Sofia - the insider`s guide
Main Sights

 

Alexander Nevski Cathedral

Ploshtad Alexander Nevski, Map

Named after St. Alexander Nevski, a Russian Tsar who saved Russia from invading Swedish troops in 1240 and the patron saint of Tsar Alexander II, who was also referred to as Bulgaria’s Tsar Osvoboditel (Liberator), since it was his troops that finally brought about Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule.The foundation stone of Sofia’s biggest church was laid in 1882.Built between 1904-1912 in the Neo Byzantine style, typical for Russian churches in the 19th century, the cathedral is 76 metres long and 53 metres wide and is said to hold up to 7000 people. It covers an area of 2600 square metres. The belfry is 52 metres high and houses 12 bells. Some of Russia and Bulgaria's best artists of the time worked on the interior with its five aisles and three altars. Sienna and Carrera marble in the entrance area, stained glass windows, Venetian mosaics and dramatic murals such as The Lord God Sabbath in the main cupola, and The Day of Judgement above the exit, onyx and alabaster columns on the thrones all add to the richness of the interior without making it in any way gaudy. The spectacular external golden domes were covered in gold leaf, donated by Russia in 1960 and have recently been regilded.The Russian architect A.N.Pomerantsev is also the architect of the famous GUM (State Department Store) in Moscow.

Banya Bashi Mosque

Maria Luisa Blvd., Map

This brick building was built in 1576 as part of a larger complex around the mineral baths.
The dome has a diameter of 15 metres, and the building is the only remaining example in Bulgaria of a domed roof on a cubic base. The architect Mimar Sinan was chief architect to the Sultan and his works also include the Selim mosque in Edrine and the Blue mosque in Istanbul Turkey.
It is the only working mosque in Sofia and the muezzin calls the worshippers to prayer every day with a loudspeaker on the minaret. Visitors are welcome outside of prayer times

 


 

Baths

Triarditsa St., Map

The beautiful building of the city’s former mineral baths has recently escaped dereliction and subsequent destruction, and is now being painstakingly restored to its former glory.
Originally completed in 1908 in the Neo Byzantine style, the building housed one large pool and two separate wings for men and women with smaller mineral pools. It will now house the City Museum as well as a spacentre. The architect was Petko Momchilov, one of Bulgaria’s most recognised architects of that era.





 

Boyana Church

Boyana

One of Bulgaria’s most significant historical treasures, listed on the Unesco World CulturalHeritage list. Set amongst tall old pine trees in the exclusive suburb of Boyana on Vitosha mountain, this quaint church dates back to the 11th century and was built in three stages (11th, 13th and 19th century). The frescoes dating back to 1259 are considered a remarkable example of realistic art from that era, a century earlier than the birth of the Italian Renaissance. 240 realistic figures, bearing the features of Bulgarian life at that time, are depicted on the walls and include portraits of Tsar Konstantin Assen and his wife Tsaritsa Irina as well as Tsar Kaloyan and his wife Dessislava. The name of the artist (or artists) is unknown and he is generally just referred to as the Boyana Master.
At the nearby museum, visitors can get a more detailed insight into the remarkable history of this church. Access to the church is restricted and only with a guide.

The Cyril and Methodius National Library

88 Vassil Levski Blvd., Map

Officially opened at the end of 1953, construction on this neoclassical building had started as early as 1939, but was then put on hold because of the Second World War. The Library was designed to hold 1.5 million books with a reading room for 450 people. Architects: Ivan Vasiliov & Dimitar Tzolov
In the garden area directly in front there is a statue of the two brothers St. Cyril and St. Methodius, added in 1975.

Eagles Bridge

Evlogi Georgiev Blvd./ Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd., Map

Built in1891, across the Perlovska River, according to a project by Kolar& Proshek, the stone bridge flanked by four bronze eagles atop four granite columns was seen to mark the entrance to the city and the start of a new era. The chosen site marked the place where Sofianites welcomed back the revolutionaries in 1878, and the eagles were seen as a symbol of freedom.

Former Tsar’s Palace

Ploshtad Knyaz Battenber, Map

Built in 1873, it was the residence of the ruling governor during the Ottoman occupation, with administrative offices and police headquarters on the lower floors. It was in fact here that Vassil Levski was tried and sentenced to death. After liberation it became the seat of the Bulgaria’s first post liberation monarch, Knyaz Alexander Battenberg and it was the first building to be refurbished in contemporary Viennese style, with Austrian architects Rumpelmaier and Gruenanger each adding new wings. It is now home to the National Art Gallery and the Ethnographic Museum. The exterior has recently been restored to its former glory and now the no doubt once splendid royal chambers require attention. .

