Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024 1
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Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024

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Greetings, Internet Stranger! I’m Stella Jane, author of the travel guide Get Lost, and welcome to the best Sofia Bulgaria tours. Sofia is the capital city of Bulgaria, and though it might not be the most famous tourist destination in Europe, there is still a ton to do there. But where to get started? How can you find the best things to do?

That’s where this list of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours comes in. I will take you to my favorite walking tour, my favorite food tour, and my favorite day trip because Bulgaria is a gorgeous country and you should get out in nature a bit while you’re there.

By the end of your time exploring the best Sofia Bulgaria tours, I hope you’ll see why I enjoy Sofia and Bulgaria so much.

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours

#1 TOP PICK

Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
RILA MONASTERY DAY TRIP
✔️ Expert local guide
✔️Experience stunning architecture

#2 PICK

Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024 3

PRIVATE WALKING TOUR
✔️ Five star reviews
✔️ Get off the beaten track

#3 PICK

Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024 4

ALL OTHER SOFIA TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

Best Sofia Bulgaria tours

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

1) Sofia Walking Tour

Sofia is a really pretty city, as I hope you can see from my photo above. In fact, it’s modeled after Vienna, for reasons that we will get into later.

But many visitors to Bulgaria aren’t really familiar with Sofia and don’t know how to find the best places to see. And of course, all the cool sights are a little bit hidden.

That’s why I recommend getting a tour guide! Your local guide will be able to introduce you to everything that is cool and fun about Sofia. You’d never be able to find these places on your own.

Check rates and availability right here!

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, let’s get ready to meet Sofia on one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

I can’t guarantee that your Sofia walking tour will start at this church, but it’s very likely that it will.. Like many things in the Balkans, Alexander Nevsky Church is gorgeous and surrounded by death and chaos. Alexander Nevsky was a Russian prince, and some people think the church was named in its honor because of Russian assistance to Bulgaria during the Bulgarian war of independence.

However, my guide said that Russia didn’t really care about Bulgaria in this war. It just wanted to get part of Bulgaria for itself. It was pretty easy to believe my guide because of this.

My guide also told me that Bulgaria’s neighbor North Macedonia was separated from Bulgaria because of Russian interference. When I was in North Macedonia, I got the impression that they have a different take on the story, but I do not know who is correct.

Also, my guide pointed out that Bulgarians and Russians both use the Cyrillic alphabet, but we should not call it the Russian alphabet. After all, Bulgaria had the alphabet first!

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

This is a very different kind of church, and many would say that it’s much more authentically Bulgarian than the Alexander Nevsky. This is the Saint Sophia Church, and yes, it’s spelled differently than the city of Sofia. According to my guide, this church is the true heart of Sophia. It dates all the way back to the 300s. Imagine that!

When I visited, we couldn’t go inside the church because there was a funeral being held for a famous Bulgarian rock musician. I’m afraid I don’t know his name because I can’t name even one Bulgarian rock musician. However, let’s call him Tom Petty.

Saint Sophia was not actually a real woman. Sophia is the representation of Holy Wisdom. Also, when you say Sophia, you should stress the first syllable, not the last syllable. Bulgarian church rules really are rather complex.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

Sofia is a much prettier city than many people realize. I mean, I’ve never heard Sofia mentioned as one of the prettiest cities in Eastern Europe, and even most people I met in Sofia said that Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, was prettier.

However, as I hope you can tell from my photos, Sofia has many stunning buildings, which I was able to see on the best Sofia Bulgaria tours. My guide said that the city was modeled after Vienna, just like Bucharest, Romania was modeled after Paris.

This makes sense because both Bulgaria and Romania were once colonies of the Ottoman Empire. Once they were independent, they wanted to emphasize their ties with European countries, like France and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Did you see in my photo that some of the streets in Sofia are paved with yellow brick? These bricks were donated by Franz Josef, Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He visited Sofia and didn’t approve of their roads, so he donated these bricks instead. How kind! And on top of that, he had a simply smashing mustache.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

Above, you can see my favorite building in Sofia, which is called the National Theatre. Like many buildings in Sofia, it is done in the style of a Viennese building. Actually, Sofia has many prettier buildings than many former Communist countries.

I mean, Bucharest has some pretty buildings, but a lot of them were torn down by the Communist government, and the same is the case in Warsaw, Riga, and even Berlin.

My guide said that the local Bulgarians stopped the government from tearing down the buildings. It does seem from everything I’ve read that the Bulgarian communist government was not quite as brutal as some other governments, like Stalin’s in Russia.

