When it comes to choosing where to stay in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, there are a variety of options depending on what is most important for your particular travelling needs. Our goal: to help you find the best area to stay in Sofia, so you have a great trip to this Eastern Europe capital.
Sofia is the biggest city and capital of Bulgaria in Eastern Europe in the Balkans just north of Greece. It was built at the foot of the Vitosha Mountains along the Western border of the nation.
The city hosts many cultural institutions, important national and local universities and other institutions of higher learning, and commercial enterprises and international corporations’ regional offices.
Sofia has the distinction of being ranked in the top ten best locations to start up a business in the entire world. It excels particularly in the category of information technology, per the national station Bulgarian National Television.
In year 2013, Sofia was also attractively ranked the most affordable capital city to visit in all of Europe, making it easier to find a good place where to stay in Sofia. There are quite a variety of areas in Sofia from which you can choose.
Where to stay in Sofia: Best areas and neighborhoods
In a sprawling metropolis of over a million and a half inhabitants, there are no shortages of different neighborhoods from which visitors can choose to stay in Sofia.
These range from stately high-end residential areas favored by older families, to conveniently located neighborhoods surrounding the centrum and national cathedral, to the famed Studentski Grad student town which the tens of thousands of Sofia university residents call home with their party like year round atmosphere, to seedier areas where visitors are likely to bump shoulders with a working lady of the night on any given street corner after hours.
Prices and availability for hotels vary widely from low-end to business class all the way on up to high-end five star choices. We look at the most famous neighborhoods and areas of Sofia in greater detail below.
This is the best place to start with an examination of Sofia— in the famed downtown area. For those travelers who love historic buildings, narrow streets and sidewalks, coffee shops on every street corner, pedestrianized walks, and “urban chaos,” this is the best centrally located neighborhood to choose.
From here it is all too easy to explore the Bulgarian capital’s best museums and churches. These can all be reached on foot in close proximity and do not even require the use of the substantial public transport networks crisscrossing the city.
Nightlife is all around and often spills out onto the street thanks in no small part to the country’s indoor smoking ban that keeps smokers coming outside the bars and nightclubs when they wish to light up. Hotels here are more boutique and naturally more expensive based on their convenient location.
2. Bv. Vitosha (Boulevard Vitosha)
Boulevard Vitosha is said to own the perfect Sofia real estate location. The higher-end neighborhood is bounded by the main pedestrian walking street. It is surrounded on the other side by the enormous and immaculate Yuzhen Park (translating to South Park in English) which spreads as far as the eye can see.
Residents and tourists here have an ideal location near all necessary amenities. The downside to this central location though is that the neighborhood is quite overcrowded and very noisy. This does not make it a particularly nice place to stay in higher priced hotels.
3. Vitosha District
Located at the foothills of the Vitosha Mountains, this district is also sometimes called Boyana. It is found on the Sofia outskirts, yet some of the top Sofia area attractions lie here. You have the Unesco catalogued Boyana Church as well as the National History Museum in this district.
Besides this, the primary Communist era residence for heads of government was constructed here. Senior members of the government used to meet with foreign government officials here. Today’s Bulgarian government still utilizes it frequently for hosting important international visitors and VIP guests.
4. Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski Area
The Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevski is a Neo-Byzantine styled type of national cathedral. This glorious church remains among the biggest of the Eastern Orthodox cathedral on earth today. At 3,170 meters squared, an incredible 10,000 people can be accommodated within its structure.
This cathedral is definitely a site not to miss while in Sofia. Constructed as a national memorial monument to commemorate the sacrifice of Russian troops who died fighting for Bulgaria’s freedom in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 to 1878, it was named for the Russian important saint Alexander Nevsky.
The cathedral was located on the highest ground in the old part of Sofia town. When built, it commanded a beautiful fully panoramic view of all Sofia. Immediately beneath the cathedral is the ancient Roman-Bulgarian town of Serdika and its Necropolis from the ancient world.
The Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski Area is one of the best areas to stay in Sofia. Naturally the neighborhood surrounding this magnificent church is popular, stately, and appropriately highly priced.
Any hotels and guest houses here will be understandably on the expensive side for visitors. It is not the right area for backpackers and hostel users for sure.
5. NDK area
NDK stands for the National Palace of Culture. The Congress Centre Sofia is its other name. This remains the biggest multi-purpose complex in all of Southeastern Europe. This cultural arts center opened to the public in 1981. It commemorated 1,300 years of the creation of the Bulgarian nation.
Intended and specially designed to hold a substantial variety of events like major international meetings, conventions, symposia, conferences, exhibitions, discussion panels, concerts, and festivals, this amazing complex lies in the downtown section of Sofia. It is encompassed by a beautiful green nature area and park.
Accommodation here is more available than in other parts of the city as this venue hosts visitors and engagements from all over the globe. The hotels tend to the middle to higher-end range of the spectrum and are more business class oriented.
This is not the right section of town for budget accommodations or hostel arrangements. It is also well-connected by public transport for getting from here to all of the must-see tourist sights found in old Sofia.
6. Studentski Grad
The Students’ Town proves to be a predictably fun and understandably fast-paced place to live for the young and young at heart, though it does become unbearably noisy and overcrowded when they evolve into young families.
A great number of the student dorms are found here, making it the central hub for thousands of these fun-loving university students who are all eating, living, celebrating, and studying here. This gives the area a uniquely party feel all the year long.
Hotels here would be lower-end and hostel types of accommodation accordingly.
Lozenets may be considered one of the coolest neighborhoods in Sofia, but this assumes that you can tolerate overcrowded and overbuilt. Popular since the Communist time, this remains among the most costly neighborhoods in Sofia in which to live.
From Upper Lozenets, you are able to enjoy expansive views of all Sofia from upper story balconies. Parking is in especially short supply here, and hotels are understandably higher-priced in this area.
There are many nice restaurants and fine cafes here in this fascinating neighborhood which is also walking distance to many area sights of interest. The metro connects it well with other parts of town worth seeing and exploring.
8. Sofia Central Railway Station
Not for the faint at heart, this shady part of town is really for adventure loving travelers. Accommodations here are near the so-called Lady’s Market, where the ladies of the night line up to ply their trade.
Hotels and hostels here are low-key, though the street side action and sights are not necessarily. This neighborhood is a ten minute walk from the St. Nedelia Church, and it is accessible by Metro Line 2.
Translating to “youth,” Mladost is a place that pulls in mostly younger families and some students. It is primarily made up of cookie cutter styled blocks of flats. This neighborhood is easy to access via the subway, which makes great sense in the capital that is daily snarled by relentless continuous traffic.
Among the quickest developing parts of the city, it lays claim to the largest business complex in all of Eastern Europe. Business Park Sofia is located here and employs literally thousands of individuals.
Hotels have sprung up around the Business Park and other similar areas around this younger family feeling and up and coming neighborhood.
10. Airport District
Druzba is the area near the airport. The name translates into English as “friendship.” It is populated mostly be pre-manufactured apartment blocks that are short on eye appeal, making it a not very nice place to stay in Sofia as a tourist.
The closer one comes to the airport, the more business class hotels with international name brands and appropriate reputations appear to offer business visitors rooms convenient to the airport.
As anyone can see, finding a place to stay in Sofia is not the real or difficult challenge. Finding the best areas in Sofia that meet a traveler’s needs and desires is more difficult. First identify the kind of Sofia experience you are looking for in a visit to the Bulgarian capital, then it will be easier to decide where to stay in Sofia.