Things to Do in Sofia
The three historic buildings that make up the medieval Bulgarian Orthodox icon known as Boyana Church have been attracting visitors for over a hundred years. Each building was constructed in a distinctly different architectural style reflective of the time, taste and period it was created, making a visit to this famous landmark a truly unique experience.
The eastern church, Boyana’s oldest section, is one of the smallest, while the second section, built in the mid-13 century, is a two-floor wonder with tombs, semi-cylindrical vault and quiet family chapel. The final section of the church, which wasn’t built until the 19th century, showcases some of the most contemporary designs. Travelers agree that the architecture and history make Boyana Church a destination, but it’s the 89 frescos with 240 human images painstakingly painted onto interior walls that have placed Boyana at the intersection of religion and art in Bulgaria.
One of the most well-known landmarks in Sofia, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral was built to commemorate the 200,000 Russian soldiers who died in the Russo-Turkish War, fighting for Bulgaria’s independence. Completed in 1924, it was named after a medieval Russian ruler, Prince Alexander Nevsky of Novgorod, and modeled after Russian neo-Byzantine churches.
The exterior of the cathedral is made of pale Bulgarian limestone, and it is topped with gold-plated domes. Inside, you will find hundreds of flickering candles illuminating a decadent interior. Look for the Mosaic of Christ, Tsar Ferdinand’s throne, the iconostasis made of marble, onyx and alabaster and the many frescoes covering the church’s dome. Head down to the crypt to visit the cathedral’s Icon gallery, which features icons from 12th through 19th centuries and boasts the most impressive collection of religious art in Bulgaria.
More Things to Do in Sofia
Also known as the Tsentralni Hali, Sofia’s Central Market Hall was originally built in 1909 and by the 1940s, featured 170 shops and stalls. Designed in a neo-Renaissance style with neo-Byzantine and neo-Baroque elements, it is considered the best work of architect Naum Torbov and its façade is known for its relief of the Sofia coat of arms. It closed in 1988 to undergo a lengthy renovation, eventually reopening in 2000, and is now one of the busiest places in Sofia. With three floors of shopping and cafes, the Central Market Hall is certainly the best place for indoor food shopping in Sofia.On the ground floor, you will find stalls selling fruits, vegetables, pastries, wine and cheese, while on the second floor, there is an inexpensive food court and more shops, including clothing stores and jewelry shops. The Hall is a great place to stock up on Bulgarian wine and spirits and can also fulfill traveler’s practical needs; there is a post office, pharmacy, bank and multiple ATMs.
One of Bulgaria’s premier ski resorts, Borovets was purpose-built in the 1980s, although it has its origins way back in the 19th century when a hunting palace was built there for the Bulgarian Royal Family. Today it is a low-rise, largely wooden Alpine-style resort with all modern amenities; it sprawls over the northern flanks of the Musala ridge in the Rila Mountains at an altitude of 1,300 meters (4,265 feet), with the highest runs up at 2,600 meters (8,530 feet).
The ski season lasts from December through to early April and the resort has 24 runs stretching over 58 km (36.25 miles) of marked pistes, ranging from easy blues to extremely challenging black runs, many through scenic pine forest. Borovets also offers two terrain parks for snowboarders as well as 35 km (22 miles) of groomed cross-country trails for Nordic skiers. Ski lifts are modern and efficient, with a mix of gondolas, chair and drag lifts; night skiing is available daily until 10pm.
The rolling hills and scenic landscapes of Koprivshtitsa attract plenty of travelers looking to explore Bulgaria beyond Sofia. Deep historical roots and a thriving population of merchants and artisans have made this town popular among tourists who find the town’s impressive collection of architectural, historical and artistic landmarks (388 in total!) worth a visit.
Travelers can experience the lifestyle of Koprivshtitsa’s early elite at the Oslekov House. Built in 1856, this popular museum showcases not only the rich interiors of a highbrow family, but some of its clothing and heirlooms as well. The unique rosewater fountain at The Lyutova House Museum, where authentic Koprivshtitsa wool, hand-painted murals and ornate woodcarvings are all on display, offers visitors a look at some of the region’s most impressive arts and crafts.
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