In this article we will talk about the city of Sofia, Bulgaria. The sights of the capital of Bulgaria are well known to many representatives of the older generation of our compatriots who were not available to many of the currently popular resorts in Central and Western Europe. There are many interesting sights in Sofia, and each of them will tell you something new about the difficult past of the city.
Take, for example, its wonderful churches, which have been used as mosques for several centuries, or examples of strict Soviet architecture or even evidence of the activity of the ancient Romans - here, it seems, a variety of cultures and eras have intertwined forever. Many of the buildings that you will see here date back to the cultural revival of Bulgaria at the end of the 19th century, when the country regained its independence from the Ottomans.
Temple Monument of St. Alexander Nevsky
The scale of this building is amazing. St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral holds up to 10,000 people, and it is the second largest cathedral in the entire Balkan region. Like most of the great architecture of Sofia, the cathedral dates from the 80s of the XIX century. It was built immediately after the overthrow of the Ottoman yoke and the restoration of Bulgarian statehood.
Initially, the cathedral was dedicated to Russian soldiers who died during the liberation of the country. Once inside, you immediately pay attention to the picture "Lord of hosts" inside the main dome. At the bottom of the temple is a crypt open to visitors, which contains an impressive collection of icons.
Address: Cathedral Saint Aleksandar Nevski, Sveti Aleksandar Nevski Square, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Church of the Rotunda of St. George
This red brick church was built in the 4th century in the heart of ancient Serdica. At the moment, it is the oldest building in modern Sofia. The amazing thing is how well the Rotunda was preserved intact after so much time. Everywhere you can see details that reflect the mighty age of this place and the influence of civilizations living in this territory at different times.
Go inside to look at the ancient medieval frescoes that were covered by the Ottomans after the transformation of the church into a mosque in the 17th century. They were rebuilt only in the 90s of the last century. Outside, you will surely pay attention to the stone sections of the Roman street and other remains of Ancient Serdica.
Address: Church st George Rotunda, Boulevard “Prince Alexander Dondukov”, Sofia, Bulgaria.
The most fashionable street in Sofia is Vitosha Boulevard, which contains all the chic boutiques and fashion houses. If you are not going to spend a fortune here, you can simply enjoy breathtaking views of Vitosha Mountain, which is covered with snow for most of the year.
This is a very pleasant place for leisurely walks: cafes on the pedestrian street are located directly in the open air, and lampposts, benches and kiosks have recently been “combed” under the elegant Art Nouveau style, which is consistent with the style of the early years of the cultural Renaissance of Bulgaria.
Address: Boulevard Vitosha, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Saint Sophie Cathedral
It was this church that gave the name to the city itself in the 14th century during the era of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The history of this modest red brick building dates back to Byzantine times. It was built in the VI century by Emperor Constantine on the site of an older church of the IV century.
Arriving here, you can see the remains of that ancient church and its tomb, which at the moment is more than 1500 years old. For two centuries after the Ottoman invasion, the cathedral served as a mosque, however, after one powerful earthquake at the beginning of the 19th century destroyed the minaret and the other killed the two sons of the imam, this place was desolate.
Address: St. Sofia Church, st. “Paris” 2, 1000 Center, Sofia, Bulgaria.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located on the lower slopes of Vitosha Mountain (which we will talk about next). The location of this medieval church is almost fabulous - it stands in a grove among tall conifers in a quiet suburb of Sofia.
Boyana Church was built in three stages from the 10th to the 19th centuries, but its most important elements were erected during the Second Bulgarian Empire in the 13th century. It was then that her incredible interior murals were painted, depicting about 240 historical and biblical characters in a realistic style 200 years before the Renaissance artists began to do it.
Paintings by an unknown artist show portraits of two Bulgarian rulers - Tsar Konstantin Assen and Tsar Koloyan, next to their wives.
