Welcome to Sofia
Bulgaria's pleasingly laid-back capital is often overlooked by visitors heading straight to the coast or the ski resorts, but they're missing something special. Sofia is no grand metropolis, but it's a largely modern, youthful city, with a scattering of onion-domed churches, Ottoman mosques and stubborn Red Army monuments that lend an eclectic, exotic feel. Recent excavation work carried out during construction of... Read More
Top experiences in Sofia
Sofia Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Day Trip
Meet your guide near Alexander Nevsky Square in central Sofia and settle into your air-conditioned minivan. Then, relax on your roughly 2-hour journey to UNESCO-listed Rila Monastery, tucked in the pine-forested Rila Mountains in southwest Bulgaria.Enjoy the views over rural Bulgaria as you travel and hear enlightening facts about the monastery. Founded in 927 AD by hermit monk Ivan Rilski or ‘John of Rila,’ Bulgaria’s patron saint; this photogenic walled complex came to symbolize the Bulgarian national identity and is considered a masterpiece of Slav architecture for its arcaded balconies and splendid frescoes.On arrival, enjoy a guided tour of the main courtyard and five-domed church, admiring its vivid, fresco-coated colonnades as you enter. Then, head inside to gaze at the richly gilded wood-carved iconostasis, the largest in the Balkans; and the tomb of Bulgaria’s last monarch, Boris III. If you wish, you may also head inside the monastery museum (own expense) to see its priceless exhibits.After, enjoy free time to look around independently and have lunch (own expense). Perhaps fill up with some delicious mekitsi (Bulgarian donuts served with fresh buffalo yogurt) at a local bakery or visit a restaurant to enjoy specialities such as fresh local trout.Next, return to the minivan and drive back to the fringes of Sofia to visit Boyana Church, a UNESCO-listed Orthodox church famed for its medieval frescoes. After paying your entrance fee, take in the breathtaking cycles of 11th- and 13th-century murals that depict Christ, angels, saints, apostles and other religious figures, and hear how they predate the Renaissance in Florence.Having explored here, return to central Sofia, where your tour concludes with a drop-off at the original departure point.
Plovdiv and Koprivshtitsa Day Trip from Sofia
Start your day with a pickup from central Sofia in the early morning. Hop inside an air-conditioned minivan with your expert driver-guide, and then relax as you travel out of the Bulgarian capital to the city of Plovdiv, one of the oldest towns in the country and Bulgaria’s second largest city.On arrival, after around two hours, stretch your legs on a walking tour of the city’s sights. With your guide leading the way, wander along Plovdiv’s cobbled streets, lined with bohemian cafes and art galleries, and hear about the 7,000-year-old settlement’s history and culture. Stroll amid the many house museums and historical monuments in Plovdiv’s lovely Old Town, and learn how it has been restored to its mid-19th-century appearance. Snap photos of the Thracian, Roman, Byzantine and Bulgarian antiquities, and perhaps see the Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic Museum or wonder at the Roman amphitheater.After touring Plovdiv, break for lunch at a local restaurant (own expense), and then return to your minivan and take in the scenic sights on route to Koprivshtitsa, a charming town with a fascinating history and beautiful 19th-century architecture. Enjoy a guided walking tour and learn how the tranquil town was the site of the Liberation of Bulgaria during the Russo-Turkish War, leading to its release from Ottoman rule. Then, choose to visit the homes of some of Koprivshtitsa’s most-celebrated residents, from rebels to writers.When the time comes, begin the journey back to Sofia, where your day trip concludes with a drop-off at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.Please note: If you take this tour between May and June, you’ll enjoy an additional stop on the way to Plovdiv to see the picturesque rosa damascene (oil-yielding rose) fields.
Communist Walking Tour of Sofia
During the approximately 3-3.5-hour-long walking Communist Tour you will learn about the 45-year-long communist period of Bulgaria in an objective and informative way. The 365: Communist Tour welcomes its guests every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 4 pm in front of the Palace of Justice in Sofia. The tour includes the main landmarks of communist history in the city of Sofia: former headquarters of the Bulgarian Communist Party, secret police investigation facility, destroyed mausoleum, monument of the Soviet army, National Palace of Culture, among others. During the 3-3.5-hour-long walking tour you will learn about the theory of communism, what Marxism-Leninism is, the history of communism in Bulgaria, the pros and cons of the period and the relation between the communist government and religion, industry, economy, culture and everyday life of the people.
