Whether you love opera or you’ve never been before, the Sofia Opera is an elegant way to spend an evening in the city. And it won’t break the bank!
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your night, from how to go to the Sofia Opera, how to get tickets, what to wear, and nearby restaurant and bar recommendations.
Picking a Show: the Sofia Opera Schedule
If you want to see a performance at the Opera House, you can check the schedule of upcoming shows at the Sofia Opera and Ballet website, which is available in Bulgarian and in English. Here you can find the schedule for operas, ballets, concerts, and special events for children.
Opera season typically runs from September through May or June. There are a few performances available in July, but most of them are either special festivals in Belogradchik or Melnik. However, if you’d prefer your opera in an amazing natural setting, then attending Belogradchik Rocks or the opera at the Melnik pyramid are great options.
How to Buy Sofia Opera Tickets in Person
There are two options for buying tickets for the opera. The first is to go down to the Sofia Opera and Ballet ticket box, which is located on the right side of the opera house (if you’re looking at the building from the street). They can process payments in cash or with a credit card.
The ticket offce hours:
Weekdays from 9 am – 2 pm and from 2:30 pm – 7:00 pm.
Saturdays from 11.00 am – 7:00pm
Sundays 11.00am – 4:00 pm
This is a great option for someone who wants to ask alot of questions before selecting a performance to see.
Sofia Opera and Ballet Address: bul. Kniaz Aleksandar Dondukov 30, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
How to Buy Sofia Opera Tickets Online
Buying Sofia opera tickets online was crazy easy. The basic steps:
Step 1. Create an online account on the Sofia Opera and Ballet website. I found the website works great in Chrome, but it’s glitchy in Safari.
Step 2. Select the show you want tickets for.
Step 3. Select your seats. The prices for tickets start at 12 leva to 100 leva. We chose 15 leva seats in the second balcony. You can see the different price tiers on the seating chart. If you clock on the seat, it will show you what the stage looks like from that seat so you can make an informed decision about where you want to sit in the theater.
Step 4. Check out and pay by credit card. They accept Visa and Mastercard (not American Express). You can only buy eight tickets for a single performance, so if you have a larger group you’ll need to make multiple purchases.
Step 5. Check your email. You’ll receive an email with two different attachments for each ticket. The first is a PDF that you can print, and the second is an electronic ticket you can use on your Android or iPhone.
Step 6. Print your PDFs or download the ticket passes onto your phones and follow the email instructions for making you have the right app. For my android, I had to download Pass2U Wallet and the ticket file. It auto-uploaded the ticket into my wallet, and when the show was about to start it alerted me so that I could easily find it.
Step 7. Have your tickets (hard copy or the app) handy for when you go into the show. No one ever actually scanned our barcode, but they checked to make sure we had the right tickets.
What to wear to the Sofia Opera: Dress Code
The listed Sofia Opera dress code is “formal attire is recommended.” However, unlike when I saw an opera in Vienna, people in Sofia dress from casual to church-fancy. I didn’t see any gowns, but lots of cute dresses. Some people wore jeans. It’s a good place to wear your smartest clothes as a traveler (and pack something casual-fancy if you’re planning ahead). However, if you showed up in Sofia with nothing but jeans and t-shirts, you can still go and you won’t be alone.
Sofia Opera Seating Plan
The Sofia opera house has three balconies and the ground floor. Before you purchase tickets online, it will show you the seating plan so you can make your decision.
If you buy the tickets in person, I believe they will show you the seating plan, but if not you can always ask to see it.
We walked over, but if you choose not to walk, you can take public transportation or a taxi.
The closest stops to the Sofia Opera House:
Tram 20, 22 – National Opera
Trolleybus 9 – St. Alexander Nevsky Square
Trolleybus 1, 2, 4, 11 – Vasil Levski Square
Underground – Sofia University St. Kliment Ohrdski Station
Underground – Serdika Station
If you take public transportation, expect to walk to the theater from your last stop. Alternatively, you can take a Sofia taxi. They are inexpensive and reliable. Read our Sofia taxi guide to learn how to avoid taxi scams here and which companies to use (and how to order them).
Where to Eat Dinner Beforehand
The typical night at the opera will last three hours or longer, depending on the length of the show. We arrived for the show at 6:45 pm so we would have fifteen minutes before the performance, and I ordered my taxi to go home at 10:20 pm. This means that if you don’t eat before the show, you’re going to be eating dinner at 10:30 or later. Much later if you can’t find a restaurant with a kitchen open after 10 pm.
We ate dinner at the new restaurant In Focus, which is just a fifteen-minute walk from the theater. Even though it just opened in December, the Tsar has already eaten there, which basically means that it’s the perfect place to go before enjoying a historic art form like opera.
NOTE: A reader visiting in July 2019 commented that the restaurant was closed for refurbishments when she tried to visit. To check if it’s open (and to make reservations) call +359 87 952 2272.
If In Focus is still closed, we recommend the nearby 33 Gastronauts, one of our favorite Sofia restaurants!
Arriving at 5 pm, we had time for a three-course (absolutely amazing) dinner. We started with a fabulous cheese plate and foie gras, for entrees some ordered pork shoulder while others had chicken and lentils, and for dessert, I had a chocolate souffle with gorgonzola. The five of us also split two bottles of Bulgaria wine. It was a perfect pre-opera dinner.
