When travelling to Bulgaria, many people overlook the capital in favour of the snow resorts around nearby Mount Vitosha. This makes it the perfect getaway, but you’re missing an exciting, modern and vibrant city if you skip over it in favour of hitting the slopes.
Deciding where to stay in Sofia can be hard, especially if you’ve never visited this capital city.
Many of the neighbourhoods from the outside may look the same, but each one has its own distinct style. Under the domes of Catholic churches and crumbling Soviet architecture, you’ll discover eclectic city getaways.
Some areas have an active nightlife, while others are more tranquil. No matter where you stay, you’ll get a taste of city with a deep rooted history that includes Roman ruins, converted churches, and iconic centuries-old artwork. You’ll also get to enjoy local cuisine at fine restaurants and pubs as well as world-class shopping.
Not sure where to look for accommodations? Start searching with this guide to the best places to stay in Sofia.
Where to stay in Sofia, Bulgaria: A complete guide to the best neighbourhoods and areas for travellers
Sofia isn’t the world’s largest city, but it still has over 90 neighbourhoods.
If you’re traveling to the city for the first time, consider staying near the centre. The downtown area is where you’ll find the top attractions in Sofia, such as St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and St. Sofia Church.
Of course, staying in the centre also means dealing with more traffic and tourists. If you prefer a quieter trip, some of the other neighbourhoods have you covered.
You could stay near the gates of Vitosha mountain in the Dragalevtsi neighbourhood or explore the heritage sites in the historic Boyana neighbourhood.
The Mladost neighbourhood is also becoming a popular destination, known for its youthful demographics and thriving business district.
A few of the best areas to stay in Sofia for travellers include:
- Downtown Sofia
✔ Best area to stay for first time visitors and history buffs
If you want to visit all the top landmarks during your Sofia itinerary, you’ll likely want to stay in the downtown area. The Sofia city centre includes all the main museums, art galleries, theatres, and historic sites, other than a few locations in the neighbouring districts.
This area is also called Centrum and is marked by wide boulevards that are almost constantly full of tourists. If this is your first trip to the city, you may want to stay here to make it easier to explore the region.
The city centre also has some of the best restaurants and shopping districts. The large Central Market Hall is a covered market that opened in 1911 and is now home to dozens of businesses. It’s open daily and one of the busiest trade centres in the city.
Other highlights include the historic sites in the neighbourhood. History buffs should enjoy a trip to the Regional History Museum, St. Kyriaki Cathedral Church, or St. Sofia Church. Many of these structures feature an eclectic mix of Islamic and Christian architectural influences.
Where to stay: The best hotels in downtown Sofia
As the main tourist area, the city centre includes some of the best hotels in Sofia. These hotels also fill up the quickest, requiring early booking to reserve a spot. While it’s the most popular area, the rates are still reasonable, allowing you to stay in luxury during your Sofia trip.
Here are a few of the best hotels and places to stay in Downtown Sofia:
- Rosslyn Central Park Hotel Sofia: This large hotel is near the southern edge of the district and tends to cater to business travellers. It’s located on a major pedestrian boulevard, lined with coffee houses, artisan shops, and restaurants. The location is perfect and offers views of the central park.
- Central Point Boutique Hotel: Located a short distance from many of the top attractions, this popular hotel makes it easy to see the rest of the city. It also has clean, spacious rooms. It’s an interesting place to stay, with eclectic furnishings and décor which are complimented by a quirky staff.
- VIKO Boutique Apart Hotel: This four-star hotel is one of the top-rated options in the city. It’s just a short trip from NDK Station and the Archaeological Museum. The rates vary wildly, depending on whether you get a single room or a deluxe apartment.
✔ Best area to stay for historic sightseeing and a quiet atmosphere
Boyana is the historic district located near the outskirts of the city. This neighbourhood is at the foot of Vitosha Mountain and home to many of the national historic sites, including the National History Museum.
Boyana Church is another historic attraction and one of the most visited destinations in the city. The Bulgarian Orthodox church was built in the 10th century and was one of the first buildings in the country added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
This neighbourhood was a separate village before getting incorporated into Sofia in 1961. It’s a quiet area and one of the most expensive parts of the city.
Due to the distance from the city centre, it’s a little harder to reach destinations on foot. Staying further also means that you’ll enjoy fewer tourists and a more laid back atmosphere. It’s mostly a residential neighbourhood, with lots of small shops and family-owned restaurants.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Boyana
Boyana doesn’t have a lot of hotels, as it’s mostly a residential area. Luckily, the available options cover a wide range of prices. You can find relaxing spas as well as quaint little boutique hotels. No matter where you stay, you get a view of the mountains behind the neighbourhood.
Here are a few of the best hotels and places to stay in Boyana:
- Earth & People Hotel & Spa: This is the top-rated location in Boyana. It’s a hotel and spa with Mediterranean furnishings and large windows giving you a view of the mountains. The hotel also has its own garden restaurant with panoramic views of the surrounding region.
