22 must-see sights in the Bulgarian capital Sofia
The capital of Bulgaria, Sofia is the oldest European city. Settlements on this land have existed since the III millennium BC. During its history the city has experienced destructions and revivals, like the Phoenix bird from the ashes, it experienced decay and prosperity. Bulgarian, Thracian, Roman, Ottoman and Russian cultures are intertwined in its architecture. The ancient architecture of the capital blends harmoniously with the monumental modern structures, which is reflected in the sights for which the capital is famous.
What sights to see in Sofia in one day
If there is only one day, you should use it to the maximum to get at least the slightest idea of the Bulgarian capital and what sights are here. The itinerary begins:
- From the monument to the Tsar-Liberator, to whom the people of Bulgaria hold in great esteem.
- Go to the main attraction of Sofia, the Church of Alexander Nevsky.
- Visit the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker built after liberation from Ottoman enslavement.
- To plunge into the world of art of theater named after Ivan Vazov and the nearby park. Here you can always find something to your liking.
If you have only one day, it is worth paying attention to the sights in the center of Sofia
And if you have one more day to spare, the trip can be continued:
- The next site is the Presidential Palace, where the Rotunda of St. George is located in the courtyard.
- From here you can go to the Bania Bashi Mosque.
- One block separates it from the Sofia Synagogue.
- At the end of the route you can visit a Bulgarian building – the National Palace of Culture.
Beautiful places for photo sessions in the capital of Bulgaria
Beautiful photos are sure to turn out near palaces and cathedrals
A special pleasure for tourists are the ancient monuments. It is nice to see your image on the background of the Russian Church of St. Nicholas, the Rotunda of St. George, the Cathedral of St. Sophia.
Older people rush to see monuments and museums, visit the art gallery and the national theater. It is prestigious to have photos against the background of state buildings. And, of course, is the unique nature of Bulgaria. Tourists love to take pictures in the city garden, at Boyana waterfall and the Vitosha mountain massif. If you have time, you should definitely go along the coast of the country to places like Nessebar and Burgas.
Banya Bashi Mosque
Sofia has not only Orthodox churches, but also an Islamic mosque. The idea of the mosque and its financing belongs to Mullah Efendi Kady Seyfullah. Supposedly it was built in 1567. It is considered to be one of the oldest in Europe. The name means “many baths”. This is understandable as it was built over the natural hot spring. Banya-Bashi is the only mosque in the city. On holidays it can accommodate up to 1200 worshippers and 700 – on Friday prayers. It is an unrivaled example of the culture of the Ottoman Empire of the 16th century.
Vitosha mountain range
Above Sofia proudly towers the Vitosha Mountains, which have a length of 19 km. There is a national park with the same name. The highest mountain peak – Cherni Vrah is 2200 meters. Nowadays there is a resort for skiers, whose slopes are 30 km long. The area is good in any season. In winter, athletes go sledding, skiing, skateboarding. In the warm season Vitosha is popular because of the marvelous nature. Its surroundings are rich with caves, waterfalls, lakes, rivers and forests. There are a lot of tourist routes across the region.
It is a picturesque natural attraction of Sofia. It is situated on the mountain massif Vitosha. In sunny weather it is perfectly visible from the central part of the city. The water is rushing down from a height of 20 meters and splashing against the rocks into thousands of tiny emerald splashes. The peak of the magnificent spectacle is in spring, when the stream is especially full. But it also surprises tourists in the harsh winter frosts. Fans of extreme sports don’t miss this place: huge piece of ice hangs at 20 meters height.
Borisov Gradina Park
The central Sofia Park is the Borisov Garden, which was created in the 19th century. By the 30s it had grown twice. There were built fountains, a pond, created a Japanese garden, rose gardens, bandstands, children’s, playgrounds, many alleys, “wild” and asphalt paths. There is a stadium Vasil Levski and the army stadium, as well as a tennis court, cycle track, swimming pool, which has two pools, one of which is equipped with a 10-meter tower. Since the middle of the XX century there has been an observatory. This place has long been a favorite of the citizens and tourists.
