Sofia Cultural Tips
The city of Sofia is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria, which is one of the newest additions to the European Union. Sofia is located in the west of Bulgaria and has its very own international airport. The river Iskar runs through the city, which lies at the foot of the Vitosha mountains, which are ideal for hiking, alpinism and skiing. Having been conquered by several ethnic groups in the past has left its traces on the city’s rich historic appearance.
Places of Worship
Sofia is packed with monumental attractions and sights, such as the orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was built to commemorate the many soldiers who died in the Russo-Turkish War of the late 19th century. This cathedral is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. It has a gold-plated dome which reaches almost 50 meters in height. Sofia also has a very impressive synagogue. The Sofia Synagogue is one of the largest synagogues in Europe. It opened its doors to the public in 1909. Having been controlled by the Ottomans, Sofia also has a very old mosque, the Banya Bashi Mosque, which was completed in the late 16th century, making it the oldest Mosque in Europe. Other notable places of worship worth visiting in Sofia are the many churches. One of them, St George Church, is the oldest building in Sofia, dating back to the 4th century. This round, red brick building is a late Roman rotunda and inside you can admire the medieval frescoes on the walls.
In Sofia’s National Historical Museum you can admire the huge collection of over half a million artifacts, including a section of ancient Thracian art, as well as old armoury and weaponry. The National Archaeological Museum is housed in the very ancient and impressive building that was
formerly the oldest and largest Ottoman mosque in the Sofia. Their collection of archaeological artifacts include treasures from all over the Balkan, such as the golden Thracian treasures. The National Art Gallery of Sofia was established in 1934, and when the monarchy was abolished in 1946, cheekily moved into the royal palace on Battenberg Square, which is a beautiful, historic and imposing building. Its collection was added to the royal art collection already present in the palace, which is still on display today, on top of contemporary and National Revival Art and a huge collection of medieval paintings and icons.
Theatre, Opera and Ballet
The Ivan Vazov National Theatre is Bulgaria's National Theatre. The beautiful building is one of Sofia’s landmarks, and will draw you inside, but not before you’ve sat down on the steps in front of the facade that faces the City Garden. The Ivan Vazov National Theatre has daily pieces performed on its stage, by very high quality companies. Sofia’s National Opera and Ballet is housed in yet another very imposing building. When you visit Sofia, it is definitely worthwhile to go for a play or an opera at one of these great institutions; it will be an adventure.
Sofia is still a fairly cheap place compared to other European cities, so there are affordable accommodation options and cheap restaurants in abundance. Bulgarian cuisine, famous for its many special dairy dishes, is simply delicious. Sofia has a very vibrant nightlife, which won’t set you back as much either. Shopping facilities are being developed at rapid speed to make up for decades of negligence on that part. Sofia is the heart of the Balkan, offering that special Balkan atmosphere we all know from the ever emerging Balkan music scene that is gaining popularity all over the world, and is a great starting point if you want to visit more Balkan countries and cities.
Enjoy your time in Sofia!