Things To Do In Sofia
Encompassed by vast parkland, Sofia, the capital and biggest city of the Republic of Bulgaria, is situated at the foot of the well-known ski mountain Vitosha. With a history that extends in excess of seven centuries, Sofia is certainly one of Europe's celebrated communities. Spacious cobblestone-paved roads, enchanting boutiques and a lively nightlife star in this city that is rich in old structures and history.
When To Go:
Sofia has a moderately mellow climate, maybe a little cooler than the average for Europe. The hottest it gets is a high of 80 ° F throughout the most blazing months of the year, July and August. During these months, it cools down to the upper-50s throughout the night. In August, numerous locals leave the city to relax, so it is considerably less packed with individuals, clamor and activity.
October can likewise be wonderful as there are no fewer than 15 warm days. There is a predictable warm wave after the common September chill and drizzle. The trees turn brilliant and the boulevards are lined with fallen leaves and chestnuts.
Since the temperatures drop dramatically during the freezing cold of winter, Sofia gets a decent measure of snow. For 26 days out of the year snowfall is normal, basically throughout December, January and February. Temperatures drop into the upper-30s with lows in the 20s. During winter, wear a thick coat, cap, gloves and a scarf to maintain warmth and comfort.
These are the things to do when in the city of Sofia:
Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski
The Cathedral Saint Alexandar Nevski is a magnificent and majestic temple that dominates the center of Sofia, appropriately located on the square bearing the same name. Russian architect Alexander Pomerantseva designed it in the early 20th century. The cathedral looks gorgeous from outside, and features an all-original Neo-Byzantine style of architecture and interior decoration. It holds a lot of paintings from acclaimed Russian artists and Bulgarian art masters.
Inside, it is spacious, immaculate and solemn. The cathedral is a must-see when in the city of Sofia. From the main facade of the building, everything is extremely interesting. Upon entering, you will immediately be thrilled by the artistic frescoes, two thrones, even the space for the candles. The place is fascinating, and filled with devotees and crowds of curious tourists. The thick walls drown in the shadows of peace and solemnity. The details at the main altar breathe history, as do the stained-glass windows. In the shop at the entrance, you can buy souvenirs like a multi-colored cross and prayer booklets.
Ivan Vazov National Theater
The Ivan Vazov National Theater is an important building located conveniently in the city center in front of a park. Oftentimes, cultural events are held right at the entrance to the theater. There are comfortable benches and fountains around the theater to ensure a pleasant place to spend some time. If you really want to see another side of Sofia visit this historic place that was built in 1904, then restored after a fire and the Second World War. The building is the work of two Viennese architects who obviously understood how to combine the neo-classical and baroque styles.
It has a nice front featuring Apollo and the Muses, while on each of the two side towers the goddess Nike appears with her chariot. Inside, there are rich decorations that make it more pleasant and intimate (it comes with just 700 seats). This old theater is surely worth a visit when in the city of Sofia. It has a big chessboard on the ground floor, a snack stand, and many people are always out enjoying the park.
Vitosha Mountain offers a charming atmosphere with unspoiled places and a lovely restaurant where you can eat good Bulgarian food. This ski resort area invites you to disconnect from the city for a while, to take a walk and simply admire the natural beauty of the surroundings. The mountain of Vitosha is both 'immense and not' according to the majority of tourists and Bulgarians. It offers an expansive view towards the village of Jelelniza. It is filled with opportunities for physical activity -- walking (easy or difficult), shooting the rapids of the waterfalls, and in the winter, great trails for skiing that are designed for both amateurs and professionals.
There are several possibilities to go to the top of the mountain, highly recommended in all seasons. The mountain holds a distinct and absolute charm as the crisp air and the landscape that appears before you will make you forget -- even if briefly - the traffic, potholes, and huge shopping crowds in the main city square. You can take a cable car directly to the ski slopes, where you can rent skis and snow sleds, or you can eat in the various self-service restaurants; when in Vitosha there is never a dull moment and every path has something to offer.
UNESCO added Boyana Church to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. In the church, you can see lots of well-preserved frescoes. The church itself is located in a park, quite small but still worth visiting as it is one of the greatest historical treasures of Bulgaria. The museum next door holds information about the origin of the church. Access to this church is possible only with a guide. It is one of Bulgaria's few intact cultural sites from the Middle Ages, and one of the foremost examples of fine monumental art from the 10th to the 14th century. The church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas and Pantalejmon, and is quite hidden in nature in the area of Boyana, Sofia suburb.
