Sofia, the heart of Bulgaria, is a wonderful city with many things to explore. When we wrote about why you should visit Sofia we made the case for it being a perfect weekend destination, so now we want to tell you about some of the best things to see and do on a 3-day trip to this beautiful city. There are, of course, the most famous things to see in Sofia, which you absolutely must visit, but if you are looking to wander a little off the beaten path, then we have some tips for you! And, of course, we hope our suggestions will help you plan a tailor-made guided tour of Bulgaria with Excedo Travel.
St George Rotunda
Sofia is rich in churches and they’re each unique, formed by their distinct place in history, so it’s well worth seeing as many of them as you can. One of our favourites has to be the St George Rotunda, which is the oldest building in modern Sofia.
Built in beautiful red brick all the way back in the 300s, its longevity is as stunning as what remains of the building, and as you explore the site you will notice details that hint at the civilisations that passed through Sofia while the St George Rotunda stood firm in place. Inside the church you can enjoy medieval frescoes which, for a time, had been painted over during the Ottoman Empire when the building was repurposed as a mosque. Outside of the church lie Roman flagstones and remnants of Ancient Serdica.
Boyana Church and Vitosha Mountain
We can give you 5 reasons to climb in Bulgaria, but if you are a nature lover who is only in Sofia for a long weekend, then we recommend you head straight to Vitosha Mountain. Climbing up to 2,200 metres up, the mountain provides breathtaking views of Sofia and a great break away from the city’s hustle and bustle!
On the lower slopes of the Vitosha Mountain lies Boyana Church, a stunning medieval edifice with a rich history. A UNESCO heritage site, Boyana Church was built in three stages from the 1000s to the 1800s. Inside are stunning frescoes that, although completed in the 1200s, have a realism uncommon in medieval artwork. This is a truly unique place to visit.
Ivan Vazov National Theatre
An icon in Bulgaria, the Ivan Vazov National Theatre is a stunning neoclassical building that was completed in 1909 by the famous Viennese architects, Helmer and Fellner. The theatre is worth visiting for the architecture alone but, if you are so inclined, catching a play here is a wonderful experience.
The landscaped gardens of Park Vrana are a tranquil place that can only be explored at the weekend. The grounds and stately home belonged to Simeon II, the Tsar of Bulgaria from 1943-46. Although you can’t enter any of the buildings there is more than enough to explore outside and hourly guided tours offer a fun insight into the palace. As we said at the beginning of this blog, a well-planned trip makes for a more enjoyable trip. If you have any questions for us at all, or you simply want to reach out for a chat, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The Synagogue and Banya Bashi Mosque
We have made much of Sofia’s churches, and with good reason, but there are a couple of other religious sites we recommend you visit.
Sofia is home to the third largest synagogue in Europe – a cavernous building that can accommodate over 1000 people – but it is not just the size of the building that is noteworthy. Built in the Moorish Revival style, it is a beautiful building to behold and if you step inside you can learn about the history of Bulgaria’s Jewish communities in The Synagogue’s permanent exhibition.
Banya Bashi is the only mosque in Sofia and if you arrive outside of prayer time, you can step inside to tour it. Designed by Mimar Sinan, Banya Bashi was built in 1576, at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire, and it is a testament to the style of that period.
So there you have our tips for what to see and do on a 3-day trip to Sofia! We hope we’ve convinced you to spend your next long weekend in this beautiful city, and if you choose to explore Sofia with one of Excedo Travel’s tours, we’ll make sure you see the very best of Bulgaria. If you have any questions, or if you’re ready to book that trip, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Bulgaria is waiting for you!