In this post, I will help you to find Where to stay in Sofia first time, best areas to stay in Sofia for tourists (with a video and map), and best hotels in Sofia for all budgets (including the hotel where I stayed).
With a population of 2 million, Sofia is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has gathered culture from several eras – Roman, Greek, Ottoman, and Soviet. Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, a seat of government, embassies, and many local universities. But also have a large hotel base, unique restaurants, and many entertainment venues.
According to European rankings for living in cities, Sofia is defined as one of the safest capitals. In Sofia, street crime is minimized and present only in the most remote neighborhoods. Many travelers in Sofia decide to find accommodation options outside the city center.
Sofia is one of the cheapest capitals in Europe, so you can easily make your trip on a budget without worrying.
If you are without a personal car, you will also need to consider your proximity to public transport. If you decide to stay away from the center, make sure your Sofia accommodation is close to the metro, bus or tram, which can easily take you to the best sights.
Where to stay in Sofia first time?
The best areas to stay in Sofia for tourists and first-timers are Sofia City Center, Vitosha District, Lozenets, Studentski grad, Oborishte, Lyuben Karavelov, Sofia Airport District, and Zhenski Pazar. These are popular and safe areas that offers a wide variety of attractions and amenities.
Sofia City center is the overall best area for first-time visitors due to its proximity to popular tourist attractions and its well-connected to public transportation. Staying here allows you to be located in within walking distance to major landmarks, restaurants, bars and shops.
If you are a first-time visitor, I recommend spending at least 3-4 days in Sofia, which is enough to enjoy most attractions in Sofia and its suburbs. Apart from the historical landmarks in the city, you can also go to Pancharevo Lake or take a walk in Vitosha Mountain.
Where did I stay in Sofia?
When I first visited Sofia, I stayed for 3 nights in the city center at the Eurostars Sofia City. It had a central location, minutes away from the popular sights including the cathedral. I had a clean room with a comfy bed. I enjoyed a good breakfast as the options were great.
|💖 Best Area for first-timers:
|Sofia City Center
|💎 Best luxury hotel:
|🏨 Best mid-range hotel:
|Best Western Plus Bristol Hotel
|💰 Best budget hotel:
|Rila Hotel Sofia
Map of areas and neighborhoods in Sofia:
The Best areas to stay in Sofia for tourists are:
1. Sofia City Center
Sofia City Center, also known as Centrum, is the best overall area to stay in Sofia for first-time travelers due to its prime location. If you book a hotel here, you will be located in the middle of everything, within easy access to top tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, and shops.
Centrum is full of historical landmarks, beautiful buildings, cafes, and shops. The city center is home to famous tourist attractions such as the National Palace of Culture, the National Theater, the Russian Monument Square, Eagle Bridge, many museums, and churches within the narrow streets.
Sofia City Center also has well-connected public transport, great nightlife, shopping with many shops, cafés, restaurants, and bars. It’s is the best area to stay in Sofia for first-time tourists.
Don’t miss taking a walk on the “Yellow Pavers”, St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and the beautiful Royal Palace in the heart of the city center.
An interesting fact is that Serdica Metro Station is among the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Serdica and is just below the seat of the government. You can also take a day trip to Rila Monastery and Boyana Church from Sofia’s central train station.
Most of the hotels in the center are luxurious and are part of world brands. But there is also a middle-class nice hotel suitable on budget. If you are a shopping maniac, then must visit Vitoshka Street, where you will find many boutiques and shops.
The center of Sofia offers a wide range of restaurants for every taste. The nightlife is in full swing and you can find clubs for almost any style of music.
Stay in Sofia City Center if you are looking for a communicative and social place; you would like to be close to places for fun and relaxation; you want to see many historical landmarks; you’re looking for the best areas to stay in Sofia for a foodie; you’re traveling on a budget, backpackers.
Best Places to Stay in Sofia City Center:
Luxury ($$$): InterContinental Sofia is a 5-star hotel, located in the heart of Sofia city center. Guests at the hotel will be able to enjoy activities in and around Sofia, like hiking, skiing, and cycling. The property’s location also provides easy access to the main historical and cultural buildings, as well as the main shopping area.
Mid-Range ($$): Best Western Plus Bristol Hotel is situated 500 m from Serdika Metro Station and a 10-minute walk from the central Vitosha Boulevard, Best Western Plus Bristol Hotel provides a stylish lobby bar, and a restaurant serving international cuisine. The major city attractions like Alexander Nevski Cathedral, Parliament and Sofia University are reachable within walking distance.