Halite

Maria Luisa Blvd., Map

The former food market built in 1909 was one of the earliest of this type in the country. Fully renovated in the late 1990s, the main focus of the shops inside is once again food, with stalls selling fresh fish and special dietary foods, as well as a variety of other shops.
The ornate facade - which incorporates Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian architectural elements - has alternating layers of stone and brick, large window niches and a high central arch above thatis the city coat of arms topped by a small clock tower. Long before the Hali was built, archaeological excavations show that the site served as a gathering and market place dating back thousands of years. In the basement are archaeological remains, including Roman baths and parts of Serdica’s fortress wall. Reopened in the summer of 2000, the Hali has assumed its rightful place as the city’s central marketplace.
Architect Nahum Tarbov

Holy Synod

Ploshtad Alexander Nevski, Map

This beautiful ornate building was built in 1908 by Petko Momchilov and J Milanov
Red and gold Majolica tiled friezes wrap the building, the central mosaic portrait depicts three members of the Holy Synod. Sadly much of original sculptural elements were destroyed during the Second World War. This building is the residence of the Bulgarian Patriarch and is not open to the public.

Ivan Vazov National Theatre

Dyakon Ignati St., Map

Built in 1907 by the Austrian architects Helmer & Felner, the National Theatre is one of the most ornate buildings in Sofia. The 40 metre high facade, is fronted by a large pediment, supported on six white marble columns, depicting Apollo and the muses. The twin towers that rise up behind are crowned with sculptures of the goddess Nike.
The interior was destroyed by fire in 1923, and restored again six years later increasing the theatres seating capacity to over 1000. The ornate main hall has an 850 audience capacity. The stage curtain, with its mythical firebird motive from Stravinsky’s ballet, was woven by women from Panagyurishte.

 

 

 

Law Courts

2 Vitosha Blvd., Map

Built between 1928 and 1936 the massive neo classical building fronted by two large bronze lions, takes up an entire block between Alabin and Pozitano St. The architect Nikolai Lazarov had won the design competition back in 1914. From 1981 till 1999 the building was home to the National History Museum but has since been restored to its former function.

Lions Bridge

Maria Luisa Blvd. / Slivnitsa Blvd., Map

Another symbolic bridge for Sofia is on the way to the Central Railway Station north of the city center. Designed by the architect Proshek in 1890, four larger than life lion bronze sculptures flank the bridge across the Vladayska River at the top of Maria Luisa Blvd. The site used to mark the northern border of the city and was often used as an area for national celebrations.

Military Club

Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd., Map

The Military Club in its hey day, prior to 9th September 1944, was the venue for many a splendid ball, attended by royalty and Sofia’s elite. Built in 1895 based on designs by the architect Antonin Kolar, the architect Nikola Lazarov also participated in the construction, The facade of this attractive Renaissance-style building was restored a few years ago as part of a UNDP-funded “Beautiful Bulgaria” project, and the Military Club is once again proving a popular venue for social events.

National Assembly

Ploshtad Narodno Sabranie, Map

The slogan on the facade above the entrance "Obedinenieto Pravi Silata", loosely translated means 'United we are strong', which seems wishful for any parliament. This is the scene of regular public protests and back in 1997 the building was actually stormed and damaged, leading to the eventual downfall of the socialist party.
Built in three stages between 1884 - 1928, it was built by Bulgarian Architect, Konstantin Ivanovich who had been living and working in Vienna.

Party House

Dondukov Blvd., Map

Until August 1990 this was the seat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party
Based on the designs of P.Zlatev, it was built by a co-op of architects which included Tsolov and the Soviet architect Blochin. Completed in 1953, it marks the top end of an area known as the Largo, a major showpiece of postwar socialist Sofia. Look up and you will notice something distinctly missing. The red star! This was removed after the collapse of the communist era. Today the building is mainly used as Government offices and the splendid Sofia Hall is occasionally used for charity concerts.

 

 

 

Presidency

Dondukov Blvd., Map

The Presidency was built in the mid 1950s as part of the

 
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