Weekend in Sofia
The fascinating capital of Bulgaria will captivate you with its beauty, its monuments, parks and gardens, churches and mosques. A weekend in Sofia is ideal to appreciate the many faces that the city can offer.
1st DAY WEEKEND IN SOFIA
Do the check-in in the hotel, and considering half a day available, the advice is to leave from Maria Luiza Blvd.
Photo ©, Bin Im Garten
Take the Metro and get off at the stop Serdika: you will be exactly in front of the splendid Sveta Petka Samardžijska, a small church built between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries after the Turkish invasion, it is included in the Arhitekturno-istoričeski compleks. Some restorations have brought to light a Roman quadrilateral door, defended by octagonal towers outside the II century, and of the tombs. Located on the ruins of the ancient Serdika: ancient, beautiful, original, with its basement on two floors, according to the obligation imposed by the Ottoman rule of the time.
Photo ©, MrPanyGoff
Walking along the Boulevard, there is the Mosque of Banya Bashi, one of the most beautiful mosques in all of Bulgaria, with a beautiful minaret; open exclusively to the cult, and dating back to the second half of the sixteenth century, it was built by the same architect of the beautiful Mosque of Suleiman in Istanbul and that of Selim in Edirne. Next to it is the Palazzo delle Terme municipali (Gradska mineralna banya).
Officially, the Sofia spa was started up in the 1913. It was built on the site of pre-existing Turkish baths (hammam) in Moorish style inside a park. In the 1986, they have been closed and never reopened since. In front of the mosque is the covered food market, in a structure dated 1909, which recalls the Moorish style of Banya Bashi
The beautiful Synagogue of Sofia (Sofiyska synagogue) is located near the central market. Inaugurated in 1909 in the presence of Tsar Ferdinando I, it was built on the example of the Sephardic synagogue in Vienna, in Moorish style, with sumptuous interiors: Carrara marble columns and mosaic-decorated walls. It has a capacity of well 1700 seats!
For more information you can consult the official website from this link. Regarding the central market, we recommend a visit for the last day. Absolutely not to be missed!
For the evening, we recommend a long walk Viale Vitoša, the real Sofia Course. You will have to take the reverse route, reaching Piazza Nezavisimost (once Piazza Lenin), which overlooks the building where the committee of the late Bulgarian Communist Party was located, the presidential palace, the Sofia Hotel Balkan hotel.
Photo ©, Ann Wuyts
Next to the latter, in a courtyard, is the Round Sveti George, the oldest building in the city, built between the 2nd and 4th centuries, in red brick and small in size (just 10 meters in diameter!). The frescoes on the inside are remarkable, dating from the tenth and eleventh centuries.
The Orthodox Church stands among old preserved excavations and continuously monitored by cultural heritage personnel. The Temple has excellent acoustics. Admission is free but a sign recommends buying some souvenirs as the proceeds from the sale will be allocated to the charity. Every hour the changing of the guard takes place: nothing comparable to that of London, but still interesting!
Open every day from 11.00 to 18.30.
Viale Vitoša, which starts from Yuzhen Park (Southern Park), the Sofia Course can be considered. It is a commercial street with a wide choice of restaurants, bars and high fashion shops. The corner with “Patriarch Eftimii“, Is the place where the inhabitants of Sofia traditionally meet. Along the artery are some of the most interesting city buildings like theGDR, the National Palace of Culture.
Stop at Shtasliveca restaurant: central, welcoming environment and kind staff. You eat really well; excellent meat, just as the culinary proposal. Also you pay little and has a baby club with games, ideal if you are with children.
2nd DAY WEEKEND IN SOFIA
After a hearty breakfast, it’s time to leave for the second day of the Weekend in Sofia. Take the Metro and get off at Kliment Ohridski: you will be in the heart of Knyazheska Garden, one of Sofia’s many green lungs. Centennial trees and a quiet atmosphere will accompany you on a relaxing walk through the park towards the Alexander Of Battenberg Mausoleum. Designed by the Swiss architect Hermann Mayer, it houses the tomb of Prince Alexander I of Bulgaria (1857-1893).
Photo ©, Vassia Atanassova – Spiritia
Not far away, a Nevsky Square, is located the splendid National Gallery of Foreign Art (Natsionalna galeriya za chuzhdestranno izkustvo). Inaugurated in the 1985, the gallery is housed in an impressive French neoclassical building, dated 1884 and designed by the Austrian architect F. Schwanberg.
The expositions of the gallery are arranged in four floors and organized in nineteen different rooms, for a total of about 10.000 objects including sculptures, paintings, paintings and other artistic artifacts. There are works by Flemish artists as well as works by Marc Chagall, Auguste Rodin and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Temporary exhibitions are often set up in the structure.
For all information, we recommend that you consult the official website.
Ploštad Narodno Sabranie, is the square of the city center, which owes its name, to the homonymous building of the National Assembly, which overlooks: a neoclassical style building built from the 1884. At the center of the square is the Pametnik na Osvobodilite, monument to the liberators, high 14m with the equestrian statue of the Russian Tsar Alexander II who liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman dominion in the 1878. The whole area is really impressive: from here, you can see the shape of the beautiful Cathedral.