Budget ($): Rila Hotel Sofia is located in the heart of Sofia, just 50 m from Sofia’s main shopping street and within a short walk of Sedrika Metro Station, Vitosha, Rila Hotel has a bar, a modern restaurant and a 24-hour front desk. It offers spacious rooms, most with views over the city and Vitosha Mountain.🔍MORE HOTELS IN SOFIA CITY CENTER
2. Vitosha Boulevard
One of the most attractive pedestrian zones, Boulevard Vitosha (Bv. Vitosha) is one of the most high-end destinations in Sofia. Vitosha Boulevard is named after the fourth highest peak in Bulgaria, Vitosha Mountain, and stretches from St. Nedelya Square to Southern Park.
It is one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. Designer shops are abundant in the area, and the hotels and restaurants are of a similar calibre, making it the perfect destination for those looking to spoil themselves.
Full of luxury real estate, you will be surrounded by many of the city’s wealthiest residents. On the days when you want to relax you have the stunning Yuzhen Park to explore, while attractions such as the National Palace of Culture (also known as “NDK”), the Sveta Nedelya Orthodox Church, and the Sofia Court House ensure you will always have something to keep you entertained.
Stay In Boulevard Vitosha If you want to stay in one of the most exclusive parts of the city; you love shopping and staying in designer hotels; you want to explore a fabulous park; you are looking to purchase real estate in the area.
Best places to stay in Sofia in Boulevard Vitosha:
- luxury ($$$): Grand Hotel Millennium Sofia
- mid-range ($$): Rosslyn Central Park Hotel Sofia
- budget ($): Vitosha 60 Apartment
3. Vitosha District and Dragalevtsi
The southern district of Vitosha is located on the outskirts of Sofia in the heart of Vitosha Mountain and near the Ring Road. It is definitely one of the most expensive places to live in the Bulgarian capital. In this neighborhood are the residences of the government, the diplomatic corps, and the presidential palace.
Vitosha District is one of the quietest and safest places to stay in Sofia. In this area, you can visit, the unique ten centuries old Boyana Church Museum which is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed, Boyana Waterfall, the National History Museum, Botanical Garden, and the Dragalevski Monastery,
Dragalevtsi is located between Simeonovo and Boyana quarters. Along with neighboring Simeonovo, Dragalevtsi is considered one of the gates to Mount Vitosha, offering stunning views, as well as scenic hiking trails off into the countryside.
There is also a number of other parks and beautiful landscapes located in the surrounding area if a mountain hike sounds too much. If you don’t like walking at all, there’s even a chairlift to take you to the top of the mountain, so you don’t have to miss out on the stunning views from its peak.
Fabulous traditional restaurants and stores are abundant in the village, giving you the chance to indulge in authentic cuisines and wares.
Stay in Vitosha if you want mountain views and outdoor activities; you want a quiet and very safe neighborhood; you want a place suitable for family choice; you would like a place with the cleanest air in Sofia; you don’t mind expensive hotels and restaurants; you don’t need a wide choice for public transport.
Best places to stay in Sofia in Vitosha District:
Luxury ($$$): All Seasons Residence Hotel is located in a picturesque residential district of Sofia, just a 10-minute drive from Sofia city centre. It has a stylish restaurant with garden views, and a lobby bar, where guests can enjoy a variety of drinks. The hotel also includes a kids club, a 24-hour front desk, and free WiFi access.
Mid-Range ($$): Family Hotel Bansko Sofia is situated at the foot of the Vitosha Mountains, this traditional, family-run property fuses a warm ambiance with an array of impressive facilities. Just 15 minutes from the bustling heart of Sofia, utilise it as an ideal base for exploration or relaxation. Sip refreshments and enjoy live acts in the vibrant tavern upon request, taste a host of delicacies in the rustic restaurant and unwind in the spacious lobby.
Budget ($): Family Hotel Saint George is located in the heart of Vitosha National Park in Sofia’s district of Simeonovo, Family Hotel Saint George offers rooms with panoramic mountain views.🔍MORE HOTELS IN VITOSHA DISTRICT
Located south of the city and near the Vitosha district, Lozenets stretches from South Park in the west to the Borisova Gradina Park in the east. It has been considered a cool area since the Communist era. it is one of the best residential and famous neighborhoods in Sofia.
It was constructed during the communist era, today it is one of the most expensive areas in the Bulgarian capital. The hotels, bars, cafes, and restaurants in the area are some of the most sophisticated and expensive in Sofia.
