In December 2017 we made a mini-getaway to the capital of Bulgaria. The truth is that we did not know their culture or what we could visit there, our time was thrown over and we had little time to plan an itinerary or what to do for Sofia.
We arrived on a Saturday morning and left on Sunday afternoon. We thought we would not have enough time to see so much, but in the middle of the first afternoon, we went to almost all the points of interest. Of course, we were very fast from one place to another because some times it rained and others it snowed and we went from shelter to shelter.
Before going to Bulgaria you must have your passport in order, they ask for it at the airport and the hotel. It is also good to carry some Bulgarian currency.
To travel from the airport to the city centre we use the bus. From which you can see the changes and contrasts from the most modest areas of the periphery to the centre. Before going to Sofia we downloaded the Eway app that was fantastic to know the bus we needed, its schedules and even marks the position in which you are regarding the nearby stops. This last feature is perfect when you don’t understand the language neither spoken nor written, so we knew the stop where we should get off.
What to do in Sofia?
If you visit the city I recommend that you do not miss these 10 places. Visiting them you will introduce you the incredible history and culture of the city.
It is located at one end of the Vitosha Boulevard. The Vitosha Boulevard is the main shopping street in Sofia and therefore it is one of the busiest places in the capital and the busiest in Sofia. It is full of bars and restaurants.
2. Central baths
The building is built in secession style, integrating typically Bulgarian, Byzantine and orthodox ornamental elements.
The NDK (Natsionalen dvorets na kulturata) is the National Palace of Culture. When we went there was the book fair and it was full of people. We went in, we walked around because we like books and reading, the problem is that everything was in Cyrillic and we didn’t understand anything.
4. Serdika Station
The station is covered and you can find ruins of the ancient city. You can walk through the ruins and see the sky covered by glass. There are also exhibitions and souvenir shops. Typical souvenirs are products made from rose, especially cosmetics.
5. Sveta Nedelya Cathedral
The building of the Cathedral of Sveta Nedelya that we see today is actually a reconstruction of the original construction of the fourteenth century since in 1925 it was the scene of a terrorist attack.
6. Banya Bashi Mosque
The temple was built at the end of the 16th century during the period of Ottoman domination, which makes it one of the oldest mosques in Europe.
It is open to visits to the general public (remember to take off your shoes) except during the prayer hours that are Friday at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. We were wrong with the schedules, Martí approached the door ready to enter, opened the door and found many people praying, we almost entered in the middle of the hour of prayer.
7. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
The Cathedral began to rise at the end of the 19th century and was completed in 1912. It is a sample of the close relationship between Russian and Bulgarian people throughout history. Its construction was done to commemorate the fallen Russians and the help provided by Tsar Alexander II of Russia in the Bulgarian-Ottoman War (1877 – 1878) and which would lead to the subsequent independence of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.
On the outside it is spectacular, but on the inside, it seems careless. Next door there is a small market of Soviet and Nazi antiquities, very curious.
8. San Nikolay Russian Church
With a style inspired by the 17th-century Russian churches (it was built in 1912 by the Russian embassy on the remains of an old mosque), the five outer domes lined with gold and the turquoise-tiled roof stand out.
Its interior is decorated with very well preserved frescoes, unlike other churches in the city, and it is worth contemplating.
9. San Jorge's Church
The church of St. George or «Sveti Georgi» was built by the Romans in the fourth century, in the ancient city of Serdica and built in the place where a pagan temple used to be.
At present, it is not only the oldest church in the capital but it is also the oldest building in Sofia.
After being converted into a mosque during the Ottoman invasion that took place in the 16th century, the temple was reconditioned as an Orthodox church after their expulsion from Bulgaria at the end of the 19th century. It is in the middle of building blocks that contrast very much with the church.
10. Sofia History Museum
The moment we visited the museum, apart from out of curiosity, we entered because it was snowing too much and you couldn’t walk quietly through the streets.
With this information, you can get the idea of what you can expect from Sofia. We were impressed by the rich culture of the city, with Ottoman, Orthodox and Roman blends. We certainly had little time (from a Saturday morning to a Sunday afternoon) but we liked the express getaway, perfect for disconnecting.
I hope you liked what you read and motivated you to do this or other getaways. If you have any questions about what to do in Sofia or want to comment on anything, you can contact me!