Sofia can leave a very different impression depending on the season.
From May to September enjoy the capital’s vibrant and almost Mediterranean street life, that goes on well after midnight at open air cafes, parks and gardens.
If a heatwave hits town, go for a hike at Vitosha Mountain in search of cooler air.
In the winter, brace yourself for grey skies, heavy snow and a thermometer showing subzero temperatures.
And while temperatures in Sofia vary greatly, prices of accommodation generally do not. Temperature and weather remain major factors in the decision of when to go to Sofia.
SPRING IN SOFIA: APRIL MAY JUNE
While March is notorious for its unpredictability, April, May and June are the best time to visit Sofia.
The several big national holidays clustered in May can offer choice of military parade (at St. George’s day), Alphabet day celebrations and the graduation balls madness that engulfs the entire city for a week at the end of May.
May and June are also the two wettest months in Sofia.
AVERAGE RAINFALL IN SOFIA
SUMMER: JULY AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER
Summer in the city: the lily pond in Borissova Garden, Sofia's oldest park is a popular summer hang out.
Summers in the city are green and luscious and parks and gardens are full of people day and night. Outdoor cafes occupy the sidewalks and for few months Sofia plays out its temporary illusion of being a Mediterranean city.
Temperatures can easily reach 35 C but Mt. Vitosha and the many parks and gardens in the city offer an opportunity to escape the summer heat.
August is when the city empties out. This is the preferred month for summer holidays in Bulgaria and residents of Sofia are quick to run for the closest beaches in Greece, the Black sea or to their mountain summer homes.
High-end Sofia hotels that cater primarily to business travelers offer deep discounts.
AVERAGE TEMPERATURES IN SOFIA
AUTUMN & WINTER: OCTOBER TO MARCH
Snow in Sofia is common December through March.
Autumn in Sofia starts in the middle of September and lasts through October and November. The season may have a certain appeal for those who enjoy fall foliage, some rain and cooler air.
Winter, on the other hand is a gloomy affair for all. Don’t be fooled by Sofia’s somewhat southern location; Sofia might be at the latitude of southern France and northern Italy, but it is also 500 m above sea level and is surrounded by mountains. At times temperatures can reach as low as -20C (-4 F) and snow is more the rule than the exception. The city receives a snowfall of about 20 cm on average during the winter months.
As the weather in Sofia cools, the capital’s cultural life comes back to life.
This is the time to sample all that Sofia has to offer and do it like a local. Mt Vitosha opens its ski slopes, the city is buzzing with film and music festivals and a busy nightlife and restaurant scene.
A major downside of the winter months is the thick smog that descends to the city making it hard to breathe. Those are the perfect days to climb up Vitosha mountain in search clean air.
SOFIA IN DECEMBER
Christmas lights around the National Library in Sofia.
It is true! Sofia cannot rival the Christmas spirit of most of the other European cities. However, the period around Christmas and New Year’s Eve is still a good time to visit. A cluster of several national holidays empties out the office buildings and fills in the cafes and restaurants.
If coming to spend Christmas or New Year's Eve in Sofia, bear in mind that Christmas is predominantly a family affair but you will still find restaurants and cafes open.
On New Years Eve most restaurants and clubs seat only with a prepaid cover charge, that can run into the several hundred leva and is, in many cases, booked months in advence. If this is not your thing, head for the open square concerts and celebrations, usually held on Batenberg square and join the New Years Eve traditional horo dance.