Sofia: Top 10

(continuer en français) – Published: March 5, 2022

Bulgaria’s recent history has seen a double liberation, first from Turkish domination in the late 19th century, then from communist oppression in the 1990s. These different periods are reflected in the streets of the capital, Sofia, which has replaced the statue of Lenin with the statue of Wisdom (Sofia) that inspired its name.


01. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

The Orthodox cathedral dates from the beginning of the 20th century and was built in tribute to the Russian troops who came to liberate Bulgaria from the Turkish occupation in 1878. With a capacity of 10,000 people, it is one of the largest Orthodox churches. Its gold-gilded dome and carillon make it an essential monument of the capital. There is a museum of icons.

02. Church of Saint George

In the courtyard of large administrative buildings, Roman ruins dating from the 4th century have been excavated. Of these ruins, the modest brick church of St. George remains, with its original simple plan. Dedicated to Orthodox worship, the church is considered the oldest building in Sofia.

03. Russian Church of St Nicholas

Official church of the Russian Embassy, it is intended for the Russian population of Sofia. Built at the same time as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, it follows the architecture of the neo-Russian trend, inspired by traditional religious buildings. Symbolically, the site was occupied by a mosque during the period of Turkish rule.

04. Banya Bashi Mosque

Built in 1567, this is the last mosque in Sofia, where a small Muslim community still exists. Its name refers to the existence of baths in the same complex. Elsewhere in Bulgaria, there are villages with a high concentration of Muslims where the minority left by the Turkish retreat manages to organise itself effectively.

05. Party House

The former headquarters of the Communist Party, built in 1955, has a typically Stalinist look, referring to a near and painful past. In 2020, the National Assembly moved in, but moved back to its old seat the following year, as the historical evocation was too heavy to sustain. Since then it has housed various administrative services.

06. National Assembly

The building dates back to the end of the 19th century and has seen many forms of government. The return to democracy took place in 1991 with the first multi-party election. There are currently 240 representatives elected for four years and divided into at least seven parties. One of them represents the Turkish minority, which is often used as a complement to coalitions.

07. Halite

The central market dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and is designed as a large food market. Over the years it has diversified, for example to include clothing shops. On the mezzanine a food court area has been created. There are even cheap souvenir shops, as the place is now part of the tourist circuit.

08. National Theatre

Rebuilt in 1929, it is the place of reference for Bulgarian literature and theatre. It is inspired by the cultural scene in Central Europe, mainly Vienna, and breaks away from the imposed oriental past. Around it a pleasant public garden is a place of calm and beauty with its sculptures and water games, where endless games of chess are played.

09. National Palace of Culture

The NDK, although unattractive on the outside, has an interior layout suitable for hosting large events. Built in the 1980s, at the end of the communist regime, its overspending fuelled rumours of corruption, accompanying the discrediting of the late regime.

10. National History Museum

The museum has been housed in the former presidential residence since 2000. The visitor can therefore see the pompous style in which the communist leaders lived. The various collections present the Thracian civilisation as well as the later periods. There are also folklore exhibits and an old helicopter parked in the backyard.

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    • Certainly, replacing the statue of Lenin with the representation of wisdom had a marketing edge. It is quite representative of the accelerated opening up of these central European countries that were once cut off from the rest of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

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