Sofia is the capital city of Bulgaria. The city is located in the southern part of the Sofia valley and at the foot of the mountains Vitosha and Lyulin. The town was founded in the 8th – 7th century B.C. around the mineral spring which is now in the center of the city. Sofia is the major economic, scientific and cultural center of Bulgaria and was given its name since during the 14th century, named after the famous church, St.Sofia.
A great number of monuments of architecture have been preserved in the city, such as the Alexander Nevsky Catedral, the Public Theater Ivan Vazov, the Palace of Justice and the chuches of St.George and St.Sofia.
There are a number of excellent tourist attractions in Sofia, an abundance of museums, churches, parks and galleries as well as excellent shopping and dining options. Visitors can gain access to the many Sofia tourist attractions as the city has excellent transportation network along with a wide range of accommodation options, many situated close to the major tourist sites.
Sofia Cathedral & Churches
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the greatest architectural jewel not only in Sofia but in the entire Balkans. Built in honor of Russian soldiers that died during the 1877-78 war, which resulted in the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman rule. Following over 30 years of construction, the cathedral was completed in 1912 and contains influences from many different cultures, due to the diversity of nationalities that worked as engineers and artists on the Cathedral. Italian marble, Egyptian alabaster, Brazilian onyx and gold are some of the features that can be seen in the interior design.
It serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world.
Entry into the cathedral is free.
The Church of St Nicholas the Miracle-maker, more commonly known as the Russian Church, is one of the prettiest churches in Sofia. Built as the official church of the Russian embassy after the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottomans. The church roof is covered with green tiles, which complement the five beautiful golden domes.
Ivan Vazov National Theatre
The Ivan Vazov National Theatre is one of the most recognizable emblems of the city of Sofia as well as the oldest theatre in the country. The neoclassical building was completed in 1906 and boasts a beautiful fountain in front of the theatre. Named after Ivan Vazov, a great Bulgarian poet and writer, a statue of the writer can be in a small garden next to the church of St. Sofia.
St. Sofia Church
St. Sofia Church is the second oldest church in Sofia and is where the city got its current name, giving the church a very important historical role. Built during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian between 527-565, St. Sofia Church is built of red and brown bricks. The design follows the Byzantine model and the church is one of the most valuable examples of early architecture in southeastern Europe and was declared as a monument of cultural heritage In 1955. Having been restored, the church is open to visitors. The present building is a cross basilica with three altars. Today the church has no steeple. The main official Memorial of the Republic of Bulgaria -The Monument of the Unknown Soldier ( “Eternal fire” ) is built on the south facade of the holy shrine.
St. Nedelya Church
St. Nedelya Church lies in between the two busiest streets in the center of Sofia, Vitosha Boulevard and Maria Luisa Boulevard. The origins of the church are not fully known and the church has been destroyed several times throughout history and reconstructed. In 1898, major renovations began with new domes added followed by renovations to its facade and floors in recent years.
Church of St. George
Considered to be the oldest building in Sofia, the church of St. George is an early Christian red brick rotunda, built by the Romans in the 4th century. You will find the rotunda of St. George, famous for early medieval frescoes, in a courtyard behind the luxurious Sheraton Hotel Balkan.
Boyana Church is located at the southern outskirts of Sofia, at Vitosha Mountain. The interior of the Boyana Church hides one of the most important medieval frescoes, painted in 1259. The interiors of the church exhibit spectacular frescos that artistically represent tzar Constantine Asen and his wife Iryna. The most fascinating attraction about the church is the 89 scenes showcasing 240 human beings. Boyana Church is one of the most complete and well-preserved monuments of Eastern European medieval art and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Access to the church is limited with only a certain number of people allowed in at the same time. Unfortunately, taking photos or videos is prohibited. Entrance fee costs 10 Leva.
Known for its world-class skiing, Mount Vitosha is one of the symbols of Sofia and the most visited mountain in Bulgaria. A short drive or lift trip away, this hotspot is open round the year and is extremely popular for skiing, snowboarding and hiking. The ‘stone rivers’ or moraines, piles of huge rounded granite boulders and mineral springs are just a few of the breathtaking views. The national park, the oldest in the Balkans, situated on the foothills is home to wolves, foxes, martens, deer, bears, wild boars and several other plant and bird species.
The oldest and best known park in Sofia is the Borisova Gradina. Construction of the park began after the liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottomans and took several decades. Historically, Borisova Gradina embraces three distinct periods, with each head gardener taking care to follow the original plan with some some minor developments rather than making any radical changes to the parks original design. The park contains Ariana Lake, which becomes the largest open ice-rink in East Europe during the winter season. There are many monuments throughout the park as well as the national stadium, tennis courts, playgrounds, swimming pools, bars, restaurants and the stadium for the Bulgarian army.
National Art Gallery/ National Ethnographic Museum/ Royal Palace
The National Gallery and the National Ethnographic Museum are beautifully embedded in the old Royal Palace. While the National Gallery boasts of some artifacts and traditional works by the most prominent Bulgarian artists from the last two centuries, the National Ethnographic Museum showcases art pieces from the ethno-cultural heritage of the Bulgarians and other artists that resided in Bulgaria.
Sofia’s main commercial street situated in the heart of the city, Vitosha Boulevard is home to some of the high-end international fashion labels as well as trendy restaurants and bars. The street goes straight to the Vitosha mountain that is overviewed from all the city’s central points. The main building on the Vitosha Boulevard is the National Palace of Culture, named NDK by locals and is host to many large concerts and events.
Situated next to the Aleksandar Nevski cathedral, Sofia antique and flea market is held daily and is a very interesting place. Market sellers will try to sell all sorts of treasures including old weapons, wind-up gramophone records, jewellery, Russian military helmets, communist memorabilia, old musical instruments and a whole host of items.