The Best of Sofia
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | September 8th, 2021
Seeped in history and culture, Sofia is a vibrant city filled with great sights and fantastic restaurants. While exploring Bulgaria's capital for one week, I was impressed with all the stunning architecture and tasty eats in this marvelous city. It was difficult to narrow them down, but I ended up making a list of my three favorite sights, as well as the four best restaurants I dined at.
Church of St. George Rotunda
The Church of St. George Rotunda is considered the oldest preserved building in Sofia. Built in the 4th century as Roman baths, it was later turned into a church during the Byzantine Empire. Today, the remains are protected inside a courtyard between the Presidency and the Sheraton Hotel. It is free to visit and the site is open 24/7. If you're looking for a more in-depth look, local guides offer tours throughout the week.
Vitosha is the main commercial street in Sofia. Numerous shops, restaurants, and bars line the boulevard for over one and a half miles, while pedestrians stroll up and down the promenade enjoying local delights and a little retail therapy.
Cathedral St. Alexander Nevsky
This magnificent Orthodox cathedral is located right in the center of town, and is definitely the most popular sight in Sofia. Its stunning Neo-Byzantine style and gold-plated domes decorate the outside, while Italian marble covers the interior walls. Open every day from 7:00 to 19:00, admission is free, and tours are offered for a small fee.
Located on Vitosha Boulevard, Shtastliveca is one of the best, and prettiest, restaurants in all of Sofia. Its prime location makes it quite busy, so getting a table can often be difficult, but trust me, it's worth the wait. Popular dishes are the risotto, katuk, and shopska salad.
Raketa Rakia Bar
We stayed next door to this amazing restaurant, and we were happy to dine here on more than one occasion. I loved the unique Communist-style decor and traditional Bulgarian dishes, and there's even a beautiful patio to dine on during warm summer evenings. Some dishes that we really enjoyed were the Honey Ribs Raketa, the Homemade Meatballs, Mish-mash, Monastery-style Cheese, and Cake Raketa. And for those who like liquor, Raketa offers a huge variety of rakias, Bulgaria's national liquor.
From their amazing Mekitza (fried dough with jam and feta) and Banitza (cheese pancake) to their delicious avocado toast and bruschetta, Rainbow Factory 2 is a great place to grab breakfast in Sofia. The locals also claim this spot serves up some of the best coffee in town. If you miss breakfast, and happen to be nearby for lunch or dinnertime, try one of their incredible salads or banana cheesecake.
If you're looking for a quick and casual meal, Skapto Burger is your place. These mouth-watering burgers and delectable fries put Skapto on all the best restaurant lists in Sofia. The hamburger patties are made from high-quality grass-fed beef, and there are even options for vegans and vegetarians. If you don't eat meat, I highly recommend the Oki Wan Quinoabi. It's a deep-fried quinoa patty topped with halloumi cheese, red cabbage slaw, tzatziki, and tahini sauce. It's amazingly delicious.
When to Go: The best time to visit Sofia is May through September. The days are warm and mostly clear, and the nights are cool and comfortable. October to April are cold, with frequent snow from November through March.
Where to Stay: I recommend the InterContinental Sofia and the Sense Hotel Sofia. These two hotels are in a fantastic location (right next door to each other) and close to all the best sights.
Bulgarian is the main language of Bulgaria, but English is widely spoken.
The official currency of Bulgaria is the Bulgarian Lev. 1 BGN is equal to $0.60 USD.