth highest mountain in the country with its highest peak Cherny Vrah ("Black Peak") 2,290 m. The mountain emerged as a result of a volcanic activity, but nowadays many of its slopes are lush green. Being so close to Sofia (less than 30 minutes by car from the city center of the capital), Vitosha mountain is a favourite spot for all the local hikers, nature-lovers and skiers.

  • One day hike to Boyana Waterfall

Having reached Boyana Church (see above) you can take from there a trek up in the mountain to the beautiful Boyana Waterfall (25 m. high, but situated among picturesque forest) . The first part of the trek is uphill - so be prepared to sweat a little, but once you reach the Boyana waterfall you will know that it was worth it. The total distance from the Boyana district up to the waterfall is around 5 km and takes roughly 2 hours. After you  you have admired the beauty of the nature at Boyana Waterfall you can continue your way up to the hut “Momina Skala” (it will take you approximately 10 -15 minutes to reach the hut). You can relax in the restaurant of the hut and enjoy delicious local meals. The big lawn infront of the hut, and the forests nearby are also worth visiting and enjoying.

  • One day hike to Cherny Vrah (the highest peak in Vitosha mountain)

The paths to trek up to the Cherny Vrah start from the hut "Hija Aleko" (situated around 15 kilometers from Sofia, and which can be reached by taxi or public transport (not very regular)). The path starting from the hut is very well marked and usually with many tourists. The first part of the trek is uphill, but do not give up - the more you progress, the terrain gets a bit easier. All the way to the top you can admire the beautiful views over Sofia. Once you have reached Cerny vrah you can relax at the lawn around the peak, admiring the amazing views. Also you can enjoy some of the basic, but delicious, Bulgarian meals offered at the restaurant on the top.

  • Half day trip to Vitosha mountain with a mountain lift

For those who want to see and enjoy Vitosha mountain but either don’t  have the time or the desire to hike - can do so using the Vitosha mountain lift. There is a closed cabin lift running from one of the districts of Sofia - Simeonovo up to Aleko hut ("Hizha Aleko"). On the way up with the lift you can enjoy beautiful views of Sofia, and around the hut you will have plenty of things to do - enjoy the fresh, crisp air, beautiful nature, or the restaurant of the hut, trying some local specialties.

Here is the website of the mountain lift (unfortunately only in Bulgarian - but using google translate, you can find uptodate info on working time and prices of the mountain lift, as well as the current weather conditions in the mountain).

Day Trip to Plovdiv 

Plovdiv is the second largest city after the capital and definitely one of the must-see cities in Bulgaria. It is situated 150 km. from Sofia, and it takes roughly 2 hours to be reached by car (or by bus - every hour a bus from Sofia Bus Station heads towards Plovdiv - so it is reliable transport to get to the city). Thus, it is a perfect location for a one-day trip.

Plovdiv has very ancient history dating back to the Romans - and still many artefacts from that time can be seen in the city even today  (see Roman Theater and Roman Forum in the heart of Plovdiv). The old town of Plovdiv offers beautiful houses and museums dating from the Bulgarian Revival Period. Plovdiv has a lot to offer for the history and culture lovers. Plovdiv was selected to be European Cultural capital of 2019 - and there are going on constantly many festivities in this regard.
If you fancy a relaxing day full of charm and small hidden cafes and restaurants - Plovdiv is your place as well. Make sure to visit “Kapana district’’ - which is a district of old buildings n the heart of the city. Now most of these charming buildings have been turned to hip bars, cafes and restaurants.
So, definitely, make sure to visit the amazing city of Plovdiv!

One Day Trip to Koprivshtitsa

Koprivshtitsa is situated at 108 kilometers from Sofia (roughly 1 hour and 50 minutes by car, difficult to be reached by bus due to the irregularities in the bus schedule).

The small town of Koprivshtitsa is one of the most characteristic Bulgarian towns, still preserving the atmosphere of the Bulgarian National Revival period of the 19th century. The town i made up of many well preserved architectural monuments (houses and museums) dating back to the Bulgarian National revival. Most of these architectural monuments are open for the public and can be visited - you will learn a lot about the life and culture of the Bulgarian people of that period. Large collections of ethnographical treasures, old weapons, National Revival works of art, fine fretwork, household weaves and embroidery, national costumes and typical Bulgarian jewelry have also been preserved and can be seen nowadays in the museums of Koprivshtitsa. 

One Day Trip to the Seven Rila Lakes

This is definitely one of the natural wonders in Bulgaria which is a favourite place both to locals and to foreigners. 
To reach the Seven Rila lakes, you have to get to Pionerska Hut ("Hija Pionerska") situated  87 kilometers from Sofia (roughly 2 hours by car, no other regular options for transportation). From Pionerska hut an open mountain lift will take you up in the Rila mountain to the hut Rila Lakes. From there starts a trail which will take you around all Seven Rila lakes. Apart from sm uphill parts in the beginning of the trails and towards the last lake, the rest is pretty easy to hike (the hike takes around 3 hours and is loop shaped).
The Seven Rila Lakes are sitting at between 2095 and 2535 m above sea level  and are deep-blue emerald lakes. They have been named based on their shapes-  for example - the Tear (the highest at 2535 m), the Eye (the deepest at 37.7 m) and the Twin (the biggest with an area of just 91 000 sq m).
Definitely a must -see natural wonder!

One Day Trip to Rila Monastery

Situated 143 kilometers from the capital city Sofia (2 hours by car, no reliable public transport to there). 
For those of you who are pretty quick hikers and don't spend too much time at the Seven Rila lakes can go from the starting point Pionerska hut to the Rila monastery in the same day (distance 90 kilometers, roughly 1 hour and 50 minutes by car).  Combining these two attractions is doable, but be prepared to travel quite a lot due to the smaller and not so good rods joining these two points. So, if you have the time - it is better to space your trips, and to do one trip at a day - thus having more time to enjoy and relax.

The  Rila Monastery is the largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery in Bulgaria.
The Monastery is situated in the southwestern Rila Mountains  at an elevation of 1,147 m. above the sea level. The monastery is named after its founder, the hermit Ivan of Rila (876 - 946 AD), and houses around 60 monks.
Founded in the 10th century, the Rila Monastery is regarded as one of Bulgaria's most important cultural, historical and architectural monuments and is a key tourist attraction for both Bulgaria and Southern Europe.
The Monastery is made of several astonishing buildings and a central church  with very elaborately painted walls and dome. 
Just outside the premises of the monastery, make sure not to miss the little shop selling  typical Bulgarian Mekitsi (deep fried dough covered with powder sugar). This delicious food can be a great snack for your trip. If you want t have some more solid food, on your way down from Rila Monastery up to the Rila village you will see many small restaurants along the Rila river sides. All these restaurants offer fresh trout and other local specialties.
Being up in the mountain make sure to enjoy the nature as well - close to the monastery there are different treks which can take you up in the forest (one of the most famous ones is the trek taking you to the tomb of St. Ivan of Rila).

Although Bulgaria has so much to offer that you cannot discover it all in a day, still we hope that we gave you some good ideas for short one-day trips. Please share your experience in the comments below, let us know which was your favourite place form the list.


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