Address: Boyana Church, st. Boyansko Jesero, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Mount Vitosha rises 2,200 meters above the southwestern suburbs of Sofia, and here you will find more adventures than you might expect. The easiest way to get to Vitosha is through Aleko, the ski resort, where the Simeonovo gondola lift will take you.
From there you will find a walk to Cherni Vrih. In good weather in spring or autumn, climbing will seem surprisingly easy to you, since this peak is part of a large plateau that rises with a rather comfortable slope for travelers. Of course, you do not have to go so far as to get an incredible and dizzying view of Sofia.
Address: Vitosha Mountain, 2346 Bulgaria.
National Archaeological Institute and Museum
Ferdinand I opened this museum in 1905, wanting to collect under one roof all the important archaeological finds scattered in different collections of Sofia and Bulgaria. The building chosen by the ruler belonged to the former Grand Mosque of Sofia, which came to desolation after the cultural revival of Bulgaria.
The main thematic sections here are the Hall of Ancient History, the Main Hall (where artifacts of classical civilizations are exhibited), the Medieval Hall and the hall of numismatics and epigraphy.
In the latter, you can look at the Vychlitranskoe and Lukovitskie treasures - two stunning collections of gold products from the Thracian period. Discovered in 1953, the Lukovite treasure dates from the time of the invasion of Alexander the Great in Thrace in 400 BC.
Address: National Archeology Museum, Siborna Street, Sofia, Bulgaria.
National History Museum of Bulgaria
The building in which this museum is located is itself a part of Bulgarian history. The National History Museum occupies the former residence of the famous dictator Todor Zhivkov. This is a massive angular building of Stalinist architecture with a huge open spacious courtyard.
The museum’s collection can also be called gigantic: 65,000 exhibits on public display make up only one tenth of what is hidden in its voluminous fund. The variety of objects here is also amazing, since everything is collected here: from space research equipment of the 20th century to the treasures of the Odrisians who dominated the territory of Bulgaria until the time of the conquest of the territory by the Romans in the 1st century A.D.
Address: National Museum of History, Vitoshko Lale Street, Sofia, Bulgaria.
National Theater of Ivan Vazov
This theater was built in 1909 by the Viennese architectural bureau Helmer & Fellner, which designed more than one magnificent building in Central Europe. The Ivan Vazov National Opera and Ballet Theater is a grandiose neoclassical building, which to this day personifies Bulgarian culture in all its glory.
The building with a towering portico is a cult landmark in Bulgaria, which is reflected even on national banknotes. The main director of the theater is Alexander Morfov, who is known throughout the world for his Bulgarian and Russian adaptations of the plays of William Shakespeare and the famous Don Quixote.
Address: “Ivan Vazov” National Theater, “Deacon Ignatius” street, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Borisov Gradina Park
If you don’t know what to see in Sofia, head to Borisov Gradina. Sofia's most famous park appeared in the city in the 80s of the XIX century immediately after the Bulgarian Renaissance, which makes it the oldest park in the city.
Over the next 50 years, he systematically developed under the leadership of three different designers: the Swiss Daniel Neff, the Alsatian Joseph Frey, and then the Bulgarian Georgi Dutev (it was then that Soviet monuments were erected in the park).
At the same time, it is impressive that all three “landscape artists” worked within the framework of a single initial plan, and the result for such a large project turned out to be incredibly consistent and harmonious. And if you decide to come here on a summer evening, you will almost certainly be able to listen to one of the many open-air concerts for free.
Address: Borisova Gradina, Sofia, Bulgaria.
"Stone River" Zlatny Bridge
Zlatny Bridge is a huge accumulation of large boulders in shape resembling a “stone river” that descends along a slope from a height of about 1700 m to a mark of 1350 m. The name, which literally translates as “golden bridges”, refers to the color of the lichen, which grows on stones.
The boulders themselves and the nearby green areas are a popular place for family vacations in the sun and picnics. Zlatny bridge is a relatively rare geological phenomenon that was supposedly formed during the ice age. You can get here on foot or by car.
