Top Tourist Attractions in Sofia

Explore the city of Sofia on foot just for a few hours (estimated duration of the walk: 3-4 hours)

There are many things to see and do in Sofia as a tourist: you can visit some of the interesting museums and learn more about the country’s rich history (see National History Museum and National Archeology Museum), you can visit some of the attractions in the city’s outskirts (see Boyana Church) or if you are a nature-lover, you can visit Vitosha mountain for a brisk hike.

But if you have just a few hours for sightseeing in Sofia, here are the top 20 attractions that you should definitely see. The suggested walk is suitable for kids and can be interrupted along the way by a break in some of the nice cafes and restaurants in the city center.

1. Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral



Start your visit of Sofia from its main tourist attraction - the impressive St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. You cannot mix it with any other orthodox church in Sofia because of its size, beauty and shiny golden domes which can be seen from kilometers. This amazing symbol of Sofia is an Orthodox cathedral and is one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the world. The construction of the cathedral started in 1882 and was finalized around 1912. The cathedral is named after a Russian Prince - Alexander Nevsky, in honour of the Russian soldiers who died during the Russian-Turkish War (1877-1878) as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from the Ottoman rule.

Tip: You can enter the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and admire its interior design and beauty. Also, if you are interested in the art of Orthodox icons, you can visit the amazing Alexander Nevsky crypt icon museum (the entrance is on the left side of the cathedral). The exhibition includes over 200 icons dating from 13-th to 19-th century.

2. Saint Sofia Basilica


Another amazing historical monument, as well as functioning Orthodox church (and our favourite one in Sofia), St. Sofia Basilica dates from 4-th-6th Century. The capital of Bulgaria was named after the church in the 14-th century (the town was previously known as Sredets). The Saint Sofia Church stands in the middle of an ancient necropolis and many tombs have been unearthed both under and near the church. An interesting fact is that during the Ottoman rule in the 16-th century the church was converted into mosque, which led to the destruction of the original frescoes and minarets were added. After 1900 restoration work began and transform the church into its previous state - and as it can be seen now. 

Behind the church you may find the grave of Ivan Vazov - one of the most prominent Bulgarian writers. 

Tip: you can visit the church (free of charge) and if you do so during the weekends you would probably witness a Bulgarian wedding or Baptism ceremony (on the contrary to St. Alexander Nevsky cathedral, which is a historic monument and no private ceremonies can be hold there - in fact only the Bulgarian Royal Family members may have ceremonies in St. Alexander Nevsky).

Nearby the Basilica you will see the statue of Tsar Samuil, which was erected in 2015. Tsar Samuil (907-1014) was a Bulgarian ruler who managed for decades to fight off the attacks of the Byzantine Empire. He remains in the Bulgarian history mainly with the battle of 1014 nearby Kluch village when in an attempt to defend Bulgaria Samuil and his army were defeated by the Byzantium Emperor Vasilii II. The emperor executed an enormous cruelty by blinding the 15,000 army of Samuil. Upon seeing his blinded army Samuil gets a heart attack and dies. As remembrance of that heroic army, the designer of the monument has made the eyes of the statue from a material that glows in the dark, so that the statue highlights the glory of the Bulgarian armies from the past. 

3. The Russian Church of St. Nikolay and Central Military club


This Russian Orthodox church was built on the site of the Saray Mosque, which was destroyed in 1882, after the liberation of Bulgaria by Russia from the Ottoman Empire. The church was built during 1907-1914 as the official church of the Russian Embassy, which was right next door during this period (now not any longer).

Right across Rakovska Street from the Russian Church, is situated the Central Military Club in Sofia. It is among the masterpieces of the Bulgarian early 20th-century architecture. This 3-storey building has many halls (among which also concert halls) which are currently used for many cultural events.

4. National Art Gallery


The National Art Gallery is located in the former royal palace on Battenberg Square. The National Art Gallery houses not only examples of contemporary and National Revival art, but also the country’s largest collection of medieval paintings, including more than 4,000 icons.

