I managed to persuade my usual travel buddy to visit Sofia with me in May. Actually little persuasion was needed as she said “yes” before I finished my suggestion!
For me, it’s exciting to add Bulgaria to the list of countries I have visited. Number 51, in fact!!
I am surprised that Sofia is not on any of the lists for must-visit cities that I have seen. It’s a city steep in history, full of elegant buildings of European grandeur, a stark contrast to the brutalist architecture of the communist era. What’s more, eating well does not cost a fortune.
Well, I don’t think it’ll be too long before those proper travel writers put Sofia on such a list!
Arena di Serdica Residence Hotel
As usual British Airways Holidays provided us with a very good deal. I chose the 5* Arena di Serdica Residence Hotel for our city break because
(1) it’s right in the city centre, within walking distance to all the major tourist attractions.
(2) it has character, housing the remains of Amphitheater of Serdica on the lower level of its lobby
(3) it has 2 restaurants, one provides a good bird’s eye view of the city
This is La Tribuna restaurant on the ground floor
This is La Terrazza Restaurant on the 9th floor with balconies on 3 sides overlooking the city
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This iconic Orthodox cathedral is 450 yards from the hotel. It is very similar to the one of the same name in Tallin, Estonia. It’s just as photogenic from every angle!
The Monument to the Tsar Liberator
It’s only a short walk from the back of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral . The backdrop of Intercontinental Hotel, which looks like a 70’s office building, is rather off-putting. Fortunately the view facing the cathedral and other elegant buildings gives a better account of this imposing statue!
When I was searching for Independence Square when Largo kept popping up. Apparently it’s the collective name for 3 “Socialist Classicism” buildings in the centre of Sofia. That’s the National Assembly in the middle…
… flanked by the Council of Ministers on the left and TZUM Department Store on the right
Independence Square is in the middle between the traffic on both sides of the National Assembly.
The coloured pavements in some old stock photos have been replaced by glass domes exposing the ancient ruins underneath. On this same side, the Statue of Sveta Sofia can be seen unobstructed by the traffic lights
Statue of Sveta Sofia
St George Rotunda Church
This 4th century church is behind Sofia Hotel Balkan where we stopped for a well-earned coffee break. The church also houses a sort of souvenir shop.
Not far from the church is the main entrance to the President’s Office with guardsmen in front of it
Ivan Vazov National Theatre
It is 450 yds from hotel and is one of the oldest theatres in Bulgaria. It’s a very impressive and imposing building
Central Mineral Baths
Another landmark building in Sofia – 450 yds from hotel. It is now the Regional History Museum
Banya Bashi Mosque
The mosque is located just around the corner from Central Mineral Baths
St Nicholas Russian Church (200 yds from hotel)
Sofia Royal Palace – Museum of Art
This beautiful building is only 150 yards from the hotel. We got there around 17.00 and were charged only 2 lev each for entrance fee – probably because it’s closed at 18.00. It was well worth a quick browse, if only for the stately staircase at the entrance and the sumptuous interiors!
The Parliament Building near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Sofia Central Library
St Sofia Church
These statues are in the park opposite St Sofia Church, not far from Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Happiness is adding another fridge magnet to my collection
and photos of such a gem of a city!