Address: Zlatnite Mostove, 1616 Sofia, Bulgaria.
The ruins of the Roman amphitheater
Sofia's own Roman amphitheater was discovered recently - only in 2004. At one time, it was one of the largest arenas in the Roman Empire, where gladiatorial battles and battles were held in which people fought wild animals.
The building has undergone rebirth more than once: at first it was a theater, which later turned into an amphitheater, which was eventually plundered by the Goths. In the V century, the arena was reconstructed again, but soon it was abandoned again. After the amphitheater was unearthed, it became part of the Arena di Serdica, but visitors from the street are free to explore the ruins from a specially equipped gallery.
Address: Amphitheater of Serdica, Budapest Street, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Central Mineral Bath
In Sofia there are many healing mineral springs that have attracted people since the Middle Ages. At one time, on the site of the central mineral bath, the Ottomans built a hammam, which was destroyed after the Bulgarian Renaissance. Later, in its place, it was decided to build a new urban bath complex.
The central baths were built in 1913 and were actively used until the mid 80s of the last century. This neo-Byzantine building with a massive dome and a luxurious lobby is one of Sofia's most photographed attractions. The gardens are constantly open to the public, and the fountain in the center of the complex nourishes a hot natural mineral spring - if you wish, you can taste the water!
Address: Central Mineral Baths, 1 Banski Sq, 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria.
The palace of Vran was built by aristocrat Simeon II, who managed to visit the king of Bulgaria from 1943 to 1946, after which he was overthrown during the coup. Returning to his homeland, he received the post of Prime Minister of Bulgaria, where he worked from 2001 to 2005.
The estate is open to the general public only on weekends, and you will not be able to enter any of the buildings, but its landscaped gardens are one of the most peaceful places in all of Sofia. Guided tours in several languages take place every hour, during which you will learn many interesting facts about the palace itself and its territory.
For example, the estate once had an exotic menagerie in which even elephants lived - they were used to ennoble the palace grounds!
Address: Royal Palace “Vrana”, boulevard “Tsarigradsko shose”, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Sofia has the largest synagogue in the Balkans, which is also the third largest synagogue in Europe. It was built for the needs of the Sephardic Jewish community of Sofia in 1909, and King Ferdinand I himself visited it.
The synagogue, which can accommodate up to a thousand people, was decorated in the style of the Moorish revival, and the old Sephardic temple in Vienna, destroyed in 1938, was taken as the basis. Inside you will find a permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of the Jewish communities of Bulgaria.
Address: The Synagogue, Exarch Joseph Street 18, 1000 Center, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Bashi Bashi Mosque
The Banya Bashi Mosque was designed by Mimar Sinan, an outstanding Turkish architect of his era, responsible for many impressive works on the territory of the former Ottoman Empire. It was built in 1576 at the very beginning of Ottoman domination in the region.
The name of the mosque comes from the mineral baths of Sofia, which were very popular among residents of the region throughout the 16th century. The mosque can accommodate up to 700 believers, and if you come here on Friday, you will notice crowds of people listening to prayers through an external speaker.
Address: Banya Bashi, Boulevard “Princess Maria Louise”, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Children's Museum "Muzeyko"
This wonderful museum of science and technology, focused on children, offers many interactive exhibits and devices that are sure to win the hearts of children aged 6 to 16 years.
There are playgrounds and climbing walls, as well as sophisticated exhibitions designed to teach young people the basics of paleontology, astronomy, geology and much more. The local cafe serves light snacks, while souvenirs can be bought at the store.
Address: Muzeiko, street „prof. Boyan Kamenov “, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Church of St. Petka of Samardzhia
This small church, located in the center of the ancient complex of Serdika, was built in the early years of the Ottoman yoke (late 14th century), which explains its condition and inconspicuous appearance. Inside are curious 16th-century murals. Rumor has it that the Bulgarian national hero Vasil Levsky is buried here.
