Sofia is Bulgaria’s capital and its most populous city.
It’s located near the center of the Balkans, almost equidistant between the Black and Adriatic Seas.
As an amazing old-world city, it has made great leaps in modernization in recent years. Sofia is brimming with impressive churches, leftover remnants of Soviet-era architecture, and an abundance of historical sites that are well worth a visit.
Sofia also has a rich art history and a budding food culture that blends a number of international influences into a truly unique and vibrant cuisine.
Below are 15 of the best tours of Sofia, Bulgaria.
1. 3-Hour Food and Cultural Heritage Tour
Three hours may not sound like a lot of time to experience the essence of Sofia, but previous participants claim to have done just that.
This 3-hour, value-packed tour includes some of the city’s most revered historic attractions, like the National Theater and King’s Palace – but the fun definitely doesn’t end there.
Guests will learn about the city’s intriguing history and culture along the way and visit a few off-the-beaten-path restaurants and cafés, where they’ll sample traditional Bulgarian food and drink.
Of course, baklava is one of the perennial favorites, but you’ll also sample local wines, cheese, and a popular yogurt drink with a name that’s nearly impossible to pronounce.
2. Private Guided Walking Tour of Historic Sofia
Sofia is a very pedestrian-friendly city; many of its main attractions are close enough to permit energetic visitors to see them in conjunction with one another.
This private city walking tour is a big hit with the international crowd because it’s available in more than two dozen languages.
The tour focuses on downtown attractions like St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral and the Presidential Palace.
Witnessing the changing of the guard at the palace’s main entrance is a truly unforgettable experience, and most visitors are surprised to see churches of many different faiths coexisting peacefully in such close proximity.
There will also be time for shopping along Vitosha Street at the tour’s end.
3. 4-Hour Hidden Bar and Pub Crawl
Pub crawls are great ways to rub elbows with locals, get the lay of the land, and give yourself one whopper of a hangover.
This 4-hour pub crawl explores drinking establishments that are slightly off the well-worn path. It’s great for singles and small groups because it’s common to meet other travelers from all over the world.
Under the care of your knowledgeable guide, you’ll head out to parts of the city that don’t typically get much tourist traffic, so it’ll be a more unique and memorable experience than it’d be otherwise.
If applicable, entry fees are included, as are complimentary drinks at each stop.
4. Communist Walking Tour
Comrades of the world unite…
At least, temporarily, for this quirky and fascinating 3-hour tour of Bulgaria’s communist-era hot spots.
Not a communist, Marxist, socialist?
Fear not; political preferences aside, you’ll have the opportunity to see some of the city’s most unique attractions, like the Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters, the National Palace of Culture, and a macabre facility where police investigators once interrogated citizens they suspected of subversion.
You’ll learn interesting tidbits of local lore and history at each location, and probably compile a list of things you’d like to check out more thoroughly later.
Food, drinks, and gratuities aren’t included.
5. Afternoon Food and Wine Tasting Walking Tour
There’s no better way to spend an afternoon in Sofia than by exploring the city on foot.
For foodies and self-proclaimed wine aficionados, it’s a great way to get an overview of the city’s culinary scene without spending a bundle or setting aside an entire day.
Guests will follow their guide to a number of cafés and enjoy lots of traditional Bulgarian dishes, including soups, salads, sausages, and baklava.
Eager foodies will learn about the places they’re visiting and the food and wine they’re enjoying. Along the way, they’ll see many historic attractions, like St. Joseph Cathedral, Sofia Synagogue, and the Central Market.
6. Discover Bulgaria with Dance
It’s been said that if you eat what the locals eat and dance the way they dance, then you’ve successfully immersed yourself into their culture.
If those sound like wise words, signing up for the ‘Discover Bulgaria with Dance’ trip would be a great way to spend an hour while in Sofia.
Guests will learn about the country’s music and dance traditions and have the opportunity to take what they’ve learned and strut their stuff if the spirit moves them.
The tour includes a traditional meal and the chance to take a few photos dressed in authentic Bulgarian dance garb as well.
7. Sofia Alternative Tour
Like escape rooms? Treasure hunts?
Scoff at bus tours filled with dozens of tourists intent on seeing every last overcrowded attraction in the city?
If so, read on, because this alternative 4-hour tour may be just the antidote.
It’s perfect for young and active travelers and those who relish adventure.
You’ll trek all over the city following clues and seeing amazing sights, work your way out of an escape room, and have an all-around fantastic time.