The most famous landmark is the “Lozenets Residence” built in the 50s of the 20th century, today it is a place for social events and weddings.
Stay in Lozenets if you are looking for the safest place; you want a place near to the city center; you would like public transport to connect with all other areas in Sofia; you don’t mind the high prices of hotels, restaurants, and social services; you don’t need a parking space.
Best places to stay in Sofia in Lozenets:
Luxury ($$$): Hotel Marinela Sofia the newly redesigned Hotel Marinela Sofia features an indoor pool, 6 restaurants, 4 bars, a fitness club, and scenic city and mountain views. The unique Japanese Garden is suitable for relaxation or brain storming sessions.
Mid-Range ($$): Hotel Zoo Sofia (ex. Silver Hotel) is next to a large green park, perfect for relaxation. Sofia City Zoo is only 200 m from Hotel Zoo Sofia. Paradise Center, a vast shopping and entertainment centre, is 2.5 km away. Interpred business area is a 12-minute drive away.
Budget ($): Best Western Lozenetz Hotel is only 200 m away from the European Union Metro Station for easy access to all destinations in the centre of Sofia and offers modern rooms, private parking and free Wi-Fi. Hotel Lozenetz is also 800 m from the National Palace of Culture and 1 km from the Vasil Levski National Stadium.🔍MORE HOTELS IN LOZENETS
5. Studentski grad
Studentski grad (Student town) is the most colorful place in Sofia. In this part of the city are located almost all universities and the most popular clubs. This neighborhood never sleeps and is a paradise for nightlife fans.
Here are all the student dormitories, which is why the name of the area. If you are a party animal, then this is your place. You can find many low and middle-class hotels and hostels at low prices.
Restaurants and taverns are ready to offer you a wide range of delicious cuisine and entertainment. If you get hungry in the middle of the night, Duner kebabs are waiting for you on every corner.
Stay in Studentski grad if you want to use all types of public transport; you are looking for a communicative place; you would like a large selection of restaurants and places to stay on a budget; you don’t mind place which is not a quiet and safest; you don’t mind a high car traffic; you don’t need a parking space.
Best place to stay in Sofia Studentski grad:
Luxury ($$$): Olives City Hotel offers access to a paid indoor pool and a free fitness centre, as well as an à la carte restaurant, Olives City Hotel is located in a quiet residential area in Sofia, just a 12-minute walk from Sofia Zoo. The city centre can be reached in a 10-minute drive. Sofia Airport is 7 km away.
Mid-Range ($$): Hotel Vega Sofia is Strategically located between Airport and Sofia City Center. 12 minutes by car from both. Very clean with full amenities. Nice fluffy towels and very nice and clean.
Budget ($): Turquoise and Magenta Apartment This is a fantastic studio apartment in the vibrant Studentski Grad area, is set within the Studentski Grad district in Sofia, close to Sofia Ring Mall, American Embassy Sofia.🔍MORE HOTELS IN STUDENTSKI GRAD
Located within walking distance from downtown Sofia, Oborishte is a small neighborhood and is almost part of the center. It is often considered one of the quietest and safest areas in Sofia, which makes it very popular as a place to stay.
If you are a fan of theater and cinema, here you can find the National Opera, Sofia Drama Theater, Puppet Theater, and the House of Cinema and Theater. Some of the most famous landmarks in this location are the monument of Vasil Levski (one of the greatest Bulgarian heroes), the Doctor’s Garden, Zaimov Park, and the National Museum of Military History.
The hotels and restaurants in this area are quite nice and affordable. Oborishte is suitable for solo travelers, couples, families with kids, budget travelers, and first-time visitors.
Oborishte is the best place to stay if you are looking for a safe and quiet place; you want a place close to the central part of the city; you are looking for a strategic location near important roads; you don’t need a parking space.
Best places to stay in Sofia in Oborishte:
Luxury ($$$): Arena Di Serdica Hotel is located in the heart of the city and is an excellent choice for business and cultural trips. The hotel is steps away from the main administrative, financial, and shopping district, as well as the cultural and historical sights. The Hotel is easily accessible from Sofia International Airport (10 km) and the Central Railway station (4 km).
Mid-Range ($$): Sofia Residence Boutique Hotel In the heart of Sofia, the stylish hotel is a 14-minute walk away from both Alexander Nevski Square and Sofia University Metro Station. Serdika Centre Sofia Shopping mall is located a 13-minute walk away and the Vitosha Boulevard central pedestrian street is reachable within 2 km.