The cost for the dinner, including the standard 10% tip, was 305 leva (about $175 USD) or 55 leva per person (about $32). While you can certainly find less expensive restaurants in the city, for the amazing quality of the food paying $32 each for an excellent three-course dinner with wine was a perfect treat.
Because In Focus is so close to the theater, it’s a great place to eat before the show. Make reservations ahead of time (Bulgarians are big on reservations) just to ensure you don’t have to wait. Note that you can’t eat here after the show since the kitchen closes at 10 pm.
In Focus: bul. Kniaz Aleksandar Dondukov 30, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
If you’re looking for a restaurant in a different part of town, we have tons of options in our Sofia restaurant guide.
What to Do After the Opera
Sofia is a great city for nightlife. If you want to get after-opera drinks with a view, I suggest walking over to Sense Rooftop Bar. From here you can enjoy cocktails or Bulgarian wine with a lit Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the background. It’s one of my favorite places in the city. The walk is about ten minutes, so no need to call a taxi!
Sense Rooftop Bar: bul. “Tsar Osvoboditel” bulevard “Tsar Osvoboditel, 1000 Sofia Center, Sofia
If you’re looking for hotel recommendations for your stay, we LOVE Sense Hotel. The roof bar is on the top floor, and many of the rooms have the same amazing view. Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.
Tips for First-Time Opera Goers
Read the Story Synopsis
Opera plots are not super tight or intricate. Instead, they usually are a few passionate moments with lots of action in between missing. It really helps if you know what the basic outline of the story is before you go so you know what’s going on.
Listen to the Score Ahead of Time
I find it’s more fun to listen to music at the opera if I recognize it. You can usually find opera score to listen to for free on YouTube or Spotify.
Eat Before You Go
As outlined in the dinner section, operas are long (three hours or more). Make sure you don’t go hungry. If you can’t eat a full dinner beforehand, at least have a good snack and bring snacks in your purse. (Keep these hidden and only get them out in case of emergency, since they technically aren’t allowed).
Turn Your Cell Phone Off
You cannot have your phone on during the performance. This means no photography until intermission or curtain call.
Pay Attention to the Supertitles
The titles above the stage will help you with understanding what’s going on.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do the Sofia Opera tickets cost?
They range from 12 to 100 leva (about $7 to $58 USD).
Can you purchase tickets online?
Yes! See the step-by-step instructions above.
Can you pay with a credit card?
Yes! Both online sales and the box office take Visa and Mastercard. They do not take American Express.
How early do you need to buy tickets?
The tickets don’t sell out that early, but the bulk of seats are usually purchased early. If you wait until a week or a few days before the show, you can probably find seats but they most likely will be on the third balcony.
Can I take photographs of the performance?
No. During the show, you must have your cell phone turned off. However, you can take photographs in the hall before the performance, during intermission, and after the performance. If you want to get pictures of the actual performers, you may do so during the curtain call.
Do I have to turn my cell phone off during the performance?
Do they have a coat check?
Yes, there are coat checks provided free of charge. It’s polite to leave a leva as a tip for each person using it.
How early do I need to arrive?
You need to be there fifteen minutes early or more. If you arrive late, you will not be allowed to go to your seat. Instead, they’ll take you to the back of the third balcony where you can watch until intermission.
How much are programs?
If you want a program or playbill, they cost 5 leva (about $3).
Do they have concessions?
Yes! You can buy sparkling wine, wine, sodas, water, and snacks (including the ever-present Balkan Bake Rolls) in the foyer before the show and during intermission. You cannot, however, eat or drink in the theater. You must finish your snacks and drinks before you enter the hall. Concessions are cash only.
What languages are the Supertitles in?
The operas are projected above the performance in Bulgarian and English.
Will you be able to understand what’s going on if you don’t speak Bulgarian?
Yes! The performances aren’t in Bulgarian. The operas are performed in whatever language the opera libretto was written in. For Carmen, the performance was in French. Since the supertitles above the stage are written in Bulgarian and English, you will be able to understand the performance.
How long is the intermission?
Intermission is about twenty minutes.
Can I bring my kids to the Sofia Opera?
Children under 5 are not allowed during the ballets or operas. Since cell phones are not allowed to be turned on during the performance, you may want to consider if your child can sit still and quiet for the three and a half hours of the performance. I saw my first opera at fifteen. Unlike a play, there just isn’t enough action going on to entertain a child if they can’t keep up with reading the supertitles. I think even a kid that likes Shakespeare might struggle because there’s just so much less going on.
Sofia Travel Resources
We want you to have the best trip to Sofia possible. To help you, we’ve created a number of resources that will be helpful.
If this will be your first time in Bulgaria, check out our Bulgaria Trip Planning guide.
Next, check out our gigantic list of 101 Things to Do in Sofia. We also have Sofia restaurant and bar recommendations. We also have articles for popular day trips from Sofia like Plovdiv and Buzludzha.
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.
Planning a Trip to Bulgaria? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Make sure you always travel to Bulgaria with a valid travel insurance policy. Travel here includes outdoor activities and travel to highly touristed sites. You need to be covered in case you have an accident or fall victim to theft. This is especially true if you’ll be doing any urban exploration looking for street art. Should something happen, travel insurance will help you recover your expenses and continue to enjoy your trip.
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.
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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.