Sofia in Autumn – The Perfect Weekend Getaway
Just a couple of weeks ago I was in Sofia. You’d think that as a Bulgarian I would have been to Sofia tons of times but I actually haven’t. Not as a tourist anyway. This was the first time I just took my camera for a walk and explored the city. Sofia is ideal for a short weekend trip or a quick stopover before you head to the more exciting part of Bulgaria outside of the capital. The good thing about Sofia is that everything you’d want to see is within a walking distance.
National Palace of Culture
I started my walk at the National Palace of Culture. This is the place where people from Sofia gather together for concerts, performances and various cultural events and this is where I auditioned for the Bulgarian The Voice 😀 just the day before. Gotta challenge yourself right! From here the views of the square just in front of the Palace were magnificent. So many autumn colors that were bringing to life the entire place. The Palace is actually at the end of the famous main street called Vitoshka. From here you can go directly into the center or you can do like me and make a detour by heading to park Zaimov.
A lot of people would say that there isn’t much special about this park but I actually loved it. In the autumn this place is just phenomenal for a nice walk around whilst admiring all the colors of the season. The thing that literally put a massive happy smile on my face was the The Fairytale House. If you think you’re starting to forget the fairytale characters you grew up with, go in this house for a quick reminder. The decor, the music and the lights will bring you right back in the time you were dreaming you were the princess in the Beauty and the Beast (or if you’re a guy, how about the prince in Sleeping Beauty) 😀 Either way you can think of it as a fairytale time machine 😀
Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevski
Park Zaimov beautifully leads to the St Alexander Nevski Cathedral which is the most phenomenal symbol of the capital. I walked around the massive building slowly and I just couldn’t quite fill up my eyes with enough of it. The Cathedral really is spectacular. It dates back to 1882 when its foundations were first laid and today it’s the second largest cathedral on the Balkans. The cathedral was created to honor the Russian solders who died for the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule. Alexander Nevsky was in fact a Russian prince. Right at the heart of the capital, the cathedral is impossible to miss so do walk around and see it from all angels. Going int the cathedral is free but sadly the inside is nowhere near as spectacular as the outside.
Russian Church Sveti Nikolay Mirlikiiski
Another incredible church that symbolizes the Russian influence in Sofia is the stunning Sveti Nikolay Mirlikiiski church. The church was designed by the Russians and if you’ve been to Russia you’ll immediately recognize their architectural style when you see this church without even knowing it was a Russian creation. With its domes all coated in gold this church screams for attention and it definitely gets it. As with Alexander Nevski, the outside of the church is better that the inside but it’s free to go in so if you’re curious take a quick peek.
National Theatre Ivan Vazov
The national theatre is with no doubt one of the most beautiful buildings in the capital. It attracts hundreds of people every day queuing up to get a ticket to see a wonderful life performance. In fact getting a ticket last minute is close to impossible which only goes to say how important the theatre is for the culture in Sofia. If you get the chance to see a performance definitely do it. There are guest threatres coming to Sofia all the time so you might be able to find a performance in English. Bulgarian theatre is pretty cool though so if you can look out for a Bulgarian performance with an English translation.
Church Sveta Nedelya and Church of St George Rotunda
Sofia has a lot of history which is why you’ll see a lot of churches, one of the best ones being Sveta Nedelya. Very little is actually known about this church which adds up to the mystery of the place. The church is right at the start of Vitosha boulevard and in the autumn especially it looks absolutely gorgeous hidden behind the handing branches of the trees. But before you start exploring the main street, you might want to go check out the oldest building in Sofia. Not surprisingly this is another church dated back from the 4th century called church of St George Rotunda. What’s astonishing about this place is that even today you can see some remains of the ancient town of Serdica, renamed Sofia in 1376. I thought it was pretty awesome!
This is the main commercial street in Sofia. A lot of people associate the street with lush shops but what I love about it is the range of cute coffee shops and restaurants and of course the view of the Vitosha mountain. For a big city like Sofia, being able to walk along its busiest pedestrian street and see the mountain slopes on the background feels really special to me. The fact that you can see the mountains from virtually everywhere in Sofia is one of the things I love the most about the capital. In fact if have the time, you can take the public transport to Vitosha mountain for some breathtaking views over the city. If you go in the winter however, you can also do some pretty affordable skiing, just a few miles away from Sofia’s city center, pretty awesome right?!
There is a lot more you can see in Sofia so it might be a good shout to do a free walking tour. It takes about 2 hours and is a great way to see a lot of Sofia if you’ve only got a day or two to spend there.
Where to recharge?
One of the main reasons I loved my time in Sofia is because I was taking it super slow and actually enjoying myself. I stopped for lunch at a very hipster vegetarian place called Sun Moon, just off Vitosha boulevard. The place was really comfy, super cute and people were exceptionally friendly. It was an awesome place for a quick healthy lunch before I went to a cafe called Green Deli to just chill and read my book. And let me tell you, this was the moment I actually appreciated Sofia the most. I was just relaxing there, reading my book, appreciating how quiet and peaceful the place was and happily waiting for the light autumn rain to stop. Ah, take me back!!!
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