Address: Sveta Petka Samardzhiiska Church, 1000 Center of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria.
National Museum of Natural History
Once here, you will literally feel the ghosts of several generations of schoolchildren strolling through the musty halls of the oldest museum in Bulgaria, which was founded in 1889. There are stones, minerals, stuffed birds and animals, and much more.
Address: National Museum of Natural History, Tsar Liberator Boulevard, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Dragalevsky monastery is probably the oldest functioning monastery in Bulgaria. It was built in 1345 and was completely abandoned 40 years later. The monastery is famous for its colorful frescoes and the fact that the leader of the Bulgarian rebels Vasil Levski was hiding here. The monastery is located in Vitosha National Park, about 1.5 km south of the suburb of Dragalevtsi.
Address: Dragalevski Monastery, Sofia, Bulgaria.
National Gallery "Square 500"
This huge gallery of masterpieces of fine art united under its roof the National Gallery and the former Museum of Foreign Art. Several hundred paintings and installations are displayed here, distributed over 28 rooms.
The nature of the exhibits is quite diverse - from African tribal masks to countless paintings of the 19th and 20th centuries (mostly not very famous artists). In the galleries of foreign art you can see sketches of Renoir and Matisse, as well as several works by Gustave Courbet.
Address: National Gallery Quadrat 500, ul. “February 19th” 1, 1000 Center, Sofia, Bulgaria.
National Polytechnic Museum
This modest museum is a real find for anyone interested in the history of technology. Here is an interesting collection of exhibits relating to areas such as photography, radio and time measurement.Here you can look at the atomic clock, early examples of movie cameras, mechanical pianos, and even the polished 1928 Ford A model.
Address: National Polytechnic Museum, Opelchenska Street, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Church of the Holy Seventh Members
This magnificent church, dedicated to Saints Cyril and Methodius and their five disciples, was built in 1528 and was originally a mosque. Later it was first converted into a weapons depot, and later into a prison, until in 1903 it finally turned into a church. Inside is a gilded iconostasis with icons painted by Anton Mitov.
Address: Church of Sveti Sedmochislenitsi, Graf Ignatiev Street, Sofia, Bulgaria.
This small central park, bordering Tsar Liberator Street in the north, is very popular with Sofia pensioners who like to hold chess battles in the shade of his trees.
Here is the National Theater of Sofia, which until 1999 housed the mausoleum of the first communist ruler of Bulgaria, George Dimitrov.
Address: Gradska gradina, 1000 Center of Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Holy Week Cathedral
This magnificent church with a huge dome 30 meters high was built in 1863 and at the moment is one of the main attractions of the city, known for its magnificent Byzantine-style frescoes. On April 16, 1925, a terrorist attack occurred in the church: leftist communists detonated a bomb, trying to kill Tsar Boris III, as a result of which the building was badly damaged.
Address: St. Kyriaki Cathedral Church, Light Week Square, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Botanical Garden of Sofia University
In the small botanical garden of Sofia there is a wonderful greenhouse with palm trees and cacti, a luxurious rose garden, as well as all kinds of trees and flowers. Entrance to the garden is through a building resembling a flower shop.
Address: University Botanical Garden, Moskovska Street, Sofia, Bulgaria.
South Park - is a vast green area with spreading trees and shady paths. In summer, artificial ponds and fountains work here, as well as cozy bars and cafes where you can escape from the scorching sun. This is the right place for leisurely family walks and bike rides.
Address: South Park, Sofia, Bulgaria.
If you come to Sofia with children, your number one destination is the Muzeyko Children's Museum. It is easy to get to it, especially since its bright and unusual facade is visible from afar.
Huge asymmetric red and green designs resemble the inner world of our children - just as bright and mysterious.
Do you think that children are not interested in monotonous excursions? You are absolutely right. But this is not there, because the museum is something with a secret.