However, most people in Sofia prefer life now to life under Communism. My guide said some exceptions might include people who had important positions under Communism or young people who do not really remember what it was like.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

Finally, don’t miss the statue honoring the Slaveikov father and son combination. The son is the Bulgarian writer Pencho Slaveikov and his father is Mr. Slaveikov. (Not quite sure of his first name, but then the dad wasn’t the famous poet.)

I know next to nothing about Bulgarian writers, but I do know that Viktor Krum from the Harry Potter series is Bulgarian, so I asked my guide about that. He said that Viktor and Krum are both Bulgarian names, but they are both first names. (There was a famous Bulgarian king named Krum.)

So the name Viktor Krum sounds a little funny to Bulgarians. Oh well, at least JK Rowling tried.

24 Hour Tip

I hope I have made you curious to check out this tour and see more of Sofia for yourself on one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours! You’ll have to book the tour for yourself right here to find out more!

Check rates and availability right here!

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

2) Rila Monastery Day Trip

Rila Monastery isn’t in Sofia proper, but it is just a short day trip away, and there are several excellent tours that leave from Sofia to Rila Monastery and will have you back in just a few hours. I recommend this one, which is definitely one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours

Bulgaria is an extremely beautiful country, but you can’t really say you’ve seen its beauty unless you get out into nature. And the best stop on a drive through Bulgaria’s nature is Rila Monastery. As you can see from my photos, it’s a truly stunning place. And it’s considered to be so important to Bulgarian culture that they actually put the image of this monastery on the money.

I’m really excited to be able to take you to this special place, at least virtually, so you’ll be able to go out and see the real monastery for yourself some day.

Check tour rates and availability right here.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

The monastery was named after a famous saint named Ivan of Rila. If you look at the English language signs at the monastery, you will see that he is called Saint John because John and Ivan are equivalent names. I’m not sure that’s necessary because Ivan is an easy name for English speakers to pronounce.

Ivan was a real saint, but apparently he did not really found the monastery himself. He was a hermit who lived in a cave near the future site of the monastery. And if we know anything at all about hermits, it’s that they are not very social people. However, he did attract students from all over who wanted to learn from his holiness and they ended up founding the monastery.

I suppose the students wanted the monastery to be named after Saint Ivan to honor him. That’s very touching. My students used to sometimes give me cookies at the end of the school year, so that’s pretty much the same thing.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

The number one best thing to see at the Rila Monastery on one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours are the amazing paintings all over the inside and outside of the buildings. I took a whole bunch of close up photos so you can see exactly how spectacular they are. These paintings are different from icons, which are sacred images of saints and other important religious figures.

I know that some religious buildings, like the ones I saw in Geneva, are lacking in color on purpose, but I must say that I prefer the style of Rila Monastery.

As you might expect, it is forbidden to take photos inside the monastery, but you can take all the photos you want on the outside. My favorite image is this one of the Archangel Michael stabbing a demon. Now that’s one angel I would like on my side during a battle.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

These peasants, on the other hand, look like they are being absolutely brutalized by the demons. Maybe they can call on Archangel Michael to save them!

One thing that’s great about being at medieval churches in a country where you don’t speak the language is that the stories in the images were designed to be clear and understood even by people who couldn’t read. I mean, I think what’s going on in this painting is clear even to those who don’t speak Bulgarian.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

The main monastery building is not the only sight to see here. If you pay a small additional fee, you can go to a separate gallery and see some rare Bulgarian Orthodox icons.

Just keep in mind that it’s completely forbidden to take photos of the icons. A guard will yell at you if you do. (I did not get yelled at, but I watched another tourist take a forbidden photo, and boy did that guard get mad!)

Just keep in mind that all of my photos of one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours are legally taken photos of the exterior! That’s the Around the World in 24 Hours way!

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

There are other museums at the monastery, but I did not have time to see them because I was so busy taking photos of Archangel Michael stabbing demons.

If you get hungry, there are little snack shops at the monastery where you can get something to tide you over. When I went, none of the snack shops took credit cards. However, if you don’t have Bulgarian currency on you, it’s not a problem because there are ATMs outside the monastery.

Some might see these ATMs as sacrilegious, but I say that monks need to eat too.

Those are all the secrets of the Rila Monastery tour that I can share with you for now. I hope you can see why I think this is one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours.

You can go ahead and book the tour right here.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

3) Food Tour

Food tours are one of my favorite ways to see a city. On a food tour, you get to sample so much more of the local culture than you can on a simple walking tour. Also, you get to try many more foods than you would on your own. That’s why I say this food tour is one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours.