- Park Hotel & Spa Boyana: Located on a sprawling estate, this hotel and spa offers sweeping views of the mountain and quick access to nearby restaurants and shops. It’s a little more secluded compared to some of the options, but is still just a short trip from Boyana Church.
- Hotel Villa Boyana: The traditional décor and classic furnishings help this hotel stand out from the modern accommodations found throughout the city. It’s a rustic-looking hotel with clean, comfortable beds and balconies that provide views of the mountain.
- Casa Boyana Boutique Hotel: This small hotel is near Boyana Church and the National Museum of History. Despite the small size of the hotel, the rooms are comfortable and relatively spacious. The hotel also has its own onsite restaurant that serves breakfast.
✔ Best area to stay for mountain views and fine dining
Dragalevtsi and neighbouring Simeonovo include many of the features that make Boyana such a great place to stay. These areas are quiet, peaceful, and laid back. They also offer views of the Vitosha Mountain.
In fact, Dragalevtsi and Simeonovo are the gates to the mountain, with marked hiking trails leading you through the mountainside.
If you don’t want to stretch your legs, you can ride the chairlift to the top of the mountain. The lift gives you a panoramic view of the city below.
As with Boyana, Dragalevtsi is a former village that was incorporated into Sofia. It’s one of the most affluent areas of the city, with lots of fine dining establishments and designer shops.
Dragalevtsi also offers convenient access to the Sofia ring road, taking you into the city centre.
Overall, this neighbourhood places you further from the city and closer to the parks, mountain trails, and scenic landscapes on the outskirts of Sofia.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Dragalevtsi
Most of the hotels are on the south side of the highway that runs through southern Sofia and north of the mountain. The hotels are nestled in the residential areas, giving you a quieter place to rest. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to travel further to reach the top attractions in Sofia.
Here are a few of the best hotels and places to stay in Dragalevtsi:
- SPA Hotel Dragalevtsi: This hotel opened in 2014, it is a three-star hotel that offers clean rooms and a friendly staff. The modern rooms include all the amenities you need to feel at home. It’s also in the centre of a residential block and a 10-minute drive from the downtown area.
- Hotel Bansko Sofia: This two-star hotel is incredibly affordable, yet still offers decent rooms. The staff doesn’t speak English very well, but they’re always willing to help. This is another great spot if you want to get away from the tourists and enjoy some peace and quiet.
- Elit Hotel: This hotel is just a few metres from a bus stop, giving you convenient access to the rest of the city. You can quickly hop on the bus and travel to the city centre within minutes. The hotel itself offers a lobby bar, onsite restaurant, and summer garden.
- Tsarsko Selo Spa Hotel: Located near the foot of Vitosha Mountain, this four-star hotel has an outdoor pool and onsite restaurant serving local Bulgarian cuisine. As with other hotels in this neighbourhood, it’s further from the city centre, giving you a break from the crowded streets.
✔ Best area to stay for party goers and families
Mladost is the Bulgarian word for youth, a fitting name for a youthful neighbourhood full of young families and college students.
Most of the blocks contain apartments and the streets are often very busy. Luckily, the neighbourhood includes subway access, providing a convenient method for reaching the city centre.
The area is also one of the fastest-growing neighbourhoods in the city, attracting a diverse influx of people from across Eastern Europe.
Mladost is also one of the neighbourhoods built up during the Communist era. Many examples of communist architecture remain, including the plain-looking apartment buildings that line the highways.
While the area doesn’t have a lot of attractions, it offers a retreat from the busier streets of the city centre. You can also reach other parts of the city via the subway or bus routes.
This is one of the best neighbourhoods for families, thanks to the variety of restaurants. At night, it becomes one of the top spots for clubbing. The nightlife in the area doesn’t rival the entertainment districts in other capital cities, but it’s still a lively scene.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Mladost
This area doesn’t have a lot of different hotels and many of the options border the outskirts of the neighbourhood. While you may not have as many options, a few of the hotels in this area are among the most recommended in the entire city.
Here are a few of the best hotels and places to stay in Mladost:
- Novotel Sofia: Located 10 metres from the European Trade Center and the outer edge of Mladost, this hotel mostly caters to business travellers. It’s a newly opened four-star hotel that has quickly earned a reputation for delivering exceptional customer service and all the modern amenities you can think of.
- Metropolitan Hotel Sofia: This four-star hotel is also on the outer edge of the district, but it is located on a major highway. The exterior of the building resembles something you’d see in Las Vegas. The glitzy interior matches the façade, with luxurious furnishings throughout the lobby and rooms.
- Elate Plaza Hotel: You may pass this hotel without noticing it, as it’s housed inside a tiny, unassuming brick building. The rooms are a bit small, but the staff is courteous, and the location provides quick access to the rest of the city.