Sofia’s Top Attractions

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Bulgaria‘s biggest city is one of the few places in the world where answering seemingly safe yes/no questions could present a little bit of a problem (mainly because shaking your head here means yes) Sofia offers a medley of sights and attractions we definitely don’t want to say no to by accident.

It’s one of Europe’s oldest cities, which means there’s thousands of years’ worth of history lying within it. It’s also home to thermal springs, Stalinist architecture and some very bright yellow brick road(s)!

Amphitheatre of Serdica

Image copyright of ken anderson

If excavating a Roman Amphitheatre wasn’t at the forefront of hotel developers’ minds when the builders working on Arena di Serdica Hotel rolled up to the building site in 2004, it certainly was when they happened upon a section of Roman wall!

Excavations began immediately, and more of the ancient structure was unearthed underground including spectator seats, ancient coins and pottery dating back to the Roman era. It became clear that the hotel developers would need to find ways to adapt the architectural designs to fit around the new discovery.

Now, about a sixth of the amphitheatre is preserved inside the building including seven stone seats and some sections of the wall. The combat floor is covered with sand as it would have been to soak up blood during gory battles between gladiators and lions, tigers and bears. Some clay tiles found still even show evidence of animal presence, with footprints ingrained in them serving as eerie reminders of what used to happen here.

It goes without saying that the find brought some great publicity to the hotel, and today welcomes not just its guests but a number of tourists who just pop in to view the huge chunk of history.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral


Standing at around 50 metres tall, this impressive building has many of the characteristics you’d expect from Byzantine architecture like huge domes (some painted gold) and dozens of stained glass windows. Inside, the floors are Italian marble and walls are made up of intricate Venetian mosaics as well as other equally impressive decorative features.

Despite its many windows, it’s dimly lit and atmospheric, and if you’re lucky to visit when there’s a choir in attendance, soothing hymns will echo against the walls, creating a wholly ethereal environment. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Sofia and so usually on the itinerary of free walking tours. But if you visit alone, entrance is free. Just be prepared to fork out for photo privileges – if you’re granted them at all.

Museum of Socialist Art

socialist art
Image copyright of pavel dudek

You’ll find a large collection of socialist paintings displayed inside this controversial museum. And outside it, you’ll find huge sculptures of Lenin and Stalin.

The Rotunda of St George


A red-brick church dating back to the 4th century, St. George Rotunda has seen countless worshipers through its doors and still does today, thanks to a drastic refurbishment in 1998. As well as religious services, it hosts art exhibitions. Surrounding it are some important ancient remains including a Roman street and the foundations of various buildings.

Sofia Central Mineral Baths

mineral baths

Vibrantly coloured on the outside, elegantly muted on the inside, the Sofia Central Mineral Baths, though no longer open to public bathing, are still well worth visiting. The grand building which houses the baths was built last century and survived bombing during World War II. You may not be able to soak your weary muscles in the warm, mineral water, but you’re free to fill up a bottle from the public taps to take away with you.

Yellow Brick Roads

yellow brick

What started out as an extravagant gift from Hungarian royalty turned into a popular Sofia attraction. Unfortunately, while we’re sure they meant well, it was a bit of an inconvenient one because these canary-yellow cobblestones are less durable than normal… well, non-yellow ones, and have to be replaced more often. Still, they bring a vibrant flush of colour to some of the streets in the central Oborishte area.

Stalinist Buildings


Tell-tale signs of the country’s Soviet past can be seen at Largo, a triad of imposing buildings built during Stalin’s reign. One of these now houses a department store, TZUM. The others are used for governmental meetings.

Central Market Hall

central market

Around 170 shops and market stalls make up this immense, two-tiered market, so it’s a great place to pick up souvenirs and local produce like cheese, honey and meat.

Yuzhen Park

sofia park

A sprawling mass of greenery, Yuzhen Park lies in the south of the city and is one of its largest. It’s got the kind of hidden bars and cafes that you happen upon by chance and would never know how to find again which adds to its mystique. It’s also got a playground and some good cycling areas.