Hram-pametnik Alexandar Nevski It is the most famous building in Sofia. Built to commemorate the liberation of the Russian armies from Turkish power, the Orthodox Cathedral was completed in 1912. In Byzantine style, high 45 meters, and whose dimensions are such as to make it the largest Orthodox temple in the Balkans.
It does not pass indifferently, outside, its multi-dome! The interior of the cathedral, according to the canons of the Byzantine tradition, has five naves, in Italian style, decorated with alabaster and many fine materials, and is adorned with frescoes by Russian and Bulgarian artists. Particularly noteworthy is the crypt, which occupies the same area as the Church, and which houses a gallery of icons from all over Bulgaria, and is part of the National Gallery. The latter is the first in Europe in terms of size, which contains Bulgarian icons. The icons coming from all over the country are arranged in chronological order. Do not miss theIcon of Poganovo Monastery and Virgin with the child and the saints dated 1830.
Before visiting the splendid National Gallery of Art, we recommend taking a break. Long Bulevard Osvoboditel, and perpendicular alleys, you will find various offers including fast-food, lounge bars and restaurants. Happy Bar & Grill it is an excellent fast-food chain that you can find in the city, where you can eat well paying for little. We recommend alternatively, something hasty for lunch: Poison, it’s a great bar, or if you’re lovers, PectopHat EGO, it’s really an excellent Japanese restaurant.
In the historical center, not far from here, there is a church, in our opinion, of great interest: Sveta Sofija. The Church was erected at the behest of Justinian I in the sixth century. on the ruins of four previous churches, of which the excavations are even visible. Open daily from 09:00 to 18:00.
In the square in front of the church, there is an interesting flea market where you can buy hand-painted icons.
Bulevard Osvoboditel it is a large avenue lined with important buildings and dotted with numerous gardens. Part from Ploštad Narodno Săbranie up to Ploštad Aleksandăr Battenberg, crossing all the historical center.
Before arriving at the Gallery, the splendid Temple is reviewed Sveti Nikolay, also known as the Russian Church, because it was erected in the 1908 by a Russian ambassador. It has a traditional Russian plant and is located in a garden: in the park in front, you will find a market of artists and artisans.
Next, we find the Nacionalen Prirodonaučen Muzej (National Museum of Natural History), opened in 1907. The museum, the richest in Bulgaria in terms of Natural History, is divided into three main sections: Geology, Zoology (to be pointed out the vast collection of insects) and Botanica, set up in 16 rooms. There is a huge collection that includes minerals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, mammals and more. It is also the oldest museum in all of Bulgaria!
Entry ticket costs 4 BGN for adults, 2 BGN for students and 1 BGN for children under 6 years and disabled.
The museum is open every day from 10 to 18, the ticket office closes an hour earlier.
In the National Gallery of Art (Natsionalna hudozhestvena galeriya), are exhibited 50,000 works by Bulgarian artists in addition to a large number of medieval paintings and about Bulgarian 4000 icons. The building that houses the Gallery, the Royal Palace, once the official residence of the Bulgarian tsars, is a typical example of the architecture of the Second Bulgarian Empire. It was completed in 1882 on the design of Austrian architects.
The admission fee costs 6 BGN for adults and 3 BGN reduced (children, students and over 65).
The structure is open every day, except Mondays, from 10:00 to 18:00. More info you can get them by visiting the official website at this address.
Let’s imagine it was a really tiring day: we suggest going back to the hotel to relax and take a shower. For the evening, at the 75 of Kozloduy strFound Hadjidraga Kashti. It is slightly out of the way, but not far from the center, near the metro station. If you choose the tourist menu it is not excellent; go there if you want to try the typical dishes of traction: you will come out really satisfied, and paying a little.
3rd DAY WEEKEND IN SOFIA
As always, goodbye is never simple. If you had first come to Sofia, you will have guessed that you were in a beautiful city, unjustly underestimated. For the last day, given that you have at least a morning’s disposal, we advise you to take a trip to Boyanska Tsarkva, or the small medieval church of Boyana, whose construction dates back to the tenth and eleventh century.
Photo ©, Todor Bozhinov
To get an idea, just underline how the building has been included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in the distant 1979. Externally it could go unnoticed, but the interiors are of absolute value, with beautiful frescoes of the thirteenth century. To preserve the treasure, you enter groups of 8, maximum 10 people for a time of 15 minutes! The entrance costs 10 BGN, rather expensive for the city standards and for the time available. It is still worth it.
You can get there by the 64 BUS, or the 107, direction Boyana in about twenty minutes from the center: the church is rather out of the way. Alternatively, you could use the taxi.
It is open every day from 09: 00 to 17: 00. More info on the official website.
If you have not done so, find absolutely the time to visit the wonderful Central Marketof Sofia. Also ideal for a lunch break. Always fresh and genuine products with an extraordinary variety and offer.