Sofia Insights

Novinite Insider » DESTINATIONS | June 8, 2007, Friday // 00:00
Bulgaria: Sofia Insights Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia Photo Agency)

Sofia is a cosmopolitan and vivid city -- as pertains a true European capital. Sofia's main sights are concentrated in the city center at a walking distance from each other, which is extremely convenient for the visitors.

Our tour starts at the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan. Just there - entering the backyard of the hotel - antiquity captures the visitor's eye. Here we find the Church of St. George dating back from 4th century AD, with its well preserved early medieval frescoes. 2nd century Byzantine ruins can also be admired here.

Let's trace these remains along the underpass between the Presidency and the Council of Ministers. The ruins of old streets and walls take us through time and make us feel the spirit of eternity. The small galleries and shops of the underpass offer fine art crafts and traditional Bulgarian souvenirs.

Coming out of the underpass we face an impressive building. This is TZUM - Sofia Central Department Store. Situated on several floors it hosts a variety of boutiques - from brand clothing and perfumery to hi-tech to work of arts. Bulgarian and foreign fashion designers' shows regularly take place at TZUM.

After this little break we continue our historical and cultural walk along Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd - you can't miss the yellow-cobbled boulevard. The first building that deserves our attention is the Bulgarian Kings' Palace from the third Bulgarian Kingdom. At present it is the National Gallery. Right next to it is one of the prettiest churches in Sofia - the Russian Church of St. Nikolay. Its bright yellow tiled exterior, gilded domes and emerald green spire contrast with its dark interior. Our walk along the yellow boulevard leads us to Narodno Sabranie Square where the National Assembly of Bulgaria is situated.

We turn left attracted by the magnetic grandeur of St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral. This is the finest architectural piece on the Balkans. Craftsmen and artists from 6 countries worked on the unique church creation for 30 years. The interior decoration is a combination of Italian marble, Egyptian alabaster, Brazilian onyx, gold and mosaics, which embody the finest spirit of Eastern Orthodox traditions. The Cathedral is proud of its superb collection of icons, which can be seen in the Crypt.

The nearby Church of St. Sofia gave the capital its name in 14th century. The basilica, built over older churches remains, dates back from the 4th century. Its mosaic fragments have survived intact for over 1600 years.

Opposite the Church of St. Sofia is the Sofia Municipality. If you need to make a little break while sightseeing, there is a vivid alehouse called At the Mayor's right at the back of the Municipality. We can take a deserved rest here enjoying the cheerful spirit of the alehouse as well as the traditional Bulgarian and international cuisine. If our company is big and thirsty we may go for a meter of beer - you get 9 beers at the price of 8.

For a day we can hardly visit all places of interest but if you have more time don't miss at least some of Sofia's many museums. The National History Museum undoubtedly has the finest collection in the country. Thracian gold treasures are lavishly displayed along with other artefacts revealing the achievements of ancient civilizations. The National Archaeological Museum on Stambolijski Blvd accommodates an extensive collection of archaeological finds from sites all over Bulgaria, including the ancient capitals Pliska, Preslav and Veliko Turnovo. The Ethnographic Museum and the National Art Gallery are also worth a visit.

Late in the afternoon we should take a walk along Vitosha Fashion Street. All along the boulevard the lights of world-famous brand boutiques invite us for shopping. Of course we stop in one of the luxury cafГ©s enjoying the exquisite beauty of the Bulgarian women passing by.

Wherever you stay in Sofia, you can't miss the view of Vitosha Mountain. For the citizens of Sofia it is an inseparable part of the skyline of the city; indeed it can easily be reached by car or public transport. Many people go for a walk and enjoy the peace and quiet as well as the crystal clear air of the mountain, or admire the unusual natural phenomenon - the moraines, or �stone rivers' - made up of massive boulders.

No matter whether you are on holiday or on a business trip, for a day or two, Sofia offers unforgettable experience. The capital of Bulgaria will fascinate you with its old days' charm and future optimism. This is a city where the modern and the ancient peacefully co-exist.

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