The 13th largest city in the European Union, Sofia is the vibrant and bustling capital of Bulgaria. Situated in the shadow of the picturesque Vitosha Moutain, the city has a fascinating history that dates back more than 2000 years. With Greek, Ottoman, Roman and Soviet influences, the diverse city has several popular attractions, including St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Borisova Gradina Park and Zhenski Pazar Market.
A wonderful combination of historical landmarks and modern amenities, the city is a popular hotspot for those interrailing through Bulgaria. One that you can visit by either using the Global Pass or One Country Pass, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to see and do here during your two-day trip.
Read on to discover how to get to Sofia, the must-see attractions, where you should go to get the best food and drink and where you should stay on your 48-hour trip.
How to get to Sofia
If you want to fly to Sofia, and you’re travelling from the UK, you’ll be pleased to know that it takes just over 3 hours from London. A quick flight, you’ll then be able to navigate to the city by the metro, buses or a taxi. And from Sofia, you can use the trains to continue your interrailing journey; to destinations such as Burgas, Varna or further afield.
However, if you’re looking for a true interrailing adventure, you should head to Sofia by train. There are several routes you can take, with the first being London – Brussels/Paris – Vienna – Bucharest – Sofia. Along the way you’ll see so many incredible landmarks, from the Eiffel Tower to Vienna’s historic centre. Other routes you could opt for are:
- London – Paris – Stuttgart – Zagreb – Belgrade – Sofia
- London – Paris – Zurich – Zagreb – Belgrade – Sofia
- London – Amsterdam – Bucharest – Sofia
Top 5 Things to do in Sofia
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The cathedral church of the Bulgarian Patriarch is located in Sofia and is known as St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It was constructed in a Neo-Byzantine style and ranks in the top 50 largest churches in the world. Beautiful in its architectural design, it’s frequently voted as the most popular attraction to visit whilst in the city.
Borisova Gradina Park
The oldest and most well-known park in Sofia is Borisova gradina, also known as Knyaz-Borisova gradina. It’s named after Bulgarian Tsar Boris III and was constructed in 1884. The garden’s past spans three eras and three notable gardeners. Beautiful and tranquil, it’s a must visit whilst interrailing in the city.
National Museum of History
The National Historical Museum in Sofia is Bulgaria’s largest museum. It was founded in 1973 and houses an array of historical artefacts and pieces. It even showcases a variety of temporary exhibitions, with the likes of native art.
Zhenski Pazar Market
Also known as the ‘woman’s market’, Zhenski Pazar Market was built in the 19th century. Offering a variety of delicious Bulgarian produce, as well as eateries that you can enjoy during your visit, it’s a vibrant attraction in the heart of the city.
Founded in 1888, Sofia Zoo is not only the largest but the oldest zoological garden in Europe. Spanning an incredible 36 hectares, it’s home to 840 different species of wildlife, including nearly 5000 animals. An incredible attraction in Sofia, it makes for a fun day out whilst exploring all that Sofia has to offer.
Where to Eat and Drink in Sofia
Bulgarian food is decadent, hearty and delicious. Known for using an array of spices and fresh ingredients, when you’re in Sofia, you’ll be in for a real treat when it comes to the food. With so many tasty traditional dishes to choose from, from pastries to stews, you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Particular dishes you should look out for are:
- Banista – a delicious traditional dish made with pastry, eggs and cheese – all encased within a flaky filo pastry.
- Meshana Skara – also known as a mixed grill, it’s perfect for those meat lovers out there. From pork to lamb, this hearty dish is the perfect way to spend a day of exploring.
- Tarator – a refreshing cold soup that uses cucumbers, garlic, yogurt, walnuts, dill and other tasty ingredients.
When it comes to restaurants in Sofia, there’s a lot of variety. From more traditional options to international cuisine, there’s something for all tastes and budgets in the city. Our recommendations for Sofia are:
- Skapto-Iskar – enjoy a wide selection of burgers from this popular restaurant.
- Daro – a warm and welcoming bistro with a variety of fantastic brunch dishes, in the heart of the city.
- Staria Chinar – if you’re looking for a stylish, cosy restaurant, head to Staria Chinar. Indulge in a selection of delicious homemade dishes, from meat to vegetarian options.
And when it comes to places to enjoy a refreshing tipple or two, Sofia has you sorted. Here’s our choice for the top bars to head to in the city:
- 5L Speakeasy Bar – expect fabulous, unique cocktails in this jazzy bar.
- One More Bar – enjoy an evening drink in this vibrant bar, with lots of different drinks to choose from.
- Sense Rooftop Bar – take in breathtaking views of Sofia at this chic rooftop bar located within a stylish hotel.
Where to Stay in Sofia
It’s no surprise that in this sprawling metropolis there’s plenty of places to stay. From budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels, the choice is yours when it comes to accommodation in Sofia. Whilst interrailing in Bulgaria, you’ll find that in general the hotels are wallet-friendly, making it a great place for those on a budget. But to help narrow down the options, we’ve gathered our top 3 options for those staying in the city for 48 hours.
- Hostel No.1 Sofia – situated in the heart of the city, this budget-friendly hostel has clean accommodation and is surrounded by some of the best amenities in the city.
- Smart Hostel Sofia – comfortable accommodation in a good central location, this dorm-style hostel has everything you need for your stay.
- Adella Boutique Hotel – alternatively, try out this stylish hotel with a variety of rooms to choose from. There’s also an Italian restaurant on site for when you get hungry in the evenings.
Sofia is an underrated gem that’s well worth visiting during an interrrailing trip. Although it’s picking up popularity with tourists, it’s still less busy than other spots like Rome or Vienna, therefore it still has a wonderful untouched feel about it. So what are you waiting for? Take the leap and enjoy an unforgettable two-day trip in this breathtaking city!