9 Instagrammable Spots in Sofia
Sofia remains an undiscovered gem on the Balkans, but this is slowly beginning to change. Every time I come home to visit, I hear more and more foreign speak on my walks. The 9 spots I’ve included below are the places I return to time and time again on every single visit. They epitomize the best of Sofia to me and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
1 – National Theater “Ivan Vazov”
This Neoclassical building was designed by Austrian architects and completed in 1907. Its entrance faces the City Garden, an excellent park for a stroll or for observing some very competitive games of chess that oftentimes spring up on the benches.
2 – National Art Gallery – The Palace
A stone’s throw away is the National Art Gallery. It’s located in the old royal palace, and you can tell from size of the building and the elaborate floors and ceilings throughout. The permanent collection is good, but you may also stumble upon impressive visiting exhibitions like I did in 2014. The exhibit, called Metamorphoses, included 80 sculptures and 20 drawings from the famous sculptor Rodin. They made their way to Sofia from Musée Rodin in Paris, which was under construction at the time.
3 – The Largo
From the National Art Gallery it’s another easy walk to the Largo, located in an underground pedestrian passage. When this passage was updated a few years ago to accommodate the new metro line, some Roman ruins were discovered in this location. The clear ceiling makes for awesome photos.
4 – Former Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters
The building peeking above the ceiling in the last photo is the former Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters. You’ll see it as soon as you exit the Largo. This Neo Classical building was finished in 1955. The only thing it’s currently missing is the big red star that used to sit on top – that was removed in 1989 when communism fell in Bulgaria. Now it flies the Bulgarian flag.
5 – Church of Saint George
While you’re in this area, don’t miss the Church of Saint Geroge, in the courtyard of the building that houses the Bulgarian president. It was built by the Romans in the 4th century and has amazing frescoes inside. It’s the oldest building in Sofia.
6 – Regional History Museum – Sofia
Like the National Art Gallery, this building used to be something else before it became a museum. The building was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century as a Turkish bath and continued to be the city’s public bath until 1986. My parents live nearby in the apartment my dad grew up in. He recalls coming here as a child (in the 1950s) to use the bath before they had hot water in the apartment. The public bath used water from the mineral springs Sofia is known for. You can still refill your water bottle with mineral water from a fountain on the side of the building.
7 – Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
This is the most recognizable landmark in Sofia! The gold-plated domes can be easily seen as you land at the airport or from the top of nearby Vitosha mountain. Don’t miss the excellent crypt museum hidden on the left side of the entrance.
8 – Saint Sophia Basilica
On the left side of Alexander Nevsky is St. Sophia Church. It’s just as old as the church of St. George. It was built in the 4th century as a necropolis for the ancient Roman town of Serdica. The necropolis was turned into a museum in 2014 and is the first underground museum in Bulgaria. I’ve visited it twice – you can see some pictures from our 2019 visit here.
9 – National Palace of Culture
The largest conference and event space on the Balkans gets a bad rap for its communist-era architecture. However, the park in front of it is beautiful, especially in summer when the water fountain is going. And the top level boasts one of the best views of Sofia.
Nine spots too few for you? For even more instagrammable photos, do a Sofia Graffiti Tour!