Best Things To See In Sofia Bulgaria In 24 Hours

When forced to change our travel plans recently upon a flight cancellation, we found much cheaper ones which had a 1 day stopover in Sofia. Given we had not been to Bulgaria before, we decided why not make the most of this opportunity and spend a day in Sofia. We had literally 24 hours to explore and hence began planning a 24 itinerary that would allow us to explore and enjoy Sofia as much as we could. Sofia did not dissapoint..in 24 hours we got to learn about the city’s rich history, indulged in delicious local cuisine, checked out the nightlife and even managed to do an escape room (a Sofia must!). So if you’re low on time and looking for the ultimate itinerary that covers the essential tips plus excellent local recommendations – check out the list below based on our own 24 hours in Sofia!

How from Sofia Airport to Sofia Bulgaria

Getting from Sofia Airport to the city center is a breeze with several convenient transportation options available. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, the bus is a great choice. Bus line 84 connects the airport with the city center and operates from early morning until late at night. The cost of a bus ticket is approximately 1.60 BGN (around $0.96 USD) per person, making it an affordable way to reach your destination. Another option is to take a taxi, which offers a more direct and comfortable journey. Taxis are readily available outside the airport terminals, and the approximate fare from the airport to the city center is around 15-20 BGN (approximately $9-$12 USD), depending on traffic and distance. It’s always a good idea to confirm the fare with the driver before getting in the taxi to avoid any misunderstandings. Use the Yellow Taxi cab’s outside the airport and make sure they will be using the meter for the journey. If catching a cab within Sofia, local’s recommend using the Yellow Taxi cab app for trustworthy and reliable service, plus you won’t risk being overcharged as a tourist.

Best Areas to Stay To Explore Sofia

If you’re gearing up for a whirlwind 24-hour adventure in Sofia, Bulgaria, you’ll want to make every moment count. In my research before bookng my accommodation I found these two areas generally the best for convenience to attractions, amendities, with plenty of options in reasonable price ranges.

Oborishte

Nestled amidst tree-lined streets and historic charm, Oborishte offers a peaceful retreat just steps away from Sofia’s main attractions. Picture yourself waking up in a cozy guesthouse or boutique hotel, surrounded by the city’s rich history. Take leisurely strolls to iconic landmarks like Alexander Nevsky Cathedral or Sofia University, soaking in the atmosphere along the way. With a range of accommodations to suit every budget, Oborishte is the ideal choice for travelers seeking a central yet serene base for their Sofia escapades.

Vitosha Boulevard

For those craving a more lively experience, Vitosha Boulevard has you covered. This bustling area is the epicenter of Sofia’s hip scene, boasting trendy cafes, vibrant bars, and stylish accommodations. Think sipping a latte at a chic sidewalk cafe and small boutiques shops, all conviently located close to the National Palace of Culture. Whether you’re on a tight budget or ready to splurge, Vitosha Boulevard offers a range of options.

Free Sofia Walking Tour

Our hotel suggested doing a Sofia Walking Tour for a brief introduction to city and cover some key places in Sofia. The tour is about 2 hours long and provides a good glimpse into the city’s captivating history. If you are short on time and want a good summary of the city and its history, while getting the perspectives of locals I highly recommend doing the official Free sofia tour. These tours are usually run on the tour led by enthusiastic local guides who share fascinating stories about Sofia’s past, its iconic landmarks, and its journey from ancient Roman ruins to a modern European capital. It’s a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with the city’s layout and soak in its vibrant atmosphere. We got some amazing local recommendations for best restaurants to try while in Sofia that definitely did not disappoint!

Sofia free walking tour

The tour runs for 2 hours, starts at the Palace of Justice and covers the following sites along the way

  1. Sveta Nedelya Church
  2. Coat of Arms of Sofia
  3. Statue of Sofia
  4. Church of St. Petka
  5. Largo Square Roman Ruins
  6. Banya Bashi Mosque
  7. Sofia Synagogue
  8. Former Public Bath / Museum of Sofia
  9. Mineral Water
  10. Council of Ministers
  11. Former Communist Party Headquarters
  12. Presidency
  13. St George Rotunda
  14. City Garden
  15. National Theater Ivan Vazov
  16. Russian Church
  17. National Gallery (Former Royal Palace)
  18. St. Sophia Basilica
  19. St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Sofia free walking tour

Sofia Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Surrounding Gardens

No visit to Sofia would be complete without a visit to the iconic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This magnificent Orthodox cathedral stands as a symbol of Bulgaria’s national identity. Take a stroll through the surrounding gardens, which provide a tranquil escape in the heart of the city. Don’t miss the chance to go inside the cathedral, as its stunning interior will leave you in awe. Note that there may be a small fee to take photos inside, but the outside what we found most impressive.

Sofia Bulgaria church

Pro tip: I recommend going early in the morning to get good shots without too many people. There was also a lot of construction going on around the cathedral when we were there, but hte park and green area provided a clearer more unobstructed shot of the Cathefral than the roads closer to the Cathedral.

Lunch at Rainbow Factory:

For a delightful lunch experience, head to the hip café known as Rainbow Factory. This trendy spot with two branches across Sofia and attracts both locals and visitors alike, offering a cool and vibrant atmosphere. I would recommend trying the famous Bulgarian “banitsa,” a savory pastry made with layers of filo dough and a filling of cheese or other ingredients. This place does an amazing version which is perfect for breakfast or lunch.

Sofia cafes
bulgarian food

Sofia Bulgaria Cathedral

After lunch, make your way to Sofia Cathedral, the official cathedral after which the city is named. Despite what everyone thinks, it is not in fact the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral cathedral that is the Sofia Cathedral, but in fact this one which is made by the same person who made the Hagia Sofia in Turkey (hence the name). Marvel at its striking architecture, explore the interior, adorned with beautiful frescoes and religious artifacts, and take a moment to soak in the spiritual atmosphere of this historic site.

Escape Room in Bulgaria

escape room

This one was recommend to us from our free sofia tour, tour guide. This may not seem like an obvious choice for 24 hours in Sofia, but believe me, this was such a fun and memorable experience, one we will not forget! The one we did was by Room 66, where you have exactly 66 minutes to solve puzzles and escape. There are three rooms to choose, we recommend this one as we found it was a perfect blend of scares and mind-bending challenges, that tested our wits and provide the perfect mid afternoon adrenaline rush!

Try Bulgarian food at one of Sofia’s Best Restaurants

Izbata Tavern Sofia
Bulgarian food

When it comes to dinner, Sofia has an array of fantastic options to choose from. Two highly recommended places are Moma Food and Wine and Izbata Tavern. We opted for Izbata Tavern and were thrilled with the delicious food it offered. The cozy atmosphere, reminiscent of a home-cooked meal, and authentic local flavors make it a perfect choice for a memorable dining experience. We are vegetarian and were surprised how amazing and varied the vegetarian dishes were! The place feels homely and hospitable and is a perfect place to sample traditional Bulgarian food after a long day!

Try a local Sofia Bar: Raketa Rakia

To conclude your day in Sofia, treat yourself to a nightcap at Sputnik, the sister cocktail bar to the famous Raketa Rakia. Rakia is a traditional Bulgarian fruit brandy, and here you’ll find an excellent selection to choose from. Our waitress was a super friendly local and we ended up chatting at length about travels! We mentioned we were in Sofia just for the night and wanted to try the local tipple. We were recommended excellent cocktails and offered the excellent Rakia on the house which the bar makes on their own.