The church is accessible by bus but it is preferable to go there directly by taxi (about $6.30.) Famous for its frescoes, the entrance fee (another $6.30) includes a tour; entrance is allowed for groups of only 10 people at a time since the interior is very small. The church is famous not because of its architecture, but for its wall paintings from the year 1259. They exist as a second layer of paintings that are even older in origin and represent one of the most complete and best-preserved examples of medieval Eastern European Art. On the walls, you can view images of 240 people in 89 different scenes. The entire attraction is filled with symbols of mysticism and devotion, which is a must to see.
National Museum of Military History
Here you can really stay a whole day and admire the many exhibits that are presented in both a large open area and a well-ordered museum. In the National Museum of Military History you can learn a lot about the role of Bulgaria in World Wars 1 and 2, but also see a timeline of events and read back to the Roman Empire. The exhibits include not only old Soviet weapon technology but also German weapon technology from the 2nd World War. So you can find there a fighting Panzer III and IV --they were created in limited editions and these are fairly well preserved.
Overall, the Museum is very interesting and really worth seeing. You can still feel the epic story of independence and the struggle of the people for freedom. Inside the museum you can also see the beautiful period uniforms and a not-to-be-missed exhibition of all the honors received from foreign kings and heads of state during the communist era. The location was originally the place of residence of a dictator. The content is quite interesting. For about $6 a taxi will take you there from the main city square.
National Opera and Ballet
The theater for the National Opera and Ballet looks great, and the music and choreography always surpass audience expectations. The acoustics are good and the singers are excellent. The orchestra is also beyond professional in every performance. Book a balcony seat to have the best view of the stage. This is an old theater with lots of wood and a pleasant atmosphere of the past.
Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office next door and are very affordable. It is located right in the center of the city. If you find yourself in Sofia, spend an afternoon or a lovely evening to attend a show at this theater. It's definitely worth the time and effort. Swan Lake, Madame Butterfly, La Traviata -- be sure not to miss any of the top opera and ballet shows in this gorgeous theater.
The Rotunda of St George (Sveti Georgi)
The Rotunda of St George is one of the oldest buildings in Sofia. The archaeological area includes some Roman ruins and an ancient church apse. It is located in the center of a courtyard but a little hidden; certainly unusual is the fact that modern buildings surround it, and it appears to have popped up out of nowhere. Although it sits in the midst of high-rise buildings, it definitely shines with its own light.
It is easy to access; just walk around the Sheraton Hotel and you will turn into the ruins right between two arms of the hotel. The historic red brick building looks great against the background of strict gray walls -- making it all look almost planned as a single architectural ensemble. The visible excavations near the church are conserved and everything is kept clean and neat.
Saint Sofia Church
The Saint Nedelja Church is not far from the Temple of Alexander Nevsky and the Nadelja Church. You can walk between them in 5 minutes and you will appreciate the important presence of this church to the city. Locals even say it was designed so that the two cultural heritage sites could be viewed simultaneously. The church may be small but it is very beautiful. If you want to feel the soul of the capital of Bulgaria, be sure to visit this church. The city itself was named In honor of this ancient monument, Sofia meaning "God's wisdom." It is the oldest functioning Orthodox Church of modern times. Here reigns a special aura that sets you thinking about eternity and finding peace.
The restoration work carried out in the church is very professional. In the sanctuary stand the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the sculpture of a lion. The church is also another of those historic buildings with amazing frescoes inside. Located next to it is an interesting flea market where you might even find the Order of Lenin. Opposite the church is the Bulgarian Parliament. It is impossible to visit Bulgaria and not see the pearl of Sofia, in honor of which the city’s name was chosen.
National Institute of Archaeology with Museum
The National Institute of Archaeology with Museum holds a great collection of artifacts starting from the Thracian, Roman and medieval times. It also has an array of gold funerary masks and breastplates used by warriors in the fourth century B.C. The museum proves especially useful to an understanding of the early Thracian civilization. It is located right in front of the presidential palace. It stands on two levels and consists of marble, mosaics and frescoes ripped from all over Bulgaria as well as from Macedonia and Greece. There are many pieces of jewelry and precious jewels that are really spectacular.
It is a museum that is a bit' "old fashioned" but well prepared. It has lockers for rent but it has no refreshment area. A caption of every displayed item comes with both the local language and in English. This museum is rich with fossils, bronze icons, and art pieces that are definitely gorgeous. One of the best things to do is to browse through the excellent photo exhibit that shows documents, excavations, and descriptions of the various times and important events of Bulgaria’s history.