5. National Theater Ivan Vazov and City Garden


The City Garden is Sofia’s, oldest and most central public garden, in existence since 1872.

Previously the city garden was organised facing the Georgi Dimitrov Mausoleum (situated on Battenberg Square). After the demolishment of the mausoleum in 1999, the garden was changed completely, now facing the Ivan Vazov theater. Currently this garden is one of the favourite places of the local residents where they relax, meet for a drink or even for a game of chess (many amateur chess players gather daily in one of the corners of the garden where they compete against each other).

The Ivan Vazov National Theatre is not only Bulgaria‘s national theatre, but also the oldest and most authoritative theatre in the country and one of the important landmarks of Sofia. The theater was founded in 1904 and is currently named after one of the most prominent Bulgarian writers - Ivan Vazov (whose grave you may find behind the St. Sofia Basilica).

6. Rotonda St. George

The Rotunda of St. George is early Christian red brick rotunda (built in the 4-th century) and is considered to be the oldest building in Sofia (situated in the courtyard between the Presidency and the Sheraton Hotel and amid remains of the ancient town of Serdika). The church is part of a larger archaeological complex. Behind the apse, there are ancient ruins: a section of a Roman street with preserved drainage, foundations of a large basilica, probably a public building, and some smaller buildings.Through the centuries it had been used as a public, religious and even a representative building.

The building is famous for the 12th-, 13th- and 14th-century frescoes inside the central dome. Three layers of frescoes have been discovered, the earliest dating back to the 10th century. 

7. The Presidency


The institution of the President of the Republic has a relatively recent history and is associated with Bulgaria’s transition to democracy and with the new structuring of institutions within the context of this transition. The presidential institution in Bulgaria came into being upon the adoption of the country’s new Constitution on 12 July 1991. 

Tip: each day at noon and in the late afternoon the guards in front of the presidency are changing with a small but interesting military routine. Be sure not to miss it.

8. National Assembly of Bulgaria (Former Communist Party Headquarters)


The former Communist Party House (Bulgarian: “Partien Dom”) is now used by the National Assembly of Bulgaria. Today the building is mainly used as Government offices and the splendid Sofia Hall is occasionally used for charity concerts. The Building was finished in 1955. In order to represent the Communism in Bulgaria, a massive red star crowned the rocket-shaped spire of the building. However, when Bulgarians attempted to torch the building in 1990, the star was removed in a hasty manner. Subsequently the red star was substituted by the flag of Bulgaria.

9. Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers (Bulgarian: Министерски съвет, Ministerski savet) is the main authority of the executive power in the Republic of Bulgaria. It consists of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria and all the specialized ministers.

10. Thermal Waters 





The city of Sofia was established next to some thracian mineral water springs. Today these mineral springs are located next to the Central bath (in Bulgarian: "Tsentralna banya"), Banya Bashi Mosque and TZUM Shopping mall. A new construction lets the water flow and people can drink or take some mineral water at home absolutely free of charge. Sofia is unique by having 42 mineral springs with 8 different hydro-thermal zones with a temperature of 30 to 90 degrees Celsius. With the water flowing at 480 liters per second. Sofia mineral springs are deep under the ground, they are clean and can not be polluted. 

Tip: You can taste the nice hot water on the right side of the Central Bath and also across the tram line on the left of the building. You will notice a lot of locals that bottle this natural treasure and bring it home. 

Nowadays the Central Bath building hosts the Sofia's newest museum. We recommend that you pay a visit, as it is worth seeing the amazing mosaics inside the building. Also the Regional Historical museum of Sofia offers plenty of interesting articles to see (look below for more info). 

11. Central Mineral Baths / Sofia Regional Historical Museum 


The Central Mineral Baths was built in the early 20th century and was used as the city’s public baths until 1986. In 2015 the building was renovated and currently accommodates the Sofia Regional Historical Museum. It is definitely worth a visit not only because of the museum exhibitions, but also because of the beautiful ancient mosaics inside the building. 