Expect to see sides of the city that most tourists never do and get interesting insights into the city’s remarkable past.
8. Sofia Full-Day Tour
With so much to see and do, most visitors to Sofia dedicate multiple days to exploring the city before heading off to other parts of the country.
This full-day tour includes pickup at your hotel and the services of a professional guide and can accommodate a maximum of 20 guests.
Due to its length, it’s a more in-depth experience than you’ll get on shorter tours, so it’s a great fit for serious history buffs and lovers of culture.
Much of the tour is conducted in an air-conditioned minivan, but there will be opportunities to get out, stretch your legs, take a few photographs, and recharge your batteries with food and drink.
9. Sofia Photo Tour
Amateur and professional shutterbugs seem to love Sofia for its abundant historic attractions, impressive architecture, and the melding of the old and new worlds that make it truly unique.
This 3 ½-hour is led by a local guide with tons of camera experience who’s dedicated to making each excursion a memorable one.
Not only will you see the city’s sights at just the right time to capture the moment perfectly, but you’ll get helpful pointers and tips that you can use long after the tour is officially over.
You’ll need to bring your own camera.
10. One-day Hiking Trip to Vitosha Mountain Nature Park
Though Vitosha Mountain Nature Park is technically outside Sofia city limits, it’s only a 30-minute drive from the city center and is one of the country’s oldest nature preserves.
That makes it the perfect escape destination for those in need of a change of pace from the city’s chaotic urban setting.
Vitosha Mountain’s peak reaches more than a mile into the sky overlooking the Bulgarian countryside, but don’t let that dissuade you if you’re not a seasoned mountaineer; there are a number of trails, and many of them are appropriate for beginners.
The tour lasts six hours and begins and ends in Sofia.
11. Rila Monastery and Boyana Church Full-Day Tour
The Rila Monastery and Boyana Church are two of Bulgaria’s icons, and they recently celebrated their 1,000th birthdays.
Yes, they’re that old, and they’re part of a sprawling complex tucked into a particularly beautiful portion of the countryside outside the city.
It’s a two-hour drive each way, but en route, you’ll get an engaging and educational narration from the tour’s guide, and the scenery will be nothing short of breathtaking.
While onsite, guests will have ample time to explore on their own and learn about the country’s fascinating religious history.
Transportation to and from Sofia are included in the cost of the tour.
12. Guided 3-Hour Culture Tour
Sofia is a relatively easy city to explore on your own, but to make the most of your limited travel time, it may be a good idea to experience it with a guide.
This 3-hour interactive tour couldn’t be more different than most tours, largely because the providers strive to make it a wonder for the senses.
The city is full of unique sights, sounds, and smells, in addition to historic attractions, and they all add to the overall experience.
You’ll learn about Bulgarian customs and holidays, taste traditional food, and even try your hand at local dancing and conversing in the native tongue.
13. Traditional Food and Wine Tour
Created by foodies and wine lovers for foodies and wine lovers, this traditional combo tour is a great fit for those who love a full stomach and that warm, all-body buzz that only wine can provide.
You’ll start the tour with a traditional Bulgarian yogurt breakfast and by getting acquainted with your guide. From there, the tour will head out to four special food and wine venues.
Guests will sample several local wines, as well as cheese, meat, fresh vegetables, and homemade bread.
It’s a good fit for either diehard meat eaters or those who prefer plant-based sustenance, and there will be plenty of sweets on-hand as well.
14. The Valley of the Roses and Koprivshtitsa
Roses have always played some important roles in Bulgarian society, and the Valley of the Roses is the country’s most productive growing region.
It’s also remarkably beautiful, and relatively close to Sofia as well.
On this guided tour, you’ll learn more about roses than you’d ever thought possible, and see them in all their natural splendor.
The tour also includes a number of historic attractions, like a temple constructed to memorialize the birth of Christ and a centuries-old tomb in Kazanlak.
Transportation to and from Sofia in an air-conditioned van is included, but the tour isn’t accessible for those who use wheelchairs.
15. Self-Guided Sofia Sightseeing Tour
Do-it-yourselfers have lots of easy options when visiting Sofia, and those who choose to take advantage of this self-guided tour can relax, because all the hard work has already been done by the tour’s creators.
The package includes the locations of the city’s most notable attractions, directions, and a brief overview of each.
For most, that’s just enough to get started. Once at each site, participants will have the luxury of spending as much or as little time as they’d like.
For those who do things strictly by the book, the tour usually takes about a half-day.