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Top architectural sightseeing and landmarks of Sofia - ideas on city exploration routes

Sofia - Rotunda Sveti Georgi The landmarks of Sofia are not limited to the presented 8 architectural sights. A curious traveler will find thousands of exciting places here. However, below we present the most impressive and striking architectural sights of Sofia, which should be noted at first - Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, National Gallery for Foreign Art, National Art Gallery, Ivan Vazov National Theatre, Central market and many others. In this unusual virtual tour, you will see the photos and read the facts on each monument. But, most importantly, you will be able to fly over each landmark, and to see the whole architectural ensemble of Sofia in 3D format from the sky.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

» The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a cathedral dedicated to Russian soldiers who freed Bulgaria of the Turkish yoke. The cathedral was built by patriots of Bessarabia, Dobrudzha, Austria, and Russia.
»  In 1882, the first stone was laid. The construction lasted from 1904 to 1912. It had been named after Saint Cyrill and Methodius until 1920. The cathedral was declared a cultural monument only in 1924.
»  The building was designed by Russian architects I. Bogomolov and A. Pomerantsev. The cathedral was built and decorated with Russian and Bulgarian architects and artists. The iconostasis of the cathedral is decorated with two icons painted by V. M. Vasnetsov.
»  The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God in the pearl frame was donated to the cathedral by Aleksey I, a Russian patriarch.
»  The total area of the building is 2 600 m2, so it can accommodate about 5 000 people at the same time. The bell tower has 12 bells made in Moscow. The biggest bell weighs 12 tons. The sound of bells is heard even beyond the city.
»  Nowadays, the cathedral is the residence of Bulgarian patriarchs. It also appeared in two films: “Hitman” and “Ninja”.

National Gallery for Foreign Art, Sofia

» The National Gallery for Foreign Art houses the collection received from the National Art Gallery in 1985. The gallery was founded by the Fund of Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Todor Zhivkov. Many exhibits were donated from private collections.
»  The gallery occupies four floors of an old mansion. The collection of foreign art includes 10 000 exhibits.
»  In the halls, you can see paintings and sculptures of Western European masters: Rembrandt, M. Chagall, F. Giya, S. Dali, P. Picasso, and Roden.
»  The gallery houses over 200 works of Nikolai Roerich and his son Svetoslav.
»  Here, you can also see the big and interesting collection of different decorative items from Africa, Japan, India, and Asia.

National Art Gallery, Sofia

» The National Art Gallery is located in the former residence of Prince Alexander of Battenberg. It was built in 1873. Pieces of art started to be collected in 1892. The sector in the Archeology Museum was allocated for them.
»  When the collection was big enough, an art gallery was opened. In 1952, the gallery occupied some rooms in the palace.
»  The collection includes paintings and sculptures of Bulgarian National Revival artists (1878).
»  Medieval icons that are real treasures of the gallery are kept and displayed at the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.
»  The gallery houses 50 000 works made by 3 000 Bulgarian masters.
»  The National Gallery also includes home-museums of artists Vera Nedkova and Nikola Tanev and sculptor Ivan Lazarov.

Ivan Vazov National Theatre, Sofia

» The Ivan Vazov National Theatre was built by Austrian architects Helmer and Fellner. They constructed the world-famous Vienna State Opera.
»  The theatre was opened in January 1907. It was named after the Bulgarian writer Ivan Vazov.
»  The theatre was burned many times during the Second World War. It was last restored in 2007.
»  The theatre consists of three halls for 750, 120, and 70 seats. Here, not only plays of Bulgarian dramatists, but also famous classical works of prominent authors are staged.
»  The repertoire also includes performances based on Chekhov's play "The Cherry Orchards” and Dostoevsky’s «The Brothers Karamazov"
»  The National Theatre is depicted on the Bulgarian 50-lev banknote.

Central market, Sofia

» The Central Market was built in Sofia in 1911. The author of the project was architect Leon Bourgeois. When the market was being constructed, local architects made changes in the project.
»  The facade of the building is decorated with the bas-relief emblem of Sofia. Above the central arch, there is a small clock tower.
»  Agricultural products were sold in the market. In the basement, there were ice makers that could be used by consumers. Nowadays, there are shops and cafes on the ground floor.
»  In 2000, the market was renovated and updated. On the ground floor, fragments of the Roman Fortress of Ulpia Serdica were found.
»  The building of the Central Market is the architectural monument of Sofia.

Banya Bashi Mosque, Sofia

» Banya Bashi Mosque is a medieval mosque that was supposedly built in 1567. It is also known as Molla Efendi and Kada Seyfullah because the mosque was built on the donations of Molla Efendi Kada Seyfullah.
»  At the beginning of the 20th century, the building was restored on the donations of the Turkish ambassador Fethi Bey. Now, it is the only functioning mosque in Sofia.
»  The mosque was built on a natural thermal spring. You can see steam rising from vent holes. Even the fountain near it works on hot mineral water.
»  On great Muslim holidays, the mosque accommodates up to 1 200 people. Although the mosque is an active temple, non-Muslims can enter the building because it is an architectural monument.

Boyana Church, Sofia

» The Boyana Church is located not far from the capital. It is an old construction that consists of three sectors built at different times.
»  The oldest part is a small church built in the 10th century. In the 13th century, the Bulgarian noble Kaloyan built a two-level church and shrine at his expense. The new church was built in 1882.
»  In 1259, medieval artists Basil and Dimitri covered the walls of the church with a new painted layer. The names of artists were known when the church was being restored.
»  The main value of the church is authentic wall painting. It was done in accordance with the unique technique of portrait paintings that have found nowhere else in the world. Every portrait has individuality and expresses emotions. Faces on the portraits are not repeated.
»  On the walls of the temple, scenes from the Holy Scripture are depicted. You can also see pictures of Jesus Christ at different points of his life and at different ages.
»  In 1979, the Boyana Church became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. In honor of the 1300th anniversary of Bulgaria, jubilee coins were issued. The Boyana Church was stamped on the 2 leva coin.

Central Sofia Synagogue, Sofia

Location on the map:
Facts: » The Sofia Synagogue was built in the district of the Jewish community. It was opened in September 1909. The opening ceremony was visited by Tsar Ferdinand I and his wife.
»  The Sofia Synagogue is the biggest in Bulgaria. Its octagonal hall can accommodate up to 1 300 believers. One of the interesting things here is a chandelier that weighs 2 tons.
»  When Jews were deported from the city during the Second World War, the synagogue was closed. Nowadays, no more than a hundred believers attend services in the synagogue because most of the Jews moved to Israel and America.
»  The synagogue serves as the residence of rabbis of Sofia and Bulgaria.
»  In 1992, the European History Museum was opened. Here, you can visit two exhibitions. One of them is dedicated to the development of the Jewish community, its life and culture. The other one is dedicated to the Holocaust during the Second World War.
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