Sofia Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour
Meet your expert guide and the rest of your small group in central Sofia and set off on your walking tour. Filled with elegant buildings and squares, Sofia is a dream to explore. As you stroll, discover the main landmarks, hear insights about the city’s history and culinary heritage, and enjoy three or four food stops to try delicious local specialities.Walk past the stately National Theater and admire the King’s Palace and the Presidency building. Then, stop at a cozy cafe popular with the locals. Savor some shopska — a salad made from cucumber, tomatoes, peppers and onions — complemented by some frothy, cold ayran.Continue to ‘Small Jerusalem Square,' so-named for its proximity to four religious buildings: the Christian Church of St George, St Nedelya Church, the Banya Bashi Mosque, and the Sofia Synagogue.Walk to your next food stop, the Central Market Hall (Tsentralni Hali). Delve into this covered market and view its century-old architecture as you linger at some enticing food stalls. Sample classic Bulgarian sweets including baklava — filo pastries stuffed with nuts and soaked in syrup — and deep-fried tolumbichki, and perhaps taste some rustic sausages and nuts, depending on what’s available.Finally, ride Sofia’s metro system, the newest in Europe, to your last stop, a popular Bulgarian restaurant set in four converted houses and decorated in distinct 19th-century regional styles.Head inside to sample some fruity Bulgarian wine and mezze of local meats such as lukanka (salami), babek (cured sausage), fillet Elena (dry cured meat) and pastarma (cured beef).Your tour ends at the restaurant, so you can stay on and enjoy more tasty Bulgarian fare before returning on your own.
Rila Monastery and Boyana Church with Light Lunch
Rila Monastery is the biggest and most important orthodox cloister in the country and the jewel of Bulgarian cultural and historical heritage. Recognized as a part of UNESCO world heritage sites since 1976, the monastery is an unique monument of the church architecture. Situated deep in the dense pine forests of Rila mountain, it is a place of massive cultural and historical importance and acts as the keeper of the national identity trough the middle ages. The monastery museum contains some amazing examples of the best Bulgarian icon painting and woodcarving. Another UNESCO site, part of the tour is Boyana Church, located on the outskirts of Sofia. It was added to the World Cultural Heritage List in 1979. The building consists of three parts, which are example of the Byzantine architecture - Greek cross ground-plan with dome, richly decorated facades with ceramic elements. In the interior of the church there are several layers of wall paintings from different historical periods-11th, 13th, 15-17th and 19th. The church owes its world fame mainly to its frescoes from 1259, which reflect the unique achievements of the Bulgarian medieval culture. According to the experts the style of the paintings from this period is much resembling the Renaissance style though much earlier than it begun. The Boyana Church displays 89 different scenes with 240 human figures either individually or together. Itinerary: The tour starts from your hotel. After a 2-hour transfer, we reach the Rila monastery. Enjoy a 2-hour tour of the Holy cloister. Transfer back to Sofia (2 hours), visit of Boyana church (1 hour). Afterwards the tour ends at your hotel
Plovdiv and Bachkovo Monastery
Plovdiv, the second biggest city of Bulgaria, is considered to be one of the oldest settlements of Europe, with more than 7000 years of history. Home of the famous remains of the Ancient Roman Empire – the Roman Stadium, Roman Forum and the Amphitheater, Plovdiv is one of the main sites not only in the country, but in the Balkan peninsula. The Old Town of Plovdiv is situated on the three hills of the ancient Trimontium, with its houses from the National Revival period (18-19th century).Bachkovo Monastery was founded in the year 1083 and it’s one of the most important orthodox monuments in Bulgaria, as a significant monument of Christian architecture and one of the largest and oldest Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Europe. It is also home of the icon of Saint Mary, considered to be miraculous. The Plovdiv and Bachkovo Monastery tour offers visit to some of the main landmarks of Bulgaria as well as to travel the history of these lands, from Thracian times, through the Roman Empire period and the national revival, until the modern age.