We spent one night in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria sightseeing. We saw many historical sights in Plovdiv, but Sofia also has many interesting sights and beautiful buildings.
Here are some of the sights and attractions we found while walking around Sofia.
- About Sofia
- St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
- St. Sofia Cathedral (St. Sofia Church)
- National Opera and Ballet Sofia
- Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker
- The Palace – National Art Gallery
- National Bulgarian Archeological Museum
- City Garden (City Garden/Градска градина).
- Ivan Vazov National Theatre
- Church of Sveti Sedmochislenitsi
- Sofia City Court
- St. Nedelya Church
- St. George Rotunda Church
- National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria
- Saint Petka Church
- Serdica ancient complex
- Banya Bashi Mosque
- Sofia Synagogue
- Accommodation in Sofia
Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. It is located in the western part of the country, in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula, between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea, and close to the Aegean Sea.
Sofia has a long history and human settlement can be traced back to 7000 BC. Ancient monuments are scattered throughout Sofia city and are on display everywhere, including in the metro and underpasses. With a population of approximately 1.24 million (2017), it is the 14th largest city in the European Union.
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral is a landmark of Sofia. Built in the neo-Byzantine style, the church covers 3,170 sq m and seats 5,000 people. The cathedral was built in memory of Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War and was completed in 1912.
The cathedral stands out from a distance, but when you stand close to it, you will be overwhelmed by its size. There is a charge for photography in the church, and each person is charged 10 levs. Please note that you will be charged even if you take photos with your mobile phone. The church is lit up at night.
St. Sofia Cathedral (St. Sofia Church)
Built in the 4th century, this is the oldest church in Sofia. The city name ‘Sofia’ is derived from the name of this church, which was converted into a mosque in the 16th century during the Ottoman Empire, but the mosque was abandoned in the 19th century.
This was the site of an ancient cemetery and many graves have been excavated under and near the church. The interior of the church, with its lack of fancy decoration, is spacious and has a calm atmosphere.
National Opera and Ballet Sofia
Bulgaria’s national cultural institution for opera and ballet, designed in 1921. Located in an area of the city with crowded buildings and roads around it, it is a beautiful building but somewhat difficult to photograph.
Church of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Maker
This Russian Orthodox church is located in the centre of Sofia. It was built on the site of the Saray Mosque, which was destroyed after the end of Ottoman rule, and was completed in 1914. The golden dome is an impressive structure.
The Palace – National Art Gallery
The Palace was built in 1882 as the Royal Palace. After the abolition of the Bulgarian monarchy after the Second World War, it became the National Art Gallery, where the works from the collection were preserved and now houses over 50,000 pieces of Bulgarian art.
National Bulgarian Archeological Museum
Completed in 1494, this is the largest and oldest building of the former Ottoman mosque in the city. It was opened as a museum in 1905. It has five exhibition halls – Central Hall, Prehistory, Medieval, Treasures and Special Exhibitions – where archaeological material is displayed.
City Garden (City Garden/Градска градина).
The oldest public garden in Bulgaria, located in the city centre of Sofia. It was laid out at the end of the Ottoman period and has been reorganised many times since then. It faces the National Theatre and is a place of relaxation and gathering for the citizens.
Ivan Vazov National Theatre
The oldest theatre in the country and one of the most important landmarks of the capital Sofia. The main entrance faces the City Garden. It has been rebuilt several times since then.
Besides the main theatre with 750 seats, there is a smaller theatre with 120 seats and a stage with 70 seats.
Church of Sveti Sedmochislenitsi
Bulgarian Orthodox church. It was built in 1547 as an Ottoman mosque, commonly known as the Black Mosque, and was renovated in the early 20th century. The central dome was preserved from the mosque period. The forecourt is well maintained and photogenic.
Sofia City Court
Completed in 1940, this four-storey building has a striking façade with five large gates and 12 columns, and the exterior is decorated in an eclectic mix of Roman and Byzantine styles. In addition to the 24 statutory rooms, it also contains a library and a banking hall.
St. Nedelya Church
The early history of this Eastern Orthodox cathedral is not clear, but it is thought to have been built in the 10th century. At that time it was built of wood on stone foundations, but renovations began in the mid-19th century and were completed in 1863. The architecture is impressive, with an extensive use of arches and a dome with a small glass window embedded in the centre.
The mural decoration inside the church was completed in the 1970s.
St. George Rotunda Church
This red-brick building was built as Roman baths in the early 4th century and became a church during the Byzantine Empire. It is believed to be the oldest building in Sofia City.
It stands amidst modern buildings, but you can enter and visit the grounds.
National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria
The National Assembly is the unicameral parliamentary and legislative body of the Republic of Bulgaria. The beautiful white building stands out from a distance. The main building of the National Assembly is a listed cultural monument due to its historical importance.
Saint Petka Church
This medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church was built in honour of the 11th-century Bulgarian saint Saint Petka. It stands on dug-out ground near the ancient site of Serdica, and its walls are made of stone and brick. We were told that there is a floor mosaic inside, but unfortunately it was locked when we visited and we could not enter.
Serdica ancient complex
The ruins of the ancient Roman city of Serdica, discovered during construction, are open to the public under a protective glass roof. Church buildings, mineral springs, water and sewage systems dating from the 1st to the 6th century AD have been found. They are displayed in the underground passage from the area around St Petka’s Church to the National Assembly. The underground section has a glass wall above, so it can get quite hot during summer days. If you want to take a closer look, it is recommended to visit during cooler times of the day.
Banya Bashi Mosque
Built in 1566 during the Ottoman Empire, this is the only mosque in Sofia that still functions today. Banyo means ‘bathhouse’ in Turkish, and the mosque is built on top of a natural hot spring. The area is lined with churches, mosques and synagogues, which gives an impression of Sofia’s tolerance towards religion.
Opened in 1909, the Sofia Synagogue is the third largest synagogue in Europe, with a maximum capacity of 1,300 people. Its size can be seen from a distance. There is another synagogue in Bulgaria in Plovdiv, but the Sofia Synagogue has the largest chandelier in the country.
The image above was taken in the afternoon, but it was backlit. It would be a better shot in the morning.
Accommodation in Sofia
In Sofia we stayed at Budapest Diginal Nomad Friendly Top Centre Apt. As it is a flat, there is no business sign etc. and you need to book online.
This is a studio-type room with a kitchen, which was equipped with cooking utensils and basic seasonings, so we were able to cook right away. It is perfect for longer stays, but it seems to be very popular and we were not able to stay for consecutive nights. It is recommended to book early.