Sofia is the capital city of Bulgaria, one of Europe’s most affordable holiday spots. With a beautiful stretch of coastline along the Black Sea Coast, and soaring mountains inside the country, people come here for summer fun on the beach and for winter excitement on the ski slopes. Culture lovers, history junkies, and fans of nature and the great outdoors will all find heaps to keep them happy in Bulgaria. Don’t miss spending some time in Sofia too; with a good selection of free and cheap activities and attractions, it should be on every backpackers bucket list for Bulgaria.
Here are some ways of keeping it cheap in Sofia whilst still having a great time on your travels:
Explore the Lively Local Markets
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a striking city landmark, and somewhere that is well worth visiting in its own right to snap some pictures and admire the architecture. But to experience more of the local life and breathe in Sofia’s vibe, check out the markets in the streets around the cathedral. Great for browsing, you can see an abundance of traditional Bulgarian items, including exquisite lacework and embroidery, spices, with paprika being especially popular, colourful nesting dolls with faces full of expression, ceramics, wooden souvenirs, toys, gleaming jewellery, and more. Prices are pretty reasonable too if you want to take home some mementoes.
See how locals shop at Zhenski Pazar open market, with its numerous household items, mechanical parts, and cut-price clothing, head to Grafa to purchase an assortment of Bulgarian foods, and check out Slaveikov for an enormous selection of books. Whilst most are written in the local language, you may find some in other European languages too.
Enjoy Free Food at Your Accommodation
It is not difficult in general to find really cheap accommodation in Sofia, but something that can help stretch your pennies, or lev, even further is staying somewhere that gives you free food! Many budget hostels offer breakfast as standard, but there are some that even include dinner! If you don’t want to pick a place that includes your evening meal, and prefer instead to try out various local restaurants, a typical meal in an establishment frequented by locals won’t break the bank. However, it can be a great idea to stay somewhere that at least has a kitchen, giving you the option to prepare your own meals for a couple nights of your stay.
Watch the Changing of the Guard at the Presidency
Every hour, on the hour, between 8 am and 8 pm you can see the guards of the Presidency changing around. Wearing vibrant uniforms of red and white, the smart soldiers perform a series of ceremonial actions as they hand over to the next guard. If you happen to be around on the first Wednesday of the month, don’t miss the midday changing of the guard. Complete with music and weapons, this is the main ceremony when the actual group of soldiers changes for the month ahead. Full of pomp and grandeur, it’s a worthwhile sight to enjoy.
Step Back in Time with a Visit to the Monasteries of Sofia Sveta Gora
Serene and tranquil, Sofia Sveta Gora is a group of historic monasteries and cloisters, showing how devout many of the local population was in times gone by. Some of the buildings date as far back as the 13th century. Follow the reconstructed pilgrimage route up the mountain and enjoy glorious views as you experience a sense of peace and learn more about the long history of Christianity in these lands. Highlights include the attractive Rila Monastery, with its domes, Etropole Holy Trinity Monastery, and St Sophia Basilica.
Other ways to keep it cheap in Sofia include joining one of the free tours, window shopping along Vitosha, admiring the architecture, relaxing in the parks, and exploring by foot rather than taking pricier forms of transportation.