Hello hello and Happy New Year! I had the opportunity to spend the end of the old one and the beginning of the New Year in my homeland and I realized that I’ve never written an article about the city where I spent almost half of my life – Sofia! So here it comes, my first post for 2020 – Most Instagrammable places in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is still one of the less known countries in Europe although Sofia attracts more and more tourists due to the cheap flights that low cost companies had offered during these past few years. If you ask me, there are other cities and places in Bulgaria that are way more picturesque than Sofia, but the city itself has its charm and it is a nice starting point if you want to get to know Bulgarian culture better. As a capital city, Sofia is way more modern than other parts of the country, but somehow it has conserved a big part of its history and you can feel the ancient spirit when you walk around the Old part of the city center.
For those of you who are not aware – Bulgaria was founded in AD 681 and it dominated most of the Balkans.
After several wars, centuries of bondage and always picking the wrong side, we are what we are today, but our cultural heritage is rich and our history is fascinating. Bulgaria has never stopped existing even during the years when the Ottoman empire did terrible things across the country. We preserved our old traditions, some of which are coming from the pagan times, even before the official foundation of the country. But I am not Wikipedia, so I won’t give you history lessons now, if you are interested you can find plenty of information online. For more insights on which are the most important touristic places in Sofia, you can read the article of my friends from Lili of the world who summarized the top locations here.
My point was that Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe. Sofia is a really old city, it has a history of more than 7000 years. Some art facts in the National art Gallery are traced back to 3th-4th millennium BC. Some of its old names are Serdika and Sredets. Sofia became the official capital of Bulgaria in 1879 after the liberation from the Ottoman invasion. During the Russo-Turkish war in 1877-79 and during the World war II big part of its ancient buildings were destroyed. This is why you can see big modern buildings right next to ancient ruins.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Living a life abroad I am frequently asked if Sofia is beautiful, if Bulgaria is worth visiting. And while my answer always will be “HELL YEAH”, I decided to show you a small part of the most picturesque places in Sofia and hopefully to waken up your interest to book your flight to my beautiful motherland.
20 Most Instagrammable places in Sofia by Travelistagoesto :
Alexander Nevski Cathedral
This cathedral is the jewel of Sofia. If you google Sofia this is the picture that you get. It is also the monument that I am looking for to see when my plane lands. Its golden domes could be seen from far away and it has truly amazing architecture. They started building in in 1882 and finished it in 1912. Is it as stunning on the inside as on the outside. It’s a must do Instagram spot!
Bonus Tip: Right next to Alexander Nevski there is a restaurant called “La Cattedrale” which is one of my favorite spots in Sofia.
National theater“Ivan Vazov”
The theater is another super famous building in the city. The garden in front of it is a very popular meeting spot and young people (and not so young too) are usually gathering there to chill and drink beers with friends. Yes, you can drink in public places in Bulgaria.
Sofia University ” St. Kliment Ohridski”
Sofia university is located close to Alexander Nevski cathedral and right next to the National library. The main building has stunning architecture and it gets photographed quite a lot.
This Insta square you can find in the city center where an old book market was located. I’ve heard that the market recently was moved but there still remains the monument that made me include it in my list. Petko Slaveikov is one of the greatest Bulgarian authors and his family used to live at one of the corners of this square. Nowadays there is a statue of him and his son – Pencho Slaveikov, another great author. They sit on a bench and observe the Book Market.
Bonus tip: Right next to them on the bench there is still place for another person to sit, so tourists usually take pictures with this historical family.
Under this name people of Sofia know the square located between the building of the presidency, GUM (old name for the city universal store, remained from the communist times) and the old hotel Balkan, which is called Sheraton hotel Balkan nowadays.
The Statue of Saint Sofia
This statue is one of the symbols of Sofia and occupies the current spot since 2000. Sophia was considered too erotic and pagan to be referred to as a saint. 24 feet in height, the copper and bronze statue by the sculptor Georgi Chapkanov, stands on a 48 feet high pedestal. Adorned with the symbols of power (crown), fame (wreath) and wisdom (owl), the crown is also a reference to the Goddess of Fate, Tyche, inspired by the old emblem of Sofia dating back to 1900. (source Wikipedia)
As I mentioned in the beginning Bulgaria has centuries of history with the Ottoman empire and big part of our current population is muslim. In the heart of Sofia there is a place unofficially called the Religious triangle where you can find three temples of three different religions – the Mosque, the Orthodox church St. Petka and the Synagogue. They are located at just a few meters one from another and it shows that in Bulgaria all religions can live in peace.
Bonus tip: there are a few other interesting buildings and monuments in the area, so it is worth visiting!
St. Nedelya church
St. Nedelya is a preferred place for weddings and official funerals. It is located in the beginning of the most popular street in Sofia – Vitosha street. Its beautiful architecture makes it a very Instagrammable place for unique pictures.
St. Sedmochislenitsi church
This is my favourite building in Sofia. Alexander Nevski is obviously stunning and I love it, but this church is a little less popular and equally mesmerizing. More my taste – hidden treasure.
