Sofia is a fascinating city that simply oozes its 9,000 years of history, from the Roman ruins in Serdika metro station to the elegant neoclassical buildings above them. One day in the Bulgarian capital gives you enough time to hit the highlights, sample delicious food and wine, and even squeeze in Communist or Byzantine relics. Here’s how.
Morning: Travel Through Time
In among the parks and green space, Sofia’s history reveals layer upon layer of occupation—and most of it’s so blissfully compact that you don’t need transport to experience it all. Discover ancient catacombs, the ruins of the Roman city, Ottoman-era mosques, tiny Byzantine churches, and grand imperial buildings on a historical or cultural walking tour that takes you below the surface of the city. Consider swinging by the fascinating National Archaeological Museum to learn more about the mysterious Thracians, whose rich culture dominated Bulgaria before and during Roman times—the jewelry is particularly amazing.
Afternoon: Brutalist Beauty or Boyana
In the suburbs in particular, Sofia’s Communist-era architecture is some of central Europe’s best preserved. Spend the afternoon learning about the impact of Communism on the nation as you tour signature sites, perhaps including the fascinating Museum of Socialist Art, and get out among the locals in a typical brutalist block. Alternatively, there’s just enough time to experience the city’s signature green space, Vitosha Mountain, to the south of the city. Try hiking (or snowshoeing in winter), or explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Boyana Church, a series of three churches with murals dating back to the 10th century.
Night: Wine and Dine
Bulgaria’s indigenous cuisine is a fascinating mix of Turkish elements acquired during the Ottoman occupation; western Mediterranean meats and vegetables (hello, prosciutto!); and central European pork, game, and pickles. Savor it all on a food tour, on a market tour, or at one of the many modern restaurants that adorn the city’s historical center. An absolute must-try when in Sofia is the wine. The Thracians were some of Europe’s earliest winemakers and, from unique grapes such as mavrud to more established varietals, Bulgarian winemakers punch well above their weight in value terms. It’s worth booking a wine tasting that includes the chance to buy.