Monument to the Tsar-Liberator
The monument was designed by the famous Italian sculptor Arnoldo Zocchi. The work on it was conducted from 1901 to 1907. The monument to Tsar Alexander II is situated in the center of Sofia. It underscores the great respect that the people have for him as the victor in the war of the Russians against the Turks which freed Bulgaria from the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. The monument is crowned by the figure of Alexander II, the victor on horseback. During the opening ceremony were present: Vladimir Alexandrovich (son of Alexander II) and his family and King Ferdinand of Bulgaria.
Statue of St. Sophia
The monument was designed by sculptor George Chapkinov. According to the artist’s idea, the image of the Saint in a bronze statue carries wisdom and God’s grace. The image of the statue bears a resemblance to the ancient Greek goddess Athena. The hands of St. Sophia are outstretched. The face and hands of the statue are gilded. In her right hand she holds a laurel wreath, a symbol of victory, in her left hand she holds an owl, symbolizing wisdom. The sculpture, which weighs five tons and is eight meters high, towers above the city on a twelve-meter pedestal.
Bulgarian National Opera and Ballet Theatre
The appearance of the theatrical society in the capital is attributed to the end of the 19th century. The revival of the theater took place at the beginning of the 20th century after the full house performances. The theater was rapidly gaining repertoire. By 1922 it was already national. The 1928 ballet production changed the name of the theater, adding the word “ballet” to it. G. Dmitrova, N. Guselev, and N. Gyaurov began their careers here. It has become a tradition to hold the annual Easter Festival. Since 2000, the International Competition dedicated to B. Kristof is held.
Ivan Vazov Theatre
The building of the theater was built in the early 20th century. It was named after the classic of Bulgarian drama Ivan Vazov. During the World War II the theater was badly damaged Restoration, carried out immediately after the war, brought it back to life. The building has – a small additional stage for 70 seats, a chamber hall for 120 visitors, a spacious auditorium for 750 people. The last reconstruction took place in 2007. Architectural elements were gilded, the facade, roof and sculptures were renewed. The theater’s repertoire includes both classical and modern repertoire.
National Palace of Culture
The palace was built in the late 20th century. It combines the motifs of modern architecture and classical art. More metal was invested in the construction than in the Eiffel Tower. Its area is 15,000 m2. The palace has 15 halls and 50 rooms for 8,000 visitors. The building is used for celebrations, exhibitions, auctions, concerts, conferences and congresses. Audiences have attended concerts by such “stars” of the world stage as: Montserrat Caballé, Andrea Bocelli, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado and many more famous performers.
Museum of Military History
The museum was opened in 1916. It is managed by the Ministry of Defense of Bulgaria and is a large-scale exhibition of photographs, military material, equipment, ammunition, weapons, military equipment. Most of which are from the Soviet era, as well as French, German and Czech tanks. The territory of the museum is a military academy. Expositions presenting military equipment are located in the park, which covers an area of 40,000 m2, the other exhibits – in the halls of the museum area of 5,000 m2.
Museum of Socialist Art
In the capital in 2011 appeared a museum, which was officially established by the Union of Democratic Forces of the country, which concentrated exhibits of the works of artists. The exhibition hall has an exposition of works by sculptors and artists of the socialist period. The expositions of the museum include works of art from the socialist period in Bulgaria which started in 1944-1989. The museum complex includes documentary films.
Museum of Natural History
The museum has the largest collections of stuffed animals, insects, birds and minerals. The pride of the museum is the Carolingian parrot. This species of bird had disappeared by the XX century. The exhibits of the museum are located in 16 halls. The collection was started at the end of the XIX century. Ferdinand (the future king) helped a lot by giving the museum a collection of butterflies, animals and birds. Scientists carry out research work on the preservation of fauna and flora of the country.
Historical Museum of Bulgaria
In 1973 a cultural, historical and ethnographic museum was founded in the residence of the governments “Boyan”, in Sofia. It contains over 650,000 items from various periods. The exhibits are situated on two floors with an area of 10 000 m2. Domestic articles, religious utensils, furniture, coins, weapons and jewelry are presented here. In the museum all the exhibits are arranged in halls in chronological order. This helps visitors trace the entire historical path of the country up to the present moment.
