Pope Francis visited Sofia, Bulgaria today, giving a public prayer at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and holding a full public Mass in Prince Alexander of Battenberg Square. Which, full disclosure, even after being in Sofia for so long I had no idea that the wide portion of the street in front of the National Art Gallery was a square or that it had a name. Also, my Google Maps took me to an entirely different place at first, so that was fun.
I started by trying to go to see the prayer at Alexander Nevsky. I kept getting diverted down different streets due to all the security guards and barricades.
Unfortunately, the prayer was pretty short and I missed it. I did get to see some of the crowds afterward. Everyone was so excited.
There are Catholics in Sofia (obviously) but I have never seen a nun here, just Orthodox clergy members. Seeing so many Catholic nuns in front of an Orthodox Cathedral was pretty cool.
Here are some shots of the area. I just love this part of Sofia in the spring!
About three hours before the Mass was supposed to start I got in line to enter. Tons of security lines to stand in, but actually going was easier than I thought it would be.
I call these next three photos cute kids sitting on their parent’s shoulders.
Aerial view of the crowds waiting for the Pope.
Standing in the same spot for three hours gives you a lot of time to look at rooftops (and literally everything else).
The Pope arrives in his Pope Mobile. Okay, this part was pretty cool.
The Mass was in Latin, with Bulgarian translations on the screens and an English booklet handed out for those who speak neither Latin nor Bulgarian. So it was basically made for me.
Leaving Mass, the city was so empty because the streets were all closed.
So that was what it was like to see Pope Francis during his visit to Sofia today! It was awesome, and my feet are sore.
If the idea of traveling to Sofia intrigues you (though Pope Francis won’t be here still, obviously) you should check out some of our awesome Bulgaria information.
Bulgaria Travel Resources
If you’re thinking about a visit here, check out our posts on the best places to visit in Bulgaria and photos of Sofia that will make you fall in love (and thus, book your ticket asap). We also have a collection of the best quotes about Bulgaria and the most Instagrammable places in Sofia.
If this will be your first time in Bulgaria, we have some resources to help make your first trip here a breeze. Check out our guide on how to plan your trip to Bulgaria, which goes over everything from visas to ground transportation to budgeting your trip.
You may also want to check out our overview of Balkan currency, which describes Bulgarian leva (easy – it’s pegged at 2:1 to the euro!) and what to tip in Bulgaria.
Where to Stay in Sofia
Accommodations in Sofia offer great value compared to other cities in Europe. Here is a general range of what we mean by each budget category:
- Budget: A room in a hostel, usually $5-12 USD per night for a dorm bed or under $40 for a double.
- Mid-range: Around $40-80
- Luxury: Around $100 per night or more
Budget: For a hostel, we always recommend Hostel Mostel. I have never stayed at the Sofia location but several of my friends have and have always spoken highly of it. I stayed at the one in Veliko Tarnovo and it was excellent. Perks include a free vegetarian dinner in addition to breakfast included in your stay! Check rates and availability here. If you are traveling in peak season, be sure to book online, as Hostel Mostel is popular and tends to get booked up.
Mid-range: For a trendy new boutique hotel that is shockingly affordable, we recommend R34 Boutique Hotel. The location is fantastic, near the Ivan Vazov National Theater in central Sofia. It has gorgeous, loft-inspired details like exposed brick, giant windows, and streamlined but modern décor. It’s a great bargain, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Luxury: As far as we see it, there’s only one option for the best hotel in town: Sense Hotel. We go to their upscale, beautiful rooftop bar all the time when we have guests in town – it has one of the best views in the entire city and they make fantastic cocktails. With beautiful views over Alexander Nevsky, Sofia’s most iconic landmark, the hotel couldn’t be in a better location. Sense Hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, an art gallery in the lobby, an excellent spa with luxe treatments, and an indoor pool. It’s truly the best choice in town. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Looking for more hotel options in Sofia? Check out our full Sofia Hotel and Hostel Guide.
Finally, Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
No trip preparation is complete until you have a valid travel insurance policy. Bulgaria is a safe place to travel, but unexpected things can happen anywhere. You want to be able to get your stuff replaced if it’s lost or stolen, or if you get injured you while you’re enjoying hiking or taking a scenic drive throughout the region.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.