Budget ($): Hotel Lion Sofia is located in the center of Sofia, just steps away from the Lavrov Most Metro Station and a few minutes’ walk from Alexander Nevski Cathedral and the Vitosha shopping boulevard. Guests can benefit from the business corner equipped with a PC, copier, fax, and internet access.🔍MORE HOTELS IN OBORISHTE
7. Lyuben Karavelov
Lyuben Karavelov Street is in the central part of Sofia. This upper-class neighborhood connects two of the most popular places, Orlov Most, and the National Palace of Culture / NDK /.
This location is very communicative and offers many nice places you can stay in. It also provides visitors with nice cafes and shops and very good middle-class restaurants. This area of Sofia is considered one of the safest places because there are the embassies of several European countries.
Suitable for solo visitors, budget visitors, families with kids, couples, first-time visitors, and tourists. Some of the sights you can see are the Knyazheska Gradina, the Mausoleum of Prince Battenberg, and the Baroque buildings on Orlov Most.
You should stay in Lyuben Karavelov if you want a large selection of public transport; you are looking for a safe and well-guarded place; you would like a location close to the most important places in the city center; you don’t mind a place which is not quiet; you don’t mind high car traffic.
Where to Stay in Sofia – Lyuben Karavelov: Sunny studio on ulica Lyuben Karavelov
8. Sofia Airport District
Sofia Airport District has located 10 km from the city center. Although on the outskirts of Sofia, this is one of the busiest areas, with thousands of people passing by every day. One of the most important connections in Sofia is between the airport and the center.
Sofia Airport is the only passenger airport in the capital of Bulgaria. This district is one of the noisiest and most communicative areas in Sofia. Hotels and restaurants range from low to high class, with most of them in the middle-class category.
Sofia Airport District is suitable for solo travelers, budget travelers, tourists. You can take a walk in Business Park Sofia or go to Mladost where you will find malls, coffee shops, and social hotspots.
Sofia Airport District is the best place to stay if you need a 24-hour transport connection with all regions in Sofia and the center; you are looking for a place close to the ring road; you would like affordable prices for hotels and restaurants; you don’t mind a location Far from the center and the main attractions in Sofia; you don’t mind a noisy place due to the proximity of the airport; you don’t mind high car traffic.
Best places to stay in Sofia Airport District:
Luxury ($$$): Best Western Premier Sofia Airport Hotel is a modern 4-star hotel, located in a new business district, only 750 m away by car from Sofia International Airport Terminal. The hotel offers room service by a robot. The hotel provides a two-way complimentary scheduled Airport Shuttle which is available to book upon request.
Mid-Range ($$): Ibis Sofia Airport Hotel – Park & Fly offers a free airport shuttle and free parking. A restaurant with garden views is available. Free WiFi access is provided throughout. A bus stop is a 1-minute walk away, while Airport Sofia Metro Station is 800 m from the hotel.
Budget ($): Flower home & Private parking included Nice modern and clean apartment close to The Mall shopping centre.Good access by the public transport.The metro Station InterExpo is within a 10min walk.🔍MORE HOTELS IN SOFIA AIRPORT
8. Zhenski Pazar
Zhenski Pazar is located in the central part of the city near Lion’s Bridge. The name of the district comes from the largest and oldest open-air market in Sofia, founded almost 2 centuries ago.
The place is very communicative due to the high traffic of people every day. Here you can find a wide variety of places to eat, especially fast food. The street food tourists can try here is the most delicious Bulgarian kebabs.
If you are looking for places to stay it is here full of small hotels at reasonable prices as well as hostels. The district is suitable for solo travelers, street food/foodie, backpackers, and budget travelers.
Stay in Zhenski Pazar if you would like an affordable price; you are looking for a communicative place Near the central part of Sofia; you need convenient public transport; you don’t mind a big movement of people; you don’t mind a High Car Traffic.
Best places to stay in Sofia Jenski Pazar:
- Luxury ($$$): Arena Di Serdica Hotel
- Mid-Range ($$): Hotel Anel
- Budget ($): City Avenue Hotel by HMG
9. Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevski Area
Constructed at the beginning of the 20th-century, the stunning Neo-Byzantine architecture of the Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevski is quite a sight to behold. Named after the Russian Saint Alexander Nevsky, it was built to commemorate the lives lost during the Russo – Turkish War of the late 1800s.
Covering more than 3,000 square meters, it is the largest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the world, capable of holding up to 10,000 people. It also gives you the opportunity to learn about a religion that many people will be unfamiliar with.