Archaeological Institute Museum
The Faculty of Theology of St. Clement of Orchid University Sofia is located in the same building as the National Museum of History and Archaeology. The building became operational in 1923. The museum opened in the same year and is the oldest in the country. It has the richest collection of Balkan finds. The institute is part of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, where prominent scientists of the country work. Today the institution is on the list of architectural and cultural monuments on a national scale.
The temple is the largest among the European Sephardic synagogues. It belongs to the most beautiful architectural monuments of the country. The synagogue was erected for Sephardic Jews on the site of the old “Ahab and Hased” building in 1909 according to the design of F. Grunager. The architectural style of the building was a mixture of Viennese modernist motifs with Moorish traditions. In the building there is the biggest chandelier in Bulgaria, weighing two tons. A significant event in its illumination was the presence of King Ferdinand and his wife Eleonora.
Holy Week Cathedral
Saint Week was the name of the martyr Cyriacia of Nicomedia. The cathedral was named in her honor. The construction of the cathedral dates back to the X century. The wooden construction had a stone foundation. The cathedral was declared cathedral and renamed in XVIII century, due to the location in it the remains of the King of Serbia Stephen II. At that time it was called the Church of the Holy King. By the end of the 19th century, the cathedral was given its present name. But during a fire, the building burned down. In its place from 1856 to 1963 the present building was erected. The cathedral was decorated with frescoes by the end of the XX century.
Russian Church of St. Nicholas
The Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was built in the center of the city. The initiative to build it belongs to a community of Russians who grew up after the war of Russia against Turkey. The church was built in the Russian style, designed by M.T. Preobrazhensky, a Russian architect, in the early 20th century. The church was painted by Russian artists. The gilded towers for were received as a gift from the Russian Tsar Nicholas II.The church became a place of pilgrimage to the holy relics of the miracle worker Seraphim Sobolev.
Consecrated in memory of St. Panteleimon. The construction was built in the suburbs of Sofia Boyana. The church was built from X to XX century. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its 11th – 13th century frescoes are the best samples of the Middle Ages paintings. Of particular value are the frescoes of 1259, painted over the old paintings, which are recognized as masterpieces. On the walls of the temple are painted 90 episodes from the Holy Scriptures. Jesus Christ is depicted in them more than 20 times. The temple has overcome a long period of time and is in excellent condition until today.
Hagia Sophia Cathedral
The building dates back to the 6th century. The church is placed on the necropolis of Serdica. From the XI to the XIV century the temple has gained great importance. The name Saint (Sophia), meaning “wisdom,” made it the name of the city. The Ottoman Empire converted the temple into a Muslim mosque. After the liberation from the Ottoman yoke the church was turned into a warehouse. As a result of the restorations of the XX century the church looks like a building from the Middle Ages. Archaeological excavations have revealed traces of mosaics of the ancient temple. On the territory of the cathedral is the tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
The Serdica Amphitheater and Theater is an ancient monument found during the construction of the Hotel Arena di Serdica in 2004. The construction of the theater was carried out in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The construction of the Amphitheater dates back to the end of the 3rd century. It was erected on the ruins of the theater. The age of the monument was established during the archeological excavations, having studied the medallions, ceramics and coins found. They date back to the reign of King Geta and Caracal. It was destroyed in 270 along with Serdica during the war with the Goths. Today the ruins are visited by tourists.
Rotunda of St. George
Rotunda is a functioning church. It was built in the IV century, when Sofia reached prosperity, and the country was ruled by the Roman Emperor Constantine I. This construction was 14 meters high and 9 meters in diameter. In the very beginning it was made into a baptistery. During the reign of King Justinian a house of prayer was opened in it. The Rotunda was consecrated in memory of St. George the Great Martyr. During the Ottoman yoke, the walls with frescoes were painted over and the building became a mosque. When Bulgaria was liberated, the Rotunda became the mausoleum of the king, Alexander Battenberg.
Alexander Nevsky Memorial Church
The Orthodox church was erected in honor of Tsar Alexander II of the Russian Empire, its great commander and valiant warrior. With him the Bulgarians associate liberation from the Ottoman yoke and independence won in the war between Russia and the Turks. The building was laid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tsar Alexander of Bulgaria (Battenberg) insisted on its construction in the capital. It was built using funds from the state treasury and donations. The tsar contributed 6 000 golden levs.