National Palace of Culture
Another socialistic architecture that you can still see in Sofia. On the top of the building there is an old restaurant, quite vintage if I may say so, but it has a big terrace with a pretty view. The square in front of the Palace is a popular spot among teenagers, skaters, Xers and basically anyone who wants to enjoy a simple “peika party” (literal translation – bench party) with friends.
Bonus tip: There are a few nice bars in the palace such as Culture beat and Memento.
The rotunda of Saint George
This place is quite hidden in an internal patio between the Presidency building and the Sheraton hotel Balkan. We still don’t know what was the initial purpose of it, there are several theories, but it was built in the 4th century. Pretty Instagram feed.
As its name says, there are four lions protecting the bridge. The bridge is located on the crossroad of Slivnitsa boulevard and Maria Luiza boulevard. It is part of the old city center. The area was reformed in the past few years and now it looks even better. If you look at my picture above, you can see the tower of the Mosque in the end of the street and Vitosha mountain in the back.
Bonus tip: The main train and bus stations are just 10 minutes walking from the bridge.
The palace is a former royal palace located in the outskirts of Sofia. It is the place where the royal family spent most of their time, even though the official Royal palace (today the National art gallery) was in the city center and the summer residence was in the Euxinograd palace near Varna. The building is quite preserved but unfortunately the inside of the palace is not open to public.
Made in blue restaurant
One of the most Instagrammable restaurants in the past several years is called “Made in blue”. A few years ago the hipster wave came to Sofia and some very unique new places opened doors. “Made in blue” represents a blue painted house with a few floors and several rooms. Like a typical house you might say. And you will be right. Every room has different vibe and style and there are a couple of tables in each. Some of the rooms have vintage sofas, others wooden tables or an ancient oven inside…The idea is to feel like you have invited friends at home and you all enjoy a healthy meal in your dining room. The interior is absolutely unique and I completely understand why it became one of the most popular Insta places in Sofia.
Bonus tip: Other similar restaurants are “The little things” and “Made in home”.
“A gift from the Lord” graffiti
This is one of my favorite graffiti art ever! The artist name is Nasimo and he has painted many walls around Sofia in the past few years. This one represents a beautiful Bulgarian girl in a traditional clothing. It was created in 2016 and I recently went to see it with my eyes and I can say that it’s a beauty! The adress is : “Sh. Petyofi str.”, 55
Another Instagrammable restaurant on the list! The name of it is “Shtastlivetsa”, meaning “The happy/lucky one” in Bulgarian. This is the nickname of one of the greatest Bulgarian publicists Aleko Konstantinov. The restaurant has absolutely amazing interior, looking like a big posh doll house. Every detail is well thought of and the ambience is great. If “Made in blue” represents vintage interior of an old Bulgarian house, “Shastlivetsa” shows the interior of a rich Western European style retro palace. The location is pretty centric – bul. Vitosha.
Bonus tip: There is Shatstlivetsa 2 located in San Stefano street.
Sense rooftop bar
This is one of the trendy posh places where people of Sofia go out for drinks. Not my absolute favorite bar in Sofia, but the view that its terrace reveals must make the list. As you can see – Alexander Nevski cathedral is just one block away and its golden domes compliment your Insta feed. On the picture you can see the lovely Lili from www.lilioftheworld.com who was so generous to give me some of her pictures that you see in this post.
Vishneva street tram station
This spot is not so popular for tourists, but it is one of the cutest places in Sofia. And definitely the best looking tram stop in the city! Sofia is a green city with many parks and this stop is in the middle of the forest. The small building suffered a devastating fire recently , but it has been reformed and back to normal now.
“Tsarigradsko shose” boulevard – modern buildings
The architecture of the city is a mix of old and new, ancient and modern. Tsarigradsko shose is one of the main entrances of Sofia and during the past several years some important buildings popped up there. Those three are business buildings and got popularity because of their futuristic architecture and similarity with Burj-al-Arab in Dubai. I should admit, the sunset with this skyline is even more picturesque.
The area known as Kopitoto is an area in Vitosha mountain that reveals a view over the whole city. Located quite high, you can go there by car or climbing if you are an enthusiast. 20 years ago you could use the cabin lift, but unfortunately it doesn’t work anymore. The TV tower of Sofia is located on this hill and it could be seen from almost everywhere in the city. The view is pretty in a clear day, but lately Sofia is so polluted that you cannot see anything because of the tick layer of smog that suffocates the city.
Bonus tip: there is also a restaurant on the hill.
Last but not least – Vitosha. OK, it is not exactly in Sofia, but it surrounds the city and it could be seen from absolutely everywhere. So you don’t need to climb the mountain to take a picture of it! You will not regret to go there if you have time while in Sofia as it offers beautiful nature views. During the winter is a pure winter fairy tale! I really enjoyed this terrace view while I was living in Sofia just before moving to Barcelona!
Well, this was my list of most Instagrammable spots in Sofia. There is a lot to be seen and the photo material is enormous, so don’t hesitate and book your ticket!
Let me know what your favorite Insta spots in Sofia are in the comments below!
For more Bulgarian travel inspiration visit my articles here.