Located in the highest part of Old Town Sofia, it is surrounded by beautiful, historic buildings, and expensive hotels, making it a perfect destination for a sophisticated, cultured trip.
Stay In Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevski Area If you want to explore the Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevski; you want a break filled with history and sophistication; you aren’t worried about money.🔍MORE HOTELS IN ST. ALEXANDER NEVSKI
10. NDK Area
NDK stands for Natsionalen Dvorets na Kultura, which translates to National Palace Of Culture. It is the largest multifunctional conference and exhibition centre in southeast Europe, first opened in 1981 to celebrate Bulgaria’s 1,300th birthday.
It hosts many of the most important events and conferences in the country, with some of the world’s most famous and important people often traveling here for business.
As you can imagine, this makes it one of the more expensive areas in the city, so everything from hotels to amenities will cost you more. However, it is ideal for anyone who wants a classy break, rubbing shoulders with the elite, as well as anyone attending an event at the palace.
Stay In NDK Area If you are attending an event at the National Palace Of Culture; you want to stay in one of the most upper-class areas of the city; you aren’t worried about money.🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN NDK
12. Sofia Central Railway Station
Located 1km north of the city centre, the Sofia Central Railway Station is the main passenger train station in Bulgaria. Located immediately next to the Central Bus Station Sofia, this area is ideal for anyone traveling to the city using public transport.
As is often the case in mass transit areas, it is one of the shadier parts of the city, so you aren’t going to find high-class hotels or gourmet restaurants located here.
However, there are plenty of affordable accommodation options available, as well as low-cost bars and shops, making it an ideal destination for anyone traveling on a budget.
Stay In Sofia Central Railway Station If you are traveling on a budget; you are traveling in and out of the city by either bus or train; you don’t mind staying in one of the shadier parts of the city.🔍MORE HOTELS IN SOFIA CENTRAL RAILWAY STATION
Mladost translates to “youth”, which is an incredibly accurate representation of the area. The residents of Mladost primarily consist of young families and students, taking advantage of the lower prices on offer. For the same reason, it also has a very diverse mix of cultures from all across Europe.
Formed during the communist era, the architecture on display is very indicative of that time. Businesses in the area are designed to cater to the younger crowd, so you’ll find many of the most vibrant bars, clubs and nightlife hotspots dotted around.
While it is a little further from the city center than many would like, it has incredibly reliable public transport links. This means you can enjoy the value and vibe Mladost offers, without being cut off from the rest of the city.
Stay In Mladost If You are traveling on a budget; You don’t mind being outside the city center; Nightlife and a vibrant atmosphere are important during your stay.🔍MORE HOTELS IN MLADOST
Located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, on the outskirts of the city, Boyana is a historic district, containing numerous buildings of historical significance.
The 10th century Boyana Church is one of the city’s most visited locations. Included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, it is one of the oldest Bulgarian Orthodox Churches in existence. You also have the National History Museum, to give you all the information you could want on the history of Bulgaria.
Located quite a distance from the center of the city, you will need a car if you hope to explore some of the city’s most famous attractions. However, anyone wanting a classy, authentic experience during their stay will find everything they want in Boyana.
Stay In Boyana If you aren’t worried about money; you want to learn about the history of Bulgaria; you want to stay in one of the most authentic Bulgarian locations; you don’t mind being quite away from the city center.🔍MORE HOTELS IN BOYANA
Check out my virtual tour of Sofia in this video:
Where should I stay in Sofia for the first time?
Sofia city center is the best area to stay in Sofia for first-timers due to its prime location. If you stay here, you will be located in the heart of the city, within walking distance to the top attractions, as well as many restaurants, bars, and shops.
What are the best areas to stay in Sofia?
Sofia City Center, Lozenets, Studentski grad, Oborishte, Lyuben Karavelov, and Zhenski Pazar are some of the best areas to stay in Sofia for tourists because they are the most popular and safe areas that offer a wide range of attractions and amenities.
How many days in Sofia is enough?
If you’re planning a trip to Sofia, I’d recommend spending at least 3-4 days there to get a good feel for the city’s history, culture, and vibrant nightlife.
In conclusion, Sofia City Center, Vitosha District, Lozenets, Studentski grad, Oborishte, Lyuben Karavelov, Sofia Airport District, and Zhenski Pazar are some of the best places to stay in Sofia for tourists and first-time travelers.
Overall, I will choose Sofia City center as the best area to stay in Sofia for for first timers due to its central location. If you stay here, you will be located in the heart of action, within walking distance to major tourist attractions, as well as many restaurants, bars and shops.