That’s why I suggest booking an afternoon walking tour to get your Bulgarian food on. On this tour, you’ll be able to sample all the classic Bulgarian treats and try some very local restaurants that you would not be able to find on your own.

Check rates and availability of this great tour right here.

Even if you do not have exactly what I ate on my food tour, I feel confident that you’ll have a delicious time.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

Now, I am definitely not saying that there are no vegetarians in the Balkans. However, meat is a big part of the cuisine, so I think the food tour will be much easier for omnivores.

The first bite we had were these delicious skinless sausages served with a pepper sauce called lutenitsa. This sauce is similar to something called ajvar that you might find in Serbia or North Macedonia. In fact, you might also find similar sausages in neighboring countries.

However, people in many countries do not like it if you compare their favorite things to the specialties of other countries, so if you do notice any similarities, you might want to keep it to yourself.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

When I saw our next treat, I thought it was a beignet because my mother is from New Orleans, Louisiana, and to us, all fried dough is beignets. However, these are called mektsi, and they are usually served warm with jam. (I found that jam is often part of dessert or tea in many Slavic countries, and I approve this message.)

There is a zero percent chance that I would have been able to find this delicious mektsi on my own. That’s the magic of a food tour, and why it is one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

One of my favorite things about this food tour is that we did not only learn about Bulgarian food. We also got to learn the history of the city and see some special attractions. For example, in my photo above you can see what is almost certainly the oldest building in Sofia. That’s why this is one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours.

This building goes all the way back to the 4th century, when Sofia was known as Serdica. I had no idea before visiting Sofia that the city was founded by Celts and not by the Romans. (I did not even know that the Celts came this far east.) However, the Romans eventually took Sofia from the Celts.

Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, loved Serdica and he said that Serdica was his favorite city, his own personal Rome. Imagine how history would be different if Serdica had been the center of the Roman Empire instead of Rome!

If you look closely at the church, you can see it’s shaped like the Pantheon. That’s because they did not really know what churches should look like, so they modeled it after a pagan building.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

The next cool historical feature we found were these subway ruins. These aren’t ruined subway lines. They are actual ancient ruins that were discovered when workers were excavating the area to create a new subway line.

Because these ruins have so much historical significance, you can’t just get rid of them. Instead, they try to protect these ruins so people can admire them, while still building the subway around them. According to my guide, they find ruins like this every time they work on the subway system. Amazing! Seeing this ruins was a special part of best Sofia Bulgaria tours.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

Can you see this statue in my photo above? She is Saint Sophia, and she is a symbol of the city. She was erected here to replace a statue of Lenin, who was the former head of the Soviet Union. His statue was placed in many Communist countries, even if, like Bulgaria, they were never actually part of the Soviet Union.

His statue was erected while Bulgaria was a Communist country, and after the fall of Communism, the Soviet Union in general, and Stalin specifically became less popular, so they took his statue down and replaced it with Sophia here.

Sometimes in the United States, they do not like it when statues of controversial historical figures get taken down, so it’s interesting to know that this happens in other countries as well.

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

For the final dish on our food tour, we get to treat ourself to a fine place of Bulgarian cured meats! They were a little spicier than your average salami, but that just added to the charm.

You get to wash the whole thing down with a glass of Bulgarian house wine. You have the option of selecting red or white. I find it difficult to get Bulgarian wines back in the United States, so it was exciting to be able to try this special treat!

24 Hour Tip

Those are all the secrets of this food tour that I can share for now! I hope you will also think it’s one of the best Sofia Bulgaria tours.

Check rates and availability of this great tour right here.

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours

#1 TOP PICK

Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
RILA MONASTERY DAY TRIP
✔️ Expert local guide
✔️Experience stunning architecture

#2 PICK

Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024 3

PRIVATE WALKING TOUR
✔️ Five star reviews
✔️ Get off the beaten track

#3 PICK

Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024 4

ALL OTHER SOFIA TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

best Sofia Bulgaria tours

That’s the best Sofia Bulgaria tours

What do you think are the best Sofia Bulgaria tours? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Sofia right now? Are you a cured meat expert? And is that lion truly wearing a diaper? Please email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just go here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend time with the best Sofia Bulgaria tours

Experience 24 hours in Sofia Bulgaria. You can add a one day in Sofia itinerary. Head out on the best Rila Monastery in Bulgaria day trip. Find the best Sofia Bulgaria accommodations.

Best Sofia Bulgaria Tours 2024 8

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