12. Sofia Synagogue

The Sofia Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Southeastern Europe. It was constructed and opened in 1909. 

Since 8 May 1992 the Sofia Synagogue also houses the Jewish Museum of History, which includes the Jewish Communities in Bulgaria and the Holocaust and the Salvation of the Jews in Bulgaria expositions. 

13. Banya Bashi Mosque

 

The mosque was completed in 1566, during the Ottoman ruling. The mosque derives its name from the phrase Banya Bashi, which means many baths. The most outstanding feature of the mosque is that it was actually built over natural thermal spas; one can even see the steam rising from vents in the ground near the mosque walls. Currently, the Banya Bashi Mosque is the only functioning mosque in Sofia, a remnant of the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria that lasted nearly five centuries, and is used by the city’s Muslim community.

14. Central Market Halls (in Bulgarian: “Tsentralni Hali”)


The Central market Halls is a covered market in the centre of Sofia. It was opened in 1911 and is today a touristic trade centre in the city. If you fancy a to try some local bakeries or products, or if you want to buy some souvenirs - you can have a look.

15. TSUM (Central Department Store)


TSUM is an old, centrally-located department store which was opened in 1957. Currently it is a mix between shopping and office areas. It is worth seeing the building from outside only. 

16. Statue of Saint Sofia 


The Statue of Saint Sofia is a monumental statue, which was erected in 2000, on a spot previously occupied by the statue of Lenin (currently this statue can be still seen in the Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia). The statue is 24 feet in height and is made from copper and bronze. Saint Sofia holds in her hands the symbols of power (crown), fame (wreath) and wisdom (owl). 

17. Church of Saint Petka Samardjiiska


When you go down towards the Serdika subway station you will find another amazing tourist attraction - The small medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church of St. Petka.

The church is constructed on the foundations of a former Roman temple - it was first mentioned in the 16th century. Today it is known for its mural paintings from the 14th, 15th, 17th and 19th century. According to some, the Bulgarian national hero Vasil Levski is buried in the church. Skeletons were indeed discovered at the Church of St Petka, but it is unsure if these were indeed Levski's remains.

18. Saint Nedelya Church


St. Nedelya Church is a medieval church that has suffered destruction through the ages and has been reconstructed many times. The present building of the temple is among the landmarks of Sofia. The history of the cathedral dates back from the 10th century. The church’s current appearance was finalized in 1927. Currently this is on of the biggest functioning churches in Sofia.

19. Sofia Palace of Justice ("Sadebna Palata")


The Sofia Courthouse was built in 1940. The building is still accommodating several courts.
It is one of the pivot meeting points of the locals.
Two beautiful bronze lions guard the building and give it a glorious look.
Statues of lions, as symbols of Bulgaria, can be found all over Sofia. Look carefully and you will find them all around you when you explore Bulgaria's beautiful capital :) 


Tip: From here the longest pedestrian street in Sofia begins (Vitosha Boulevard). We strongly recommend paying a visit in one of the nice cafes there. Be careful with the restaurants though. They are way too touristy there and the food is not so good. For a list of better places to eat see our article with great restaurants in Sofia. 

20. National Palace of Culture ( in Bulgarian: “NDK”) and Vitosha Boulevard


From the Sofia Courthouse, if you stroll down the longest pedestrian street in Sofia - Vitosha Boulevard, you will reach a nice park in the middle of which is situated the National Palace of Culture. The building was constructed in 1981, and is used as multifunctional conference/concert/ exhibition center. 

There are numerous nice fountains in front of it and a great garden with beautiful flowers for you to explore. 

National Palace of Culture hosts the most of the EU meetings during the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

See all the places on the map. 

See our recommended tour (part 1):



See our recommended tour (part 2):


See our recommended tour (part 3):

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