It turns out that this is also a children's research center, in the creation of which the leading Bulgarian teachers, designers and psychologists took part. In the museum you can do everything that is impossible in many other public places.
Children can breathe a sigh of relief: at last they will not be booed and yanked every time they want to perform some, in their opinion, completely harmless actions.
The Museum Museum Museum in Sofia is an interactive space created on the basis of the latest educational methods and accelerated learning techniques. The child can explore any exhibit - touch it, twirl, sniff, move, etc.
The construction project was led by architect Lee Skolnik of LHSA + DP in New York, who designs custom designs for schools, museums, libraries and hospitals around the world.
The expositions cover several topics that cause the greatest children's interest: ancient history, the modern world, astronomy, and ideas about the future. All the most interesting, mysterious and outstanding in the world is not only in the halls.
Here you can explore the world in the playgrounds, as well as in the demonstration and educational garden and on the roof terrace of the building. For example, in the garden, children learn to understand the basic principles of gardening and agriculture, learn how to grow crops.
The rooftop terrace is a great place to explore the demo weather station or simply enjoy panoramic city views.
For those who want to bring a little extreme to the children's world, a climbing wall is open on the territory. You will also learn how rocks live and breathe, why earthquakes happen and how continents are connected.
It will be a real discovery for children that particles of mountains are also present in everyday life. Glass is made from quartz sand, tungsten is needed for the production of light bulbs, and diamonds are just a thousand-year-old carbon. And finally, you will stop confusing stalactites with stalagmites!
The interactive museum Muzezhko has grown its own tree of knowledge three stories high. A huge mechanism that can be set in motion is incredibly popular among children of any age, and among adults as well.
At the foot of the tree exhibits are displayed, representing all the most interesting of biology, paleontology, the field of high technology and space research.
In the museum you can read fascinating scientific tales (yes, there are some!), And also play role-playing games to see the world through the eyes of animals, try on one of the professions, and also learn to understand the language of the elements.
Muzeyko hospitably opens its doors for the smallest discoverers. A special area is equipped for the development of children in their first years of life.
Together with parents, the kids explore music and other sounds, as well as lighting effects. Every third Sunday of the month, consultations with professionals are held for young parents and even grandparents on issues of early development and parenting.
Everyone can celebrate his birthday in the museum. The program of the children's holiday includes several topics to choose from: a carnival in Venice or in the forest, a summer sunny party, participation in a secret mission or aromatic experiments.
The smallest heroes in a specially decorated hall awaits a magical city. Everyone receives gifts - both the birthday person and his guests. In a separate dining room, everyone will enjoy a festive dinner and, of course, a cake.
The museum regularly organizes all kinds of events - culinary master classes, yoga classes, interactive classes devoted to certain historical facts and events.
Since November 2018, the museum has become a partner of the international educational and scientific project "SySTEM 2020". Its main goal is to increase the literacy of children outside the school in the field of science, engineering, mathematics and technology.
What to see
Muzeyko represents the most ancient history, Cosmos, earthly present and future. Some of its exhibits hang from the branches of a Tree three stories high - a complex mechanism that is easily set in motion by young visitors. The exhibits around the Tree are “arranged” by epoch, demonstrating the most interesting in them - from paleontology, nature and architecture to space research, energy and future technologies. The museum has a lot of wonderful games: you can see the world through the eyes of a frog, be an archaeologist, architect, builder, you can learn - not only English, but also rain, wind and clouds. Finally, they not only experiment and play here, but also read fairy tales (for example, about biology). In addition to the main expositions, the Museum has an amphitheater, a climbing wall, an outdoor playground, and a rooftop garden and terrace.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00, the ticket price is from 6 BGN. Expositions are available to people with disabilities, blind and hearing impaired, and admission for them and their attendants is free. Children under 12 years old can visit Muzeyko only with their parents.
Museum address: Sofia, st. Prof. Boyan Kamenov, 3. The nearest metro station is “G. M. Dimitrov. " Web site.